Did you know cats can get zits? As with humans, cats can fall prey to pesky pimples and blemishes.
Cat zits do not start as blackheads. Affected areas begin as what looks similar to black dirt under the cat's chin. But some feline chin acne has to be treated, otherwise it may lead to more serious skin conditions.
What are cat zits?
Cat zits, known as feline chin acne, are widespread skin condition with cats. You may have noticed this common symptom when petting your cat. Or perhaps when your cat has rubbed up against a surface to scratch. Many cat owners think nothing of a small bit of dirt on the chin or even flea dirt/poop. But it's not.
However, if you don't clean and remove these specks from the cat's chin they can get infected. Infected pimples turn into what humans more readily recognize as acne whiteheads, as the image above shows.
If untreated for an extended time, these pustules can quickly become lesions and lead to more troublesome issues.
Cat acne usually presents predominantly on the chin. It isn't all that uncommon, but a condition we need to treat thoroughly to ensure the best health for our cats.
What causes feline chin acne?
Just as with humans, there are different theories and reasonings behind the question, "why do cats get acne?" Researchers concluded, like humans, cats too present a variety of skin conditions. Some cat breeds may be more susceptible to acne for different reasons.
A few of the most common theories as to why cats get zits and chin acne are:
1. Food bowls
Evidence has shown how toxic plastics in the home can be for cats. Plastic food bowls are the most commonplace owners will discover this problem.
While ceramic food bowls are a favorite alternative with pet owners, problematically – the glaze on ceramic bowls can eventually crack. Unfortunately, microscopic bacteria can get into the cracks and cause the same problem that plastic bowls do.
2. Water bowls and fountains
Once again, the plastic found here retains bacteria, which causes the zits to grow.
3. Plastic exposure in the home
After eliminating our plastic and ceramic food bowls Trigg still had this acne. I began observing his daily activities and discovered he got his feline chin acne from resting his head/chin on the dining room table leg. The table leg was plastic!
Be sure to keep a keen eye and pay close attention when looking for anything plastic your cat could be interacting with.
4. Food allergies
Some believe acne results from the cat's chin touching its food (and honestly the black specks look like food debris or flea poop).
My vet recently enlightened me on how some cats get cat chin acne because they're allergic to beef or wheat. In some cases, both. Wheat or beef allergies in your cat, again like humans, can present around the mouth area.
My interview about food allergies with Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM discusses in greater detail, food allergies and intolerances in cats.
5. Hormonal Issues/Genes
Imagine your 2-4-year-old neutered kitties as a human teenager. Puberty is kind to very few, and like teens, hormones play a huge factor in our changing bodies. Human teens get more acne. It seems teen kitties to have feline acne more.
My cat, Trigg, has a much more oily coat than Charlie. After learning this, it was no surprise he got zits from the additional oils that he produces.
6. Atopic dermatitis
Contact dermatitis can occur from a variety of things.
- Allergies can be environmental (such as candles, soaps, plastics, etc.).
- Wipes (medicated wipes, baby wipes, anything containing a chemical or solution used to wipe your cat's chin area).
- Pollen, cats love to rub on the grass outside. Some kitties are sensitive to flowers and weeds.
7. Lack of Omega-3
A reader commented on one of our videos. She said her vet informed her feline chin acne was due to a lack of Omega-3 fatty acids in her cat's diet.
Have you recently moved? Have you added a new pets to the home? Is your home more chaotic than usual? Cat's keenly pick up on stressors in their environments. Too much stress can cause hormone shifts in your cat.
9. Poor grooming habits
If your cat hasn't been cleaning themselves as much as usual, unkempt hair follicles can lead to bacterial infection.
10. Hyperactive sebaceous glands
This skin condition creates an abundance of sebaceous production in the cat's body. Over-active oils can lead to clogged skin cells. This condition can cause itchy, flakey, oily, or extra dry spots on the skin, including the chin area.
11. Poor immune system
As with humans, a weakened immune system in cats can also lead to other conditions where feline chin acne can occur.
