It’s normal to see your cat scratch themselves from time to time. But if you begin to notice that your cat is itching or grooming themselves more often than normal, that’s likely an indication that they have some sort of rash on their skin.
There are many reasons that could be causing a cat skin rash. Cats are prone to skin infections, allergies, parasites, and various other conditions that can cause a rash on a cat. A cat skin rash will most commonly affect the feet, nose, underbelly, ears, and mouth. But since cats groom themselves, it can be hard to detect a skin rash on a cat, which is why it’s important to be aware of the various causes and symptoms of cat rashes, so that you can figure out the proper course of treatment for your itchy kitty.
To learn more about what causes skin rashes on cats, how to treat a cat’s rash, and more, continue reading the entire article from start to finish. Or, if you just want to read about a particular topic, you can use the links below to skip to a section of your choice.
What Is a Skin Rash?
A skin rash, often categorized under the broad term dermatitis, is any type of inflammation of the skin and includes patches of red, itchy, and/or swollen skin1. Cat dermatitis can be caused by a variety of factors, such as allergies, burns, trauma to the skin, infections, internal disorders, or external irritants.
What Causes Rashes on Cats?
There are a variety of cat skin conditions that can cause rashes on cats. It’s important to be aware of common cat skin conditions and their symptoms so that you can catch them as soon as they happen.
These are some potential causes of rashes on cats:
- Allergies: Allergies are a very common cause of rashes on cats. One example is feline atopic dermatitis, which is when a cat has a hypersensitivity to environmental allergens2. Food allergies and flea allergies can also lead to cat skin allergies and rashes. Some common cat allergens include bug bites, medications, food, mites, fleas, and plants. In addition to rashes, some other symptoms of allergies in cats are inflammation, scaling, hair loss, and ear infections.
- Health conditions: Certain underlying health conditions, such as bacterial or fungal infections, can cause rashes on cats. If you suspect your cat is suffering from an underlying health condition, it’s important to get a diagnosis from a veterinarian as they will have the best idea of what exactly is causing your cat’s rash.
- Irritants: Various external irritants, such as soap, plastic, topical medications, detergents, and chemicals can cause rashes on cats. These may not irritate your skin, but they can definitely irritate your cats. These irritants can cause a rash on a cat's stomach, ears, mouth, and nose. Make sure you do not use any products in your house that are not safe for cats. If you notice your cat is having a reaction to a specific product in your house, get rid of it immediately.
- Feline acne: Yes, it’s true– cats can get acne, too. A cat rash on the chin will most likely be a result of feline acne3. Feline acne is minor and easy to treat, but it can cause the cat to scratch and can resemble a rash. You may notice “blackheads” on your cat’s chin, which they will want to itch. If feline acne goes untreated, it can be prone to infections. Fortunately, feline acne cats can easily be treated with over-the-counter medications.
- Mange: Mange in cats can cause lesions and yeast infections on the skin, along with general miliary dermatitis. Mange can cause a rash on a cat’s back, head, or stomach. It typically will start on a cat’s head and then move down the body. If you suspect your cat has mange4, contact your veterinarian so you can receive a proper diagnosis and figure out a treatment plan.
What Are Symptoms of Cat Rashes?
There are various symptoms of cat rashes that you should be aware of. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Biting of the skin
- Redness and swelling of the skin
- Oily fur
How Are Skin Rashes in Cats Diagnosed?
Regardless of what you think is causing your cat’s itchy skin, it’s crucial to see a vet so that you can get a proper diagnosis. There are a couple of ways your vet may go about diagnosing a skin rash, such as:
- Skin biopsy: If your cat has any lumps on their skin due to the rash, your vet may perform a biopsy to see if the lump is malignant.
- Skin Scrape or Cytology: Your vet may collect material from the skin and evaluate it under a microscope to look for mites, yeast, or bacteria to determine the cause of the rash.
- Allergy testing: Your vet may perform an allergy test on your cat’s blood serum to identify if allergies are what's causing a rash on your cat.
- Skin combings for fleas and mites: If your vet suspects fleas or mites is what is causing your cat’s rash, they will likely perform a skin combing.
- Skin culture (bacterial and fungal): A skin culture can detect various infections, such as ringworm. Ringworm is a common fungal infection in cats that is also transmittable to people
- Patient History: Your vet will ask a wide range of questions, such as when the symptoms started occurring, if there are any changes in their diet, where the cat spends most of their time, what the owner thinks might have caused it, and any medications the cat is on. This will help give your vet the best idea of what may be causing the rash on your cat and if anything triggers it or makes it worse.
How Can You Treat Your Cat’s Rash?
There are several ways you can soothe your cat’s itchy skin, depending on the root cause of the rash. Some treatment options include:
- Specialty shampoo
- Removing the irritant from the cat’s diet or environment
- Flea control
- Anti-itch medications
- Antifungal medications
- Switching their cat food, if the cat is allergic to an ingredient in their food
Rash on Cats: Frequently Asked Questions
Are rashes on cats painful?
It varies by case, but in most situations, rashes on cats are uncomfortable, but not painful. A rash on a cat will only start to get painful if the cat aggressively scratches itself, which can cause bleeding, infections, or lesions. If you notice any physical trauma on your cat due to them scratching themselves, consult your vet immediately.
Can rashes on cats be cured?
Yes, there are several different treatment options your veterinarian will walk you through to treat a rash on a cat, but it ultimately depends on what’s causing the rash. For example, if a fungal infection is causing the rash, your vet will probably recommend an antifungal medication. But if an external irritant, like soap or detergent, is what’s causing the rash, your vet will likely recommend removing that irritant from your cat’s environment.
Are cat skin rashes contagious to humans?
Skin rashes can spread to humans in certain scenarios, such as with ringworm. These contagious rashes are called zoonotic diseases, and they most commonly affect people with weakened immune systems. Scabies, cat scratch disease, Salmonella, and certain parasitic infections can all be contagious to humans.
We all know that cats groom themselves, so identifying a rash on a cat can be difficult. How do you know if your cat is just licking themselves as normal, or if it’s because they have a rash?
Being able to identify the symptoms of a skin rash on cats is important for the health and comfort of your kitty. Excessive grooming and itching is the most common side effect of rashes on cats, but they may also have dandruff, redness and swelling of the skin, and sores. If you see your cat exhibiting any of these symptoms, bring them to the vet immediately so you can figure out exactly what’s wrong.
Sometimes it can be hard to secure a veterinarian appointment to get your cat treated, but that’s exactly where Dutch.com comes into play. Dutch is telemedicine for pets, which is an innovative and convenient way for pet owners to get their pets the care they need. Using Dutch is simple– all you have to do is sign up online, fill out a questionnaire detailing your pet’s condition, and you’ll receive a response from a Dutch-affiliated veterinarian within 24 hours.
Dutch-affiliated vets are qualified to help with everything from diagnosing a cat skin rash to prescribing treatment for fleas, so you can get your cat the care they need right when they need it. Here at Dutch, we believe that all pet owners should have high-quality pet care, which is why we offer a convenient veterinarian service that you can access right from home.