Common Skin Problems In Cats – Ultimate Guide

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Factors Affecting The Occurrence Of Skin Problems In Cats

Many factors affect the incidence of skin problems in cats. Some important ones have been listed below:

  • Cat breed (Himalayans cats are more susceptible to get skin problems than other cat breeds).
  • Gender (males are more prone to get skin abscess inflicted due to fighting with others due to their aggressive behavior).
  • Living conditions/lifestyle (Indoor cats living in hygienic environments are less likely to get skin diseases than outdoor cats). External parasites (fleas, mites) attack outdoor cats more frequently as compared to indoor cats.
  • Immune status (immunocompromised cats–having impaired immune systems are more likely to get skin infections/diseases than immunocompetent cats).

 Key Signs And Symptoms

Cats show various signs and symptoms (according to the nature and severity of skin disease). But some general vital characters have been enlisted for better diagnosis and evaluation:

  1. Erythema (redness and swelling of the skin).
  2. Alopecia (loss of hair/fur, clearly seen bald patches on the cat’s skin).
  3. Frequent scratching and itching.
  4. Excessive grooming/chewing of fur.
  5. Head shaking (might be due to ear mites).
  6. Flaky/scaly skin, bumps can also be seen on a cat’s skin.
  7. Anorexia and dullness.
  8. Presence of fleas, ticks on the skin.
  9. Presence of blackheads on the cat’s skin, especially chin (feline acne).
  10. The cat becomes irritated and aggressive.


This is a prevalent skin condition in cats. Generally, it is also known as “Ringworm”.


This skin problem is caused by a fungus (Microsporumspp). This fungus infects skin around the nails and outermost layers of skin.

Microsporumcanis is notorious among all species that infect cats, dogs, and humans. This is a zoonotic pathogen.


Loss of hair (usually patchy hair loss on the whole body).

Thickened skin around the nails. (Circular lesions may be seen on the ears, head, limbs or any other body part).

Scaly, red (inflamed) patches on the skin (usually ringworm lesions aren’t itchy in cats).

Diagnosis & treatment

The diagnosis of ringworm lesions is hard to find in cats. It is recommended to contact a registered pet dermatologist/veterinarian if you report any abnormal sign in your cat.

Treatment includes better management and the use of topical antifungal shampoos and preparations. Your vet can suggest systemic antifungal medications, too, depending upon the severity of the condition.

Keep the living environment of your cat highly hygienic. Thoroughly clean the drinking, feeding equipment as fungal spores can remain there and cause infection.

Flea Infestation

Fleas are tiny, external parasites that feed on blood. Flea infestation is commonly seen in cats.


Vital signs of flea infestation include hair loss, thinning of hair around the tail’s base, frequent scratching, redness/inflammation, and crusty skin lesion.

Diagnosis & treatment

Your vet will diagnose fleas by spotting them on the skin. Treatment includes anti-flea medications and shampoos. Take care of the living environment of your furry friend. Give your cat a nutritious diet.

Regular grooming of cats also helps control external parasites such as fleas, mites, ticks, and lice. Also, according to ThePets advice, it is necessary to repeat the treatment for several months to ensure that fleas hatching from the eggs are killed.

Feline Acne

This is another devastating skin disease that affects several areas of a cat’s skin but most commonly the chin (chin acne).


There are multiple causes of feline acne. But the most common reasons have been given below:

  • Bacterial infection or due to any other underlying skin condition
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Poor nutrition
  • A side effect of any medication
  • due to plastic feeding bowls


An essential key character is blackheads forming on the chin (or any other areas), losing hair.

Diagnosis & treatment

Contact a veterinary dermatologist. An expert will suggest your anti-acne shampoos/medications.

Antibiotics can also be prescribed if acne is due to any bacterial infection.

NOTE: Due to acne, the cat’s hair follicles become more susceptible to the bacteria invaded. Bacteria cause several infections, but folliculitis (inflammation of hair follicles) is an important one.

Being a responsible owner, you should not use plastic drinking/feeding bowls for your cat. Keep your feline friend’s living environment stress-free. Provide high-quality nutrition to your cat.

Allergic Dermatitis

Dermatitis refers to the inflammation of the cat’s skin. This may occur due to any reason but allergic dermatitis is very common in cats.


There are many causes of allergic dermatitis in cats. Some essential reasons have been enlisted below:

  • Environmental pollutants/irritants
  • Pollen grains allergy
  • Flea bites
  • Food intolerance/allergy
  • Allergic reaction caused by any medication

* Itchy face is usually observed in food allergies in cats.


