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Cat Skin Problems – Everything You Need To Know

Seeing your cat scratch a two to three times per day is normal. But, if you see your feline scratching its neck, chin, and back more often, it is usually a clear sign of inflamed skin. Read on and discover what makes your cat’s skin inflamed, what causes it and what you can do to help your feline.

Cats have a tendency to scratch, either for fun or as a part of grooming. However, they do not scratch often. And when they scratch it’s for an extremely short period of time, for just a few seconds. Therefore, if scratching becomes a regular and long routine you should schedule an appointment with the veterinarian and make sure that your feline’s skin is not inflamed.

Number one reason why cats are brought to the veterinarian’s office is skin-related. Your feline friend needs medical attention usually when scratching becomes more intense and often, in addition to hair loss. In most cases, cat skin problems are not urgent. However, if possible, you should make sure that your feline friend doesn’t suffer in any circumstances whatsoever.

Feline’s Skin

One of the best health indicator when it comes to cats is actually their skin. Feline’s healthy skin is black or pink, although it depends on the breed, and their coat should be constantly shiny and smooth.

Anything that goes beyond that is a sign of trouble. If you see any sign, even the slightest one, or itching, crusting, patches, inflamed areas or even white or black spots, it is a clear sign that something is not right. Some signs might suggest an underlying illness, while others could mean that your cat has a skin disease.

Bear in mind that when you start checking your feline’s skin you should not neglect the area around its ears. If you see gentle or strong brownish areas around your cat’s skin you should contact the veterinarian. In addition, if you know what warning skin signs are and how to notice them, you can help your cat to get proper treatment fast and recover even faster.

Cat skin problems to watch out for:

  • Hair loss
  • Bad skin odor
  • Strong itching
  • Strong scratching
  • Intense licking or rubbing
  • Patches
  • Crusts or thickened skin
  • Often grooming

Bear in mind that hair loss in cats is not the same as cat dandruff.

What Are The Causes Of Cat Itching?

The largest organ in a cat’s body is skin. This organ has so many different roles in serving its host. It provides a protective barrier and also has an ability to regulate the body’s temperature, among many other important functions. As the largest organ, the skin has the ability to reveal a number of health conditions. The most common sign that something is wrong with your cat’s skin is intense itching.

A number of conditions can lead to skin disease in cats, and they range from allergies to parasites. Also, less is known that the prevalence of each condition can vary with different geographic location.

For example, the most common causes of skin disease in cats, in the United Kingdom and Canada are seen in abscesses, while the most common causes of skin disease in cats – in the area of upstate New York is found in food, flea, mosquito bites and many different airborne particles.

Moreover, it is crucial to understand what needs to be done in order to diagnose a skin problem and to act accordingly.

Diagnosing Cats Skin Problems

The best and most precise way to have a proper diagnose for your cat’s skin problems is to visit the vet. Your veterinarian is the only person that runs proper tests and sets an adequate diagnosis. Again, your veterinarian may run tests like:

  • Collect some ear material and look at it under a microscope
  • Take a small scraping of the hair and look at it under a microscope is also common
  • Take a small scraping of debris of the skin and look at it under a microscope

Also, the common, and least desired disease is called ringworm. This is the only cat condition that can be easily transmitted to humans from cats. Ringworm can pass to children and adults equally. This condition needs to be diagnosed and treated immediately.

What Are The Causes Of Cat Itching?

Reasons for cats itching are many and they can vary from cat to cat. Therefore, the best step for you, as a responsible pet owner, is to react as soon as you see that your feline acts differently or odd. However, some of the main reasons that can cause cat itching are listed below:

1. Food Intolerance

In a number of cases, cat itching can be easily connected with felines food. Itching can be a reaction to certain kinds of proteins. Maintaining proper nutrition is a crucial thing when it comes to maintaining your feline’s health.

2. Allergies

You might not know it, but your feline may be easily allergic to something that you are not aware of. Your cat may be allergic to allergens such as mold, pollen, dust and etc. There are even some flea treatments that can cause a number of different allergies. Therefore, make sure that you take advice from your veterinarian when it comes to any possible side effects of any treatment.

3. Parasites

Parasites are known for causing skin irritation. The most common parasites are mites, lice, and fleas. Parasites are known for being irritating and causing cats to scratch themselves intensively. Extremely strong scratching can lead to damaged skin.

4. Hormonal Imbalances

Cats can suffer from imbalanced hormones, just like humans. Having too little or too many of certain hormones can be a base for skin problems. Hormonal imbalance can be a pointer to a row of serious underlying problems. Those problems should be identified and treated properly.

5. Infections

Infections are the most common reason for skin problems. Bacterial infections can cause serious skin problems that can lead to even more serious conditions. However, make sure that you know the difference between often kitten eye infection and other infections.

But let’s take a closer look at the most common culprits of skin problems in felines.

