Outside Cat: Infected Abscesses on Paws, Head, and Stomach

A cat health question from Brittani Bell who left a comment on the ‘hair loss in cats‘ page. I hope this page helps some visitors but this is only a discussion page. It is not a diagnosis and neither is it a substitute for going to the veterinarian.

Parasitic infestation of outdoor cat

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Brittani’s comment:

I think my cat, Mooshu, has been sick for a long time now. A few months ago, he’d get these very infected abscesses every month on his paws, head, and stomach.

Even some of our other cats have gotten these abscesses, though ever as bad. He’s stopped having the abscesses thankfully but ever since they started, he started becoming very thin.

Usually Mooshu likes to stay outside for 2-3 days exploring before coming home to rest for a day or two. Well earlier this week he came back as usual but he never left. He hates staying inside for long periods of time and so far this week, he’s only gone outside maybe once or twice each day just to use the restroom.

He’s been very tired and has been sleeping the days away. Every since he came inside, I’ve noticed very rough white stuff appear all over his back paws, front paws, elbows, cheeks, groin, and forehead. It feels extremely rough to the touch and doesn’t seem like it’s his skin.

If I pick it up it literally lifts all the surrounding skin aloud with it. The parts on his cheeks and elbows can be slightly scratched off but not the ones anywhere else.

His mood doesn’t seem different besides the fact that he’s so tired and as far as I know, this isn’t an allergic reaction as we haven’t bought different cat food in a few months; we always get the same brand.


Anything that is written here is essentially going to be guesswork even though it is written while referring to a good book on the subject of cat health.  My guess is that this health problem in your cat is caused by a parasite.  I say that because your cat likes to go outside for 2 to 3 days at a time exploring a does it routinely.  Secondly, this skin problem is on his paws, elbows, cheeks, groin, head and stomach.  These are all areas that are very near the ground and of course he will push his head into things and sniff things on the ground which is why his head is also infected.  That is my initial feeling about this.

On the basis that initial assessment is correct (and it might well and quite possibly is incorrect please note) what is causing this could be harvest mites or red bugs (chiggers).  They live as adults in decaying vegetation.  In larval form they are parasitic.  Cats aquire the infestation while prowling in forest grasslands and fields where chiggers reproduce.  Reproduction happens in the fall or late summer.

The mites in larval form appear as red, yellow or orange specs but they are barely visible but can be seen under a magnifying glass.  They tend to clump on the body where the skin is thin such as “the webbed spaces between the toes or around the ears and mouth” but are also seen elsewhere on the body.  The larvae feed by sucking on the skin which irritates the cat, obviously.

Chiggers infecting feet of perso
Chiggers infecting feet of person

One aspect of this possible cause is that it results in red draining sores with overlying scabs which are symptoms that do not square with what you say but see picture of chiggers affecting a person (white looking crusty areas). However, my gut feeling is that the presence of this skin problem on the lower part of your cat where he has contact with the ground and the grass indicates a transference of the parasite from the vegetation to the cat and I believe that that is quite a strong indicator.

If it is this, then a single application of lime sulphur dip or by pyrethrin shampoo is the cure but don’t do this yourself because insecticides are nasty chemicals and you can harm your cat.

Frankly, I am very surprised that you have not taken your cat to the vet before now and I’m very sorry to be harsh and say that but it seems to me that you have been negligent and neglectful in not dealing with this more promptly because if it is something as described your cat is probably in a lot of discomfort and his passivity and lethargy is likely to be due to the discomfort.  Get him down to the vet ASAP please.  Also please do not rely upon Internet websites like this one to resolve cat health problems.  There are many sites with information about cat health but they cannot ever be a substitute for taking your cat to a good veterinarian. They are simply information sources not vet visit substitutes.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

1 thought on “Outside Cat: Infected Abscesses on Paws, Head, and Stomach”

  1. Aww the poor kitty that would be severely painful. Yes take him to vet straight away!! Thats, what I would of done even before this. As abscess are very dangerous. As they can get into the skin and sometimes kill.

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