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Cat Chin Mites vs. Chin Acne: How To Tell The Difference (Vet Answer)

Written by: Dr. Lauren Demos DVM (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

a cat with chin acne

Cat Chin Mites vs. Chin Acne: How To Tell The Difference (Vet Answer)

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Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

WRITTEN BY

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)

Veterinarian

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Lots of strange things can happen with cat chins. For instance, who knew cats can get acne, just like people? They can! And their chin is a prime location to find it.

It is one of the more common issues vets see affecting young adult and adult cats. Yet, there is a lot of misinformation out there about the condition.

Other skin conditions can also impact cat chins, including those caused by mites. While mites aren’t nearly as common as chin acne, here are some tips to tell the difference between mites and chin acne in cats. And, if you’re unsure, chances are it’s probably acne!

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Visual Differences

cat acne vs chin mites
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Overview of Cat Chin Mites

Although a frequent search term, there is really no such thing as a “chin mite” in cats—though there are certainly different types of mites that impact our feline friends, some of which can be found on their chins. But the term isn’t unique to a specific type of mite. And, in all likelihood, what you are seeing is most likely not a mite at all! (Sigh of relief!)

Mites are small bug-like organisms (actually, arachnids) that often come in groups, and live in the environment—in our homes, or on our pets. Mites can cause different skin issues, which can include itching, hair loss, small bumps or redness on the surface of the skin, or scabbing. Some individuals are more severely affected than others, either due to the number of mites (the more mites, the bigger the problem), or if an individual has mite allergies. Generally, these clinical signs are not life-threatening to you or your cat—just annoying and unsightly.

Mites can be diagnosed in different ways. Sometimes, you can actually see them, if they are present in large enough numbers. Though, they will still be very small (the size of poppy seeds, or smaller). Sometimes, you will only see their impact on a cat, such as hair loss or scabbing of the skin.

A veterinarian will often diagnose the condition by doing a “trichogram”—which means taking a pluck of some hair in the affected area, or collecting some of the suspected mites using tape, then looking at these samples under a microscope to make the visual identification.

Common Types of Mites on Cats

Although there are different types of mites, the following are some more commonly found on cats’ chins or faces:

  • Trombiculid mites
  • Cheyletiella mites
  • Otodectes mites
  • Demodex mites
  • Sarcoptes mites
  • Notoedres mites

Quick Facts about Mites:

  • Various different mites can infect the face and head of cats (generally, only one mite species at a time).
  • They are less common than other skin issues in cats (e.g., fleas, chin acne, etc.).
  • Some can be seen with the naked eye, and may look like “walking dandruff”, or orange specks.
  • Some cannot be seen with the naked eye, but you may notice their effects on your cat—like hair loss, scabbing, and itching.
  • Some mites can be contagious to other cats, dogs, and people in the environment.
  • Though generally not life-threatening, mites can cause severe skin irritation for some individuals.

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Overview of Cat Chin Acne

Chin acne in cats may not sound like a familiar diagnosis. Who thought cats could suffer from chin acne? But think again.

Cats of all ages—young, old, and in between—can be afflicted with the same acne that strikes humans. However, in cats, it often is localized to the chin. Therefore, many people may not notice it in the early stages. And, because it is often not spoken about, many people don’t realize it is a relatively common cat concern!

No one is entirely sure what causes chin acne in cats, but it does generally seem to only affect the chin. Unlike humans, cats don’t get acne on their faces, backs, etc.

Some people theorize that feline acne may be caused by unclean food and water dishes, but not enough hard evidence supports this. Others have suggested that a skin allergy to plastic (bowls, toys) may contribute, but again, no hard data exists to prove this correct.

Interestingly, certain types of mites can sometimes be found within some of the infected hair follicles of cats with acne. So, oddly enough, mites may play a role in chin acne (and chin mites may take on a new meaning)!

Chin acne can range from mild—where there are only a few small blackheads, or blocked follicles—to severe. Sometimes, a bacterial infection can occur, causing pustules (whiteheads). In more severe cases, the whole chin can be affected and become swollen. Sometimes hair loss will occur, and the chin may actually have discharge or blood that emanates from the affected area.

cat with chin acne
Image By: Melissa Tate, Shutterstock

Quick Facts About Chin Acne

  • Cats often have pimples.
  • Chin acne can be blackheads, pimples, or both.
  • Chin acne can look like coffee grounds on your cat’s chin.
  • Chin acne can cause swelling and redness of the skin.
  • Chin acne can be painful!
  • Chin acne is treatable.
  • Chin acne afflicts cats of any age—not just “teenagers”, as is often the case with humans.

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More to Consider on Chin Mites and Cat Acne

Chin Mites Chin Acne
Can cause itching, redness, hair loss, or scabbing Can cause itching, redness, hair loss, or scabbing
Uncommon Relatively common
Generally annoying, but not life-threatening Generally annoying, but not life-threatening
Generally not painful Severe cases can cause marked pain
Easily treatable Can take longer to treat, and be more refractory to treatment

What Else Can Look Like Cat Chin Mites or Acne?

Flea Fraas

Flea infestations in cats can sometimes look similar to the condition of chin acne. Fleas feed on the blood of cats, and they excrete something called “fraas”, which is a fancy term for flea poop that consists of dried cat blood. It usually looks brown or black, like tiny coffee grounds, and can look similar to chin acne. However, flea fraas (or more commonly, flea dirt) is generally found on the back of a cat’s neck, or near the base of their tail, rather than on their chin.

Mouth Cancer

Cats can also suffer from a few types of mouth cancer. These are often quite painful, and because they often affect the area under the tongue or the jaw, they may cause swelling of the chin, drooling, and discharge from the mouth that can stain the chin, and may also look a little like acne.

How Are Mites & Chin Acne Treated?

Although cats’ chin mites and chin acne can cause many of the same clinical signs, they are generally treated quite differently.

Chin mites, or general mites in cats, will often be treated with a topical medication that is prescribed by your vet. Most of these are applied to the skin at the back of the neck, and will gradually kill off any mites, as well as prevent new ones from setting up shop on your cat. Many of these products last around four weeks, so they are applied monthly. They also often treat fleas, and other ectoparasites—one medication to treat multiple bugs, is definitely a win!

Cat chin acne, on the other hand, isn’t always so simple to treat. If it’s a simple case, with only blackheads present, it might be a case of using a comb to comb out blackheads and keep the area clean. Sometimes, a vet will recommend avoiding plastic bowls or toys, and daily cleaning of food and water dishes (although there is no hard science to show this makes a significant difference).

Sometimes, in more severe cases, topical creams may need to be applied to the chin. Oral anti-inflammatory medications may be needed as well.

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Conclusion

Cat chin mites and cat chin acne can present as similar skin irritations. Once you know more of what to look for with each, it becomes easier to tease out what is more likely causing the issue. However, don’t fret if you can’t. Simply take a photo of the problem area to show your vet, so that they can help guide you towards the right treatment. The good news is neither condition tends to be life-threatening for cats, and both are quite treatable.


Featured Image Credit: Melissa Tate, Shutterstock

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