Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your cat.

Skin Problems From A-Z

cat_sphynxThe following is not meant to be a guide for diagnosis of your own pet’s disease, nor is it a comprehensive list of all skin problems. Please consult your veterinarian for professional advice.


Allergies can be due to food, fleas, dust mites, pollens, grasses, mold spores and other materials found in the environment. Chronic intense itching is a common sign. Allergies usually cause irritation of the face, neck, over the topline and the tail base, and the abdomen. Affected cats often lick, chew, scratch, rub their face, or excessively groom. Cats may exhibit runny noses or watery eyes. To make the diagnosis of allergies, your veterinarian must rule out many other conditions. Utilizing the history, physical examination, clinical signs and certain diagnostic tests, your veterinarian can diagnose your pet’s skin condition. See flea allergy, food allergy.


“Walking dandruff” is a contagious mite affecting dogs, cats, and rabbits. Itchiness may occur, but often may not be present. Large dandruff flakes in the fur are commonly noted. See zoonotic diseases.


Newer types of demodex mite are being recognized in cats. Demodex gatoi is one. Demodex cati is the most common type of demodectic mite in cats. The latter causes greasy ears and patchy scaly itchy spots. This is an uncommon cause of skin disease in cats.


This describes a fungal infection with a dermatophyte, or “ringworm”. This may cause crusty circular lesions but in cats, often it is a condition that is hidden. Longhaired cats often carry the ringworm fungus in their haircoat without any signs of skin irritation. This fungus has very resistant spores that can live in the home for years. It’s possible to detect one type of ringworm with a black light, however final diagnosis is based upon a fungal culture done by your veterinarian. This disease is transmissible to humans. See zoonotic diseases.

Ear Mites

These are a common pesky pest of cats. Frequently, kittens pick them up during their nursing phase by close contact with their infested mother and cohorts, or by contact with cats in the neighborhood. Any age of cat can be affected. A black dryish coffee ground discharge may be seen in the ears, and very severe itchiness may lead to serious wounds around the base of the ear where Kitty scratches away at the irritated ears.

Endocrine Disorders

Hormone disorders may cause symmetrical hair loss (alopecia). These diseases must be diagnosed by your veterinarian.

Eosinophillic Granuloma Complex

This disease occurs fairly frequently in cats. We identify three overlapping syndromes: eosinophilic plaques, eosinophilic granulomas, and indolent ulcers. All are similar, and may occur in combination. They are allergic type disorders.

External Parasites

These include, but are not limited to, fleas, ticks, and mites. Most external parasites cause itchy skin. Cats respond to the irritation by scratching, biting, and licking. Depending on the severity and extent of the pruritus, your veterinarian may prescribe medications that help reduce inflammation and itchiness. Because cats have such rough tongues, if they get working at the skin, they can cause skin lesions because of their vigorous grooming, and sometimes this means that secondary trauma and infection occurs which will be treated as well. Flea control needs to include treatment of the home since the flea will set up a life cycle that not only includes the cat host, but includes your carpets and furniture! See Flea allergy dermatitis, Ear Mites, Cheyletiellosis, Demodicosis, and Zoonotic diseases.

Feline Acne

Often occurs on the chin producing swelling and blackheads. Any age or breed can be affected, and some cats have just one pimple outbreak, while with others it becomes a recurrent problem. When severe, pus pockets can form, and the condition may be quite painful if advanced.

Flea Allergy Dermatits (FAD)

This skin problem is due to an allergic reaction to flea saliva. It is possible in animals with FAD to react to just one bite from a flea for up to 10 days! There may or may not be evidence of fleas or flea dirt. Not all animals with fleas develop an allergic reaction. Cats often get skin lesions over the topline near the tail but irritation spots can occur anywhere. See Allergies.

Food Allergy

This is a likely cause of allergic symptoms in young cats. Your veterinarian may recommend a food trial using hypoallergenic diets if food allergy is suspected. In cats, food allergy may produce digestive upsets in addition to skin lesions. See Allergies.


In cats, an overactive thyroid can cause alopecia (hair loss) from excessive self-grooming. Signs can be similar to allergies or psychogenic alopecia. This hormone problem may also result in scaling of the skin and a dry haircoat.

Immune-Mediated Disorders

Decreased function of the immune system can adversely affect skin health. In cats, chronic Feline Immunodeficiency Virus infection can lead to secondary infections of the skin associated with the immune system depression caused by this slow virus.

Psychogenic Alopecia

This is an obsessive compulsive disorder commonly seen in cats, frequently resulting in hair loss of the abdomen and inner thighs due to overgrooming. Often, owners do not notice the cat grooming but hairs are broken off, which usually indicates excessive grooming and “barbering”.


Deep skin infections, often secondary to the effects of intense scratching, are sometimes seen in cats. Pyoderma needs to be treated by your veterinarian with appropriate antibiotics.

Systemic Diseases

Primary disease somewhere other than the skin can cause secondary skin problems. See Endocrine Disorders, Immune-mediated Disorders, and Hyperthyroidism.

Zoonotic Diseases

This term means diseases shared between pets and humans. Cheyletiellosis and Dermatophytosis (ringworm) are examples.

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.