Cats with Skin Conditions:  Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Are your cats suffering from hair loss, scabs and skin lesions? Do they moan and scratch themselves with their claws constantly? If so, they may be suffering from a skin condition that needs professional veterinary attention. 
So whether your cat has dry skin, scabby ears, raised bumps or crusty patches, we’ve compiled general information on cat skin diseases and how you can help your itchy kitty.
Cats are beautiful creatures. Fluffy, smooth, short-haired or hairless  - whatever your favourite feline looks like, we can all agree that they’re majestic animals. That’s why it’s quite worrisome when they develop skin conditions. 


cat scratching head


After all, who wants to see their cat uncomfortable with scabs, rashes and itchy spots? But it’s also common for cat parents to overlook this and not periodically check their cats for signs of skin conditions. After all, aren’t cats the “cleanest” creatures that groom themselves every so often? 

However, fastidious as they are, unfortunately your cat is probably going to suffer through skin conditions at some point. These skin problems can be caused by a number of different factors and can range from mild to life-threatening. 

The good news is, in most cases, cat skin problems resolve on their own or can be treated via a simple change in diet or over-the-counter medication but in some cases, they may require special treatment. Some types of cat skin diseases also signal some serious underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or cat UTI. That’s why as responsible cat parents, it’s important to arm ourselves with the right knowledge about skin conditions that may affect your cat.

In this article, we will look at the most common types of cat skin conditions, their general causes and common symptoms. We’ll also discuss what you can do to prevent your cat from getting skin problems in the first place.



How To Recognise If Your Cat Has A Skin Problem

The first step in recognising if your cat is indeed suffering from a skin condition is to qualify if they have one in the first place. A character trait retained from the cat species’ days in the wild, our modern house cats still instinctively hide their pain as showing any signs of weakness would have made them easy targets for predators.

But you know your cat better than anyone else. If they are behaving strangely and you feel they might be suffering through a skin problem, you’ll know. 

Here’s a quick guide to help you recognise the telltale signs of a cat with skin conditions:

  • Your cat is shedding fur.

Excessive cat fur loss is often the most common sign of cat skin problems. If you've noticed bald patches or more of their fur sticking onto their bed, for example, then this is usually a sure sign that your cat could have a skin condition. 

  • Your cat is shaking their head excessively.

When cats are shaking their head more than they should be, it will usually indicate a skin problem or, in some cases, an issue with itchy ears that can possibly be caused by ear mites. In addition, cats may grow ear polyps (tumours) that can cause discomfort and will need to be removed.

  • Your cat is grooming excessively.

Excessive grooming is a symptom of a skin condition especially if your cat appears more frenetic during their grooming sessions and not relaxed as they should be. In addition, excessive grooming can be a sign of cat anxiety or if they are excessively grooming their rectal area, this can be a symptom of cat UTI, as well.

  • Your cat has patches of red, scaly or scabby areas on their skin.

This could be caused by fleas, ticks, fungus or something they’ve ingested that’s inappropriate for cats. It could be caused by a number of things but one thing’s for certain, if left untreated, your cat could keep scratching and scratching until it creates a wound that could create an infection. 

If your cat has any of the above symptoms, the first step would be to take them to the vet and determine whether your cat has an allergy or an infection.

Note that the key difference between these two conditions is that an allergy usually manifests itself as itching while an infection results in discharge from the affected area.
Also note that if your cat has allergies, other symptoms will appear such as sneezing, nasal discharge, watery eyes, gastritis, vomiting and diarrhoea.

The vet should be able to determine what type of skin disease your cat is suffering from. We’ll discuss more about that in the treatment section of this article but next, let’s have a closer look at what generally causes cat skin conditions.

cat being groomed


Causes of Cat Skin Conditions

There are a few different skin diseases that can affect your cat and they have a variety of causes. Some may be passed down to your pet through generations, some can be brought about by environmental factors and some may come about as a result of an allergic reaction.

For your guidance, here’s a quick list of common cat skin diseases:

  • Dry skin
  • Cat acne
  • Cat dermatitis
  • Food allergies
  • Skin infections or abscesses
  • Fungal infections such as ringworm
  • Parasitic skin infections
  • Cat skin cancer
  • Cat acne
  • Environmental allergies
  • Cat dandruff

While treatments for the above are always available, it is critically important to understand what causes cat skin disease so that you can help prevent it from happening to your feline companion. Knowing the underlying cause not only allows you to get your cat treated properly but it can also help determine if your cat is suffering from a much more serious health condition. For example, if your cat has developed a fungal infection it may be a sign that their immune system is failing or that there is an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or cat UTI.


How exactly do you find out the cause of cat skin disease?

Analysis is often the best way to find out the cause of a skin condition. The evaluation will include information about your cat's medical history, as well as the current skin condition and any medications or treatments being received. It will also include an examination of the skin itself. Your veterinarian may take swabs for microscopic analysis and will also take a sample of cells for biopsy if needed.

It is also very important to take note of any changes in your cat's lifestyle that may affect their skin condition. Your vet will want to know the following:

  • Did you recently bring home a new pet? 
  • Do you have a new family member living in your house? 
  • Did you move into a new house? 

These changes could be the reason why your cat developed a skin disease, so try and identify the causes as much as possible to help your vet come up with possible treatment options. 


