is cat acne contagious?
Cat Health and Wellness

Is Feline Acne Contagious To Other Cats?

Acne on the chin is one of the most common skin conditions to impact cats. Typically, feline acne will manifest as small, subtle whiteheads or blackheads. Eventually, left untreated, it can turn to large, unsightly pimples and pustules.

Feline acne is not contagious, in that it is not passed from one cat to another. Multiple cats in the same proximity can experience acne outbreaks, so one single, common root cause is to blame. This may be dirty water, shared allergies, parasites, or contagious infection.

Just because feline acne is not contagious to other cats, it doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It is always a warning sign. Even if your cat seems comfortable and indifferent, identify the reason for the acne. It may be a secondary condition, inspired by a more significant health concern.

What Is Feline Chin Acne?

Acne is a common complaint in cats. The problem will initially manifest as small, bumpy whiteheads or blackheads on a cat’s chin. If allowed to persist, these will evolve into pimples. Eventually, pimples can burst and cause bleeding on the chin.

The Japanese Journal of Veterinary Dermatology studied 74 cases of feline chin acne, finding the condition to be indiscriminate. Any cat can develop chin acne, regardless of age, breed or sex. This is because acne is often linked to other issues.

Some cats develop a solitary bout of acne and rapidly recover. Others can experience period, consistent outbreaks. In the latter case, you must identify the cause. Chin acne is often a warning sign of something amiss.

Can Chin Acne Be Passed Between Cats?

Acne on the chin is a unique problem, personalized to the individual cat. This means that cats cannot pass acne between themselves through proximity. It is not a contagious health issue.

Despite this, cats that live in close proximity can all develop acne, seemingly simultaneously. This is not due to contagion. It suggests that all cats are sharing the same cause for an acne outbreak, though.

If one cat develops acne on its chin, it may be misfortune. This is especially true in young cats, who experience floods of hormones akin to puberty. If multiple cats are all experiencing acne, an explanation must be sought.

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Causes of Feline Chin Acne

Human acne is caused by skin oils blocking hair follicles. This causes the follicles to inflame and bulge, creating whiteheads and blackheads. This is known as folliculitis. If these whiteheads and blackheads are infected with bacteria, unsightly pimples will follow.

Feline chin acne has a similar explanation. In many cases, acne is caused by an excess of keratin in the cat’s skin. This is a protein that causes blockages in the pores. It’s also possible for medical or lifestyle-based concerns to be at play, though.

This is especially likely if multiple cats have acne. There is clearly a common denominator at play. Through a process of elimination, you’ll be able to determine what this is.  

Allergies

As reported in The Feline Journal of Medicine and Surgery, Cornell University studied 1,407 cases of feline acne over fifteen years. While a many and varied list of explanations were found, allergies were the most common cause.

Many cats are allergic to plastic. This means that their food and water bowls could be to blame. When a cat eats and drinks from such a vessel, it rubs its chin against the surface. This can cause an outbreak of acne.

Your cat’s food may also be to blame. If you have recently changed food brand and acne has followed, this is likely. Cats can be sensitive to dietary changes. Offer your cat a bland meal, such as chicken and rice, and see if this helps.

Stress and Anxiety

If your cat is stressed, it will undergo a range of behavioral changes. Chief among these is excessive grooming, or none at all. Both of these symptoms are as likely to cause acne as each other. Excessive grooming will agitate skin, while none will lead to oily fur.

In addition, stress will flood a cat’s body with hormones. This can lead to an eventual imbalance. Acne is just one of the side effects of this.

Manage your cat’s stress levels by assigning a routine and avoiding trauma. Cats are easily distressed, and different felines will have varying stressors. Learn what upsets your cat and protect it from such triggers.

Dermatitis

Some cats may experience dermatological concerns, leading to chin acne. These issues may be hereditary, handed down from parents. This makes outbreaks of acne among littermates likely.

Veterinary Dermatology lists domestic mixed, Abyssinian and Devon rex breeds as likeliest to suffer.

Dermatitis can also be caused or worsened by hormonal fluctuations. By the time a cat enters its senior years, hormone levels should have leveled out. Surges and drops in hormone levels are always a possibility, though.

If a cat is living with suspected dermatitis, veterinary advice will be required. A combination of medications and lifestyle changes will be prescribed. This may not outright cure the issue, but it will control it.

Parasites

If a group of cats lives together, a parasitic outbreak will quickly spread. Fleas, in particular, will infect multiple animals at once. These parasites can also provide an explanation for chin acne.

This acne may be caused by an allergy to flea saliva. Many cats suffer from this issue. Even if they do not, the cat will scratch to excess to relieve discomfort. This will take a toll on the cat’s delicate skin.

Flea infestations must be resolved immediately upon being noticed. Better yet, take preventative measures to keep parasites away from your cats.

Mange or Ringworm

Ringworm is a viral skin condition that is contagious among cats. If one cat has ringworm, everybody and anything is encounters will likely develop it.

Ringworm causes flaking, cracking and peeling skin. It can also lead to sores and scales that are easily mistaken for pimples. The longer a cat lives with ringworm, the most uncomfortable it will become. Eventually, the cat will scratch and open the skin.

