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What Are the Most Common Causes of Cat Rashes?

By Hollie Thomas
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The condition of a cat's skin can often reflect the quality of a cat's general health, which is why cat rashes usually need to be investigated further. There are several factors that can cause cat rashes, including infections, allergies, anxiety and an infestation of parasites. After the causes of cat rashes have been identified — typically after a physical examination — the appropriate treatment can be administered by either a veterinary surgeon or the owner of the cat.

There are various types of cat rashes that can often indicate the source of irritation. When a cat has fleas, excessive scratching might be observed, and a loss of fur around the base of the tail might also be evident, as well as inflamed and scaly skin. Collectively, these symptoms are known as feline miliary dermatitis and can result when a cat has been bitten by fleas, because fleas' saliva is known to trigger allergic reactions. Similarly, further inflammation can be caused by excessive scratching. A range of topical treatments is available for treating an infestation of fleas, including shampoos, powders and sprays, but treating cat rashes in this way can also trigger a reaction, so advice should be obtained from a veterinary surgeon.

When it occurs on the paws, head and ears and is accompanied by a loss of fur, inflammation of the skin might indicate that the cat has contracted dermatophytosis — or ringworm, as it is commonly called. As a fungal skin infection, ringworm is contagious to both animals and humans alike, but in many cases, the condition will clear up without treatment. Nevertheless, it is advisable for professional advice to be sought immediately because of the contagious nature of the infection.

Environmental allergies that affect the skin, sometimes known as atopic dermatitis, can result when the cat is sensitive to various types of pollen or grass. Similarly, a cat can also develop allergies to other products within the home, such as deodorants, disinfectants and cigarette smoke. Inflammation and redness around the ears are often associated with this condition, which can be diagnosed after a skin scraping test and by obtaining blood samples.

Feline psychogenic alopecia can result when a cat becomes bored, stressed or anxious. When a cat grooms itself, calming hormones are triggered, so when cats are exposed to stressful or anxious situations, they can become predisposed to excessive grooming, resulting in rashes and a loss of fur. This condition usually is diagnosed after a sample of fur has been analyzed, a skin scraping test has been performed and a blood sample has been analyzed.

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Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Oct 31, 2013

@fBoyle-- It might be scabies. Scabies tends to affect the ears often. My cat had it a few years ago and it was also on her ears and it looked just as you described.

You need to get some scabies ointment for it. It's easy to treat but it has to be done fast because scabies is very infectious. Your other cats will get it too if it's not treated right away.

If I were you, I would keep the affected cat in a separate room until the infection is gone or you might have to treat all your cats for scabies. You also need to wash bedding (whatever the cats are sleeping on) after treatment to avoid re-infection.

By fBoyle — On Oct 31, 2013

One of my cats just developed a rash on his ears. His ears look red and flaky. He's not scratching it but I'm sure it must bother him. He doesn't have fleas, so I have no idea what's causing it. What could it be?

By ZipLine — On Oct 30, 2013

My boyfriend's cat got fleas last month. I kept telling him to take the cat to the vet and have him treated but he kept ignoring me. The infestation got so bad that the poor thing started biting and scratching his skin. He developed a red, flaky rash and I could see the fleas jumping around. It was horrible.

I basically kidnapped the cat and took him to a vet and had him treated. He was given a shot for the fleas and a special shampoo and topical cream for the rash. I kept him with me and continued to treat him. He's all better now, and happy again. I think I'm going to keep him for good because he'll probably get the fleas and the rash again if he goes back. I can't believe how some people ignore their pets' health problems and needs.

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