Treatment for Cat Skin Disease

The sooner you recognise a feline skin disorder and take steps to treat it, the better your cat's prognosis and recovery will be. So don’t waste any time. If you notice cat skin disease symptoms, take your cat to the clinic right away. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam and recommend diagnostic tests to determine what is causing your cat's symptoms. 

Depending on the diagnosis and severity of symptoms, treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics - treatment for bacterial infections.
  • Antifungal drugs - treatment for fungal infections such as ringworm.
  • Topical medications - creams and lotions that soothe irritated skin.
  • Allergy testing - identifying substances that trigger allergic reactions.
  • Laser therapy - reduces inflammation, relieves itching and treats bacterial or fungal infections
  • Surgery to remove masses or cysts - if tumours or polyps are found and determined to cause your cat’s skin disease, these may require surgery for removal.
  • Change in diet - your vet might ask about your cat’s current diet and provide recommendations to modify it.
cat with allergies scratching

Food Allergy In Cats

Another common cause of skin disease in cats is due to food allergy. Allergies are caused by an immune reaction. In this case, the immune system mistakes a protein in the cat's food for a harmful substance, such as a germ or a poison and attacks it. This causes symptoms ranging from itching and gastrointestinal upset to vomiting and diarrhoea to life-threatening reactions.

The most common cat allergies come from beef, chicken, fish and dairy products. The symptoms include excessive scratching, vomiting, bloating and gas.

Most cats who suffer from food allergies also have problems with flea bites because these cause an immune reaction similar to an allergy. Cats can be allergic to flea saliva or to flea saliva plus saliva from their skin when scratched by the fleas.

If you suspect your cat has food allergies, visit your vet right away for testing and treatment before it gets worse than it already is.


How To Prevent Cat Skin Disease

Just like with any type of disease or sickness in cats (or other types of pets, in general), prevention is often better than cure. Making sure your cat is skin disease-free may take a little bit of care and effort but it will be worth it. Your cat will be happy, comfortable, healthy and not to mention, looking great. It will also save you the time and money it will cost for treatment.

Here are some practical steps that you can do to help keep cat skin conditions at bay:

  • Keep your cat well-fed with nutritious, high-quality food and cat supplements. 

As already mentioned in the earlier sections of this article, certain types of food can cause allergic reactions in cats which may result in serious skin diseases. Always ensure you’re feeding your cat with cat-healthy food such as fish (oily tuna fish is great for cats!) and some meat, as well. 

For cat supplements, we recommend the Petz Park Skin + Coat for Cats Supplement. Made with delicious, cat-friendly flavours, it’s also packed with well-researched ingredients designed to keep your cat’s skin and coat healthy. 

  • Keep your cat regularly groomed.

While cats are masters at self-grooming, giving them a little help in that department is always great for their skin and coat. So it’s recommended to take your cat in for regular grooming to remove any loose hair and dander that might otherwise contribute to dandruff and scratching. This is especially more beneficial for cats who love the outdoors.

If you’re happy to groom your cat at home, use a blowdryer on your cat if it has long hair and use a brush/comb before blow drying to distribute the natural oils from the skin around the fur so that their coat stays healthy and shiny.

Should your cat's fur become matted, take it to a groomer or veterinarian right away - this can lead to serious infections of the skin and other problems if left untreated for too long.

  • If you can, keep your cat indoors as much as possible. 

This is so that it is not exposed to fleas and other parasites that cause skin disease, including tapeworms, which are passed on through flea bites.

  • If you notice red spots or pimples on your cat's skin, take immediate action.

Take your cat to a veterinarian immediately. These are serious signs of an infection that can spread very quickly if left untreated.

  • Make sure your cat has enough nutritious food and water.

We can’t say this enough - a healthy cat is fed with healthy food and sufficient amounts of clean water. This helps ensure that their skin and coat are shiny and healthy.

  • Keep the litter box clean and avoid using cat litter with clay.

A clean litter box keeps parasites and bacteria at bay. Read the label of the litter you’re using and make sure its ingredients don’t include clay. Clay is known to get in between your cat’s paws and fur and may cause skin problems.

  • Make sure you take your cat to regular check-ups at the vet clinic.

This is especially more important for older cats or cats with chronic diseases/compromised immune systems. Your vet will always take a thorough look at your cat and make sure they’re in tiptop condition. This includes checking for allergies or any skin conditions.


💡 Petz Park Tip 

Is your cat prone to skin disease? 

Older cats and overweight cats are more prone to skin diseases. Your cat may have a genetic predisposition for skin diseases. If you just became a cat parent or have just adopted a new cat, it’s best to check if family history is available so you’ll have an idea about what types of food your cat is allergic to and what can trigger certain types of skin diseases.

Also, introducing cats to a new environment or routine may cause skin diseases. For example, if you’ve adopted an indoor cat and want to introduce it to a more active, outdoor lifestyle then it may develop certain allergies from dust, pollen, dander or other environmental factors. If you’ve just moved or have done some renovations at home, certain chemicals may trigger skin diseases as well.

If you’re unsure how to determine whether your cat may be prone to skin diseases, you can always consult with your veterinarian.

We hope that you now have a better understanding of what skin conditions in cats are, what causes them and how they can be effectively treated. While most skin conditions in cats are possible to treat and some are more common than others, it is important to learn and understand the symptoms of these conditions early on so you can take the right steps needed to help keep your cat’s skin + coat healthier and shinier.



*This information is intended as general information only. It was not written or intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please seek professional guidance from your pet’s veterinarian before taking any action that could affect your pet’s health.