Skin Problems With Cats

In this post you’ll discover some of the more common skin problems with cats. As a pet parent looking after your kitty and ensuring her health and well being is a responsibility. While most cats will enjoy long and active lives, there are common health problems some will get at one time or another.

Most of the time skin problems with cats can easily be treated, and symptoms will disappear. Ensuring good hygiene such as washing your hands after petting your cat, as well as regular brushing, can help prevent many problems.

If you have a multiple cat household this is even more important. Inadvertently passing an infection onto your kitty’s fur can happen by touching surfaces, or other pets. If one of your fur babies has a skin problem caused by infection, you must ensure you practice good hygiene at all times.

In this article you’ll discover 7 of the most common skin conditions in cats and how you can tell which type your kitty may have. In addition, you’ll learn how skin problems are diagnosed and treatments to expect. We’ll also be looking at natural ways to soothe your cat’s skin, as well as how to prevent future occurrences.

Contagious skin problems

skin problems with cats -ginger kitten

Some problems your cat develops with her skin may be due to an infection passed on by other animals. These can include ringworm, fleas, and ear mites. They’re three of the most common, and a simple spot on treatment can help prevent fleas.


Ringworm is a fungus similar in appearance to athletes foot in humans. You’d notice a sore looking patch of skin on your cat, with missing hair. Your kitty will be itchy, and constantly scratching and biting the affected area. Ringworm is very contagious, so immediate treatment is essential. Your vet will prescribe anti-fungal medication as well as shampoo.

Does your cat have fleas?

fleas on ginger cat

Fleas are extremely common especially during spring and autumn. Females can lay up to 50 eggs a day which hatch within a period of 10 days. Your kitty will probably be grooming excessively and scratching a lot. If your kitty has a flea infestation you’ll notice tiny black specks on her coat. Applying a drop of water to a piece of fur is good way of detecting if it’s fleas. The little black specks will turn red, indicating blood.

Treating fleas on your cat can easily be done at home with products bought from your local pet store or online. You must thoroughly clean your home and treat other pets as well.

Ear mites

Ear mites are fairly common, but if left untreated can form brown crusty patches inside the ear. The mites are very tiny and look like white dots. Chances are your cat picked up the infection from animals she came in contact with outside. Ear mites feed off ear wax and breed very fast!! You should get your cat checked over by a vet to confirm it’s ear mites, and he or she will prescribe treatment.


Though rare, cowpox can sometimes be found in cats that hunt. It’s a viral infection and more often seen in kitties that catch small rodents such as mice or voles. A lowered immune system can make it easier for the virus to develop and become severe. If your fur baby is a hunter and frequently catches small rodents it’s possible she could get cowpox.

The virus enters the skin from bite wounds and quickly develops into small lesions on the head or paws. In most cases, they heal on their own within a few weeks, but sometimes intervention is needed. Your vet will carry out a few tests including a biopsy to determine if it’s cowpox.

Though cowpox is an infection, the chances of it being passed to other pets is low. All the same, you should isolate your infected kitty until it clears up, just to be on the safe side.

Non-contagious skin problems

Food allergies

Sensitivity to a food ingredient may cause skin problems with your cat just as it can with you. Signs include itchy red patches, or lesions. In addition, your cat may be grooming excessively or pulling out fur. Though this could possibly be the reason, your vet will need to carry out a few tests. Testing for food allergies in cats is hard and your vet may well prescribe hypoallergenic food if he or she feels it’s a food allergy. You’d need to avoid all treats for at lest 4 weeks to see if there’s any difference, and that isn’t always easy!


Dermatitis is a very sore and itchy skin complaint. It’s common in humans, and can also be suffered by cats and dogs. If your kitty has dermatitis, it could be caused by a number of underlying conditions, and your vet will carry out tests to find out which one. Treatments may include anti-inflammatory medication, as well as antihistamines.

Skin cancer

Skin cancer is more common in pure white cats or those with white patches. Just like fair skinned, blue eyed people, white cats can easily get sunburn. Vets often advise owners to put sunscreen on the ear tips of white cats, but you must only use products designed for pets.

If cancerous growths are treated in the early stages, recovery is often good. These growths can often appear as crusty lesions. However, any unusual lump that’s suddenly manifested should always be looked at by your vet. Treatment depends on the type and location of the cancer. Skin cancer in the ear often means loss of the outer ear flap. Though it may look unsightly it doesn’t affect hearing.

Treating skin problems with cats

If your cat has any of the infectious skin problems outlined here, you can usually treat them successfully at home. Dermatitis and possible food allergies should always be treated according to advice from your vet.

The soothing properties of chamomile

Chamomile is a herb that’s been used to treat skin problems for centuries. It’s very soothing and can often ease sore, irritated skin. As long as your kitty has a mild irritation you could try applying it gently to the affected area. Never use creams or lotions unless designed for pets, as most contain harsh chemicals. In addition, always ask your vet for advice first before using a home treatment.

However, chamomile is very safe and can be applied topically as a tea. After brewing, allow the tea to cool down. Pour a little into a cup and using a small piece of cotton wool gently dab the affected area.

I find using a spray isn’t a good idea as it can scare your kitty. Most cats hate water, and mine runs off in horror if I dare use a spray!!

Oatmeal is more than just a breakfast cereal!


Though we mostly think of oatmeal as porridge, it can in fact be used to treat itchy skin. As it’s a natural product, using it topically on your kitty is quite safe. The best way of applying it as a compress.

Mix very fine oatmeal powder into a paste using water. Using porous material like cheesecloth apply a small amount and fold into a pack. Dab onto the affected area and let the liquid seep through.

If your kitty tolerates it, try and hold the pack for a few minutes. You may find rewarding with a few treats helps, as well as talking to your cat in a calm, reassuring voice.

You can buy an aloe vera and oatmeal shampoo for dogs and cats. If your cat can tolerate a bath, you could gently apply to affected areas, but avoiding the face. Bathing a cat should always the last resort as most won’t tolerate it too well, and you end up in a right lather!!

However, if you’re prepared to give it a go, make sure you protect surrounding areas with plastic sheets to avoid a mess. The best idea would be to bath your kitty in the bathroom sink. You may hurt your back bending, and it may be easier to work in a smaller basin.

You’d need to wear rubber gloves to avoid being torn to shreds, and ideally, someone to help. If you’re still laughing at the idea of bathing your cat and surviving, I’d recommend the following gentler method :)…

Fill a small bowl with tepid water and gently apply a small amount of shampoo using a piece of cotton wool soaked in water. Rinse with tepid water using a flannel, avoiding the face. If you’ve survived and your cat hasn’t bolted for the nearest open window, pat her dry using a towel.

Supplement your kitty’s diet with salmon fish oil

salmon fish oil may improve skin and coat in cats and dogs

Salmon is rich in omega 3, and supports both joints and heart health as well as skin and coat. Pure wild Alaskan salmon is formulated especially for cats and dogs. You can add it to food and most cats love the taste. As with all supplements it’s not a quick fix. You’d need to use the product for several weeks at least before expecting to see any significant improvements.

Prevention is better than cure

Most skin problems with cats can be prevented by a few simple measures. Regular brushing, especially if your cat has long hair can reveal potential problems. Also, remember to use flea and tick spot on treatments as advised.

Cleanliness and good hygiene isn’t only beneficial for you, but your cat as well. Clean floors and furniture regularly to remove dirt and dust. Pet vacuums are great for filtering dust and dander, but you must clean the filter regularly. Many skin problems can be avoided by using non-toxic cleaning products, and this applies to you as well as your cat.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful, please share. Also, if you have any questions or would like to share your experiences, please comment below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)

14 thoughts on “Skin Problems With Cats”

  1. Hi Kathy,

    Great article. I find you posts very useful as I have 4 cats. I did not know about skin cancer for cats but that sounds scary.

    I have a question for you. Tears keep coming out continuously from one eye of one of my cats. There is a small rash close to the eye and we applied a cream for that. Could the tears be related to this skin rash ? The doctor gave medicine for an eye infection but that didn’t help at all. That’s why I am assuming it to be related to the skin rash.


    • Thanks Rajith:) The tears could possibly be related to the rash, or even a reaction to the cream. It’s best to get advice from your vet though, as he may be able to prescribe a different medication. Hope your kitty’s eye gets better, and yes, cats do get skin cancer, just like people.

  2. What a wonderful article, with great photos!. I had a real problem with fleas with my two cats, and this really irritated my longer haired cat with his constant itching. I tried so many different treatments. Your advice is wonderful, and I will follow it now. I have now found a good flea treatment, do you have one you recommend for a longer haired cat. Also what can you do if you have carpet?. I found I had to treat everywhere, when we had a particularly bad outbreak. I will check out the shampoo you recommended, although not sure my cats will thank you for it : ) Great website, and I can’t wait to read more. Many thanks

    • Hi Sara, thanks for your comment:) There isn’t any particular flea treatment for long hair cats, but regular grooming is the best solution. You can get flea combs which help remove flea eggs, flea dirt, and fleas. With regard to carpets, I’d recommend getting a flea spray for carpets and furnishings. Also, make sure you vacuum regularly and clean the filters as well.

  3. I have learned so much from your article. To be honest I don’t have any pets any more but I have many friends that do and most commonly cats. They would certainly be very well informed after reading this. I will share it so others can benefit.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. This is so cute post and informative, I love cats, they are so witty and very playful, but sometime they wandering so much that’s why when they are coming back home they catch some allergies. This is so applicable to my puss, thank You for this wonderful care tips.

  5. Glad I found this post. I have a cat at home and had been wondering why it sometimes cries for no reason and scratches its body.
    After reading your post and upon checking it I discovered it is a skin condition indeed.
    I also consume a lot of flaxseed oils capsules which means when I buy for myself I should buy for the cat too.
    So do they have the same ones and humans?

    • Thank you Thabo:) Glad you found my post useful, and that you were able to find out why your cat is scratching. While flaxseed oil is excellent for humans, you mustn’t give them to your cat. You can buy supplements especially for pets such as salmon oil instead. You simply add it to your cat’s food, and within a few weeks you may start to notice an improvement in skin condition.

  6. This is very valuable info. I agree that prevention is better than the cure, so it’s so important to do what we can to take care of our pets health. We may not always think of skin conditions with pets, as their fur covers it and it isn’t always noticeable. But, you gave good tips on what to look out for. Thanks!


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