Cat Acne (Yes, It's Real!)

Pet Health and Safety  •  Pam Karkow  •  Wednesday, May 20, 2020


I thought only teenagers had to deal with it.  The whiteheads.  The blackheads.  The angry red pimples.  Are you thoroughly grossed out now?  Did you know acne doesn’t just plague the youth among us, but can also wreak havoc on your fabulous feline’s otherwise flawless face?

Cat acne is actually one of the top 5 most common skin conditions that vets treat.  It can affect any age, breed, or size of cat, but Himalayans and Persians seem to be the most prone to acne.

So, what is cat acne?

According to Dr. Ken Tudor, DVM, it is a symptom of an unrelated reaction, such as flea or environmental allergies and/or poor grooming.  It is often seen on a cat’s chin and lower lip, where oil called sebum resides.  Most cases of cat acne are mild and may look like dirt that will not brush off.  Other cases of feline acne are more acute, affecting cats throughout their lifetime.

How do I know if my cat has acne?

Blackheads, whiteheads, and mild red pimples are some signs that your cat has acne.  More serious symptoms include nodules, pustules, and hair loss.

What are the causes of feline acne?

There are several factors that may contribute to your cat’s acne.  Poor grooming habits, stress, reaction to medications, suppressed immune system, and even excessive grooming where the chin is rubbed repeatedly, can lead to acne. 

What should I do if I suspect my cat has acne?

If you suspect your cat has acne, you can try some home remedies.  Dr. Stephanie Chlebowski, associate veterinarian at Vernon Veterinary Clinic in Vernon, New Jersey, believes feline acne is better treated topically than orally, and recommends applying a soft washcloth or towel rinsed in warm water to the affected area. If the problems persists, it is important to see your vet.  He can clean the area with an antiseptic cleanser and/or prescribe antibiotics.  Your veterinarian will also want to rule out more serious problems such as mange, fungal infections, feline leprosy, and tumors.  If your cat’s acne will not heal or is becoming a recurring issue, your vet may refer you to an veterinary dermatologist.

How can I prevent my cat from experiencing feline acne?

There are many things you can do to be proactive and avoid breakouts.  Most of the ways to prevent acne involve good hygiene and keeping food and water bowls clean.  Make sure your cat is drinking out of a glass or stainless steel bowl, as some cats are sensitive to plastic.  Place your cat’s water in a shallow dish to prevent her chin from absorbing bacteria in the water.  Maintain good grooming habits, and wash your cat’s chin gently after he eats.  You may also consider changing your cat’s food, if you suspect a food allergy may be to blame for the breakouts.

With proper hygiene, grooming habits, and careful attention, you can hopefully avoid the dreaded breakout.  But always remember to seek your veterinarian’s help if your cat’s acne does not seem to be getting better, or if it is irritating him.  Secondary infections resulting from improper care can be even more difficult to resolve.

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