Cat Skin Problems

Some Common Causes of Cat Skin Problems

If you own a cat you know that they can be very prone to skin disorders.

These skin problems are usually due to allergies, fleas, feline acne or ringworm. Stress and anxiety can be added to the list too.

Many of these problems will cause your cat to itch so badly that she starts to scratch obsessively.

If your cat is suffering from a skin condition, it is more than likely being caused by fleas. This is the number one cause of skin and fur problems in cats.

Felines with cat flea allergy have a serious reaction to being bitten by a flea, their skin can become inflamed and very itchy resulting in the cat developing sores.

Fleas can affect cats of any ages, but as they get older the skin problems that occur due to fleas can become more severe.

Just like in humans, pollen and other airborne particles can irritate the nasal passages and cause your cat to suffer from skin and coat problems and allergies.

Food Allergies Often Show Up As Cat Skin Problems

Food allergies are the third most common cause of allergy based cat skin conditions. A pet suffering from a food allergy will likely be feeling very itchy.

Some cats consume many different processed food proteins and colorings, which may be changed by their digestive systems into foreign material that gets attacked by the immune system.

cat with golden eyes

It is easy to think that a food allergy related skin problem would be due to a change in your cat’s diet. This is not always so.

Many food allergies take time to develop and your cat may have been eating the problem food for some time without ill effects.

Distinguishing between cat skin problems caused by a reaction to certain foods, and skin disorders caused because of a generic disposition (atopy,) is not simple. Veterinarians may need to make certain tests to determine the cause.

Intradermal skin testing may be carried out which entails sedating the cat and shaving an area of fur.

A selection of antigens are then injected into the cat's skin in a pattern. After a short time the area is inspected to see if there is any swelling around any of the needle holes. If there is, it indicates that particular antigen causes a reaction.

Blood tests may be given, but are found to be not very reliable when testing for food allergies.

Dietary elimination trials are usually very effective. The cat is feed protein sources that are not part of her usual diet. It may take several weeks before positive improvement.


When you are trying to find out what is causing your cat skin problems, you will need to exercise extreme caution.

The reason for this is because your cat may have ringworm, which can in turn be transmitted to humans. If you think that this may be a possibility you will want to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Ringworm is a fungus that lives on the keratin that is found in your cat’s hair, nails, and skin. Microsporum canis is by far the most common type of ringworm to cause your cat skin problems (including loss Of hair.)

Trichophyton mentagrophytes is usually contracted by contact with rodents, and Microsporum gypseum/fulvum is usually contracted from contact with spores in the soil.

Also, sheaths of arthrospores (ringworm causing agents) are produced when an animal is infected and can be found around the infected areas.

Arthrospores can then scatter around the house and live in carpeting, cat bedding, furniture and even air filters for up to 18 months and may cause problems for other felines.

Washing infected areas thoroughly with bleach is the only way to prevent future outbreaks of skin problems associated with the spores.

Feline Acne

Another problem that you and your cat may face is feline acne. This is a common example of a cat skin disorder and can be seen in the form of blackheads that will form on your cat’s chin, lower lip and face.

The main reason that your cat will come across this problem is if it has enlarged sebaceous glands around the face; the same reason that humans suffer from acne. Learn more here - Cat Acne.

Endocrine Alopecia

Nobody is quite sure of the exact cause of this uncommon condition but hormonal imbalance is a strong probability.

Endocrine alopecia is found most usually in cats that have been spay or neutered. The condition results in symmetrical patches of hair loss along the insides of the hind legs and the abdomen.

A cat with this condition will need treatment by a veterinarian, the treatment is likely to be prolonged and involve many tests. Hormone injections are a possible course of action, but your vet may not take this route because of the possibility of side effects.

Cat Skin Problems - Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis comes in two varieties, allergic and irritant. Both types are caused by the cat coming into contact with chemicals, plastics and other irritants, producing cat skin problems.

Neither is usually seen in very young cats because repeated exposure is necessary before a skin disorder develops.

Cat skin disorders.Skin problems can be very distressing for cats.

With irritant contact dermatitis the disorder is caused by direct contact with the offending chemical or substance.

