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Cat Acne: Yes, It Exists and Yes, You Can Treat It

If you’ve ever noticed pimples or blackheads on your cat, you’re not alone. Cat acne is real! Here are some symptoms and easy cat acne treatments.

Tim Link  |  Sep 14th 2018


Has your cat ever experienced pimples or blackheads on her mouth, face or other parts of her body? Yes, cat acne is a thing, and your cats don’t have to be teenagers to experience cat acne, either. I didn’t think this was possible until I spotted a white-headed pimple near the corner of my cat Charles’ mouth. As I looked closer, there were a series of much smaller blackheads on the bottom part of his lip.

This cat acne didn’t appear to cause any pain or discomfort for my cat. It was just surprising, and took me back to my unpleasant youth and the endless battle to eliminate, or at least hide, unsightly blemishes. I kind of guessed that I couldn’t use Clearasil on my cat, but I really didn’t know what, if anything, I should do. It was time for some research on cat acne and to bring in an expert.

First, what is cat acne?

A shocked and surprised cat.

Cat acne?! Yes, it’s a thing! Photography ©JZHunt | Thinkstock.

Cat acne is the common name for an idiopathic (meaning we don’t know why it occurs) disorder, which is known histologically as follicular keratosis, according to Dr. Mavis McCormick-Rantze DVM of Lanier Animal Hospital, Sugar Hill, Georgia. Dr. McCormick-Rantze states, “It is very common in cats and can occur at any age and any breed.”

What are the symptoms of cat acne?

Cat acne, or feline acne, is a cosmetic disease, but it usually requires lifelong on-again, off-again symptomatic treatment to keep it under control. Most of the time there are just asymptomatic comedones (blackheads) on the chin, lower lip, and sometimes on the upper lip. There is the possibility that pustules will form if a secondary infection is present. In very severe cases, the skin around the chin can become very thick and edematous (swollen) and even scarred from repeated infections and treatments.

Don’t confuse cat acne with other diseases such as mange (demodicosis), ringworm (dermatophytosis), contact dermatitis (such as an allergy to plastic food bowls), Malassezia (a type of yeast) dermatitis or eosinophilic granuloma complex. “It is important to rule all these diseases out with the appropriate testing by a veterinarian,” states Dr. McCormick-Rantze.

Cat acne treatment

According to Dr. McCormick-Rantze, “Mild cases of feline acne (non-infected) can be treated with human acne pads or medicated shampoos. If the area is infected, then the treatment involves systemic antibiotics for two to six weeks.”

You can also gently cleanse with an antibiotic soap, hydrogen peroxide, diluted iodine (Betadine), diluted Epsom salts and topical vitamin A. In more severe cases of cat acne, cleanse the skin with an ointment or gel containing benzoyl peroxide (OxyDex) or chlorhexidine. To curtail dermatitis issues, you can switch from a plastic bowl to a ceramic, metal or glass bowl. Plastic food bowls are porous and can trap bacteria, which then transfers to the cat’s chin.

What causes cat acne?

We don’t know the exact cause of cat acne. There are several possible causes of feline acne, including stress, poor grooming by human companions or by the cat herself, over-active sebaceous glands and food allergies. However you proceed, always consult your veterinarian before treating your pet at home, and good luck.

Tell us: Have you ever dealt with cat acne? What did you do about it? Let us know in the comments!

Thumbnail: Photography ©Seregraff | Thinkstock. 

This piece was originally published in 2012.

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