Why Do Black Flecks Appear on My Cat’s Chin?
Unfortunately, blackheads and acne are not just for teenagers—they can turn up on your cat’s chin, too, as they have on Chiggy and Caymus (see videos on this post to see what I mean).
This is the first sign of cat acne if your cat has black stuff on his chin. Fortunately, you can get rid of these black flecks before they turn into full-fledged zits.
While some mistake feline acne for cat chin mites, there is a treatment for this type of acne, and with perseverance, your cat can be zit-free in no time. Some acne can get so bad that it feels like a lump under the cat’s chin (you’ll want to get this checked out by your veterinarian). Here’s everything you need to know about these mysterious black flecks and, most importantly, how and why you should make them go away.
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What is Cat Chin Acne?
Cat chin acne is an inflammation of the cat’s skin from the chin area, which is extremely sensitive. It is seborrheic dermatitis commonly located in the chin area. The main result is the excessive production of sebum. This is an oily compound typically produced in the skin to protect it from various environmental factors. Still, in the area affected by dermatitis, sebum production greatly outweighs the average amount.
As a result, this area becomes very oily, and black flecks appear on the cat’s fur. This is nothing else than accumulated sebum which has solidified. The first sign of cat chin acne is the chin area becoming oilier. You may notice that the cat’s hair is glued together by the sebum, just as you would see your hair if you haven’t washed it for a few days.
However, this usually goes unnoticed because the differences are subtle, and the evolution is relatively rapid. What does stand out is the blackheads, which aren’t attached to the skin, just to the cat’s fur. What typically happens is that owners notice these black, coffee-grind-like flecks in the cat’s fur.
Pet owners often mistake them for flea poop on a cat’s chin and take their kitties to the vet. However, if the black flecks are only present on the cat’s chin, vets point to acne instead of a flea infestation because fleas would not leave poop solely under a cat’s chin.
How To Test if the Black Flecks Are Flea Poop of Acne
You can do a simple test at home to find out if your cat has a flea infestation or chin acne, and the answer is in the flecks. It is pretty easy to tell the difference between these two types of black flecks since they are very different.
In the case of acne, the black flecks are dried-out sebum. They are dried-out oil, which means that when exposed to a bit of heat, they will melt into a more fluid oil. As for flea droppings, these are the fecal matter of a flea, which feeds primarily on blood. These black flecks are digested blood.
The Test to Tell Them Apart
It would be best to have a white paper napkin and warm water. You place the black flecks on the napkin and fold them in. Then, apply the warm water and rub the napkin (with the flecks inside) between your palms for about one minute. When you open the napkin, you will have a definitive answer. If you notice the area around the fleck becoming red or reddish brown, you are dealing with flea droppings.
As a result of acne, the area around them turns light yellow or very light brown as the dried-out sebum melts.
The Acne Turns Into Full-on Seborrheic Dermatitis
If you don’t take any measures to treat your cat’s acne, it will not go away. We will get to the treatment options immediately, but here’s how the illness progresses. If left unattended, the black flecks on the cat’s chin appear in more significant numbers. The skin produces so much sebum that it can’t breathe properly.
Moreover, the adherence of the flecks to the fur also damages the hair. The result is the inflammation of the skin on the cat’s chin. At first, it becomes pink and is sensitive to the touch. However, this can quickly develop to the point where the skin is red and extremely sensitive. It is also itchy, so it produces lesions when the cat scratches the area.
You can notice blood on the cat’s skin and the area with the flecks becoming larger. At this point, dermatitis becomes quite severe because the cat is prone to developing an infection. Its chin must be cleaned immediately, and it also needs local antiseptics and topical antibiotics. Since the area is susceptible, dermatitis located in the area is quite painful for the cat.
The itchiness also persists, which means your cat could make new lesions when it scratches the next time. Other possible complications are localized in the pores. Since the sebum production mechanism is affected, excessive substance production could cause a pore to clog up. The large amount of sebum at the mouth of the pore is like a lid keeping it closed.
However, this does not stop sebum production, but since the sebum cannot be externalized, it gathers up inside the pore, causing it to swell. This can happen even if the cat does not have acne but is located in one or two pores. In the context of acne, a large number of pores are affected, and this makes the inflammation more complicated.
Sometimes, clogged pores get unclogged all by themselves in time. But when many pores are affected, this can only happen slowly. These pores have to be unclogged manually by the vet, who will use a surgical cloth and betadine to wipe the area. The cloth gently removes the sebum “lids” from the pores, thus evacuating the accumulated substance.
Another possible complication is the local infection of these pores. Instead of sebum, they can collect puss. If this is the case, you will notice whiteheads on your cat’s skin instead of blackheads. These whiteheads are actually on the cat’s skin and can turn into zits, which are painful for a kitty. This requires local treatment with antiseptics and topical antibiotics.
