Most of us are familiar with the pesky blemishes that show up around puberty and make our lives miserable. Lucky folks simply outgrow their acne issues, while others spend their lives praying for a miracle cure. That said, humans aren’t the only creatures who have to deal with this frustrating issue: Cats can get acne, too.
Acne can show up on cats at any age, not just in their “teens” like us. It can also affect any breed. The symptoms typically appear on chins and noses. For the most part, a small section of blackheads (also known as "comedones") isn’t anything to worry about, though you should take your cat to the vet to make sure it’s not a serious issue like mites. Chances are, your vet will probably tell you she’s fine, especially if she doesn’t seem bothered by the spots. Although there’s no agreed-upon cause for the blackheads and pimples popping up on felines, it’s important to know how to soothe the symptoms. Plus, they can cause worse issues down the line if they become infected.
How to Treat Cat Acne
According to a report by veterinarian Ernest Ward for the Veterinary Centers of America, the disorder is actually called follicular keratinization. That means there’s an overproduction of keratin, a protein found on the outer layer of skin, getting trapped around hair follicles. This is what results in blackheads, which might just look like spots of dirt on her fur until closer inspection. A cat’s skin also has natural oils (or sebum) just like us that can cause clogged pores.
There are several factors at the root of the issue, most of which are due to poor grooming practices by the cat or her owner. One surprising culprit that veterinarians unanimously caution against, though? Plastic water and food bowls. Veterinarians like Dr. Ward, Dr. Carol S. Hillhouse from the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, and Dr. Michele Rosenbaum from DVM360 all recommend replacing plastic bowls with ceramic or stainless-steel options instead. Plastic is more likely to hold onto bacteria and spread it, causing breakouts on your cat’s chin area in particular. Steel or ceramic bowls are easier to clean on a daily basis, as well.
You might be tempted to try human acne products on your feline’s blemishes, but you shouldn’t put anything on them without consulting your veterinarian first. Those products can have some painful side effects for cats, especially if they aren’t protected from scratching at it or accidentally ingesting the product. Dr. Ward recommends asking your veterinarian about fatty acid supplements, especially omega 3’s, that might help lessen the appearance of breakouts. You should try to clean the breakout area at least once a day with gentle antibacterial soap or wipes — at least as often as your cat will allow, depending on her mood. There are shampoos and creams, like benzoyl peroxide, that can also help the situation. Again, you’ll want to talk to your veterinarian before applying anything to your kitten companion.
Unfortunately, your cat will never be completely cured of their acne once it develops. It’s a chronic condition, but it shouldn’t get in the way of your feline having a happy life as long as you focus on keeping her hygiene in good condition. Regular check-ups with your vet and maintaining a close eye on any developments, like the blemishes becoming itchy, will keep your cat from suffering any pain or health issues due to the annoying spots on her skin.