What's Causing My Cat's Oily Tail?

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Q. My cat always seems to have a greasy patch near her tail. What’s causing this?

A. It’s called “stud tail” (or “feline tail gland hyperplasia” in veterinary terms) because it’s much more common in unneutered male cats, but it’s not unheard of in other cats as well. The problem is caused by the secretions of overactive sebaceous glands, making it very similar to classic teenage acne in people. In cats, this overproduction shows up as greasy brown matter, which can turn rancid — it’s oily stuff — and smell bad. More seriously, the area can become infected, with or without hair loss.

Neutering helps in many cases, since intact males have this problem more frequently than others because of their hormonal state. For all cats, see your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your veterinarian will typically recommend frequent washing of the area with a medicated shampoo and possibly also clipping the hair to remove places for the matter to build up. If the area is infected, antibiotics (oral and/or topical) will likely also be part of the treatment plan.

With proper home care as recommended by your veterinarian and possibly a follow-up visit to ensure any infection has been resolved, you should be able to get this problem under control quickly and fairly easily. Since your cat is female, however, this condition may be chronic with your pet, since it cannot be cured by neutering. If that’s the case, you’ll need to manage the problem long-term. Again, your veterinarian can help. In severe, chronic cases, a referral to a veterinary dermatologist may be advised.

It’s likely, though, that a regular regimen of keeping the area clean after the initial problem is brought under control will resolve the matter to your satisfaction.

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