Categories: Cat Skin

Cat Skin Problems

Cat skin problems? No. This fine looking cat is scratching his or her chin. The picture is here to simply illustrate the page and this cat has no skin problems that I know of.

Skin problems in cats are quite wide ranging. They are listed on this page. It seems that these problems can be bracketed under four headings. This page pulls various strands together. Where I have dealt with the subject earlier I have provided a link. Otherwise it is dealt with on this page1. I do not provide treatments here because that is the domain of a good vet (and one that does not declaw). The objective is to provide an overview so that we have some knowledge when seeing a vet. We need to keep an eye on vets.


  1. Itchy Skin
  2. Hair Loss
  3. Infected Skin
  4. Lumpy Skin

Itchy Skin

  1. Fleas – one of the very common cat skin problems
  2. Head Mange Mites – causes intense itching around the head, neck, face and edges of ears. I think my Charlie might get these. They are considerably smaller than fleas. I comb them out with a flea comb nonetheless.
  3. Walking Dandruff – caused by a mite that is somewhat red. Heavy dandruff over back, neck and sides of cat. Uncommon. It is contagious (communicable by contact or by a bodily exhalation in this instance). Transferable to people.
  4. Chiggers – these are harvest mites. Cats pick them up from grass. The larvae are parasitic and can be seen on the cat’s skin under a magnifying glass. Likely places are: between toes, around ears and mouth. Might see raw skin and scabs.
  5. Ear Mites
  6. Ticks
  7. Lice – one of the rare cat skin problems and unlikely to be present on well cared for cats. Normally found under matted hair around shoulder region. Localised hair loss due to scratching.
  8. Maggots – eggs of flies. Flies can lay them on infected wounds on the cat’s skin. Happens in warm weather. The maggots digest the skin and enter the skin leading to a bacterial infection. This will be clearly visible. Maggots eat dead skin/flesh and are used in human medicine sometimes.
  9. Food Allergy – see hypoallergenic cat food. This is a cat skin problem that is traceable to a food allergy.
  10. Contact Dermatitis – rarely one of the cat skin problems because of the protection provided by fur but can be present where hair is thin (feet and chin for example). Two types (1) irritant and (2) contact dermatitis. Both caused by contact with a chemical. The former is caused by the chemical causing irritation and the later sensitization through repeated exposure. The rash shows itchy raised areas and inflamed skin. Chemicals that might cause dermatitis are:
    • detergents (irritant)
    • solvents (irritant)
    • soaps (irritant)
    • flea powders (allergic)
    • poison ivy and other plants (see plants poisonous to cats)
    • dyes in carpets (allergic)
    • leather (allergic)
    • plastic dishes (allergic)
    • rubber dishes (allergic)
    • some medicines (allergic)
    • flea collars (my Charlie was given a flea collar before I cared for him and he still has hair loss where the collar was). Flea collars are not recommended by me (for what it is worth).
    • litter boxes (dermatitis around tail and anus) (history of cat litter)
  11. Inhalant Allergy – see cat skin rashes and feline allergies. It is difficult to differentiate between the various causes of an allergic reaction as the symptoms are similar. This is caused by breathing in such allergens as:
  • pollen
  • dust
  • molds
  1. Miliary Dermatitis – an allergic skin reaction caused by: flea bites (most common reason), mite bites and lice bites. It can also be caused by skin infections (bacterial and fungal) and drug reactions. Small bumps and crusts on the skin form down the back and around the head. See also Ragdoll cat skin scabs. This seems to be one of the not too uncommon cat skin problems

Hair Loss

  1. I have covered this subject before. Please see:

Infected Skin

Pus and/or signs of bacterial infection on the skin or beneath it (called Pyoderma by the vets). Can be subdivided into two cat skin problems:

  1. Self mutilation through scratching and/or biting caused by itchy skin (see above)
  2. Disease
    • Feline acne – skin pores are blocked forming black heads or bumps that come to a head.
    • Impetigo – an infection of the dermis (the lower or inner layer of the two main layers of cells that make up the skin2) of the skin in kittens. Scabs and blisters, some containing pus can form on the abdomen of newborn cats. It is caused by the litter box not be sanitary leading to secondary bacterial infections.
    • Abscess
    • Thrush – a yeast that invades the mouth and ear canals. It affect people too. Can be brought on by long use of antibiotics that disturb the natural bacteria in the body and corticosteroids; also can affect cats with suppressed immune systems.
    • Mosquito bite caused by a hypersensitivity to the bite. Results in crusty sores and scabs on the nose, ends of ears and itchy paw pads. Can lead to fever.

