Cat Acne: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

By Amanda Jondle, DVM March 18, 2019

There is nothing more frustrating than a stubborn pimple, whether you’re a teenager or an adult. Did you know that your cat can relate? Yes, cats can get acne too!

What Is Cat Acne?

Also referred to as feline acne, comedones, chin folliculitis, or chin acne, cat acne is a skin condition that affects the chin and skin around the lips. It often appears as black dirt, blackheads, whiteheads, crusts, bumps, and scabs, that in severe cases can bleed.

What Causes Cat Acne?

It is uncertain as to what actually causes cat acne, but it is thought that the hair follicles become clogged with sebum, a greasy substance secreted from glands on the chin. Inflammation results and is followed by a secondary bacterial infection. There are several proposed underlying causes including poor grooming habits, topical irritation, abnormal sebum production, stress, viruses, allergies, fleas or flea allergies, ringworm or other fungal infections, or a weakened immune system. One of the most common underlying causes is using plastic or ceramic water and food bowls. Bacteria can get trapped in the pores of the plastic bowls and in the cracks of ceramic bowls. The bacteria in combination with oils from the food get onto your cat’s chin and set up an environment for pimples.

What Are The Symptoms Of Cat Acne?

Symptoms include the appearance of acne, dirt, or blackheads as described above. Your cat might scratch at their chin, obsessively groom, or rub their chin and face. If you notice blood on the chin or around the mouth or if there is swelling of the chin or around the lips, that usually correlates with a more serious infection and you should take your cat in to see your veterinarian.

How Do You Treat Cat Acne?

Early or mild chin acne can be managed with a few simple techniques:

  • You can clean or wash your cat’s chin with a warm wet washcloth. If needed, you can also use a little Dawn dish soap to work out the dirt and grease.
  • Use a cotton ball soaked with organic witch hazel and clean your cat’s chin and around the lips 1-2 times a day.
  • Remember those Stridex pads you used to clean your face as a teenager? You can use those to treat your cat’s acne too. Just take a Stridex pad and gently clean your cat’s chin and around the lips if needed. You can do this 1-2 times a day.
  • Oftentimes, using these methods for a few days will clear your cat’s acne right up. If, after a few days, your cat still has acne or it gets worse, make sure to take your cat in to see your vet.
  • In more moderate to severe cases, your vet may need to do special skin tests to check for a fungal infection, mites, or other conditions that could be causing the acne. Sometimes they will need to prescribe stronger topical treatments or antibiotics.
  • Make sure not to squeeze or pick at your cat’s acne. For the pimple poppers out there, that might be hard to resist! But squeezing and picking at the acne can make it inflamed, infected, and harder to treat.

How Do You Prevent Cat Acne?

Here are a few tips to prevent your cat’s acne:

  • Make sure your cat is on flea prevention. Your veterinarian can help you find the best option for your cat, but flea prevention is key for any kind of skin infection. Some cats can be very sensitive to fleas and flea bites, which can result in an allergic skin reaction causing acne or scabs on the body. Flea prevention is an easy way to keep your cat free of these external itchy parasites.
  • Ditch your plastic and ceramic food and water bowls. Use glass or metal bowls instead. Make sure to wash and rinse them frequently and put them in the dishwasher to sanitize them weekly.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can help keep your cat’s skin healthy. This supplement can also help reduce inflammation which often accompanies chin acne.

Cat acne is both treatable and preventable. If caught early enough, you can easily get rid of your cat’s acne. Using these tips, you can prevent it from recurring or happening in the first place. Remember, if your cat is in pain, has a swollen chin or mouth, or has red, raw, or bleeding sores, please take your cat to see your veterinarian.  If you don’t have a veterinarian yet, then feel free to read our article on how to choose one for your cat.

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