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Adult Acne is Not Just for Unlucky Humans -- Cats Get Zits, Too

Ever popped a zit on your cat's chin? It's pretty gross. What you need to know about cat acne.

 |  Jul 8th 2013  |   28 Contributions


I was scratching my gray tabby’s chin one morning when I felt a lump. It was firm and round, like a knot beneath his skin. Having lost my childhood cat to cancer after a gnarly, fist-sized tumor grew from such a knot, I panicked. I grabbed Bubba Lee Kinsey and held him on his back between my legs so I could examine him.

There was certainly a lump, and it was nearly half an inch in diameter -- in a word, huge. I poked it with my finger. Bubba squirmed.

“I’m sorry, fella,” I said, squeezing him tighter and tilting his head back so I could get a second look.

I pinched the lump between my thumbs, trying to figure out how to describe it to the vet. Then something surprising happened: The lump popped. It burst in a horrific explosion of blood and pus all over my fingertips.

This was no tumor, but a giant, grade-A kitty zit. At 11 years old, Bubba Lee Kinsey had developed acne. I was grossed out and shocked -- and strangely comforted -- to learn that my cat totally gets it when I wake up on Monday morning with a giant red lump between my eyes.

It turns out feline acne is a fairly common problem. Here’s what causes it, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.

Tiny black spots on your cat's chin are a sign of feline acne. Closeup of a blue-eyed flamepoint Siamese cat by Shutterstock.com

1. What causes feline acne?

Feline acne is typically found on a cat’s chin and lips, and it usually appears in the form of tiny blackheads. At first, I thought Bubba’s chin was just dirty, because the blackheads were so minute and numerous that it looked like he’d been eating one of my plants on the patio and dipped his face in some mud.

But sometimes these blackheads become infected, resulting in -- yep, you guessed it -- kitty zits.

Some causes of kitty acne are similar to human acne, including stress, overactive sebaceous glands, hormones, and poor grooming. Additionally, plastic food bowls have been associated with feline acne, as they are porous and can trap bacteria, which is then transferred to the cat’s chin.

You’ve also seen your cat rub those yummy sebaceous glands in his face all over you and your furniture. By doing this he is marking you and your stuff as his territory -- and he also might be giving himself zits.

Washing your cat's food and water bowls regularly can help prevent feline acne. Cat eating from a steel bowl by Shutterstock.com

2. How to treat feline acne

If your cat has mild acne, washing his chin with antibacterial soap will help remove loose blackheads and prevent new ones from forming. Antiseborrheic shampoos containing benzoyl peroxide can also help eliminate excess oils. Like annoying human breakouts that only happen before dates or weddings in which you are a bridesmaid, most cases of feline acne are mild and do not require treatment.

If the condition worsens, you should make an appointment with your vet to rule out other causes of the condition, such as allergies, ringworm, or yeast infection. Additionally, severe infections characterized by swelling, redness, or tenderness may require antibiotics, which need to be prescribed by a vet.

Typically feline acne does not require professional treatment, except in severe cases. British cat poses at a computer chair by Shutterstock.com

3. How to prevent feline acne

  • Wash your cat’s food and water bowls regularly -- daily, if possible.
  • Use glass or ceramic bowls instead of plastic, which is porous and can trap bacteria.
  • Make sure your cat’s bowls are large enough that his chin doesn’t rub against the side when he eats.
  • If your cat is prone to acne, gently wash his chin with warm water after meals.

Has your cat had acne? If so, how did you treat it? Did it clear up? Tell us in the comments!

About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she's an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.

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