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Cat Acne and How to Treat It

5 min read

Cats are susceptible to developing acne just as us humans. Here is what you need to know if you start noticing stubborn pimples that won’t go away.

Unfortunately, acne is not a problem reserved for humans. Cat acne also exists and can affect felines quite often. Although it’s still unclear why it develops, there are a few things a cat owner should know to help their pet get back to their normal self. Keep reading to find out how feline acne manifests and what cat acne treatment is most effective in alleviating the condition.


Why are there black scabs on cat's chin? 

If you’re seeing chin sores or black scabs on cat's chin, your cat might have cat chin acne. Cat acne does not solely manifest itself on the chin – cat acne on lips is also something to look out for. If there are scabs under cat's chin, check with a vet.


What is cat acne?

Cat acne, or follicular keratinization as it’s officially known, forms when the hair follicles are blocked due to an excessive production of keratin, a protein found in the skin. In cats, acne mostly forms around the chin area, which is why it’s commonly referred to as cat chin acne.


What does feline acne look like?

Feline acne manifests itself as small bumps accompanied by blackheads or whiteheads, similar to humans. But on a cat’s skin it can often take an appearance that looks more like dirt than pimples, which is why many owners don’t even notice the skin condition. Severe cases can lead to hair loss, redness and even bleeding.


What causes cat acne?

The causes of cat chin acne are still largely a mystery. It’s thought to be caused by an over-production of keratin. However, lifestyle choices can encourage cat chin acne too:

  • Plastic bowls

    • It's been noticed in cats that use plastic bowls for food and water.

  • Poor grooming

    • This can lead to acne, especially in older cats.


These feline acne causes can be changed fairly easily. However, there are a series of underlying conditions that can have a contribution as well:

  • Poor immune system.

  • Stress.

  • Food allergies.

  • Hormone imbalances.

  • Hyperactive sebaceous glands.


If you’ve made the necessary lifestyle changes and suspect your cat’s acne is caused by an underlying issue, you’ll need to contact a vet.


How is cat acne diagnosed by a vet?

When diagnosing cat acne, your vet might take blood samples, a skin cytology to check for abnormal cells or bacteria, and a urine sample. For unusual looking lesions, a biopsy could be taken and/or dental x-rays to rule out cancer or tooth infections.

How to treat feline acne – 9 ways to consider

Although cat acne usually disappears just as suddenly as it appears, there are cases where treatment is necessary, especially if the breakouts are regular or they start turning into a severe form of acne.

It’s important to talk to your vet before starting any treatment, and don’t use human acne treatments on your pet, as they are too harsh for a cat’s skin. Here are some of the most common solutions to cat acne:

Cleaning the area

Chlorhexidine antibacterial washes can be used to clean the area where the acne is developing. Use the treatment a couple of times of day until the breakout starts to subdue. 

Warm compresses

Warm compresses can help with mild acne and reduce the swelling.


Fatty acids like Omega-3 can help promote skin health and it is usually recommended for cats prone to acne breakouts.

Replacing plastic bowls

Consider using a stainless or ceramic bowl for your cat’s food and water.

Medicated shampoos

Mild feline acne cases can also be treated using antiseborrheic shampoo. Antibacterial or antifungal shampoos should be recommended by the vet. Although it’s tempting to reach for the human version of anti-acne products, don’t do so unless directed by the vet.


Applying an antimicrobial gel a few times a day can also help clear out acne.

Systemic antibiotics

For severe cases where an infection has developed, the vet might recommend a course of antibiotics.

Topical antibiotics

Antibiotics in the form of cream or gel applied directly to the affected area can also be an effective treatment.

Steroid injections

In severe cases, steroids can be prescribed by the vet to help fight inflammation.


Cat Acne FAQs

Although cat acne will often go away with improved hygiene, it is still important to keep an eye on the symptoms and get in touch with the vet if you struggle to manage it on your own. Next, find out more about some of the most common cat skin problems in our handy guide with top tips on keeping your feline’s skin healthy.

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