Key signs include loss of hair, redness/swelling of the skin, patchy areas and skin lesion (especially on the belly region), scratching/itching neck, ears, and head.

Diagnosis & treatment

Contact your veterinarian. A vet can suggest several medications to soothe the scratching/itchiness (anti-allergic formulations). Try giving your cat a hypo-allergic diet. If your cat shows an allergic response to a diet, it is better to stop feeding that particular diet to your cat.

Avoid exposure of your cat to environmental allergens/irritants etc.

Ear Mites Infestation

This condition is also commonly seen in cats (frequently in kittens).


Key signs include head shaking, irritation, persistent scratching of ear, dark discharge with foul odor from one or both ears, and redness on the ear’s outer part.

Diagnosis & treatment

Your vet will diagnose the ear mites based on a thorough otoscopic examination. Treatment includes topic preparations and different commercially available products used to control mites. Take suggestions from your vet if you find any of the above-given signs in your cat.

NOTE: Ear mites are contagious, and they can infect other pets too.

Lice Infestation

Lice are also external, blood-feeding parasites. They cause low growth and stress in cats.


Essential signs include poor coat, irritation, discomfort, excessive scratching, and anemia (due to blood deficiency).

Diagnosis & treatment

Generally, lice infestation occurs in young and unhygienic cats. Diagnosis is made on the basis examination (presence of lice on the different body areas).

Treatment includes anti-lice shampoos and other topical solutions. Keep the living area of your feline neat and clean. Do regular grooming and take care of the overall hygiene of your cat.

Other Important Conditions

There are some other essential skin conditions which have been enlisted below:

  1. Skin tumors (usually in older cats, lump on the skin, don’t spread to other parts of the body, if benign—localized, sometimes require surgical intervention).
  2. Dandruff/dry skin (dandruff is a fungal infestation controlled by using anti-dandruff shampoos/preparations. Dry skin occurs in the winter season mostly. Give omega-3 fatty acid supplements to your cat for better skin and coat development; take care of your feline friend’s proper grooming and hygiene.
  3. Eosinophilic granuloma (usually raised lesions/ulcers occur on the lips and nose of cats or this allergic reaction can occur on any part of the body. Bacterial infections or any food allergen are considered the causative agent of this specific skin condition.
  4. Alopecia (hair shedding), pruritus, yeast infections can also be seen in cats.

Important Diagnostic Tools

This is a challenging thing to precisely diagnose the skin condition in cats. But some diagnostic tools can help in a better understanding of the problem.

  1. Skin biopsy (taking a small part of the skin and observing it from the live cat. Local anesthesia must be given to the cat before performing skin biopsy).
  2. Skin culture (primarily to diagnose bacteria, fleas, mites, etc.)
  3. Direct microscopic examination (taking a part of skin or exudates from the ear/any part of the body and examining it directly under the microscope.
  4. Allergy testing (specially to figure out the allergic reaction).
  5. Fungal culture (usually in case of ringworm and other fungal infections for the better understanding and selection of an effective antifungal agent).

Skin is the largest organ of the cat’s body. This acts as a natural barrier and protects the cat’s body from a lot of invading agents.

In addition to that, skin plays a significant role in temperature regulation of the cat’s body (osmoregulation). It has been observed that skin problems are quite common in cats. There are a variety of skin conditions in cats with a diverse range of symptoms.

Here, we will discuss some critical skin problems in cats under the light of scientific literature.

There is a wide range of diseases that affect the cat’s skin. For better understanding, we have divided the skin problems into the following categories:

  1. Parasitic skin problems (due to external parasites such as mites, fleas, mosquito bite). Bacteria, Fungi, and viruses also induce several infectious skin conditions in cats.
  2. Food induced skin problems (due to allergic food or food intolerance: food-borne).
  3. Environmentally induced skin problems (due to environmental irritants/pollutants, pollen grains, etc.
  4. Product/medication-induced skin problems (due to an allergic reaction to grooming product or any medicines).
  5. Trauma induced skin problems (due to any traumatic injury, accident, fight, etc.

According to a research study conducted at Cornell University (College of veterinary sciences), New York, the common skin conditions occur due to food allergies, external parasites (mites, fleas, lice, etc.) air-borne irritants/pollutants.

On the contrary, in Canada and the UK, the most common skin problems are abscesses (accumulation of pus).


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