How to Treat Cat Acne: Everything You Need to Know

Cat with Acne on Chin

We aren’t the only ones who suffer from acne; a lot of animals do as well. Cats are the best example of that. They even get it from stress and poor hygiene habits—just like we do!

But treating acne for cats can’t be the same as humans, right?

I mean, a cat won’t take oral medications or go through chemical peeling. That’s unless it’s a pretty skin-conscious cat.

I’ll tell you how to treat cat acne in case you suspect your cat has it. And, I’ll tell you how acne is different from other skin conditions and how to diagnose it.

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Where Do Cats Get Acne?

Humans get acne on their faces, necks, shoulders, backs, and even chests. Are cats the same?

No, they aren’t. You likely won’t see acne on a cat’s back or near its paws. They only get acne on their chins, and it sometimes spreads out to their lips.

Cats get acne on their chins because that’s where the oil-producing sebaceous glands are. When the hair follicles around the glands get blocked, acne starts forming. However, there isn’t enough information about the topic, which means we don’t know other reasons for it.

The most common reason is follicular keratinization. It occurs when excess keratin is produced, causing it to get trapped in the hair follicles. As a result, blackheads start forming, along with comedones and pimples. If bacteria infect those comedones, acne starts developing, similar to what happens to humans.

Dogs suffer follicular keratinization as well, and it results in acne in most cases.

Symptoms of Cat Acne

If you don’t know what cat acne looks like, there’s a high chance you’ll take it for something else. Cats get skin infections and allergies frequently, so it’s probably not a rare occurrence for you to find a couple of pimples on the cat’s chin.

Well, if you examine it closely, you’ll be able to tell it’s acne easily. First, you’ll find the chin looking dirtier than usual—more obvious in light-colored cats than dark ones. On top of that, you’ll find some small black specks scattered here and there. These are comedones.

If you look more closely, you’ll find the inflamed hair follicles staring back at you, along with the blackheads. The blackheads will be infected and swollen if the acne is still developing. If it’s already developed, you’ll see the red pimples instead.

Acne will mainly be in the chin, but it may also appear on the lower and upper lips. If you see a crusty layer near some pimples, that means the cat likely has chronic acne.

How to Treat Cat Acne Quickly and Efficiently

Acne is a pretty mild skin condition for cats. Most of the time, it doesn’t need antibiotics or medications, and it goes away on its own. There are a couple of things you can do to speed up the process, though. Those will also ensure the cat isn’t in pain or irritation.

All cat owners know it; if your cat is in pain, you’re next!

Use Medical Shampoos

While you can take an oral antibacterial medicine when you have acne, I can’t say the same about cats. A medical shampoo for cats is the equivalent of an antibacterial medicine for humans. It efficiently clears up the breakout and stops the skin from developing more acne.

However, to use medical shampoos or wipes, you need to consult a vet beforehand to recommend a suitable brand for your cat’s condition.

And, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t use human products on cats unless a vet tells you so.

Apply Warm Compress

Sometimes, the solution to acne is pretty simple and right in front of you. While warm compresses don’t do much for human acne, they do wonders for cats.

A warm compress will reduce the swelling in the affected area, relieve the pain, and keep the skin from getting too irritated.

All you have to do is rinse a towel in warm water, wring it tightly, and rest it on the affected area. After a few minutes, rinse the towel again and reapply it.

Natural Remedies

A lot of natural remedies are highly efficient for clearing out skin infections. When your cat’s condition is mild, there’s no need for medicated shampoos or antiseptics. Some home remedies like black tea, aloe vera, cucumber pulp, coconut oil, or apple cider vinegar can work.

Of course, you’ll need to consult a vet first to recommend the right remedies for your cat. If those don’t work, the vet will likely direct you to a veterinary dermatologist.


If a medical shampoo isn’t enough to treat your cat’s acne, the vet will recommend an antiseptic ointment. He’ll perform a deep cleaning himself, clipping the hair around the affected area to be able to treat the acne.

If your cat needs further medical attention, the vet will likely give you a diluted antibacterial solution that you can use at home. Bear in mind to follow all the vet’s instructions regarding how and when to apply it.

