Visually Recognizing Cat Skin Problems

Cat skin problems can be caused by parasites, insects, allergies, endocrine imbalances, feline diseases or infections (bacterial or fungal). A cat owner should inspect the hair and skin of their cat at least twice a month if the cat remains indoors, or once a week (or more) if the cat is an outdoor cat. Inspecting short haired cats is done by visually inspecting and touching the skin. Inspecting the hair and skin of long haired cats can be done using a comb to brush against the lay of the fur.

Cat Hairball Symptoms

Sometimes a cat will groom himself constantly when there is a skin or medical problem. This can lead to hairballs.

Symptoms for hairballs are:

  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing
  • Not passing stool
  • Hair in stool
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy

Insects Or Parasites May Attach Themselves

Itching and redness are the first indications that insects or parasites have attached themselves to the skin or fur. Insects and parasites can be so tiny that they appear to be black, red or yellow specks, crusty particles, sand or long grains of rice. They can anywhere on a cat, especially on the back and neck, but also between the toes. Fleas, mites, chiggers, flies and their larvae (maggots), lice and ticks can all attach themselves to the skin or fur. Be especially diligent for ticks that can carry Lyme disease. They need to be attached to their host for 48 hours in order to transmit the disease, so immediate inspection of a returning cat from the outdoors is important in prevention. Lyme disease can appear anywhere in the United States. However, it is prevalent in the states near the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River and its tributaries.


Cats can also develop rashes in response to an allergy from foods or contact with chemicals. Sometimes the rash spreads or is accompanied by bumps, hair loss and/or swelling. No matter what the case may be, a visit to the veterinarian is necessary since swelling in particular areas can cause permanent damage or be life-threatening.

Medical Problems

Sometimes an imbalance with hormones, such as hyperthyroidism, can cause severe hair loss. Though the loss of hair in and of itself is not a serious condition, the underlying cause may be. Ulcers and ringworm can also be responsible for hair loss. Ringworm is extremely contagious and should be treated immediately. Bacteria or fungal infections can also be serious especially when they have become so badly infected that the wounds produce pus. Feline acne, impetigo and pyoderma are examples of such cases. Warts, hematomas (collection of blood under the skin), abscesses, cysts, mycetoma (open pus wound), sporotrichosis (open pus puncture wound), grubs (fly larvae) and cancer are examples of bumps or lumps that need immediate attention.