Mange is a condition that looks similar to ringworm. This issue is caused by burrowing mites that feast upon a cat’s dead skin. Like ringworm, this will damage skin and lead to acne or worse. Most topical treatments designed to deter and kill fleas and also prevent mites.

Both of these issues will dry out a cat’s skin, leading to an inevitable acne outbreak. In these instances, though, acne is a secondary concern. Address the infection or infestation first.

Viral or Bacterial Infection

Acne can be a side effect of a viral infection that is passed between cats. While acne alone is not contagious, feline herpesvirus (FHV) or feline calicivirus (FCV) spread like wildfire. While these viruses need are rarely too dangerous, they will reduce a cat’s immune system.

Other, more serious bacterial infections can also spread among cats. Staphylococcus aureus, aka a staph infection, is concerning. If one cat presents with acne and symptoms of ill health, isolate it from others.

Check the water supply that your cats drink from too, especially it is shared. A communal outbreak of acne can suggest bacteria in water. This can be common in areas with hard water.

Acne caused by water is even likelier in outdoor cats. Felines often eschew tap water for wild sources, including puddles or rivers. These bodies of water may contain bacteria. Keep your cats indoors for a spell, encouraging more traditional forms of hydration.

Substandard Hygiene

If your cat is not grooming itself enough, its skin and fur will become increasingly oily. This will lead to inflammation of the cat’s hair follicles. Acne will then follow.

Senior cats, in particular, can struggle to groom appropriately. Feline bathing requires great dexterity and flexibility, and many older cats become arthritic. You may need to assist your cat with its grooming regime.

Excessive Rubbing of the Chin

Consider whether your cat is simply rubbing its chin to excess. Cats have scent glands in their chin, which they use to mark territory.

A cat that marks constantly will wear away the fur around its chin. This exposes a cat’s delicate skin, making acne increasingly likely. It does not take much to damage feline skin.

Assign your cat its own unique and undisputed territory. This will reduce the desire to mark other parts of the home. If the cat persists in chin-rubbing, apply as many soft furnishings as possible to reduce impact.

Is Acne Painful for Cats?

In many cases, chin acne is asymptomatic. The issue is unsightly, but not painful or dangerous per se. All the same, an explanation for feline chin acne merits investigation. Acne can turn to pimples, which become irritable and inflamed if permitted to persist.

If a cat has pimples, it will likely scratch at them. As cats have sharp claws, this will open wounds. Once this occurs, all manner of bacteria can gain access to your cat’s skin. This can make your cat unwell.

While your cat may appear indifferent to whiteheads of blackheads, this can change overnight. Do not ignore the initial signs of the problem. If you take action before acne becomes prominent, your cat will be considerably more comfortable.

One thing is certain – you must never squeeze and pop a pimple on a cat’s chin. This will cause significant pain and distress to the cat. What’s more, it will create an open wound that may invite further infection. You will make your cat’s condition worse, not better.

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Treatment for Feline Chin Acne

Prevention is always the best remedy for feline chin acne. If the problem does manifest, multiple treatments are available. The solution you choose should be tailored to the cause of the issue.

Regular Washing

If your cat is older, it will struggle to groom itself appropriately. This may include the chin and face. Combat this by aiding your cat’s grooming regime. Keep a cat’s fur around the chin short, too.

At least once a day, gently wash your cat’s chin with a soft washcloth. Always use plain, unscented soap for this. A feline shampoo will also be effective.

Unsuitable products, such as soaps treated with chemicals, will cause further acne outbreaks. Avoid these at all costs. If in doubt, rely on plain water.

Changes to Food and Water Bowls

As discussed, plastic allergies can be a major cause of feline acne. If multiple cats eat and drink from such vessels, communal acne is likely.

Switch plastic bowls for metal or ceramic alternatives. Alternatively, in the case of food, remove bowls altogether. Many cats prefer to eat from a shallow dish as this reduces whisker fatigue.

Dietary Changes

Check your cat’s diet and ensure that food is not causing acne. This may involve a trial and error approach. If your cat primarily eats wet food, steadily introduce more kibble – or vice versa.

In persistent and troublesome cases of acne, the cat should be switched to an anti-inflammatory diet. Older cats also need less protein, which in turn, means they’ll produce less keratin. Switch your cat to a senior-specific cat food.

You could also consider bringing supplements into a cat’s diet. Omega-3, in particular, is considered effective against feline chin acne. You will find these supplements in any reputable pet store.

Keep an eye on your cat’s water supply, too. Consider switching to bottled water, invest in a water fountain, or pick up a water filter. This remove any bacteria from tap water. It will also have the welcome side-effect of encourage more hydration in your cat.

Topical Treatments

There are numerous home remedies that can aid with feline acne. Rubbing a topical remedy under a cat’s chin and soothe folliculitis. Treatments that you can attempt include:

All of these remedies are safe for a cat to consume in moderate amounts. Your pet will not be in danger if it eats licks the fur surrounding its chin.

If these homeopathic remedies are ineffective, consult a vet. Your cat may have a skin condition or hormonal imbalance that requires treatment. Where possible, a topical ointment will be prescribed. Be aware though, vets will only act in serious cases of acne.

A cat with chin acne will not pass the concern onto other felines. This doesn’t mean that a group of cats cannot all contract acne, though. There will be a shared experience at the root of the common skin concern.