A ginger cat looking surprised.
A ginger cat looking surprised. Photography ©Seregraff | Thinkstock.

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.

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 and result in cat acne.

What causes cat acne?

We don’t know the exact cause of cat acne. There are several possible causes of cat 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.

Plus, suffering from adult acne yourself? Try these treatments >>

About the author

Tim Link is an author, writer, speaker, nationally syndicated radio host, president and CEO of Wagging Tales. Tim’s consulting practice helps pet owners build stronger relationships with their pets through communication with their animals. To date, Tim has helped thousands of pet owners worldwide and looks forward to helping many more. A percentage of Tim’s earnings are always donated to animal-focused charities in need. He is also the author of Wagging Tales: Every Animal Has a Tale and current radio host of Pet Life Radio’s Animal Writes show. 

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44 thoughts on “Cat Acne: Yes, It Exists and Yes, You Can Treat It”

  1. Here is what worked on my kitten from the animal shelter. She had this black chin stuff, which I believe is a fungus. I alternated hydrogen peroxide on a cotton ball and then Stridex Sensitive with Aloe Vera acne pad wipe the next day. Went away quickly, never came back. The cat is 3 now.

    I never use plastic dishes. Years ago, our cats got this black fungus on their noses from going in and out a vinyl pet door. You have to keep these pet doors really clean, which is impossible.

  2. I popped my cats cats chin pustules/pus pockets after I had softened them with very warm, salted water soaked pads. After all the pus was expressed and only bright, red blood came out, I cleaned the two wounds again with the salted water pads. In two days the wounds had closed and healed. The skin was smooth and flat again, and the bumpy pustules/pus pockets never returned.

  3. My cat had cat acne. I kept wondering why her chin looked dirty. Anyway I bathed it in boiled water (once cooled) and it went away pretty quickly. Luckily it must have been a mild case as she needed no other treatment.

  4. Pingback: How to Handle Feline Acne

    1. Hi Valerie,

      Please see information re: plastic dishes and bowls within this post. These posts provide some additional information:

  5. I had a cat with cat acne. Was feeding a good quality food. Switched to another good quality food and the acne went away.

  6. My 9 month old kitten had acne and all I had to do was change his feeding and watering bowl to ceramic. He was alergic to the plastic. His acne cleared up within a week. No medicine needed. I’m sorry I don’t remember the source of the information, but in his case,it was accurate.

  7. Please help. My cat has had “kitty acne” for 3 months now. I’ve been to 2 different vets and both administered an antibiotic, steroid and cleansing wipes. I’ve changed all food and water bowls to stainless steel, litter to scent less, laundered all bedding and kept a close eye on her condition. Nothing is helping after the time that the medication wears off. My dear cat is still is the same condition. It started only under her chin and now has spread to her ear and under her eye. I have a follow up appointment tomorrow with vet #2 but I need someone’s advice on how to treat this homeopathically. A friend recommended using a Microbiotic Diet for 6 weeks. Any opinions or advice???

    1. Hi Jen,
      We suggest continuing to work with your vet on this. These articles might provide some additional insight, too:

    2. Hi, my cat had acne and I changed his feed and water bowls to ceramic and it cleared right up. No, medicine needed. I was shocked. I hope this helps.

    3. I’ve read elsewhere that it might be a food allergy, and to try removing the following from their diet to see if the problem clears up: fish/seafood, chicken/turkey, grains, eggs, and soy.

  8. I thought cat acne was more of a older cat thing for years. As all my cats seem to get it at about the 9 or 10 year mark almost like clock work. My oder boy at the moment has it pretty gross so I came here. I thought about it and he does have a crazy feathered animal allergy and his dish is plastic so guess what his christmas presents will be?

  9. Our 12 year old chinchilla Persian has chin acne and it only occurs in one large blackhead, size of a pea. The vet has checked it out numerous times and said it was acne, so now we just pinched it off and place neosporen on it to heal.

  10. I have a 12 year old Calico Maine Coon cat named Baby. When she began acting like she was in a great deal of pain I had to risk checking her. Baby is a rescue cat and was not treated well. But that was over 10 years ago. She does not like being handled very much. Anyway, I took her to an emergency vet and $463 later they brought her out in a ‘cone of shame”. She was bleeding on the cone so when I got home I had to remove it to clean it. Mistake! She refused to let me put it back on, she wouldn’t take her two pills, nor let me give her a syringe of pain killer. Many days later I took her back to the regular vet, they gave her an antibiotic and pain shot. No way was that cone going back on! Now many days later she seems to be having pain when she washes around her mouth with her paw. I know she is hurting because she actually let me examine her. I am clueless as to how to help her.

