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Cat Skin Problems: Recognize and Treat Feline Itching & Discomfort

Taking proper care of your cat includes addressing and treating any skin conditions, even if they appear minor. Remember, the skin is one of the largest organs of a mammal’s body. When it comes to cat skin problems, there are several remedies that may get your kitty back to its normal self.


Depending on the severity of any pre-existing skin conditions, a natural treatment option may be the best solution for you and your pet. This article will identify several common skin conditions that affect cats and explore at-home remedies that might provide your furry feline friend with the natural relief they deserve!


What Causes Cat Skin Problems?

While there are many causes of feline skin issues, some of the most common causes include:


  • Poor grooming
  • Stress
  • An underlying ailment
  • A bad reaction to a medication
  • The plastic of their food and water bowls


Several conditions, ranging from allergies to parasites, can cause skin diseases in cats. The prevalence of each condition can vary based on location. At the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, allergies to food, airborne particles, or flea and mosquito bites are among the most common causes of skin problems in cats. Studies have also shown abscesses to be a common cause of skin disease in cats.


Fleas are a relatively common problem for our furry friends, one that you can manage at home with over-the-counter treatment options. Your vet should be able to provide you with a comprehensive list of appropriate medications and preventative measures. In some instances, cats can be allergic to flea bites due to a reaction from the insect’s saliva. A few symptoms associated with flea allergies include:


  • Pulling or biting at the fur and skin
  • Minor skin lesions that are red and inflamed
  • Hair loss (feline alopecia)
  • “Hot spots” (clinically recognized as acute moist dermatitis)


itchy cat


It Depends on the Cat

A cat’s gender, breed, and lifestyle can also affect how at-risk it might be for various skin conditions. Compared to indoor cats, felines that primarily live outdoors have a higher chance of catching external parasites such as fleas and are at a higher risk of developing abscesses or injuries from fighting with other cats or animals.


Additionally, male cats are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior than female cats. This means they are more at risk of suffering from infections or abscesses induced by bite wounds. Finally, certain breeds of cats may be more prone to skin disease than others, such as Himalayans.


Your veterinarian may recommend a specialized gel or shampoo to clear up the breakout. They may also recommend antibiotics for a bacterial infection, depending on what condition your cat is suffering from.


Is It Normal for a Cat to Have Skin Problems?

Although feline skin problems are rarely a serious or life-threatening emergency, an uncomfortable cat will likely find it difficult to enjoy daily life until the symptoms are relieved. Cats typically require less care for their skin and coats than dogs. This may be why skin problems are generally much less common in cats than dogs.


Common Skin Problems in Cats

Below we’ve provided a list of a few of the most common cat skin problems you should be aware of:


  • Parasites: Parasites such as fleas can cause skin allergies and itchy skin, which your cat will likely bite and scratch, potentially causing secondary infections.
  • Cat Acne: Some cats are prone to feline acne. This may appear as a rash, and its treatment often involves prescription medication.
  • Mites: Mites can create an itch behind the ears, but this is seen more commonly in kittens than adult cats. Your cat may hold their head sideways to indicate discomfort. 
  • Ear Infections & Polyps: Cats can develop ear infections and polyps in their ears, which both need to be treated promptly by a veterinarian.
  • Ticks: Ticks can attach to your cat’s skin, causing localized swelling or a raised bump. They can be painful or cause disease and need to be removed.
  • Cat Allergies: Cats can also have contact allergies, which is often very similar to how people develop allergies to substances common in their environment.
  • Cat Dermatitis: Typically, dermatitis in cats is due to an allergic reaction to environmental irritants, grooming products, or food.


Symptoms of a Cat with Skin Problems

There are lots of ways to tell if your cat is having problems with its skin. Below we have listed a few of the most common signs of cat skin issues:


  • Excessive chewing, licking, or scratching of the fur
  • Swelling and redness of the skin
  • Loss of fur
  • Scaly, scabby, or flaky skin
  • Bumps or swellings on the skin


How to Prevent Cat Skin Problems

It has been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While we’re sure individuals with cats suffering from skin problems would be grateful for a simple catch-all cure, the fact of the matter is that preventing the condition will save you and your feline friend a lot of suffering and stress.


Here are a few ways you can help promote your cat’s skin health:


High-Quality Cat Food

The first (and potentially, the most important) step in keeping your cat happy and their skin healthy is to ask your veterinarian or another animal healthcare expert to recommend a high-quality diet. Poor-quality diets can often result in a dull hair coat and unhealthy skin.


Keep Your Cat at a Healthy Weight

Make sure to keep your cat at an appropriate “body condition score,” meaning not underweight or overweight. Staying at a healthy weight can lower its risk for diseases and keep it living as long as possible.


Manage Your Cat’s Stress Levels

Minimizing the amount of stress your cat experiences can minimize the risk of psychogenic skin issues such as overgrooming. Ask your veterinarian or another animal healthcare professional about stress-relieving products like cat pheromone diffusers.


How to Prevent Allergies and Fleas

Allergies and fleas are two of the worst offenders when it comes to creating discomfort in cats. Most people with pets have experienced fleas to some degree, and allergies are a problem for humans and pets alike.