The Causes of Cat Acne
What causes cat acne? Well, there are plenty of possible causes for this, and it is up to your vet to figure out which. The cat’s medical history will be significant to make the final diagnosis. However, the leading causes are exposure to plastic feeding bowls or other plastic around the house. If your cat is sensitive to plastic, it may develop chin acne due to repeated contact with that area and its bowls. For this reason, it’s good to either get rid of plastic feeding bowls or rotate them with other bowls like ceramic or metal.
Stress – The link between stress and dermatological issues in cats is well-known. If your cat is going through a particularly stressful period, it might develop dermatological issues, and chin acne is one of the many possibilities.
A Weakened Immune System – If your cat is dealing with other illnesses or has just been through a difficult treatment, its immune system is weakened. This makes it easier for specific illnesses to develop since its body can’t fight them off as it usually does. This is one of the main reasons your cat may need supplements to strengthen its immune system if it is dealing with chin acne.
Local Trauma – If your cat has had local trauma on its chin, such as cuts, scratches, or bruises, then the area is quite sensitive throughout the recovery period, during which an acne outbreak could occur. If treated promptly, it can all end there.
Bacterial Contamination – It’s worth noting that cracks in ceramic bowls can lead to acne-causing bacteria, and stainless steel bowls can react with wet food and cause acne. It is essential to keep your cat’s food and water bowls clean at all times and to replace them periodically.
Viral Diseases – The contamination with certain viruses, such as the calicivirus or the herpes virus, that leave the cat with some sensitivities even after they do not show any more symptoms of the viral disease. The chin acne could signify that the cat has had one of these viral diseases.
Allergies – Skin allergies can make the chin area more prone to developing acne. So, if your cat has dermatological allergic reactions to food, for instance, then it might also develop chin acne at some point. That said, Other causes could be hormonal, genetic, allergy-related, or the result of an Omega-3 deficiency.
Cat Acne Treatment
If your cat has chin acne, you should be patient with the treatment plan because it is something you must commit to for a while. The first step is to remove the cause of the blackheads by replacing plastic food bowls or water fountains. Next, remove the existing blackheads from your cat’s chin. You can do this with your fingernails (be sure to wash your hands) or with a toothbrush, comb, warm salt water, and a towel. Lastly, you have to provide your cat with better skin care.
Step 1 – Removing the cause
Depending on the cause of the skin acne, removing it might be as easy as replacing its bowl. The vet will help you determine the likeliest cause for the black flecks, and you can work on removing them.
Step 2 – Local Treatment
Your goal is to keep the chin area free of flecks so that the skin can breathe properly and the hairs are not damaged. The most important part is removing the black flecks. If there aren’t too many of them, you can use your hands, but using a towel and warm saline is easier. This will make them easier to come off the hair as well.
Keep the area clean until the flecks stop forming. If the chin area is very oily, you can apply a bit of baby powder to absorb the sebum. This will keep the chin dry. If the skin is inflamed, then your doctor will prescribe you local treatment with an anti-inflammatory and an antiseptic substance.
Step 3 – General Treatment
Aside from treating the cause and symptoms, it is essential also to help the skin regenerate. There are various supplements that your vet can prescribe for your cat’s skin, also according to your cat’s medical history. The most critical substances are Vitamins A, D, and E, and Omega-3, 6, and 9. These can also be found in exceptional diet food for skin care, which the vet can recommend.
Please note that you should administer these supplements for an extended time for them to have the desired effect. It is essential to do all three steps to ensure that your cat’s chin acne is cured for good. However, you should remember that if your cat is prone to developing this type of acne, it might appear again when it is dealing with other diseases.
Is Cat Acne Contagious?
If one cat has it, do all of them get it?
The answer depends heavily on the cause of the acne. If the cause is the same (plastic exposure, stress, allergies, omega-3 deficiency), then acne could develop in more than one cat in the household. Since the cause of the acne is not an infection but sebum hypersecretion, cat acne is not contagious.
However, acne becomes complicated by a bacterial infection in the chin. In that case, this can be contagious to the other cats in the household, especially if they groom each other or drink and eat from the same bowls. For a complete explanation of the causes and treatments of cat acne, check out our post, “Cat Zits: Feline Chin Acne.”
How do you treat blackheads on your cat’s chin?
As a new cat mom I have a lot to learn. I bought a bunch of the cute plastic dishes with the cute cat face. Well now Ginger has the black spots. I just ordered some stainless steel dishes for her from amazon. She will not let me clean the area. She is a rescue cat that is scared of everything. I am trying to get an appointment with the vet for a wellness appointment but it is like trying to win the lottery. No one is taking new clients. I may have to drive an hour or more for a vet.
UGH, I am so very sorry about the vet troubles. I wouldn’t worry about cleaning the area – the switch should help. I mean, you only need to clean it if it’s really bad and can get infected. Even taking a clean warm wash cloth and just rubbing on the chin might loosen some of them.
My Bengal Chester (floppy cat of this week) had acne around 5 years ago when he became super stressed when our new ragdoll kitten invaded HIS house. First one of his sicknesses following new comer arrival appeared those black spots on his chin. Some of them actually got pretty bad and already started to get infected by the time I actually noticed them. At that time I didn’t know what it was and researched it, googled it, found out what it was. Then started to treat it. Had pretty good success with just cleaning his chin daily with witch hazel. Just used soft cloth or cotton ball to rub his chin with it. Took a couple of weeks and it got better. It eventually went away after he accepted his new brother and I’ve never seen it appear since.