Why Do Cats Develop Acne

Humans develop acne at puberty, when they fail to clean their skin properly, and when they’re stressed. You may think I’ll talk about how cats are totally different, but they actually aren’t. They, too, develop acne because of too much stress and poor cleaning habits. There’s an array of other reasons as well:

  • Hyperactive sebaceous glands
  • Poor immune system
  • Food allergies
  • Concurrent skin infection
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Atopic dermatitis

There are some less common reasons, such as using plastic dishes for food. Contrary to common belief, acne isn’t caused by the skin’s contact with plastic. Rather, it occurs because of the excessive bacteria residing on top of the dish.

If you think you clean the dishes well, think again. It’s not how you clean it; it’s the materials’ properties. Plastic traps bacteria in its tiny abrasions that you can’t see by the naked eye. So, no matter how hard you clean the dish, the bacteria will remain hidden. I recommend switching to glass or stainless steel; these are much easier to clean and safer than plastic.

Acne may also form due to some allergies, but in this case, it’ll be accompanied by a couple of other symptoms. These include inflamed skin, ear infections, excessive itching and licking, and hair loss.

How Is Acne Diagnosed?

Vets have various ways to diagnose cat acne. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a piece of cake. They inspect the cat’s skin, see the blackheads and the pimples that are about to form, and know instantly it’s acne. Other times, it gets harder than that.

Firstly, the vet will rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as mange mites and fleas. Afterward, he’ll perform a thorough physical exam. If needed, he’ll perform a skin scraping to rule out mites. He may also ask for a dermatophyte culture to know if it’s ringworm. When both conditions are ruled out, he may ask for a biopsy to look for neoplastic causes.

How to Prevent Cat Acne

The first step in preventing cat acne is watching out for the cat’s stress levels. If you’re noticing stress signs, such as excessive licking or chewing, start offering the cat treats and let her sit in her comfort zone for a while. If it gets too much, consult a vet on how to reduce it.

Moreover, you can switch your cat’s plastic dishes to glass or stainless steel ones. These materials don’t trap bacteria, and so they’re safer for your cat’s skin.

You should also groom the cat regularly, brushing the hairs around the neck and chin carefully to avoid blocked follicles. As long as the coat is healthy, acne will hopefully not form.

Other Skin Conditions You May Mistake for Acne

Acne isn’t the only skin condition your cat may develop. It’s important to learn about the other diseases as well to know what you’re looking at. This way, you know when to go to the vet.

Mange Mites

Mange mites cause inflammatory skin that’s accompanied by swelling and hair loss. The swelling and tender area may cause you to mistake it for acne, but acne doesn’t include hair loss. The tenderness will mostly be a result of the cat’s excessive scratching; it’s not a symptom of the condition.

Mange mites are easily treated using topical medicines. However, they’re contagious, so other animals in the house may get affected as well.


When fleas latch onto the cat’s skin, it’s pretty hard to get them out. That’s why it’s essential to take preventative treatments seriously and never miss them.

If your cat has fleas, you’ll see red splotches, sores, and excessive itching on the cat’s part. The symptoms are pretty similar to those of acne, except there will be no blackheads. It’s pretty easy to mistake them when you aren’t looking closely, though.

Environmental Allergies

A lot of cats are allergic to everyday items, such as chemicals, dust, and even grass. Like the two previous conditions, allergies are similar to acne, so mixing them up is pretty normal. However, there are some distinguishing symptoms.

For example, the cat will over-groom her coat, trying to get rid of the itch. She’ll also be itching all over her body, not only near the chin and neck. On top of that, she may chew at her joints in a failed trial to relieve the irritation.

Food Allergies

Food allergies aren’t too different from environmental allergies, except that they need a specific diet to be followed. Other than that, the symptoms are similar, including itching on the neck, back, and head.

If you see red blotches on these areas, you’ll immediately realize it’s a food allergy, not acne. Bear in mind that food allergies can be fatal in some cases, so it’s imperative to visit a vet as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

Acne is a normal occasion for cats, so no need to get worried. Still, it’s essential to diagnose the condition correctly to be able to treat it well, so a visit to the vet is important. If you diagnose it yourself, you may mistake it for one of the previously mentioned skin conditions.