Many feline diseases can cause hormone imbalances. Such imbalances lead to an increase in excessive sebum production. Sebum is the natural oily 'moisturizer' produced by the skin, which causes feline chin acne.
Other diseases can present feline chin acne as a symptom. Some illnesses or conditions present symptoms near the face or head area.
Depending on the disease, feline chin acne may occur as a symptom.
An excess production of the keratin protein in the body. If this excess keratin gets trapped in the hair follicle, comedones or "blackheads" form, causing excessive sebum production as well.
Each cat is different. What may cause one cat to have feline chin acne may not affect another at all. My cats Murphy and Caymus live in the same house, have the same father, yet Murphy's zits are ten times worse than Caymus'. Rags never had many zits at all. I have never spotted feline acne on Charlie.
What are the signs of feline chin acne?
What does cat acne look like?
Similar to human acne, feline acne will first appear as small blackheads, similar looking to flea poop or dirt. However, with feline chin acne, these blackheads will be tighter to the skin of the cat as opposed to loose or in the fur.
Feline chin acne, though most recognized for appearing on the chin, may also appear on the lips or mouth area. In severe cases, you may even notice hair loss on the chin.
You may notice your cat rubbing his chin or face more often, or rubbing against things to scratch the area.
They will not simply brush off at first but need to be scrubbed or scraped.
Your cat's lips and chin area may appear inflamed or swollen in places. Severe cases may have dry, crusty areas which are painful to the touch for your cat.
Gender is not a factor, both male and female cats can get feline chine acne.
You can see a close-up here of the black specs on Caymus' chin. This is a very mild version of blackheads on a cat.
Here you can see the difference in Trigg's zits.
Diagnosis of feline acne is based on your cat's medical history and symptoms the cat is exhibiting at the time of your vet visit.
Often a veterinarian will conduct a skin scrapping test to rule out other conditions such as mites, ringworm, or yeast infection. In some cases, if the pustules and lesions look abnormal for the condition, your vet may perform blood or urine testing.
Biopsies may also be performed to properly determine the condition.
It is always a good idea to inform your vet of any recent changes with your cat. This information may assist the veterinarian in narrowing down the diagnosis to feline chin acne and how best to treat it.
Treating cat zits and feline chin acne
Feline acne can be mild, severe, or any combination in between. If caught early, mild cases can be treated at home. Start treatments with the least invasive possibilities first. Sometimes the simplest changes can be the best solution.
If you have eliminated or used all the mild strategies and still see no improvement in your cat's condition, consult further with your vet to determine the next best step for treating the acne.
It is always better to get your cat checked out sooner when you first notice an issue not improving, as opposed to later when the condition could cause greater problems for your cat.
For mild cat acne
1. Replace food bowls
Eliminating the potential cause of feline chin acne is your first priority. Start by replacing the cat's plastic, ceramic, or metal food and water dishes with glass ones.
2. Petroleum jelly (like Vaseline)
Take a little bit of petroleum jelly and rub it into the affected area. Let it sit a moment and then scratch off the black specs with your clean fingernail. Wash the area with a warm washcloth to remove the petroleum jelly.
Instead of pulling the black specs out of your cat's fur with your fingernails, you can use an old toothbrush. Using a swiping motion in a consistent direction, gently brush out the specs. Your cat may like this better and will likely help you by rubbing it against the toothbrush himself.
4. Use a flea comb to get out the chin dirt
You can use a flea comb regularly to help swipe out the little black specs which may accumulate on the chin and provoke a feline chine acne flare up. Regular brushing helps keep hair follicles clear from build-up.
5. Warm salt water and a towel:
Salt is a wonderful exfoliant. Use warm salt water and a clean towel to rub the area. Repeat this action several times, replacing the towel with a new towel each time. This will help remove bacteria open clogged follicles, and remove blackheads and dirt from the area.
