Feline Acne

Feline Acne is a common problem in cats. It is characterised by black specks (comedones) on the cat’s chin, cheeks and/or lips which look like flea dirt in mild cases (sometimes called cruddy chin) and in more advanced stages, the secondary infection may result in red and swollen pustules, and may even bleed due to irritation. The chin may become visibly swollen, there may be some hair loss and the area may become itchy, which when scratched may lead to further trauma to the area. In mild cases, the symptoms may go unnoticed and no treatment is necessary and in more advanced cases, a veterinarian should be consulted so that a correct diagnosis can be made. There are a number of other conditions with similar symptoms to feline acne and these include ringworm, food allergies, yeast infections, eosinophilic granuloma complex or demodectic mange. In severe cases, the condition may respond slowly to treatment and it may also seriously detract from the appearance of the cat. The condition is particularly noticeable on white or pale coloured cats, as the build up of oil can discolour their fur and appear yellow and greasy.


Sebaceous glands secrete oils which lubricate the skin and maintains the suppleness of the skin and also waterproofs the hairs. These glands are connected to hair follicles. The chin area is difficult to groom and the build up of dirt and oil in this area cause the follicles to become blocked, causing blackheads. When the blackheads become irritated, swollen and infected, pustules form.


Acne equally affects male and female cats and can affect cats of any age or breed. However, Persians or Exotics, which possess flat faces, are particularly susceptible to feline acne. The condition may appear only once in the life of a cat, or it could come and go or it could remain a persistent problem for the life of the cat.


The precise cause of feline acne is not known and treatment depends on the severity of the acne and can be controlled rather than cured. There are a number of factors which appear to be associated with the development of feline acne. They include:



Stress- related acne can be treated by identifying and removing the cause. Emotional stress can be relieved by medication, pheromone based products which act to modify behaviour such as Feliway, and aromatherapy. Environmentally caused stress may require change to be introduced more gradually. Rearranging of the home’s furniture ,may need to be done very gradually or the introduction of a new family member may need to occur very slowly.


Overactive sebaceous glands whereby excessive oils are produced and the hair follicles do not function properly.

The possible cause of overactive sebaceous glands in mild cases, may simply require a Betadine scrub mixed with water (used in veterinary surgery) or a Benzyl peroxide based shampoo are used to break down the excessive oils from the cat’s chin. The chin can then be rinsed with water.  I had great success with the betadine solution applied twice daily. A 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water can also help in drying out the chin area. Oral or topical antibiotics may need to be used to clear a secondary bacterial infection. A short course of corticosteroids may be needed if there is a large amount of inflammation. The fur around the chin may need to be clipped to enable a deep cleaning of the affected area. As a last result, a biopsy may need to be taken of chin tissue in severe or unresponsive cases.


Poor grooming habits (generally not the cause)

In different stages of a cat’s life, their grooming practises may not be optimal and it may be necessary  to wipe a cat’s face after mealtime.


A suppressed immune system


Food allergies


The Use of Plastic Bowls

Replacing plastic food bowls with ceramic, pottery, glass or stainless steel bowls is highly recommended by veterinarians and feline experts and is considered to be a high risk factor. Plastic is a breeding ground for bacteria which reside in scratches and nicks in the plastic, and being porous, may trap bacteria which is then transferred to the cat’s chin. Another possibility is that the cat actually has an allergic reaction to the plastic food bowl or the dye used to colour the actual bowl .

Owners should wash dishes on a frequent and regular basis to minimise the risk of bacteria spreading.



Article By:  C Lynch