7 Most Common Skin Problems in Cats

Again, reason n.1 that pet owners take their feline friends to the vet is skin-related. Let’s see what are the causes most likely to cause skin problems in your cat.

1. Fleas

Cats are warm-blooded mammals and therefore they are liable for itchy flea bites. In addition, fleas often serve as a transmission vector for many other parasites, like tapeworms.

The most common reaction to fleas is scratching and itching, while some cats can experience a hypersensitivity reaction to flea saliva that can lead to extreme itching. The good news is that you can find a number of products to kill fleas.

Make sure that you treat furniture, carpets, and beds, and to use proper products in order to fight a flea infestation.

Quick tip: If you spot just one flea, be sure that another nine are somewhere around.

2. Ear Mites

Otodectes cynotis, or better-known as ear mites, is one of the most known parasites inside the felines world. These skin-crawling parasites are usually seen in young cats but can be found in cats of any age.

Ear mites lead to ear canal irritation, although a number of cats can experience strong scratching, itching, and pawing of their ear or ears. In cases of ear mites, cats will shake their head until they burst blood vessels and eventually form a hematoma in their pinna.

Ear mites are diagnosed by a veterinarian by examing the crusty discharge under a microscope and checking for the mites. This infection can be treated with ear drops or topical treatments.

Quick tip: Ear mites can be contagious to other cats. If you have more than one cat you should treat them all, even if only one cat has symptoms.

3. Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection that’s very common in cats. They can infect the superficial layers of the skin and nails. This infection is not easy to detect because of its common symptoms that may be related to other diseases and infections.

Ringworm is challenging to spot in cats. Humans that are caring this parasite are easily-spotted thanks to its red circles, while it’s not the case with cats.

With cats, the skin could have patches or hair loss can be easily seen. Hair loss is most seen on the chest, along with the back and the head.

The best way to diagnose ringworm is through the culture sent to be the lab, or by using a special ultraviolet lamp. This infection is usually treated with special shampoos and oral antifungal agents, next to mandatory cleaning of the environment including garniture, combs, and bowls. Treating the environment properly is crucial because ringworm can survive in the environment for months.

Good to know: Ringworm is zoonotic – it can be transmitted between cats, dogs and people.

4. Environmental Allergies

Atopy or more known as environmental allergies are extremely common. Although cats are known for being resistant and strong, they are subjective to a number of different allergies.

Cats can develop an allergy to almost anything, just like humans, including grass, mold, dust, pollen and even other animals. A cat that suffers from an allergy will rub its face, armpits and even their ears. In addition, they can over-groom themselves.

A full exam is mandatory to determine if your cat suffers from any allergy and which one exactly. Most of the environmental allergies can be treated with proper oral medications.

Good to know: Allergies are considered to be a chronic and lifelong condition.

5. Bacterial Infections

Pyoderma or more known as bacterial infections is a common secondary condition in cats. A cat who is grooming and itching due to parasites, allergies or fungus can cause severe trauma to the skin, that can eventually allow bacteria to take over and create a secondary infection.

Bacterial infection can appear as hair loss, small pustules, or even peeling layers of skin. A veterinarian is the only one that can diagnose pyoderma. The usual treatment for this condition is antibiotics.

Good to know: Infection may recur if the underlying cause in not treated.

6. Food Allergies

This is the third most common form of allergic disease in cats. Food allergies can develop at any age and can even occur in response to any food product. However, the most common food allergies are seen as seafood, beef, and dairy products.

Common reactions to these allergies are scratching of head and neck. A small percent of cats can experience diarrhea or vomiting.

This condition is usually treated with antibiotics. The most tricky part about food allergies is actually finding what makes your cat sick, what kind of food or which product exactly.

Once you learn what makes your car allergic you can introduce proteins one at a time, and cat can transit to a diet that does not include the troubled ingredient. Make sure that you know what your feline can eat, and if she can eat human food like peanut butter.

Good to know: The best way to determine this is to put your cat on a strict hypoallergenic elimination diet for a period of 8 to 10 weeks.

7. Feline Acne

This state is similar to a hormonal pre-teen phase in humans. Comedones or blackheads usually accumulate on the chin for reasons that are unknown to us. They are seen in every breed, size, sex, and even age. Acne can cause itching and hair loss in the affected areas.

The first step will include a skin scraping of the area to rule out problems like mites. Treatment for this condition involves clipping the hair and cleaning the area with a follicle-flushing shampoo who’s base is benzoyl peroxide.

Good to know: If your cat’s acne doesn’t clear up, even with treatment, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary dermatologist.


Cats are known for hiding their pain, including many medical conditions. Cats are notorious for hiding even physical symptoms.

Therefore, make sure that you track your cat’s behavior on a daily level and if you have seen any reaction that may seem odd, like hair loss, strong itchies, and any unusual wound on her body, especially back, get her to the vet. In addition, if you notice that your cat is not eating, you should react accordingly.

With a fast and appropriate treatment, your feline will feel better in no time.