How to Identify and Treat Cat Acne

Posted on
February 7, 2020

Pesky pimples here and there are normal for humans. And major breakouts, especially among teens, are a common and often recurring part of puberty, and sometimes adult life. When our sebaceous glands overproduce sebum, our pores can get clogged, infection can occur, and behold-- the pimple.

But we bet you didn’t know that our feline companions can also get acne. That’s right, just like us. And it is just as common.

The skin condition can be mild to severe, and can appear anywhere on the body as black heads, white heads, red bumps, or watery crusts of skin. Depending on the severity, the visible symptoms may indicate there are other dermatological issues at play, such as allergies, boils, or a more serious bacterial infection.

To successfully alleviate any discomfort your cat might be in, and also prevent further ailments, it is crucial to identify the condition, find its source, get a proper diagnosis, and seek safe, pet-friendly treatment for your cat.

What are Your Cat’s Symptoms?

From mild to severe cases, cat acne can take many forms and appear different case by case

a white cat with red acne bumps on its chin
Acne in cats can appear as red bumps, black heads, or crusty skin on the chin or around the lower part of their mouth. Photo Courtesy of PETA.


Your cat greets you at the door after a long day of work, rubbing their face on you. Suddenly you see a cluster of bumps has developed on their chin. It may look like a wound, depending on the severity of the acne, but in most cases it looks puffy, pinkish, and has crusted or dried sebum around the follicle.

Depending on the progression of the follical’s infection, the irritation may be more red in color. If severe enough, they may be uncomfortable and begin scratching themselves. In mild cases, you might not even notice anything is wrong until the acne gets more irritated by licking and scratching.

In such severe cases, a cat may experience hair loss in the particular area where the acne has developed-- which does not have to be the face. Acne can develop anywhere on the body.

Redness is common, and drainage or bleeding can occur when the acne goes untreated, which can lead to further bacterial infections. Because of this, do not squeeze, pick, or try to remove the pimples yourself.

What Causes Cat Acne?

It might not be so obvious, so it’s important to evaluate symptoms and determine the best course of action.

a cat hiding peaking out from behind a cushion
While there may be a number of reasons for your cat’s skin irritation, it usually relates to a plugged hair follicle that’s been infected. Photo Courtesy of Pexels.


It might not be so obvious, so it’s important to evaluate symptoms and determine the best course of action.First, we should note that cat acne is not specific to any type of cat breed, gender or age. Any cat can get it, just like any human can get a pimple. Though, just like certain skin types make us more susceptible, it usually affects breeds with longer hair and skin folds more severely or causes recurring symptoms.  

While we don’t know exactly why cat acne occurs, veterinarians presume that the abnormal follicular keratinization (in other words, the hair follicle becomes clogged and an infection occurs) can be related to anything from a seborrheic disorder like seborrhea oleosa or just excessive production of sebum (the skin’s natural oil) in felines.
Poor grooming habits can also be a leading cause, so keeping your cat cleaned and brushed is crucial to preventing outbreaks and curing current ones. Stress and suppressed immune systems may also be attributing to the acne, as well.

Cat acne can also be caused by environmental factors such as flea allergies, pollen, or fungal spores. And in a number of cats, there is a link between using plastic water or food bowls and acne. A cat’s sensitivity to a plastic’s chemicals or rough surfaces is a major factor in the severity of the skin condition.

How Do I Know My Cat Definitely Has Acne?

A professional diagnosis will help identify the root cause of your cat’s discomfort.

a gray kitty lounging on a sofa
A professional opinion should always be sought whenever your cat has an injury or infection.  Photo Courtesy of Pexels.


No one likes having acne. It’s uncomfortable, can be itchy, and sometimes painful. For cats, the story is the same, so it is crucial to take your pet’s skin health seriously and seek professional guidance when determining the best treatment.