With allergic contact dermatitis it is repeated contact with the chemical that induces sensitization of the skin, that produces an allergic reaction from future contact.

Contact dermatitis is uncommon in cats because the fur helps to prevent the skin form coming into direct contact with chemicals.

However areas of the cat's body where the hair is thin, such as the feet and chin, may prove problematical.

Some common causes are oily leafed plants, carpet fresheners, house dust, newsprint, cleansers, and certain topical medications.

Changes of the pigment, skin eruptions, especially noticeable on the chin, ears and underside of the cat are feline skin problems possibly caused by contact allergies.

Prevent these cat skin problems by keeping your pet away from areas where chemicals are in use, or are being stored. By being careful about what you wash your floors with and, if necessary, not supplying your cat with a plastic feeding bowl.

Cat Skin Problems – FeLV, FIV

FeLV and FIV positive cats undergo a weakening of their immune system.

This means that they are not able to resist secondary infections and are at risk of many cat illnesses, including cat skin problems. If you think your cat may be suffering from FeLV or FIV, you should contact your veterinarian right away.

Cat Skin Disorders – Stud Tail

There is a sebaceous gland close to the base of the tail in cats and other animals. This gland can become overactive and excrete excessive oils. The gland can also become infected.

The base of the tail gets covered in waxy oils that can be foul smelling and cause hair loss, lesions and bacterial infection.

The disorder is most usually found in un-neutered Toms but any cat can get this skin condition. Treatment consists of daily grooming and twice daily use of antiseborrheic shampoos.

Cat Skin Problems – The Midday Sun

Cats love to laze and snooze in the sun, there is a danger in that however, too much exposure to the sun can result in skin cancers.

orange and white cat
A well groomed cat is a joy to see. Unfortunately there are many cat skin disorders to be wary of.

It is for this reason it is recommended that cats are kept out of the sun during the hours around midday, when it is at it's strongest.

If a cat has to be outside all day, somewhere for her to get shade should be provided, along with fresh water.

White cats, cats with white patches and cats of other light colors are most at risk. Hair is usually thin around the ears and nose and these areas should be regularly inspected.

Yeast Infection in Cats

A yeast overgrowth can sometimes cause skin problems in cats.  Yeast or candida is normally present in a cat's mouth, ears, nose, and genital tract.  If a cat's immune system is weakened and their is some kind of wound present, the yeast can invade this area and very quickly grow to an unhealthy level.

Cats who have feline aids, leukemia, or diabetes are more susceptible to this type of infection. Treatment of the underlying condition to get it under control is necessary as well as applying a salve or ointment used for candidiasis  to the sore area.


If there was ever a reason to be concerned about and treat any kind of sore on a cat immediately, the possibility of sporotrichosis is it.  Sporotrichosis is a fungus which is highly contagious in both cats and humans and can easily spread to other pets in the home.

This cat skin infection is usually transmitted by cat bite or clawing from an infected cat.  The sores appear in the areas most likely wounded during a cat fight such as the head, tail area, and legs. These sores do not heal and form abcesses. An infection can become systemic with the cat becoming listless with high fever and loss of appetite.

Treatment must be performed by a veterinarian who will use oral potassium iodide. Treatment can last up to eight weeks.

The possibility of a cat getting this infection is another good reason to get a male cat neutered and keeping both male and female cats indoors.

Dry, Flaky Skin

Dry flaky skin is usually caused by diet and a cat fed entirely dry food is more prone to it.  Another reason for dry flaky skin is lack of grooming which may be a sign that the cat is not well. Older cats may be suffering from arthritis and find it painful to stretch far enough to groom themselves all over. Hyperthyroidism which is a metabolic condition can also cause the skin to be flaky.

You may be able to improve this condition by adding coconut oil or krill oil to your cat's food to increase the omega-3 fatty acids in its diet. Read more about this condition -- Cat Dandruff.

This page was not written by a veterinarian. If you are concerned about skin disorders that your cat may have, you should consult your vet. 

Cat Excessive Grooming.
Remember that it is normal for a cat to spend a lot of time grooming. But a cat excessive grooming and causing bald areas in her coat has a problem that needs attention.

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