Cat Skin Conditions: How Can I Soothe My Cat’s Itchy Skin?

Cat Skin Conditions: How Can I Soothe My Cat’s Itchy Skin?
 | Animed Direct

Skin is the largest organ of a cat’s body, making up as much as a quarter of their weight. It has many important jobs, including regulating temperature and providing a protective barrier against the environment. Cat skin conditions can weaken this protective barrier, causing severe irritation and making your cat feel unwell in many cases.

Cats are susceptible to a wide range of skin conditions, which may affect areas such as the outer ear canal, the paw pads and claws, as well as the skin covering the rest of the body. This blog will focus on some of the most common cat skin conditions and their symptoms.

Once you and your vet understand what may be affecting your cat, you’ll be able to administer suitable treatment as well as potentially take preventative measures, and be well-equipped to deal with any sudden flare-ups.

Symptoms of Cat Skin Conditions

There are a huge number of different cat skin conditions resulting in a range of symptoms. Some of these symptoms are caused directly by the skin condition itself, while others can be secondary symptoms as a result of itching or over-grooming.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, or your cat’s skin looks different to normal in any way, always see your vet.

Itchy Skin

One of the main symptoms of a cat skin condition is itchy skin. This is known as pruritus. While all cats scratch every now and then, if you notice your cat is itchier than normal and it’s not fleas, then they may well be suffering from a skin problem.

Itchy skin may lead to:

  • Excessive scratching or biting themselves
  • Head shaking (if your cat has itchy ears)
  • Scabs and wounds
  • Over-grooming and hair loss

Scabs and Wounds

As well as being caused by scratching, some skin conditions can also directly rupture the protective layer of the skin, resulting in scabs. Before the scabs form, there will be a sore or wound. It’s particularly important to get seen by a vet quickly if you notice open wounds as these are ideal environments for bacteria and infections to develop.

Hair Loss

You may notice bald patches on your cat. While some skin conditions can cause hair loss directly, more often than not hair loss is a result of over-grooming due to itchiness or pain caused by the condition.

Bumps on the skin

Small raised bumps on the surface of your cat’s skin is another indication of a skin condition. Allergies, parasitic infections, hypersensitivity to flea bites, bacterial infections, and autoimmune diseases are all possible causes of this symptom.

Rashes and redness

Both these symptoms can be caused by a wide variety of skin conditions in cats. They’re often also associated with inflammation.

Dry, flaky skin

Your cat might appear to have a kind of dandruff, or what vets call ‘scale’. Dry, flaky skin can be a result of skin infections, but it can also be caused by many other things, including nutritional imbalances or even a lack of grooming because your cat feels too unwell to do so.

Oily skin and fur

Healthy cats are able to maintain a healthy level of oil in their coat, so if your cat’s fur starts to look greasy, this is a sign that the oil production and removal process in the skin has been disrupted.

Causes of Cat Skin Conditions

Since the skin covers the outside of the body, it’s often (but not always) easy to see when there is a problem with it – but that’s not to say that cat skin conditions are easy to diagnose.

Not only is it common for more than one skin condition to be present at the same time in cats, but often the skin’s response to different conditions will look very similar. For this reason, vets can’t always make a diagnosis just by looking at your cat’s skin.

There’s a wide variety of reasons why your cat may suffer from some of the symptoms listed above. Let’s go through some of the most common ones, including infections, parasites, and allergies.


Infections are caused by the presence of bacteria or yeasts in the skin cells.

Often skin infections in cats don’t present themselves in a very noticeable way, and can’t always be seen by the naked eye. Itchiness may be the only symptom you notice.

Ringworm is one type of skin infection, and it’s fairly common in cats. Contrary to its name, it’s not a worm – rather it’s a fungal infection. Ringworm is highly contagious and affects the surface of the skin, hair or nails, and may cause symptoms such as itching, redness, hair loss, and scabbed or flaky skin.

It’s likely your vet will need to take a sample of your cat’s skin cells in order to diagnose a suspected infection and prescribe the right treatment for it. This will often include antibiotics and/or antifungal medications.

Fleas and Other Parasites

Parasite infestations are one of the most common cases of skin disease in cats, and they can affect both indoor and outdoor cats. Parasites include fleas, ticks and mites.

Not only do fleas cause itching with their normal activity, but some cats are also allergic to their saliva. In fact, flea allergies are the most common allergy in cats. This is known as flea-allergic dermatitis (FAD). Cats who suffer from it experience intense itching and a rash each time a flea bites them.


Other allergies can also cause skin problems. Cats can be allergic to anything from pollen or dust mites, to particular chemicals in household cleaning products, or certain ingredients within their food. Even if your cat has previously been fine with a food, allergies and intolerances can develop over time.

Stress or Pain

When cats feel stressed, anxious or in pain, they will often over-groom themselves. Barbering is a form of over-grooming where cats bite their fur, cutting the hair shafts in two, which results in thinner, often prickly fur.

Cats often do this in an attempt to reduce pain they feel in that area, or they might do it out of stress as a way to comfort themselves and relieve anxiety.

Nutritional Imbalances

Cats need a high quality diet to keep their coat in good condition. If your cat is not receiving the right balance of nutrients, or they’re lacking something entirely, this will often reflect in their coat health. It may appear dull, and skin that is not well-nourished is more susceptible to infections.


Some cats can suffer from sunburn just like people can, particularly white cats and those with pale ears, eyelids and noses.

Too much sun exposure can cause hair loss around the ears, and lead to scabs and wounds that won’t heal. Repeated or untreated sunburn can eventually lead to skin cancer.

Treating Cat Skin Conditions

The first point of call should always be your vet. They will be able to help identify the root cause of your cat’s skin condition so that it can be addressed with the appropriate treatment if necessary.

Never try to administer treatment without a vet’s recommendation, as you could make the condition worse.

Your vet may prescribe you a topical cream, medicated shampoo, antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications. If your vet suspects a food allergy, they may recommend that you conduct diet trials to find the culprit.

How Can I Soothe My Cat’s Itchy Skin?

So many of the conditions discussed above result in itchy skin as one the main symptoms.
As well as addressing the root cause of your cat’s skin condition with your vet, there are things you can do at home to help soothe your cat’s itchy skin, and potentially prevent skin problems from developing in the first place. These include:

Wrapping Up

There are a huge number of different cat skin conditions, and many of the symptoms they cause are very similar, which often makes certain skin problems difficult to diagnose. Many of these are characterised by itchy skin. Itchiness can cause severe irritation and discomfort, sometimes seriously affecting your cat’s quality of life, so it’s important to see a vet as soon as possible. They will be able to determine the root cause, offer advice on the best way to address it before the condition worsens, and alleviate discomfort for your cat.

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker