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Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic Blog

Acne in Cats

Closeup of tabby cat faceMany of us have experienced having acne at least once in our life. The blemish usually pops up at the most inconvenient of times, and in a very visible spot on your face. In humans, a break-out can be caused by anything from stress, to clogged pores, to changes in hormone levels, but did you know that your cat can also get acne? Read on to find out more about how this skin condition affects our feline friends.

Breaking Out

Cat acne is an inflammatory dermatitis that affects the chin and lips. Some cats only experience it once; however it can be a recurring problem for others. While it is unknown exactly what causes a break-out, it is thought that it could be a disorder of normal skin turnover and development, poor grooming, abnormal oil production, immunosuppression, viral infection, or stress. It can occur at any age, or in any breed. Some of the signs of cat acne include the following:

  • Black heads, pimples, yellowish crusts, and dark skin debris develop on the chin and less commonly on the lips.
  • Swelling of the chin.
  • In severe cases – small swollen bumps, brownish crusts, pimples, cysts, draining sores, reddened skin, hair loss, and pain.

If your cat has Demodex mites this can actually cause them to develop acne. On the other hand, while bacteria are not one of the causes of acne, if your cat develops acne a bacterial infection can complicate the condition. It is important to have your veterinarian check out your cat if it appears to have acne to make sure other problems that might be causing or happening in conjunction with this condition are treated.

When it’s Not Acne

While the signs listed above could indicate that your cat is experiencing an acne break-out, there are other, similar appearing, conditions that may be affecting them. To determine if they have one of these illnesses, as opposed to cat acne, a skin scraping, fungal culture, or cytology will usually be done. In rare cases a biopsy is taken, usually if the patient is experiencing severe symptoms. Some of the other conditions that can be mistaken for acne are:

  • Bacterial folliculitis
  • Demodicosis
  • Malassezia infection
  • Dermatophytosis
  • Cancer of the sweat glands
  • Eosinophilic granuloma (allergic conditions)
  • Contact reactions

Don’t Pop that Pimple

Cat acne is usually treated with a combination of regularly cleansing the affected area, usually with a medicated shampoo or wipes, and the application of topical medications. To start with you will want to carefully clip any longer hair in the area and then soak any crusting to soften it. Then gently clean the area and apply medication as directed by your veterinarian. It is important to not press or squeeze the skin to try to remove any pimples or blackheads manually. This could cause sores on the skin, which would then be open to infection, and the acne to get worse.

Treatment will generally last until the acne clears up, which can take up to a few weeks. Some severe cases of cat acne will need to be treated with oral medications, such as Accutane or Atopica. Sometimes a course of oral steroids will also be prescribed if there is a lot of swelling and inflammation. Additionally, if the acne is caused by Demodex mites, your cat will need to be treated for this along with the acne.


Once the cat acne has cleared up you will want to keep an eye out for any flare ups of the problem.  You can even do a maintenance cleaning of your cat’s chin and lip area every few weeks as needed to help reduce relapses. Additionally, as always, if you have any questions or concerns about cat acne give us a call here are the Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic and we would be happy to help.