Preventing Allergies

Because allergies and some skin ailments can be lifelong conditions, it is helpful to consider the benefit of all-natural treatments that are easy to use at home. In addition, certain home remedies offer a healthier alternative to harsh chemical treatments and can soothe your cat’s irritated skin.


Several liquids and oral supplements are available to help promote your cat’s overall health and well-being. These treatments may be beneficial if your cat happens to be on a special or organic diet.


You might also consider shopping at your local pet store or even online for specific all-natural products, including paraben-free toys, organic bedding, hypoallergenic foods, and other allergen-free essentials for your cat.


As always, make sure to check with your veterinarian before administering any treatment, remedy, or medication to your pet.


Preventing Fleas

Because fleas are typically more prevalent in the warmer months, your cat’s allergic condition may be seasonal, depending on your location. However, by combing your cat with a flea comb and keeping them indoors as much as possible, you can reduce the number of fleas.


Ultimately, the best line of defense against fleas is a topical flea product that both repels and kills fleas; however, we highly recommend speaking with your vet for suggestions. Checking in with your vet is especially important if your cat suffers from a known flea allergy, pre-existing feline skin conditions, or feline allergies, as certain store-bought treatments and medications may worsen your pet’s symptoms.


feline in bath tub


Home Remedies for Cat Skin Problems

When it comes to making sure our furry feline friends are comfortable, cat parents will go to any length to provide them with relief, especially if they’re in pain. We recommend working with your veterinarian to diagnose the symptoms of your cat’s skin conditions accurately. They will perform a thorough inspection and recommend the appropriate treatment to get your feline friend feeling happy and healthy again in no time.


Below we have listed a few methods that your vet might suggest to treat cat skin problems:


  • In the case of fleas, your vet may prescribe an ointment for you to routinely administer.
  • In the case of food allergies, you may have to switch out your cat’s food for something with fewer or no side effects.
  • To suppress allergic responses in your cat, your vet may use an immune-modulating medication.
  • Cat parents may use anti-itch medications to make their kitty feel more comfortable.
  • In the case of ringworm, your vet will prescribe antifungal medication.
  • A veterinarian must inject some medications, while you can administer other treatments at home.


For Treating Swelling and Wounds

Epsom salts are a fantastic, inexpensive, and natural way to provide quality care at home when your cat is swelling or recovering from a wound.


If your cat is cooperative (unlikely), an Epsom salt soak can be highly beneficial during the healing process. As always, check with your vet first to make sure Epsom salts are safe for your particular cat.


For Soothing Irritated or Raw Skin

Chamomile tea is an excellent all-natural home remedy, as it has been used for thousands of years for its antiseptic and medicinal properties. This tea can calm minor skin irritations by killing off bacteria and yeast that can cause (or worsen) skin abrasions and lesions.


Create a soothing solution for your cat by brewing a strong batch of chamomile tea and chilling it in the refrigerator. Once the tea is thoroughly chilled, you can pour it into a spray bottle and spritz the affected areas for instant cooling relief.


For Treating Itchiness

We all know that cats are no fan of water, so it’s not surprising that most cats detest bathtime. Plain oatmeal can be a gentle and excellent treatment for cats suffering from highly itchy or irritating skin.


The process of setting up an oatmeal bath is pretty straightforward: simply stir a bit of super-fine oatmeal into a bath of warm water, and voila! This treatment is especially beneficial for pets with itch-inducing skin diseases, allergies, or other infections. The oatmeal bath gets bonus points because oatmeal is all-natural, meaning it’s perfectly safe if your cat happens to drink the water.


For General Relief

If your feline friend is suffering from itchy skin, we suggest trying CBD as a home remedy. The beneficial effects of CBD oil for skin irritation involve and depend on many different factors. First and foremost, CBD oil can potentially help cats with uncomfortable skin by working on several different levels:


  • Cannabidiol (CBD) indirectly interacts with the endocannabinoid system, which results in an overall internal balance for your kitty.
  • CBD oil influences the skin’s levels of fatty acid, which helps keep it healthy and well-moisturized.
  • CBD oil can promote skin cell regeneration and growth. This can help relieve some of the symptoms associated with dry, flaky, itchy, or generally irritated skin.


For Dry Skin

Wrapping your cat in a moist, warm towel can provide a feeling of instant relief to cats who suffer from dry skin. This process is one of the simplest home remedies for dry or flaky skin. First, soak a clean rag or towel in hot water (make sure the water is cool enough that you can comfortably hold the rag in your hands).


Next, wring it out carefully and thoroughly drape it over the dry or flaky areas while holding your cat still. You’ll want to keep them wrapped for about five minutes while calmly petting them and showing them affection.


Final Thoughts – Cat Skin Problems

We know your cat and its well-being are crucial to you, which means it’s important to us as well! Remember, when it comes to your cat’s skin problems, there is a whole spectrum of natural and homeopathic remedies that may be just as effective (if not more!) as harsh chemicals.


Taking proper care of your feline friend includes treating and addressing skin conditions, even if they appear minor. We suggest that you work with your veterinarian to describe the symptoms of various cat skin conditions accurately. Your vet will perform a thorough exam and recommend the appropriate treatment once the diagnosis is complete.