Cats do not have the same sense of propriety that people do. They perform the necessary grooming anywhere and in front of anyone, often to their owners’ dismay. You’ve probably seen your cat licking their butt, and wondered why they do so. 

There’s actually an interesting explanation for this embarrassing behavior. 

Why do cats lick their bums?

No, your cat doesn’t lick their bum just to embarrass you, although it can certainly feel that way at times. You may even be tempted to scold your cat for licking their butt. 

However, it’s actually part of their normal grooming routine. As disgusting as it seems to us humans, it is necessary for your cat’s well being. 

Cleanliness

This is the most obvious reason cats lick their butt. Cats are very clean creatures. In fact, they spend between 30-50% of their waking hours grooming themselves. In addition to making sure every hair is perfectly in place, they also clean their bum. 

Cats don’t have access to toilet paper and wash clothes like humans do. Their tongue is their only grooming instrument. It’s natural for them to use it to clean their butt. 

You know that a dirty butt can cause health problems for humans. It’s possible for it to cause problems for your cat as well. Keeping their butt clean is not only part of grooming, it’s also good health hygiene. 

Anal Sac Problems

Cats have an anal sac on each side of their anus. They contain a smelly fluid. When your cat poops, the anal glands are squeezed. This causes them to release their fluid, coating the poop. The fluid contains important information about your cat. When other cats smell it, they learn about your cat. 

When the anal glands are functioning properly, you or your cat don’t give them a second thought. However, they can become impacted. Once they are impacted, they can’t release properly. 

The glands swell, causing your cat discomfort. You may notice the swollen glands. Your cats bum can become irritated and even infected, because they will begin licking the area frequently. This is an attempt to relieve the pain caused by the impacted anal glands. 

Other signs of anal sac problems include your cat scooting their butt on the floor, and a foul smell from their bum. 

Skin Irritation

Itchy bum is a very unpleasant condition. Humans have an assortment of wipes and creams to help with the problem. Your cat doesn’t have a medicine cabinet. Instead, they have their tongue. 

It’s their natural instinct to lick any area that is irritated or injured. Their saliva contains antibiotic properties that can help prevent infection. However, frequent licking can cause the skin to be further irritated. 

Your cat’s butt can become irritated due to constipation, food or environmental allergies, or a cut. Your cat will naturally lick it to relieve the pain and keep the area clean. 

Constipation

Constipation can cause your cat pain, which leads them to lick their butt. Signs of constipation include frequent trips to the litter box without pooping, and dry hard stools. 

Infection 

An infection can also cause discomfort, which leads your cat to lick the area. Yeast infections can occur due to candidia, just as they can for humans. Cats are also prone to urinary infections. 

The pain from these conditions is usually associated with their private parts. You can expect them to lick their penis or vagina, but they may also lick their butt to relieve the pain. 

Predator Protection

Cats in the wild must keep themselves safe from predators. Your domestic feline doesn’t have to worry about being anyone’s lunch, but their instincts remain.

They lick their butt for the same reason they cover their poop. To avoid being detected by predators. A clean butt doesn’t smell, which makes it less likely for predators to find them. 

Presenting the Bum 

Cats often greet each other by offering their butt. Its actually quite an honor to be presented with a butt in the cat world. Think of it as their version of a handshake. 

You wouldn’t want to shake if your hands are dirty, right? Your cat has the same manners. They don’t want to present a dirty butt to their friends. You may also find yourself presented with the honor. If you are, you’ll be grateful that it was clean. 

Parasites

Intestinal parasites, commonly called worms, can also cause your cat to lick their butt. Parasites are ingested by the cat. They then make their home in your cat’s digestive tract, feeding on your cat’s nutrition. 

Over time, the parasites reproduce, putting a strain on your kitty’s system. They can have a dull coat, weight loss, and a swollen stomach. Vomitting and diarrhea can also occur, because the parasites upset the digestive tract. 

Coughing, loss of appetite, weakness, and anemia are concerning symptoms that can occur if the parasites aren’t treated. 

Dead parasites, and sometimes live ones, come out in feces. This can cause your cat’s butt to itch. When their butt itches, they will lick it to get relief. They may also scoot their butt on the ground as a way to scratch it. 

Do cats like the taste their own poop?

It’s difficult to say for certain, since we can’t ask cats directly. However, it’s believed that cats don’t enjoy the taste of their own poop. They simply don’t mind it either. 

Cats will not only clean their butts. Sometimes they will even eat their own poop. Mothers will lick away the poop of young kittens as well. 

Avoiding Predators

As mentioned earlier, cats go to great lengths to avoid detection from predators. This is often their motivation for eating poop. They will particularly do this if they are in their home area, or if they have kittens. 

The area near their home must be kept free from smells that entice predators, including the poop of their prey. 

Is it clean for a cat to lick their bum?

Yes. For cats, cleaning their bum by licking it is actually the sanitary thing to do. It’s how they are designed. Their butt typically doesn’t get messy anyway. Nature has given them a fairly clean poop chute. 