6. Benzoyl peroxide shampoo/soap:
Another popular opinion is to wash your kitty's feline acne with benzoyl peroxide. This is the main ingredient in most dandruff shampoos. A diluted version of dandruff shampoo washed into the affected area may help clean the skin and keep it clear from zits. Be cautious not to get any soap in your kitty's eyes or nose. You only need a small amount.
If your cat does not respond well to the smell, you will need to try something milder. There are many benefits to a well based shampoo for your cat's skin issues. Dandruff shampoo has many of these positive properties. Keeping extra around the house is handy, as it will help clean skin and keep it clear from feline acne.
For more severe cat acne
1. Pop the pimples
Dermatologists have been telling us for years, don't pop your pimples. But, cat acne is a little different. Should your cat acquire the whitehead version of feline zits, then it is best to pop the zits. Yes, pop the zits. Make sure you take the right precautions before popping – clean hands, clean fingernails, and a lancet to make a tiny hole before squeezing.
Warm compresses should help soften the skin around the whitehead, allowing the skin to become slightly softer and easier to lance. The whitehead part of a cat zit becomes very hard and when popped looks more like a little grain of rice.
If you keep up with your cat's zits, after a month or two, they should go away. You can also take your kitty to the vet and ask the vet to take care of the problem. A quick video search on YouTube will show you that some cats' acne gets so bad that they have to put the cat under to address the issues.
In some cases, an antibiotic will be needed to assist in resolving your cat's feline chin acne. Bacteria is one of the top contributors to cat acne. You will need to see your veterinarian and have a few tests performed to determine if bacteria is present before an antibiotic can be prescribed.
In some cases, anti-inflammatories may also be beneficial to assist with healing severe feline acne cases. Many topical anti-inflammatories contain steroids or retinoids which pack a bit more of a punch to them to fight off cat acne. You will need to see your veterinarian for this prescription as well.
4. Anti-allergy cream:
If your veterinarian determines an allergy may be the cause of your cat's feline chin acne, they may prescribe a topical allergy cream to be applied to the chin one to two times daily. A series of tests may be used to determine the allergen. A blood test can usually help narrow this down.
Products that Help with Cat Acne:
There are a slew of products available for assisting in the treatment of feline acne. These are a few of the solutions I have tried personally or which have been recommended to me over the years. Is there anything you would add to this list?
- Vetericyn Plus Feline Facial Therapy
- PawNosh Glass Pet Bowls
- Stridex Medicated Pads Yes, my old vet (KC Cat Clinic ) suggested these, the ones without alcohol. This product would be a short-term solution until you could figure out the problem causing the cat chin acne.
- Glacier Point Fountains
- Pioneer Pet Raindrop Ceramic Drinking Fountain for Pets
- PetSafe Drinkwell Ceramic Pagoda Fountain for Pets
- Drinkwell Multi-Level Lotus Ceramic Drinking Fountain
Stainless steel fountains:
Preventing feline cat acne
Often the best solution for cat chin acne is doing your best in preventing it in the first place. When you can't fully prevent your cat's chin acne, you may use these tips for reducing the frequency of episodes with feline chin acne:
- Brush your cat with a flea comb or fine-toothed comb at least monthly.
- Frequently wash your cat's food and water dishes to reduce bacteria.
- Avoid beef and wheat in your cat's diet if possible.
- Reduce the number of plastics your cat has access to in your home.
- Schedule your cat for yearly check-ups to keep them healthy.
- Try your best to create a stress-free environment in your home (your cat and you will appreciate this one).
- Try a sturdy glass feeding or drinking dish for your cat instead of plastic.
- Become familiar with checking your cat regularly. This way you will notice when something is off.
To sum up
Feline acne can be a very pesky problem for both you and your cat. However, with a trained eye to notice signs of a possible problem quickly and being treated accordingly, it is a common condition which can be kept under control and comfortable for your cat.
If you are ever unsure, never hesitate to ask your vet.
Has your kitty had cat chin acne? Were you able to determine was the cause of your cat's feline chin acne was? What remedies have worked best for you and your cat? Let us know in the comments below!
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