Why Is My Cat’s Butt So Dirty & Can I Help?

cat looking embarassed about a dirty butt

If you’ve ever had your cat wandering around with a clearly filthy butt you’ve probably wondered to yourself ‘What the heck is she thinking? Why doesn’t she clean up right after using the litter box?’

You might even have bits of poo stuck in your cat's hair, or cat dingle berries. Yuck.

This can be incredibly frustrating for owners. Not only does it look gross, especially since cats love to show off their butts all the time.

The major reason this is frustrating is your cat can leave nasty little stains and trails if they don’t clean up quickly and decide to sit down or lay down in a specific position.

So why doesn’t your cat clean her butt after a visit to the litter box? Are there specific reasons for it? And more importantly is there anything I can do to help encourage her to clean up sooner?

Why Doesn’t Your Feline Friend Clean Their Butt?

While there are a many potential reasons for cats not cleaning their bum, they more often than not fall into a couple large buckets:

1. Access

This is the number one culprit. You probably don’t think of it often because we humans don’t often have this problem, but some cats can simply not reach their butt to clean it. This can happen for several reasons:

  • Weight is by far the most common. Some cats are simply so overweight they can no longer reach their butt to clean it.
  • If your cat is in good shape from a weight standpoint it could be possible that arthritis is getting in the way as your cat ages and bending in that fashion is difficult for your cat.
an orange and cream cat grooming itself

2. Time

Also worth noting is time. Not all cats immediately clean their butt after the litter box. They might wait for a period of time before they decide to get around to grooming themselves.

  • Since cats have a typical order of operations ingrained into them (hunt, kill, eat, groom, sleep) you may help push them to clean up by providing a play session then feeding them after.
  • This will drive most felines to groom themselves, and the butt is usually included in their grooming. If you need tips on how to play check this article out.

How Can I Help My Cat Clean Up?

There are numerous methods you can use to help your cat clean up if you don’t want to wait for her to do it herself, but the most common and easy are below.

1. Cat Wipes

There are also special cat wipes on the market that are engineered specifically for this purpose. You will want to avoid any scented versions as most cats really don’t enjoy new scents or odors, especially applied to themselves. Again simply let it air dry.

2. A Warm Wet Cloth

A warm wet wash cloth can be used to wipe up your cat’s butt. Be sure to wash it thoroughly immediately after or rinse it out and throw it right in your washing machine. Let your kitty air dry after.

two rolls of paper towels

3. Paper Towels

You can use a damp paper towel to wipe down the area and help clean things up. Clearly your cat won’t particularly like this feeling, so you’ll have to be quick. Having another person to help hold your cat while you wipe is very helpful. Be sure to use a good quality paper towel when cleaning or it might tear and leave little tidbits behind. Let your cat air dry after.

4. A Cat Butt Bath

If things are especially messy and hardened then you may need to soak your kitty’s rear end in the water to loosen things up before you can get the mess out. Be sure to use a cat specific shampoo and I’d personally recommend wearing some rubber gloves to clean up this kind of mess.

What Can I do to Prevent This Behavior?

There are a couple of major things you can do to help your cat in this area:

1. Check Your Cat Constantly

  • If your cat has this issue on a recurring basis then the best thing you can do is keep an eye out for it all the time. As soon as a little bit of gook gets stuck in her fur it is only more and more likely to grow worse.
  • Be vigilant and clean things as soon as they start to minimize and issues. Check her when she comes out of the litter box.

2. Accessibility

  • If your cat is overweight the best thing you can do is put her on a diet and an exercise plan to help her lose weight. Be sure to play with your cat every day so she doesn’t sleep her whole day.
  • If you’re free feeding your cat with dry food you should also stop this behavior immediately. You should consider an automatic cat food dispenser to work on portion control and timing.
  • If your cat arthritic then you should instead talk to your vet about the option of a glucosamine tablet which may help your kitty’s joints loosen up a bit so she can reach back there again.
What is the best dry cat food

3. Food

The biggest culprit of a messy cat butt is almost always driven by the diet of the cat. If your cat tends to have poop that is not solid it is much more likely to cause a mess and get stuck in her fur and get all over the place.

  • Be sure you’re providing a high quality diet for your cat is loaded with high protein foods. If you need some recommendations you can take a look at this article for some great options. You may also want to consider a food that is formulated specifically for cats with a sensitive stomach.
  • If you’re still having trouble talk to your vet about options for your kitty from a food standpoint. The best method my vet has recommended (Lexi has a sensitive tummy and long hair) is to try a single food at a time for about a week and see if it helps make her stomach feel better. If not, move on to the next food.
  • On this note, if your cat is primarily an indoor cat and normally doesn’t get outside then try to keep your cat indoors in general. Eating a wild animal they catch can really jumble up their stomach because they simply aren’t used to it anymore.

4. Hair Maintenance

  • Long haired cats are most notorious for this particular problem because their fur is all over the place around their butt. Be sure you're brushing them daily to minimize loose fur. It is very easy for poop to get matted into the fur and then your cat simply cannot get it out on her own.
  • Ensure your cat is properly trimmed around her hind quarters. Many groomers will do what is called a ‘maintenance trim’ in this area to keep things short and help minimize this kind of issue.
  • If your cat is short haired then this is less likely to be a problem. Even so you can still do some trimming in the area or have a groomer do some trimming to keep down the chances of the fur getting matted with yucky stuff.
  • If you do decide to do the trimming yourself be sure to use a comb and use blunt ended scissors so your kitty doesn’t get poked. The comb should always be between the cat’s skin and your scissors to minimize the risk of injury.
  • I’d personally recommend a groomer if you can afford it as they have a ton of experience and will be far less likely to injure your feline friend. This typically costs about 15-20 dollars and a visit every 3-4 months is normally sufficient.

What If My Cat Left a Mess Behind?

There's always of course the dreaded situation that your cat decided to sit down in an unfortunate position before cleaning up and then left behind a nice stain for you on your couch or your carpet. Mine just sat on my sheet music next to piano...Now I can really truly play like crap.

Never fun in the least to find one of these behind. On the bright side, there are some good ways you can approach cleaning them up. No matter which method you decide to use I'd recommend wearing rubber gloves and washing your hands thoroughly once finished.

Soap & Water

No surprise, you can always go for the old fall back of traditional soap and water. This works best when things are still 'fresh' as disgusting as that sounds.  Just take warm water and dish soap and a scrubbing brush and get to work on the spot.

Specialized Cleaners

There are numerous cleaners on the market specifically designed to more easily stains from your cat. You'll want to use one specific to your situation.

It is worth noting that most of them have enzymes to kill odors and remove stains far more effectively than traditional soap and water. Be sure to read directions closely to achieve the best results.

Wrapping it Up on Dirty Cat Butts

More often than not the reason for a dirty cat butt is either an issue of time or an issue of access to the area.  If it is an access issue there are a bunch of things you as a cat owner can do to help whether it is help your cat lose some weight or get her something to help her arthritis.

This can turn into a recurring problem in some cats that are older and you may have to simply help your kitty clean things up with wipes or with paper towels.

There are a lot of options out there, be sure to use things specifically formulated for cats, not humans.  Using human formulas can cause more irritation and make the problem even worse.

Also be sure to consider visiting a groomer from time to time if you have a long haired cat. This can make all the difference in minimizing places your cat can get dirty to begin with.

If you have any experiences you’d like to share then please leave a comment below or write me directly at Craig@StuffCatsWant.com.

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