However, it can get messy if they have digestive issues, and the occasional mishap is still possible. Their tongue and body are designed to cope with the duty of keeping their butt doody free. 

Why don’t cats get sick when they lick their bums?

It’s gross to think about, but your bound to ask the question. How can they lick their butt, or even eat poop, and not get sick? 

Is it Really That Bad? 

First, it’s important to remember what poop actually is. It’s simply your body’s waste. It’s a mix of undigested food matter, bacteria from the digestion process, and byproducts of digestion. 

It’s possible to have a disease in your body, that shows up in your poop. Typhoid is an excellent example of this. Typhoid Mary unfortunately spread the disease to so many people she was quarantined on an island. She diddn’t wash her hands after using the toilet, and before preparing food. 

However, most of the time, poop doesn’t contain anything particualrly harmful. Especially if it’s your own poop. Whatever is in your poop already exists within your body. So there’s some risk of catching or spreading a disease via your poop, but there’s a good chance that there’s nothing in it that would harm you. 

Of course, the human body is not designed to eat poop, either. Your cat, however, is well equipped to handle it. 

Accustomed to Bacteria

Your cat’s body is used to all the bacteria that are noramlly present in their poop. Just like you can be expsed to cold germs but not get sick due to your natural immunity, your cat’s body can fight off most diseases that might be in their poop. 

Stomach Acid

Your cat’s stomach acid can kill the bacteria lurking in their poop. It’s very difficult for anything to survive such an environment.

Short Digestive Tract 

Cats also have a short digestive tract, which helps flush out anything harmful. It’s a simple and functional design that helps keep them healthy, even when they chow down on butt dust. 

Should I prevent my cat from licking their bum?

Generally speaking, no. You shouldn’t prevent your cat from licking their butt. It’s part of their natural hygeine regiment, and its an instinct that helps keep them safe in the wild. However, there are some situations where preventing the behavior is neccessary. 

What’s Normal, and When Should I Step In? 

First, let’s look at what’s normal for your cat. Cats should lick their butt. If your cat isn’t licking their butt, you’ll need to step in and help keep them clean. This is a task no owner is thrilled to have, so breathe a sigh of relief if your cat is properly maintaining this area. 

You can expect your cat to lick their butt when they groom other areas of their body. Cats actually have their own grooming ritual. Typically they will start with their head and face, and work their way down their body. The gentials, butt, and tail are last. 

Your cat’s routine may vary slightly from this. If so, it’s nothting to worry about. With a little observation, you will learn your cat’s grooming pattern. 

If they are varying from this pattern, you can assume something is going on. They may have irritation or anal impaction causing them to lick more frequently. If they seem to spend a lot of time grooming their butt, this is also problematic, and not normal. 

Anal Gland Issues

If your cat has swollen anal glands, they need to be expressed. This is the best way to stop them licking their butt. You can do this at home. Put gloves on your hands. Trust me, you don’t want to get anal fluid on your fingers. Put newspaper or a towel down where your cat will be standing. 

Get someone to help you. Have them hold the cat from the front. Keep your cat calm with gentle petting and talking to them. You can also give them a cat treat. The anal glands are located to each side of the anus, at the 5 and 7 o clock positions. 

They should feel like peas or jelly beans. Push inward and upward gently until the gland releases. Repeat for the other side. 

If you arent’ comfortable oding this yourself, you can bring your cat to the vet. Your vet can also examine yoru kitty for signs of infection. 

Allergies or Irritation 

If your cat has allergies or irritation of their butt, you may need to prevent them from licking the area. If they are only licking occassoinally, it’s nothing to worry about. However, if they are licking often, this can make the irritation worse. You’ll also need to prevent them from licking off any cream you apply to the area. 

In this case, it’s best to speak with your vet. Your cat may need special creams or other treatments to solve the underlying problem. If you can’t get to your vet immediately, you can place an e collar on your cat. 

Cats hate the collar, and it can interfere with their balance, eating, and drinking. However, it does prevent them from licking their anal area. This can be a temporary solution while the area heals. 

Constipation 

If constipation is the problem, there’s an easy solution. Pumpkin is natural and high in fiber, making it a great constipation remedy. Give your cat 1 teaspoon of pumpkin once or twice a day to begin. 

If they are still constipated, increase the dose to 2 teaspoons. You can increase the dose up to 4 teaspoons. Too much pumpkin won’t be harmful, but it can cause diarrhea. If your cat’s poop becomes loose or watery, skip a dose. Then reduce the dose. 

You can also give your cat a teaspoon or two of pumpkin a day as a constipation preventative. It’s great for their digestive tract, and packed with vitamins and minerals. 

Author

I created and currently run Kitty Cat Tips, the website that you can go to when you have questions about your cat's behavior. It's my hope that you find Kitty Cat Tips to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your cat. You can read more about me and my website here.