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Skin Conditions In Cats

Jun 5, 2014 · Updated May 23, 2015 · ·
  1. Anne
    The skin is the largest organ a body has and that goes for cats as well as humans. The skin can be directly affected by disease and parasites or it can display symptoms that are related to a disease in another body part. Here's a quick overview of feline skin conditions and what you can do to keep your cat's skin healthy and itch-free!

    Symptoms of Skin Conditions in Cats

    A cat's skin can display a variety of symptoms and then there are the skin-related behaviors such as biting the skin or scratching. Skin-related symptoms can indicate a skin problem but they can also indicate a more systemic issue. Skin symptoms include -
    • Constant scratching
    • Pulling out hair
    • Biting the skin
    • Excessive grooming
    • Red or swollen areas
    • Rash
    • Lumps, bumps or discoloration
    • Open sores
    • Dry, flaky skin or rough patches

    Potential Causes of Common Skin Issues in Cats


    Dry, red, scaly patches of skin and hair loss are signs of ringworm, a fungal infection. It can be transmitted not only to other pets (dogs and cats) but to humans as well so a trip to the vet is in order. Sometimes it’s hard to see the red spots so if the itchy behavior keeps up, head to the doctor just in case.

    Read more about Ringworm In Cats

    Cat Fleas

    Either you’ll see the fleas when you part Kitty’s hair (easiest to see on the stomach and in the armpits) or you’ll see little black specks. Dampen them and if they turn a rusty red, it’s flea dirt. The redness is from Kitty’s blood that the flea has ingested. You’ll need to treat all areas Kitty’s been to avoid an infestation.

    Read more about cat fleas

    Skin and Ear Mites

    Most common are ear mites which will cause head shaking and scratching around the ears and on the head in general. An ear infection and ear mites call for two different salves. A trip to the vet to get the proper medication will be necessary either way. If you wait for too long, there is likely to be some fur loss on the outer ear and the sides of the head, due to excessive scratching.

    Read more about ear mites.

    Skin mites are called Cheyletiella mites. They cause a skin infection commonly known as mange, often manifested in scaly patches on the skin and dandruff. This parasitic infection of the skin needs to be treated ASAP, as it's not only extremely uncomfortable but also very contagious.

    Skin Allergies and Food allergies

    Just like their humans, cats can be allergic to mold, tree pollen, or even grass. Notice when the problem occurs - seasonal weather changes, when the grass is cut, when flowers bloom or trees leaf. Allergens can be carried inside on your clothing and shoes.

    Have you used wipes on Kitty’s fur or any kind of shampoo or grooming products? These can all irritate a cat's gentle skin. Only use products that were formulated specifically for cats, and if need be, switch to cat-formulated hypoallergenic products. It’s not just Kitty’s immediate world that can cause problems. If you changed fabric softeners, detergents, bought new pillows, sheets or rugs, Kitty may be reacting to the fibers or added chemicals used to make them stain proof or wrinkle resistant.

    Food allergies can also be expressed in the form of skin irritation, scratching and bald patches. Any protein in the cat's food can trigger an allergy and no one knows why some cats develop the food allergies they have. Common allergens are chicken, beef or types of grain. Your vet needs to rule out other causes for irritated skin and work with you on food elimination trials to find the type of food Kitty is allergic to.

    General Infections

    Healthy cats normally do not develop skin infections but elderly, sick or very young cats can be susceptible to any form of bacterial, viral or parasitic infection. Skin irritation and infection can be a primary of secondary result.

    Wrinkled cats, like the Sphinx or Rex, can develop yeast infections between the folds of skin. Medication will be needed to get rid of the yeast infection; after that, regular cleaning should keep the problem under control.

    Stress-Related Skin Problems in Cats

    Stress-induced behaviors can include hair pulling, licking and scratching, eventually to the point of breaking the skin or creating bald patches (alopecia). You need to treat the stress in order to allow the skin to heal.

    Read more about stress in cats and how to deal with it.

    General Suggestions for Preventing Skin Allergies and Disorders

    Some cats are more prone than others to developing rashes and skin conditions. This is often related to allergies, stress, or both. Here are some general suggestions for helping these cats -
    • Vacuum regularly and throw away the bag immediately after. If fleas get into the house (on the dog, on your clothing), this will help you head the problem off before it starts. It also reduces dust and mites.
    • Brush Kitty on a regular basis. This lets you see any changes as they happen and prevents hair matts.
    • Feed a healthy food that has no coloring, filler or grain listed in the ingredients.
    • Provide a calm environment for Kitty. Added enrichment like a cat tree for climbing and jumping, a scratching post, hiding places, a soft bed, toys and people who play with Kitty all make Kitty’s life better - and yours too as a result.
    Since skin problems can become serious trouble quickly, it’s always a good idea to check Kitty’s fur, skin, ears, eyes and teeth on a regular basis. Changes warrant a visit to the veterinarian sooner rather than later so Kitty’s not in the habit of chewing on her hair once the allergy is gone. Topical medications can usually solve the problem once it’s diagnosed. Never try to treat a sick cat at home without consulting with a veterinarian. You can easily do more harm than good.

    Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those! And if you found this article useful please help us in spreading the word about good cat care and share it on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. PippinandSimba
    My cat has bumps on his head that seem scaly and his skin is flaky. He also has wax built up in his ears. Also inside his ears is crusty dry skin patches. He does have a ring of crust around the rim of his ears as well. Ive had several cats and I have never seen this before. Have you seen something similar?
  2. ella's fatma
    can anyone tell about black ring patch on skin? no fever,scratching,irritation or hair loss at that spot..what it could be?
  3. AnnieMae123
    HI I would really appreciate if anyone could let me know what this is? I just noticed these raised bumps on her belly. She seems fine otherwise. Im bringing her to the vet when I get paid.... which wont be for a few days yet. Thank you so much in advance
    1. tarasgirl06
      Hello @AnnieMae123 and welcome to TCS! As with my last post, I STRONGLY suggest a vet check ASAP. Self-diagnosing, and public diagnosing, is at best ill-advised and at worst, completely erroneous and dangerous. Your cat needs expert eyes. *ALL THE VERY BEST* to her and to you.
    2. Areid1023
      Hey AnnieMae123, did you ever find out what condition your poor kitty has? A friend of mine has a cat that appears to he suffering from the same condition and she cant get it to a vet right now and has come up empty as far as internet searches go. Thanks in advance and I hope your cat is ok!!
      tarasgirl06 purraised this.
  4. Discord
    I found this kitten in a field far from any homes and I'm not sure if this is ring worm it isn't red just scabby. Can anybody tell from this picture?
    1. tarasgirl06
      It's not good to self-diagnose or ask members of the public or site to diagnose, @Discord. Strongly suggest a checkup at the vet, because kitten will need a basic checkup anyway, plus baseline innoculations and soon, spay/neuter. Thank you for caring and we wish this kitten *and you* all the very best!
  5. Katyosha
    Thank you for this benificial information

    About two months ago i have adopted this british short hair queen who was abandoned by her owner. The poor thing has a stress issue.it was shedding hair like crazy.. at the beggining i was itching a bit around her, my friend will cough with a wheezing noise so i looked it up and found out it has allergens plus other parasites for the horrible invironment she wad at. I took her to the vet and he gave her sevral medications plus an injuction for being in fever. However i am not sure if she was vaccinated and i didnt risk it since she became pregnant. The skin and sgedding issue has improved dramatically as she got to settle with me although she still stresses out easily of loud noise or other people .. i also found out it had worms but they didnt seem to effect her as much.. i tried to deworm her but she is so picky and will spit and throwup the medicin i give her.. her mental status discoureges me to force her into something as she is super sensitive.. now she is due to have her litter anytime soon and i know how someofthese medications can cause harm to her kittens.. and if its wise to take her to the vet at this critical time since she is starting to nest.. her eating is normal so is her weight and litter box habit. Any advice of what to do?
  6. tarasgirl06
    Grateful for the excellent article and suggestions. Our indoor-only crew are quite healthy, but our latest addition to the family joined us with alopecia. He seems to be getting better and growing some of his fur back, and he does have a large, calm home environment with lots of love and enrichment here.
  7. Linda Kimball
    My 11 year old SadieRose has, in the last two years, developed some kind of allergy. Her doctor cannot determine what the allergy is to! We have tried several prednisone treatments to no avail. Most recently I have tried 1/2 pill every other day with little itching relief. It seems to help just a bit but not thoroughly. She now has the cutest pale pink "udder" and has started licking her inner thighs. I want her off the Prednizone and am encouraged by all the reading on Zyrtec for her. Can anyone share their similar experience and thoughts on her doctor Rxing Zyrtec? Thanks.
    1. tarasgirl06
      Generally speaking, human medications are NOT to be used in cats. Also, has the vet done a skin scraping/cell culture to determine the possible origin of the allergy? If not, (s)he should.
  8. love4animals
    My white cat ceasar has a very bad skin problem his face,butt,between his toes all turn black. I have taken him to a lot of vets they all said the same thing it is a bacteria that spreads especially in hot weather. The only medicine that works is clavamox. The vets said if ceasar was in cooler weather he wouldn't have the skin problem. His brothers and sisters didn't have that skin problem.
    1. tarasgirl06
      White cats are more susceptible to skin conditions including skin cancer, which means these cats need to be kept out of direct hot sunlight as much as possible. Just like pale-skinned people who burn more easily and can also get skin cancer more easily, pale cats need to stay out of hot sun. You can apply cat-safe sunscreen to your cat's ears and nose to protect him, too.
      Bengalgrl79 purraised this.
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