Skin Problems And Conditions In Cats | Types, Symptoms, and Treatment

A cat’s skin and fur coat condition is closely connected to its overall health. It can easily indicate if there’s a health issue at hand and whether or not you’ve been neglecting your pet.

Unfortunately, sometimes cats with extremely devoted and caring pet parents can still also suffer from a variety of skin problems. Regardless of the efforts you’re putting into your furball’s skin and coat care, some cats are simply more prone to developing a health disorder (either genetic or caused by other factors) than others.

Skin problems are among the most common types of issues vets and pet owners have to deal with. They can be caused by a wide range of factors. Some feline breeds are genetically predisposed to them.

On the other hand, even overall healthy breeds can also experience numerous skin infections and blemishes. It’s important to remember that using only high quality cat food and suitable grooming tools, along with not missing scheduled vet check-ups, doesn’t automatically guarantee that your pet won’t develop any skin or fur coat problems. They can be caused by a number of external factors which you can’t influence or foresee.

We’ll cover the different types of skin problems in cats below, as well as their causes and some prevention methods.

Symptoms Of Skin Problems In Cats

Unless you’re a well-trained veterinarian or the problem spot on your cat is huge, chances are you won’t see the signs at first. Here are the most common telltale symptoms which you should be looking out for, as they can indicate that there’s an issue at hand:

  • Compulsive scratching, licking and self-biting of the skin and fur
  • Inflammation
  • Dry or irritated skin
  • Patchy spots
  • Redness, rashes or similar blemishes
  • Lumps or swollen areas
  • Scabs
  • Pus or blood drainage

Cats use their teeth and tongues to groom themselves on a daily basis so licking isn’t necessary a sign of a problem, unless it’s way more than usual. However, the rest of the above-mentioned symptoms are a clear sign that your pet’s skin and coat need attention.

Types Of Skin Problems In Cats


Abscess occurs when bacteria enter the kitty’s skin tissue through an open wound, a scratch, a bite, etc. If a cat has an abscess, a  pus and blood will eventually accumulate in the affected area. Abscesses can evolve in both superficial and deep wounds. The cat will be in a lot of pain, and administering homemade remedies will be tricky.

Moreover, if you’re not being careful, you can also get infected by coming into direct contact with your cat’s abscess, especially if you have wounds on your own skin. Be cautious because even something as insignificant as a paper cut can lead to infection.


One of the most common types of skin conditions in cats is feline acne. It may appear as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, dirty spots or pustules.

Unlike acne in humans, cat acne is prevalent during all growth stages and doesn’t affect only young cats. It can occur once, on frequent occasions throughout the cat’s entire life, or only from time to time. Improper grooming, a weak immune system, stress, and hyperactive sebaceous glands are the most common culprits.

Excessive chin rubs, direct contact with dirty surfaces, and side effects to a medication may also result in acne. If you don’t treat this problem on time, it could lead to severe infections.

Allergic Reactions

Cats can have allergic reactions, like a rash from the bacteria on food bowls and other types of plastic household objects.

Similar types of skin irritation can occur if your fluffy pal is suffering from flea allergy dermatitis. Controlling fleas is a huge problem for stray feral cats and pets allowed to roam the outdoors. However, indoor cats can get fleas too.

Flea bites can cause serious skin problems in sensitive cats. The allergic reaction can last from anywhere near a few hours up to a few days. The irritation will make the kitty scratch, bite, and lick the area constantly, eventually leading to a bigger issue.

Contact Dermatitis

If your pet comes into contact with rubber, dirty plastic, chemicals, or other types of substances, there’s a chance it could develop contact dermatitis.

Obviously, you can’t kitty-proof your home on 100%. Even if you keep all chemicals and harmful substances out of reach, cats are notorious for their strange hiding habits. Your pet could easily sneak into a cabinet with detergents without you realizing it. Unfortunately, your furball won’t know what it’s not supposed to touch, lick, or sniff.

Ear Mites

Ear mites affect cats and dogs alike. They are tiny parasites which “nest” in the ears, where they feed on natural oils and ear wax. As repulsive as these parasites sound, they are actually quite common and highly contagious.

Waxy secretions in the form of black or brown ooze, excessive scratching, unpleasant odor, skin irritation, inflammation, and head shaking are common signs of ear mites.

Apart from causing visible skin problems, ear mites can also damage the kitty’s internal and external ear canal. Multi-cat households, feral cats, and young kittens are the usual victims of these nasty parasites.

Flaky And Dry Skin Or Dandruff

It may come as a surprise, but feline creatures can have dandruff. Allergies, malnourishment, harsh weather conditions, and dehydration are common causes for dandruff. It is, however, possible for a cat to have dry skin without dandruff.

Overweight cats often have duller fur coats and either greasy or dry skin. Their extra weight makes self-grooming difficult and the results are often visible. On the other hand, hairless breeds like the Sphynx are also prone to developing such skin problems due to the lack of fur. They do have a velvety skin cover instead of fur but that layer is not enough to protect their skin from unfavorable weather conditions and other external factors.

Far too frequent bathing or not bathing at all could easily cause flaky and dry skin or too oily skin, regardless of the cat’s breed.

Hair Loss Or Thinning

Stress and other negative emotions can result in a thinned fur coat and even in bald patches.

The sudden hair loss, regardless of how severe it is, could also be a symptom of cancer, diabetes, a weak immune system, an overactive thyroid, and other similar conditions.


Similar to ear mites, the lice are parasites which feed off the kitty’s body. They are commonly present in young cats with dry skin whose owners have been negligent towards their grooming and overall health. Lice can be transferred from one cat to another just like the mites.

You can treat lice with a variety of topical solutions. And fortunately for you, you can’t contract them from your kitty as they are species-specific.


Contrary to what it might sound like, ringworm isn’t a worm or a parasite. It’s actually a fungal skin infection.

Ringworm affects humans and animals alike. When it comes to cats, the infection can lead to bald spots, pus, itching, scaly skin lesions, and even secondary infections. The worst part in this particular skin problem is that it can spread over the cat’s entire body. And the cat can pass it down to you too!

On the bright side, there are all kinds of medications for ringworm – shampoos, topical solutions,ointments, and even oral medications.


Yes, it is possible for cats to suffer from sunburn. Cats from hairless feline breeds are most vulnerable, though any cat can get sunburn. Skin cancers such as melanoma are one of the risks that go hand in hand with sunburn.

Treatment Of Skin Problems In Cats

You should never try self-diagnosing your pet or treating it with homemade remedies when it comes to skin diseases!

If you’re suspecting there’s something wrong with your feline furball’s skin and fur coat condition, seek a vet’s help. There are a vast variety of over-the-counter medications for skin problems, but you shouldn’t administer any of them without consulting with a vet. If it’s necessary, the doctor will prescribe a specific type of drug or medication for your kitty’s case.

In some severe cases the cat might be hospitalized for a few hours or days depending on how advanced the skin problem is.

The best way to prevent skin problems is to keep your pet strictly indoors. Don’t neglect its grooming, dietary, entertainment, and social needs. Depression, separation anxiety, and stress can easily trigger skin disease or other health problems. Maintaining the cat’s hygiene, as well as the hygiene of your home, is essential for the prevention of any type of disease, whether it’s external or internal.

Last, but not least, don’t put off the trip to the vet’s office just because the skin condition doesn’t appear to be causing trouble. The treatment procedures and the recovery are easier, faster, and more efficient when you catch the disease in an early stage.

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Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

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