Feline Acne: What Is Cat Acne and What Can You Do About It?

Cat with chin acne

You've probably experienced your share of acne at one time or another, but did you know that your cat can have breakouts too? Acne is really just an infection of the skin, usually at the hair follicle. Any animal can experience it. If you've noticed that your cat has pimples along their chin or other areas of the skin, they may have feline acne.

In most cases, this isn't any cause for concern, but there are some things you can do to try to clear it up and keep it from coming back if it makes you or your cat uncomfortable. Learn more about what feline acne is and how it's treated below.

What Is Feline Acne?

Feline acne, also known as cat acne, is formally known as follicular keratinization. It occurs when a hair follicle becomes blocked with excess keratin, a protein found in the skin. The affected follicle turns red, raises up, and can have small amounts of pus. 

What Does Cat Acne Look Like?

Feline acne usually happens around the chin area, and it looks like small, raised bumps under the chin and around your cat's mouth and jawline. Cat chin acne bumps can look like whiteheads or blackheads, very similar to what you see in human breakouts. If the bumps are blackheads, it can look like your cat has a little dirt under their chin. In severe cases, you may notice bleeding, pus and hair loss around the infected sites.

What Causes Cat Acne?

There are several factors that can cause or contribute to cat acne. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Poor immune system. When your cat's immune system is not working as it should, it can cause skin inflammation and a greater susceptibility to pimples and infection.
  • Stress. Just as in humans, stress can trigger a response in your cat's body that increases breakouts and acne.
  • Food allergies. If your cat has a food allergy or is allergic to a certain material in the food bowl, it can cause breakouts and acne.
  • Hormone imbalances. Just like human teenagers, adolescent cats who are experiencing a hormone surge are more prone to acne. In cats, adolescence occurs between ages 2 and 4. 
  • Hyperactive sebaceous glands. The more oil your cat is producing in their skin, the more there is to build up and block the hair follicles and trigger acne.
  • Bacteria from food and water dishes. If you don't clean your cat's food and water bowls regularly, bacteria can build up on those surfaces. When your cat eats or drinks out of the bowl, that bacteria then transfers to their skin, triggering breakouts.

How Do You Treat Cat Acne?

The best way to treat cat acne depends on the severity of the infection and the underlying causes. In most cases, the best thing to do is to remove whatever is aggravating your cat's skin. Here are a few of the easiest things you can do to try to treat your cat's acne at home:

  • Use metal food and water dishes. Plastic dishes can get scratched and hold onto bacteria, making them more difficult to keep clean.
  • Keep food and water dishes clean. If possible, disinfect them in hot water such as in the dishwasher.
  • Use a spot treatment. Soak cotton balls in lukewarm water and apply to the affected area twice a day. Be careful not to rub or try to open the spots. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend using an antibacterial wash followed by aloe vera gel to soothe the skin.
  • Supplement with omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids can help promote better skin health. Check with your vet for specific recommendations for adding omega-3 to your cat's diet.

In cases where feline acne doesn't respond to home treatments or is causing your cat discomfort, your vet may want to consider options such as medicated shampoos or ointments. These are usually antibacterial or antifungal and can help clear the skin. Your vet may also recommend a course of antibiotics or steroids if the infection is severe or recurring.

How Do You Prevent Feline Acne?

Even after you get rid of your cat's acne, it's possible for it to come back. In many cases, feline acne is a recurring condition, and it may be something you have to continue to manage throughout your cat's lifetime. However, regular grooming and keeping food and water dishes clean can help prevent reoccurrences. 

If you find that your cat keeps getting acne or that it's getting more severe, it's a good idea to discuss your concerns with your vet. This way, you may be able to discover if there's an underlying medical issue or sensitivity that is contributing to the acne, and your vet may be able to prescribe medications or treatments to help make your cat more comfortable.

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