Lumpy Skin

This relates to cat skin problems of lumps on and under the skin:

  1. Warts – relatively rare and tend to occur on older cats.
  2. Hematomas (blood under skin) -caused by a blow resulting in a contusion (bruise3)
  3. Abscess – see above
  4. Subcutaneous (beneath the skin) Cysts – non-malignant tumors in glands in the skin. Can grow to an inch in length. Can become infected at which point it needs to be treated. Should be removed for this reason.
  5. Mycetoma – also affects people. It is quite serious and I suspect rare in cats and more likely to occur in arid parts of the world4. A fungus enters the cat’s body via a wound and forms a tumor like mass beneath the skin. There is an opening to the skin’s surface that drains “a granular material”5, white, yellow or black in color. In people it is found in India and Africa, for example.
  6. Sporotrichosis – one of the rare cat skin problems caused by a fungus in the soil. The fungus spores enter the skin via a cut for example or by being breathed in or eaten (rarely6). It affects people too, such as farmers. In the USA it is more common in the north and central regions of the country. A nodule (a small area where tissue collects and which can be felt) forms at the site. This is more likely to be the cat’s paws, face, legs or base of the tail. There is hair loss in over the nodule. Rarely, the disease is internal and in lungs and liver.
  7. Grubs – the larvae of flies picked up from soil, penetrate the cat’s skin forming lumps with a small breathing hole for the larvae. The larvae can protrude from the hole. See My thinks he is a Turkish Angora (the story of a rescued feral cat with this cat skin problem)
  8. Cancer – see also cat health and cancer and Feline Fibrosarcoma and cat vaccination recommendations – Several types of cancer:
    • squamous cell cancer – a neoplasm (new and abnormal growth of tissue, which may be benign or cancerous7) forming a cauliflower type growth around body openings usually, and where there is chronic skin irritation. Need early detection as it can spread.
    • basal cell cancer – an area of small nodular (bumpy) growths under the skin. Need to be removed.
    • mast cell cancer – normally on scrotum, hind legs and lower abdomen. About 33% are malignant. Can spread.
    • melanomas – malignant tumor forming in the bottom layer of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin8) of the cat’s skin.


Feline Skin Problems to Cat Health Problems



1 – Book 1




5 – Book 1 – page 110




Photo: Creative Commons – Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. By pasipasi

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • Hi,
    Good article but can you include images? I found a strange patch of skin on my cat's back while I was brushing her and am not sure if I should take her to a vet. Vets are very expensive and stress my 19 year oldcat a lot, I would rather not take her if I don't have to but am concerned due to my kitten's age. I have attached an image, please give me your opinion.

    Thank you,

    • Yes, I believe it is possible. Borax is alkaline and there may have been an allergic reaction. Try and remove affected objects from the home and stop using it to see what happens. Good luck.

  • I have a black cat that was pulling her fur out on the back legs and stomach. She was almost bald back there. I started using a flee and tick medicine that had something in it for chewing lice. She stopping pulling her fur and had almost all her fur back. Think people should try this solution.

    • Great job, Carol. Can you tell us the medicine? Was it a flea/tick treatment? Not sure what you mean by "...tick medicine that had something in it for chewing lice".

  • My cat 19 months old has hair loss on his hind legs n anal area and around his tail. I see no sores or red areas on his skin. I do have another older cat that has colitis. What do u think may be causing the hair loss in the areas of my younger cat?

    • Hi Carla, the first thing I'd do is watch him to see if it is due to overgrooming. Most often it is. Then you have to find out why there is overgrooming (if that is the case). If can check this out and then come back to this page and leave another comment we can go from there.

  • My 10mos old tom has 4 spots of hair loss. He's a constant groomer. The spots are on his front R leg, hind R leg, his butt & on his low abdomen. It just started this week. The largest spot is about the size of a 50c piece.
    We have several brands of food available for him & our 4 other female cats.
    What can cause it. It looks like the mange in a way!
    Charles Johnson
    Pea Ridge, AR, 72751

    • Hello Charles. The places where the hair loss spots are indicate that it your cat is over-grooming because these spots are in easily accessible places. If he is over-grooming this is usually due to stress because grooming for a cat is a reassuring process; it makes the cat Feel better. If your cat is stressed then something is causing it. What typically causes stress is an environment in which the cat lives that is not quite ideal. An example may be too much noise or too much disruption or somebody in the house may not like cats. There may be too many changes going on or the place is not settled enough. There may be other cats coming in and out of the home who are strange cats. If I'm correct and this is over-grooming due to stress then I would look for causes based upon what I have just stated above and use your imagination. Thank you very much for visiting and asking and the best of luck.

      • He was an outdoor cat till a month ago. He's very active. I've had cats all my life, up to 30 at a time on the farm. We feed between 40-60lbs cat chow/week. He came in as if he'd lived indoors from birth & unless he's sleeping, he's playing with the 4 other indoor cats or He hunts. He's constantly bringing up socks, envelopes & anything he can drag/carry & sings the whole way. But he has always cleaned himself. I said he was the dirtiest or cleanest cat we've ever had?
        We've got an Appointment tomorrow @11:00 with Rose Aminal clinic in BENTONVILLE Arkansas to have him checked. We found another spot on his butt after I emailed earlier so thought we'd better have him looked at. Incase it's allergies to grain or something.
        I'll holler back & let ya know what the Doc says...OK?
        Thanks for the quick reply.
        Charles Johnson

        • What you say indicates it is not over-grooming, He seems to be settled and content. May be an allergy or a skin condition in that case. Good luck at the vet. If you have a second, it would nice if you could leave a one-line comment telling us what caused the problem.

  • While they are normally seen as being irritating, it is important that
    owners realise that fleas can be detrimental to
    their pets health. They are especially effective in cracks, crevices,
    under furniture, in closets, etc. Simple washing will destroy the
    fleas residing in your animals bedding.

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