A cat licking his genitals is more than just grooming, it can be a sign of an underlying problem. Obviously, as urination and defecation occur in the genital area, any problems associated with going to the toilet can lead to your cat licking his or her genitals.
Genital licking may accompany other symptoms such as straining to go to the toilet, crying in the litter tray, urinating in unusual places. All of which should be a red flag to the pet owner.
This is a life-threatening situation in which your cat becomes blocked with crystals, stones or a matrix plug and urine is unable to pass out of the body. As the cat is unable to urinate, toxic nitrogenous levels build up in the bloodstream.
Treatment: Fluids to correct electrolyte imbalances and placement of a catheter to assist with the removal of urine from the bladder. Steroids to treat inflammation (if necessary). Severe cases may require a perineal urethrostomy (PU), which involves removing a large portion of the penis.
Bladder stones are rock-like formations that may be made up of calcium oxalate or struvite. Left untreated, bladder stones can lead to a urinary blockage (mentioned above), which is life-threatening.
Treatment: Antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection (if one is present), dietary changes that can assist in dissolving any remaining stones, increasing water consumption which helps to dilute the urine. If necessary, surgical removal of the stones.
Inflammation or infection of the bladder, cystitis causes typical symptoms such as straining to urinate, crying in the litter tray, blood in the urine, urinating outside the litter tray.
Treatment: Antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection, increasing water consumption and making sure litter trays are always clean and easily accessible.
Urinary tract infection
A UTI is a relatively common disorder characterised by an infection anywhere along the urinary tract. It is seen most commonly in middle-aged to senior cats. Females are at greater risk of developing an infection due to their shorter urethra along with cats who hold on to their urine for too long (due to dirty litter trays, holding on due to rain outdoors etc). Typical symptoms include frequent trips to the litter tray without passing much urine, licking the genital area, blood in the urine, crying.
Treatment: Antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection, switching your cat to a wet diet to increase water consumption, making sure your cat always has access to a clean, fresh litter tray.
Constipation occurs when your cat has trouble passing feces. It can affect cats of any age, although it occurs more often in middle-aged to older cats. There are several causes of constipation in cats. Dehydration, low fibre diet, pelvic injuries, certain metabolic disorders, pain (such as with an impacted anal gland). Symptoms include straining in the litter tray, passing small, hard feces, crying, abdominal pain, vomiting, lethargy.
Treatment: Increase fibre in the diet, stool softeners and in severe cases an enema. Encourage water consumption by switching to a raw or canned diet.
Infection of the uterus in intact female cats, that can be open, allowing the pus to drain out, or closed, in which the pus remains trapped in the uterus. Accompanying symptoms may include anorexia, fever, lethargy. Pyometra is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical treatment.
Treatment: Surgery to remove the infected uterus and antibiotics.
Female cats will lick their genitals as they are going into labour. Other signs of imminent labour include restlessness, drop in temperature, nesting.
Anal sac disease
The anal glands are located on either side of the anus and contain a foul-smelling substance that is excreted when your cat defecates. From time to time the anal glands may become blocked and/or infected.
Treatment: Empty the affected gland(s) and antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection.