cat skin problem

11 Common Cat Skin Problems

Cat skin problems are quite common, and similarly to dogs, cats can suffer from parasite allergies, contact allergies, bacterial infections and hormonal imbalances.

There are a range of symptoms that can indicate a problem with your cat’s skin. Cats incessantly itch, scratch and bite their fur to alleviate signs of pet allergies and also lick their fur to soothe infections. Contact your vet straight away if your cat is experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Intensive itching
  • Hair loss
  • Redness
  • Dry skin
  • Dull fur
  • Acne
  • An unpleasant smell
  • Scabs
  • Excessive grooming

General maintenance of a cat’s health is important to prevent them from suffering from skin problems. The condition of a cat’s fur and skin can be an indicator of their overall health: food rich in protein and omega 3 is beneficial as part of a cat’s balanced diet to maintain a healthy coat.

Some of the most common cat skin problems include parasite allergies; bacterial infections, and hormone imbalances.

11 Common Cat Skin Problems:

1. Mange

Mange is an inflammatory skin disease caused by various types of mites, some of which require a microscope to identify them as they are invisible to the human eye. Mites live and burrow into a cat’s skin and fur, causing excessive scratching, swelling; and hair loss around the face, eyelids, neck and back. Intensive scratching can also cause scabs and redness, as the cat consistently targets the affected areas with its claws.

Mites are quickly killed using topical treatments and some of the regular flea prevention we prescribe will also treat mites. If your pet is diagnosed with mites, clean their bedding, collar and prevent contact with other animals until they’re completely free of parasites.

2. Ear mites

Ear mites are common in cats, especially for kittens who may have picked them up from their mum, but can be seen in cats of any age. Cats scratch at their ears and shake their head to alleviate the symptoms. Ear mites can be intensely itchy and cats will often spend long periods rubbing and scratching their ears. Ear mites can cause inflammation in the ear which may then, if untreated also lead to a bacterial infection.

3. Ticks and fleas

Keeping up-to-date on your cat’s preventative treatments for ticks and fleas is imperative, so your cat has the best possible chance of fighting off any bugs which are tempted to latch onto a cat’s skin or fur.

Preventative treatments for ticks and fleas work, after application to your cat’s skin, by circulating the blood system. For any ticks or fleas that bite your pet’s skin, the parasite ingests the blood and is killed off by the chemical solution (harmless to your pet).

Without this type of treatment, your cat is more susceptible to a severe case of ticks and fleas. However, some pets are allergic to the flea saliva as it bites and enters the cat’s body, causing extreme itching which can lead to redness, sores and hair loss. This often leads to something caused miliary dermatitis where there are very many small scabs, usually along the back of the cat which are caused by an allergic reaction to the flea biting.

If you spot one or two fleas, it’s likely that tens and hundreds of fleas are still present in the cat’s everyday environment, so it’s vital to regularly hoover the home and wash your bedding to remove the parasites.

4. Environmental allergies

Like human’s, pets can be allergic to everyday items as they come into contact with their surroundings. This can include allergies to food; certain chemicals used around the household; and any dust, grass or pollen.

When a cat is allergic to their surroundings, they tend to over-groom and excessively itch, which can result in patchy fur, particularly if they have chewed at their joints to alleviate the irritation. Observe your pet closely, as this can help to identify whether there are specific times of the day your pet becomes uncomfortable, based on what they come into contact. As we covered in environmental allergies for dogs, if you can provide the more information the better, so your local vet can make an accurate diagnosis for treatment.

5. Stress-induced alopecia

When your pet is stressed, their behaviour changes which can lead to excessive grooming, sleeping and a low mood. Environmental changes can trigger stress in pets, causing thinning of their fur down the back and abdomen from licking their fur too often.

In this case, it’s best to visit your vet to discuss the potential causes of stress in your cat. Pheromone plug-ins can help alleviate your cat from anxiety, and removing the potential cause of stress from the cat’s environment can prevent further hair loss.

6. Feline acne

Blackheads (or comedones) appear on your cat’s chin and under their lips. The chin can swell and become red, resulting in the cat scratching the area to combat the irritation. Although the cause of feline acne is unknown, it is thought it can be triggered by environmental allergies and from getting a second bacterial infection.

7. Food allergies

Itching on the back, head and neck can indicate a food allergy. The process of elimination is an effective method to identify the specific cause, as types of protein or carbohydrate in cat food can trigger an allergy. It is very important that elimination diets are done carefully in cats as they have very specific dietary protein needs and if fed the wrong diet it can cause serious disease.

8. Abscesses

Cuts and grazes as a result of cat fights can result in skin problems for your cat, as they irritate the affected area by scratching and itching. Their sharp claws can cut the skin, creating an open wound for bacteria to enter. If you notice any swelling and pus-filled abscesses, this is a sign of an infection, which can be alleviated by keeping the area clean and applying a medical treatment prescribed by your vet.

Cat’s that have abscesses often appear unwell, quiet and go off their food. In other cases, owners notice they are sore in a certain area. In male cats, the chance of fighting can be reduced by ensuring that they are castrated.

9. Fungal infections

Ringworm is highly contagious to humans and other animals, so it’s vital to contact your vet straight away if you spot any of the following symptoms. Ringworm looks like a raised, red circle on the cat’s skin which can get crusty, red and thickens the skin. As with other cat skin conditions, hair loss can also occur in the infected area.

It’s highly recommended to clean your home, hoover the carpets and wash all bedding to remove any fungal spores, which can remain dormant for several months.

10. Stud tail

Excessive excretion of oils can create a foul-smelling and waxy substance at the top of your cat’s tail. Feline acne (blackheads) can appear around the area and the fur can become greasy.

11. Endocrine Dermatosis

Dandruff, itching and dry fur or hair loss can indicate an underlying skin condition in cats, caused by a hormonal imbalance. Your vet will run a few tests and look at other symptoms to see what could be causing your pet’s condition.

If you suspect your cat is suffering from a skin condition and is showing any signs of a potential skin allergy, visit your local Animal Trust clinic for a free consultation. Our team of professional and friendly vets will give your cat a full body health check to identify the problem.

How to Prevent Cat Skin Problems?

Cat skin problems are a common form of ailment in the feline, but are preventable. Brushing the coat, clipping the nails, inspecting the ears and teeth, and bathing are four preventative measures an owner can take to eliminate cat skin problems.


When brushing a short haired cat, begin at the head and work towards the tail moving a narrow- toothed-comb gently through the fur. Then brush in the same direction with a bristle or rubber brush.

Using a hound glove or chamois cloth, polish the coat to give it a sheen. With a long haired cat, use a wide-toothed-comb and work against the lay of the hair to fluff out the coat. Comb upwards over the legs and sides of the chest, the back, flanks and tail. Then use a brush in the same fashion. The fur around the head is brushed up to form a frame for the face.

Once a week grooming should be sufficient for older cats. however, long haired cats with thick coats should be combed every day.


The cat's ears should be inspected weekly along with a routine inspection of the teeth, to make sure there is not a buildup of tartar or food.


Indoor cats should be trained to use a scratching post to keep their front claws worn down. If training has not been successful you might need to trim them. As a rule, you will need to clip only the front nails.

Most cats chew their back claws during the social grooming process. Nail clippers with two cutting edges are the best. Lift up your cat's front paw and squeeze one toe between your thumb and finger to extend the vessels. Identify the pink part of the nail that contains the nerves and blood vessels. Be sure to cut the clear part of the nail well ahead of the pink part quickly. If you slip and bleeding occurs, you can use a cotton ball or styptic (used for shaving), to stop the bleeding. I have also personally found that flour works best to stop bleeding.


While, many cats groom themselves and stay fairly clean, there are times when they get dirty and need to have a bath. It is difficult to lay down rules for bathing a cat because of the different coat types and personalities of the specific cat. Over bathing can remove natural oils which are essential for the health of the coat.

Most owners prefer to bathe only for a specific purpose. Periodic social grooming by the cat will keep the coat smooth and shiny. This will help to eliminate the need for frequent bathing. However, when the coat is badly stained or has a strong odor and when a brushing isn't enough, a bath becomes necessary. Even though bathing a dirty cat can reduce the risks of skin problems, cats with already existing skin problems might need to be bathed with medicated shampoos.


The majority of your cat's skin problems are due to food allergies or insect bites. In any case, all of these issues are non-life threatening and can be treated easily. The key to minimizing any extreme issues from escalating is to detect the problem early and get it diagnosed. Then all you will have to do is give your kitty her medicine and plenty of love.

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