17 facts about the ‘skin microbiota’ of your cat

Here are 17 facts about the microbiota resident on the skin of domestic cats. It might surprise people to know that there is a multitude of microorganisms including bacteria and fungi on a cat’s skin called ‘skin microbiota’ creating a ‘skin microbiome’. It is similar to the way that cats and humans have a gut microbiome. Both are an important part of cat and human anatomy as they help to protect against disease.

My cat under the duvet in bed
My cat under the duvet in bed. Photo: MikeB
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats
  1. The bacteria on a cat’s skin varies across the body and bacteria prefers certain body site “niches” in healthy cats.
  2. In cats that have become allergic to certain substances, this skin microbiota is different indicating a link between allergies in domestic cats and their skin microbiota.
  3. Staphylococcus is more abundant on “allergic skin”. I interpret this to mean on skin which reacts in an unhealthy way to allergens causing atopic dermatitis (AD) for example.
  4. The variety of microorganisms on a cat’s body can be beneficial in educating the immune system and resisting the growth of pathogens (hostile organisms which cause ill health). One way they do this is by competing for resources.
  5. Sometimes these microorganisms can be detrimental to the health of a domestic cat (Staphylococcus plays a role in skin diseases).
  6. There may be a relationship between allergic skin disease and an increased abundance of Staphylococcus in cats.
  7. Skin microbiota is shared between companion cats and their human caregivers. This is because there’s lots of direct contact between the two. This may help explain why some studies indicate that babies living with cats and sharing microbiotas can help reduce the risk of developing allergies in people when they grow up.
  8. One study found that the following bacterium dominated feline skin microbiota: Micrococcus, Acinetobacter, Streptococci, and Staphylococci.
  9. A study found that the phyla Bacteroidetes “were highly abundant in all sites of the sampled cats”.
  10. The sites on a cat’s skin where there was the greatest “richness” of microbiota were the “haired and sebaceous sites” and the least rich areas in terms of microbiota were the ear canal, conjunctiva, nostril and reproductive tracts.
  11. Scientists have concluded that there are “more bacterial species inhabiting the skin of cats than previously thought”. They also decided that there is some evidence of an association between dysbiosis and skin disease. ‘Dysbiosis’ means an imbalance in the microbiota on the skin.
  12. Cat owners should be aware that bathing their cat washes away at least partly the cat’s skin microbiota creating an imbalance temporarily until it can be replaced.
  13. I believe that skin microbiota plus other factors create a cat’s scent identity which is recognised by other cats allowing them to identify friendly and hostile cats. Completely bathe a cat and you remove this “scent identity”. This will lead to temporary hostility from a once friendly cat.
  14. Some research indicates that skin bacterial microbiota is specific to a particular site on the body whereas fungal microbiota appears to be specific to certain individual cats.
  15. There is a different in skin microbiota between the various breeds of cat. Sphynx and Bengal cats have the most diverse community of microorganisms on their skin.
  16. Depending upon the cat breed, the abundance of certain species of bacteria varied such as for the bacteria Veillonellaceae and Malassezia spp.
  17. In addition to the bacterial microbiota varying from breed to breed of cat, it varies to a lesser extent because of the environment in which they find themselves. This indicates that indoor cats have a different skin microbiota to indoor/outdoor cats. Thought: this may account for health differences between these categories of domestic cat.

Sources:

  • Study: The feline skin microbiota: The bacteria inhabiting the skin of healthy and allergic cats
  • Study: The feline cutaneous and oral microbiota are influenced by breed and environment
  • Article: THE BACTERIA LIVING ON YOUR PET’S SKIN (NOM NOM)

Some more articles on itchy skin.

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