Vets will give a diagnosis based on the medical history of your cat, as well as visible symptoms, such as color, shape, and location of the irritation. Urine tests and blood samples may be taken, in addition to skin cultures and sensitivity tests. Sometimes vets will even screen for certain allergies in order to determine the root cause of the acne.

When diagnosing cat acne, veterinarians usually want to be sure they rule out other conditions, such as mange, fungal infection, feline leprosy, tumors of the skin or secretion glands, or skin tumors.

For indoor/outdoor cats who like to hunt mice and other small animals, skin infections from mites that come from the animals they catch can also be the culprit to their redness. Certain skin parasites in cats also can look a lot like feline acne.

Consulting the internet is good to ease temporary worry, but letting a veterinarian diagnose and treat your cat should be on the top of your list, even if they recommend over the counter solutions. Only in severe cases will antibiotics or prescription creams be necessary.

How Do I Treat Cat Acne?

Now that you know what it is, how do you get rid of it?

a healthy cat perched on a red porch
The good thing about cat acne is that it’s usually treatable. Though sometimes outbreaks can reoccur.  Photo Courtesy of WikiCommons.

So, your cat has been diagnosed with a common but still serious skin condition.  Great. Maybe you’ve seen a veterinarian, maybe you’ve only read what PetMD has told you. Either way, the good news is that cat acne is mostly a temporary skin condition with plenty of solutions on the market to clear it up.

When you bring your cat to see the veterinarian, they may perform a cleaning of the acne area, using antiseptics, ointments, and possibly topical creams. They usually try to clip the hair around the area, too. Keeping the cat’s hair short is also sometimes a worthwhile solution to recurring acne outbreaks.

At home treatments include washing the skin on the chin and mouth of your cat once or twice daily with either soap, peroxide, or other cleansers. For more severe acne, warm water or tea bag compresses should do the trip in helping the acne heal.

Antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian might also be effective in curing the infection. Other behind the counter solutions to help with inflammation and frequency of outbreaks include prescription-strength shampoo or soap, corticosteroid pills or injection, and topical antibiotics. Mupirocin ointment can be an option for cat owners, too, as well as isotretinoin, a vitamin A derivative.

Another powerful way to treat your cat’s acne is actually by using certain anti-fungal sprays. It might not seem effective, but Fauna Care produces one that combines Ketoconazole with Zinc to promote healing and reducing irritation. The best part is that it's a spray, is affordable, and is easy to use.

Other at home remedies include using witch hazel or hydrogen peroxide and witch hazel. PetMD.com says that cucumber pulp, green or black tea, aloe, organic apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, or coconut oil may just be you and your cat’s saving grace. Cats also can benefit from taking Omega 3 fatty acid supplements.

No matter what route you decide to take to treat your cat’s acne, it is essential to 1) get approval from your veterinarian before using any product, and 2) never use human products on your cat, as some may be fatal or cause further injury to the cat’s skin.

Can I Prevent Cat Acne?

To save vet costs, you may wonder if there’s a solid way to prevent cat acne.

Taking a few simple steps can help prevent cat acne and keep your feline friend feeling their best. Photo Courtesy of Pexels.

Though cats may feel pain from their acne, Dr. Keeley McNeal at the Animal Care Center of Plainfield says that feline acne often appears worse than it really is.

“Cats can be pretty good at hiding it until they’re really miserable,” McNeal says. However, she usually assures owners that the feline acne does not usually limit the cat’s day-to-day life or prevent it from participating in any of its normal activities. .

She does mention that there is no real way to wholly prevent it. In two to three weeks, though, it should start to clear up given appropriate treatment. If it does not, Dr McNeal says, then the cat might be dealing with an underlying condition, possibly feline herpes, a chin injury, or a different disorder.

So, be patient, worried cat owner. Because though it may be unsightly (for cats and humans), there is no way for it to pass to other felines or to humans. And with so many treatment options out there, have confidence that it won’t be long before your cat is back to its normal, healthy self again.

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Posted on
February 7, 2020
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Advice
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