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Skin Issues in Cats

Skin issues in cats are unsightly, dirty and easy to spread. That’s especially the case if they’re caused by parasites like fleas or mites. But which skin conditions can cats get, and which are the most common?

What skin issues can cats get? The most common are mange and dermatitis. Dermatitis can be caused by fleas, food allergies, mites, scabies, ringworm and cancer. These issues won’t kill your cat, but they will cause severe irritation. Treatment depends on the condition, as some are parasites and some are simple skin irritation. Consult a vet either way.

If your cat has a skin issue, don’t wait to have it treated. These conditions only get worse over time, so consult a vet as soon as possible. There may also be some products you can buy to improve your cat’s skin condition.

What Skin Issues Can Cats Get: Mange

Mange is an inflammatory skin disease which is caused by a certain type of mite called Demodex mites. These mites are hard to detect and not visible to the naked eye.

It is not uncommon mammals to carry mites. Yet when your cat has a dysfunctional immune system the mite population may increase. This could be a result of stress, illness or your cat’s body producing excess oil and hormones. When the number of mites in the cat’s hair follicles increases, there is a high risk of secondary illness. It is not uncommon for cats to develop genetic disorders, hair loss, and skin lesions.

The severity of the condition depends on which type of mite population is growing on your cat. Note that mange in cats is very rare, although there are some cats more susceptible to mites than others. These include Burmese and Siamese breeds.

Symptoms include:

  • Hair loss around the eyes, head, and neck
  • Lesions on the skin
  • Crusty patches forming on the skin.

There are two species of mites which cause mange in cats:

  1. Demodex Gatoi – A contagious species which can spread to other cats in the household.
  2. Demodex Cati – A species associated with metabolic and immune issues such as diabetes.

Your vet will diagnose your cat with mange after analyzing skin scrapings. This will allow your vet to see any demodectic mange in cats. A hair sample may also prove useful in identifying the species of the mite.


Cats tend to groom themselves for around a third of the time they spend awake. So, it’s not uncommon for people to think that their cat is grooming themselves too much. However, if your cat appears to be obsessively grooming, they may have a case of feline dermatitis. Which simply means that they have an inflammation of the skin. Inflammation is usually found to be a result of allergies.

Excessive grooming and scratching can result in scabs, which will be easy to spot. Your cat may also chew on the skin which makes the situation much worse. You may start to see the formation of lesions and bumps along with redness and hair loss. In some cases the cat’s stomach may end up completely bald.

The signs can be difficult to spot if your cat has thick or long hair. The best way to look out for dermatitis with long haired cats is to look at their ears. The fur is often thinner right in front of the ears, where you may be able to find scratches. Your cat may also appear preoccupied every time they lie down.

The three main causes of feline dermatitis are:


Your cat can suffer from flea allergy dermatitis from the a flea’s saliva. This will linger on your cat’s skin and can potentially cause irritation. Once the fleas are under control, so will your cat’s dermatitis. For more information about flea treatment, head here.

Food Allergies

Cats can develop food allergies at any point in their lives. It is not uncommon for cats to develop allergies to the food that they’ve eaten for all their lives. After your vet has ruled out a flea allergy, the next step will be a hypoallergenic diet trial. For more information on food allergies head here.

Environmental Allergies

Environmental allergens can include pollen mold or grass. Which will most likely be the cause if your vet rules out flea and food allergies. Environmental allergens can be the most difficult allergy to manage. As owners are unable to eliminate all allergens from the environment. This usually means that your cat will need long-term daily medication. Which could mean a daily dose of steroids for your cat. There are side effects, however generally cats tend to tolerate them well. Your vet may also prescribe antihistamines along with medication to treat hypersensitivity.

In severe cases, your cat may need to receive specific immunotherapy treatments. Yet, this is always a last resort due to the expense of the treatment. For an effective treatment, your vet must determine the cause. Skin lesions can also be the result of more serious conditions including:

  • Mites
  • Ringworm
  • Scabies
  • Cancer
  • Immune-mediated disease.