Causes of Cat Rash

Cat rash is a broad term for various sores, lesions or infections that can affect your pet's skin. These problems result from a range of physiological, environmental and psychological factors. In order to successfully treat your cat's skin condition, it is important to know the cause of the problem. In most cases, your veterinarian can identify the source of the rash based on a physical examination and additional blood, skin, urine and allergen tests. Your vet may also ask about behavioral or physical changes you've observed in your cat. Such information can help the doctor diagnose your cat's skin problem and determine the best course of treatment. Here are some of the most common causes of cat rash and their symptoms.

Cat Rash from Allergies

If your pet has become a compulsively itchy cat she may be suffering from a rash caused by an allergic reaction. Allergies to flea bites are a main contributor to symptoms known collectively as feline miliary dermatitis. This condition is marked by the formation of scabby lesions resembling millet seeds at the base of your cat's tail, neck or head. As these small lesions or papules develop a crusty surface your cat will become irritated and begin to scratch, lick or bite the infected area.

Treating flea bite allergies requires eliminating the insect from your cat and home. You may also need to treat any secondary infections caused by your pet scratching or biting of her skin and fur. Environmental-based allergies, particularly inhalants, are another cause of feline skin problems. This condition, known as atopy, can be triggered by outdoor allergens found in trees, pollen and grass. Cats may also be allergic to household products like plastic and rubber, or fabrics such as wool and nylon. Your vet may suggest eliminating your cat's contact with such materials to help determine the cause of her skin condition.

Food allergies can also cause cat skin rash. Among the most common sources of allergic reactions are beef, seafood, corn, lamb, soy, wheat gluten and dairy products. If your vet suspects food-related allergies you will likely be asked to modify your cat's diet during an 8-10 week testing period.

Infection and Illness Causing a Cat Rash

Cat skin rash can also be caused by a number of illnesses or infections. Feline eosinophilic granuloma is an inflammatory skin disease thought to be caused by allergic responses in some cats. One main symptom is the formation of skin lesions, particularly on a cat's abdomen and thighs. Ulcers and mouth sores can also develop in animals with this disease. Treatment may require administering steroids and antibiotics to the affected areas.

Skin infections can also stem from fungus, parasites and bacteria. Cats with long hair are especially susceptible to fungal infections that affect the fur, nails and skin. Anti-fungal medication is the preferred method of treatment for these conditions. Bacterial infections, known commonly as pyoderma, can also create feline skin problems. These are often secondary infections that result from a cat scratching or biting skin that is infested with fleas or experiencing an allergic reaction. Topical antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat infections caused by bacteria. Parasites like mites and lice can also contribute to itchy skin. These small organisms may be removed from your cat with specially medicated shampoos, dips and topical ointments. In order to stop the cycle of infestation, you may need to use pet-safe anti-parasite products throughout your home.

Stress, Anxiety and Boredom

Stressed, bored or anxious cats often seek comfort through the act of grooming. This natural behavior provides cats with a distraction and triggers the release of calming hormones. Yet grooming can sometimes become excessive and compulsive, resulting in hair loss. This condition, known as feline psychogenic alopecia, can also lead to skin damage and secondary infections. Treating the problem involves eliminating the source of the cat's stress or fear. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to help treat skin infections caused by over-grooming.