    1. Hi Cindy,
      Thanks for reaching out and sorry to hear your kitty is feeling under the weather! We suggest working closely with your vet.

    2. check her mouth-if her gums are super inflamed, it could be feline stomatitis. which is a horrible disease. there are long term and short term treatments available. short term is antibiotic and steroid shots which risk diabetes in the long run. long term is removing all teeth. i hope it is not that.

  11. 2 of mine had it. I trimmed the hair on their chins very short the used my fingernail to scrape away the black spots. They come off easily. I then clean their cons with strides pads. One enjoys it and the 2nd not so much. If you don’t want to use your fingernail try a flea comb. Stay with it and they will go away.

      1. I used witch hazel. Works amazing and is inexpensive. Walmart has it by the rubbing alcohol. I did not delute it. Just cleaned his chin once a day and within hours it want all red and swollen. I am pretty amazed by it. I saw a you tube video of a vet using it. Just a with a cotton ball once or twice a day. I think strydex pads would sting.

  12. We tried peroxide but it didn’t help all that much. Our vet prescribed a topical application of a steroidal cream. It took two treatments a few days apart and the acne disappeared. We were supposed to do it daily, but because the acne was close to her mouth and she was very annoyed by us applying it, we decided to err on the side of caution.
    We also had rid ourselves of plastic bowls.
    It’s been several months and so far, no return. Peaches is 3 years old. The acne had been an issue for about a year.

  13. One of my niece’s cats has this problem whenever she ate or drunk from a plastic bowl. She uses Witch Hazel to treat it. She has good results from using it whenever her cat breaks out with acne.

  14. Pingback: Cat Acne: Yes, It Exists and Yes, You Can Treat It | Funny Cute Cats

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  16. One of my rescue cats had acne on her chin when we first adopted her. It may have looked worse than it was because she is white, but her chin was sensitive and she didn’t want to let us touch it.

    She had been traumatized, and we really had to work with her until she felt comfortable with us. But now that she feels at home and we’ve changed all her bowls to ceramic, her acne is gone. I think it was triggered by stress.

  17. We adopted a senior cat who had been dropped off at a shelter. His chin was covered with acne. It’s since cleared up. I attribute it to not using plastic dishes and feeding him high-quality chow.

  18. At the vet clinic I worked at, we would shave the fur, scrub the chin with chlorhexidine scrub, then apply zinc oxide ointment (also known as Desitin, yes, diaper rash cream). I also work at an animal shelter, where they literally just rub a dry kleenex or paper towel to get it off. I think this is a great way to get rid of yhe blackheads, but I would like to know what to do to prevent them from occurring in the first place. I have one cat that I just scrubbed her chin clean a week ago, and she already has it again.

  19. Pingback: Why Does My Cat Have a Crusty Chin? – feast-grid.com

  20. I find that my cat not only has acne but he has severe itching once he breaks out. I can handle the acne but not sure how to treat the other areas.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      We suggest contacting a vet but these articles might help, too:

    2. sounds like food allergies/which my cat w/acne–an occasional pustule–was a likely cause. saw the vet derm/allergist. i wash w/mild soap weekly or so, then antibiotic cream. seems to keep it mild.

  21. A few days ago I noticed the telltale tiny black specks that look like dirt on my cat’s chin. Today it seemed the area was getting bigger, so I went in search of online pics to help identify the problem. Kitty acne. Since it’s 10 degrees and icy outdoors, I couldn’t get anywhere to purchase the type of soap recommended, I have wiped the area with Witch Hazel and then rubbed fresh aloe vera gel on her chin. Also removed the plastic saucer she’s been eating from, so . . . now, I will wait to see if this helps.

  22. Pingback: Old Age Pimples Photos – Cystic Acne Causes

  23. Thank you, I’ve recently been searching for information approximately this topic for ages and yours is the best I’ve discovered till now.
    But, what about the conclusion? Are you certain concerning the source?

  24. With Bruno’s acne flairs, I find just warm water compresses for about a minute, then gentle ‘chin scritching’ with a cotton gloved hand remove the blackheads without struggle. Once those are gone, he heals pretty quickly. He even comes over and presents his chin to me when he sees the wet cloth for the compress.

  25. Pingback: Cat Acne: Yes, It Exists and Yes, You Can Treat It | mycatfirst.com

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