My kitty developed acne from plastic bowls in a boarding facility. She is not allergic to plastic, so I believe that it was bacteria in the small scratches in the plastic bowls. that caused the acne. She has been back in boarding, but I requested stainless steel bowls and she has been acne-free.
To cure the acne, I used a small, white, soft baby facecloth dipped in warm water to first warm and clean my kitty’s chin. I could see the black flecks come off on the white cloth. I might wipe, rinse and wipe again, especially at the beginning when there was more of the acne coming off. I then used a clean cotton ball to apply Colloidal Silver which I bought at a pet store. It is a disinfectant that can be use on humans, too. Kitties tend to like (tolerate well?) the taste/smell of colloidal silver and it is safe to take internally, so there was no need for me to worry if she ingested some of what I applied. I did this every evening and maybe twice a day at the beginning. It took some weeks to fully clear the acne, but it was pain-free, safe, natural and did not involve forcing some kind of medication into my kitty’s body while just a small area on the outside needed care. It was a gradual, gentle process that my kitty accepted well.
Thank you for sharing your experience and how you cured it
Thanks for this information Cynthia!
thanks so much for the info of the many uses of colloidal silver!
Very helpful! My domestic shorthair tabby, who’s nearly 11 years old, started getting acne on her chin a month ago. The black specks around the zits have persisted through two rounds of treatments (wipes and a topical applied two to three times a day for one week) for the zits themselves. I’ve tried gently removing them with a toothbrush, but that wasn’t enough. Your article has given me several other ways to approach this, and I really appreciate that. Thanks!
You’re welcome – please let me know what method works for you guys!
Hi Jenny, my cat has these black spects on her back too. And I really don’t think it’s flea dirt. Do you know If they can get them on the body too?
I don’t think it is the same on the back. You can check if it’s flea dirt by putting it on a wet paper towel and dragging it across the towel – if it’s flea dirt, it will be red because flea dirt = blood. An oily cat can have clogged folicles – Trigg has that on his tail. Have you asked your vet?
Fabulous re-post, Jenny! Always a great topic to learn about and review. I’m sure lots of new Floppycatters (as well as us old Floppycatters!) will appreciate your running this post now and again! YAY!! 🙂 <3
Always such great content & education here! 🙂 <3
Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!
Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3
My kitty, Sammy, had this condition and it resolved after treatment and removing all plastic dishes. It has not come back now that I use small Corelle dinnerware plates rather than pet bowls made of stoneware or ceramic. The plates get washed after every meal. Sammy also has an autoimmune skin condition call Pemphigus, which finally became controlled after switching his food to a single source protein wet food without fish, chicken or grains. I found that Merrick bistro grain free rabbit pate has worked best for my sensitive kitty. Much better than any of prescription cat foods we tried from the vet.
Interesting about the single source protein – thanks for sharing your tips!
VERY interesting post, Jenny! Thanks for the great info and videos, etc… We are very lucky that Miss PSB has not ever had this blackhead condition. YAY!!! She has never had any plastic bowls. Always glass or stoneware (ceramic). I will keep a close eye for cracks that might appear over time in her stoneware bowl. I have a backup in the cupboard for when I clean her stoneware bowl. 🙂
Big hugs & lots of love!
Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3
I actually think of stonewear as different than a ceramic bowl with a glaze on it. anyway, glad the PSB has no zits!
I used to think of it that way, too, but it’s all ceramics (stoneware, pottery, bisque, porcelain…it just depends on the type of clay or slip used to create the base item b4 the glazing is applied). I’m happy Miss PSB is zit-free, too! Wish I could say the same! 57 years old and still get blackheads and whiteheads every now and then (less frequent now that I’m post-menopausal but b4 that…ugh!). 🙂 <3
I just checked and Diva has none. But then she has never had a plastic dish of any kind. First she had matching ceramic dishes, but she disliked them to the point where she picked them up and dropped them off the table where she eats, shattering them. I bought her another set, and she broke one. I then said enough and bought her a metal dish, just like the dogs. Now she was happy. So her dry goes into the flat ceramic dish, and her wet food goes into the metal one.
Their water fountain is stainless steel.
My kitties don’t have acne or blackheads but such GOOD information! Thank you, Jenny, and the contributors for all the input! Much appreciated! A GREAT reminder to wash the bowls after EVERY meal! With 5 cats sometimes it’s tempting to be lazy. I tell my granddaughter that we don’t want to eat off a dirty plate all day! ❤️❤️
So dirty dishes can do it do it .I wash mine every time because I only have one cat. i did get the black stuff under its chin briefly before I got 4 glass dishes ..but it wasn’t hard to get rid of though small area.cleansed with antibacterial wipes and antibacterial cream didnt last long. Keep my eyes open now though.