Cat Skin Conditions, Causes and Treatment

Compared to the hair and skin maintenance required by dogs, cats tend to have low-maintenance hair and skin. But they aren’t immune to developing skin conditions that can cause discomfort and hair loss, and potentially lead to other, more serious health conditions.

If you notice an increase in your cat’s licking or scratching of its skin, and/or identify rashes, abrasions or other abnormalities on their skin, it’s possible your cat is dealing with a skin condition that needs to be addressed. Here’s a look at some of the common skin ailments your cat may suffer, as well as potential causes and treatment options to get your cat on the mend.

A skin condition on a cat

Common Cat Skin Conditions

The best way to identify possible skin conditions in cats is through the symptoms that develop. Cat skin conditions like hair loss or scabs, might not be enough to identify what condition is affecting your cat, but they can help determine whether the skin condition requires a visit to your local vet.

Here are some symptoms that may point to a common skin condition in cats:

  • A cat’s scabs on the neck, body or other area may be a sign of a parasite or allergic reaction causing itching, burning, or other sensations that provoke the cat to scratch itself.
  • Your cat’s rash on its back or another part of its body may indicate a type of dermatitis caused by contact with an allergen or fleas, or it could be a sign your cat has a bacterial infection in its skin.
  • Your cat’s belly rash could be caused by an allergic reaction, an abscess developing from a flesh wound, or one of several types of dermatitis, including miliary. Cases of miliary will have crusted lesions on the skin accompanying the rash. Miliary is more likely to develop on the underside of the cat, making the belly a prime point of infection.
  • If you notice small, hard bumps on your cat’s ears, it could be evidence of dermatitis caused by bug bites and/or a parasitic infection. These small bumps could be the result of scabbing that occurs when cats scratch at mosquito, flea, and other bug bites, opening up small wounds around the base of the ear.
  • Dry, flaking skin may be caused by low humidity, but it could also be a sign of dermatitis exacerbated by your cat’s scratching—which in turn could lead to a skin infection.

Causes of Cat Skin Issues

In some cases, the condition affecting your cat can be traced back to a specific underlying cause. In other cases, symptoms of skin irritation could be caused by one of several different causes—some of which may need to be alleviated to relieve your cat of its skin irritation.

Common causes of skin conditions in cats can include the following:

  • Poor grooming, especially when an irritant is not properly cleaned from the skin
  • Allergic reactions, which may be caused by new allergens encountered indoors or outdoors
  • Genetic skin sensitivities, which may be more likely to develop in certain breeds
  • A bacterial infection, potentially acquired through an open wound
  • A scratch, cut or other injury causing local redness and inflammation on the skin
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Parasites, particularly lice and scabies

Treating Cat Skin Conditions

The type of treatment recommended for your cat will be determined by the specific cause of their skin condition. It’s often important to have a veterinarian evaluate your cat and their skin condition symptoms to determine the underlying cause. In cases of allergies, the vet may treat the condition with topical and/or oral antihistamines. Fleas and other parasites will likely be treated through a control medication, along with possible anti-itch medications to stop your cat from irritating the skin further and raising the risk of a skin infection.

If your cat does develop a skin infection, antibacterial medication may be applied topically to the infection site. A possible fungal infection will be treated through an antifungal medication. Other treatment options include medicated wipes, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and/or interventions like a cone collar to prevent licking and scratching while the skin condition heals.

Do Cats Get Pimples?

Just like humans, cats can suffer acne breakouts for several different reasons, such as poor grooming or stress. While these pimples are most commonly found on the chin or near the mouth, cats can develop acne anywhere on their body. Certain cats may be more predisposed than others to developing acne, so if your cat suffers from one acne breakout, they are at an increased risk of developing more in the future.

While your cat’s chin sores caused by blackheads may be uncomfortable for your pet, they typically aren’t dangerous. Don’t attempt to pop the pimples for your cat. Instead, wipe them down with cat-safe medicated wipes, or wait for them to go away on their own.

Cat skin problems may be an alarming sight, but many of these topical issues can be alleviated with basic, timely treatment. The more familiar you get with your cat and their health history, the more proactive you can be when signs of a skin condition first start to develop.