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Feline acne: causes and treatment

If your cat has a "dirty chin," read on.

Feline acne is a sadly common problem with young and old cats alike. Most cats will have at least one bout of feline acne during their lifetimes. Feline acne is unsightful, uncomfortable for the cat, and can lead to much more serious problems if it continues to worsen.

Identifying Feline Acne
Feline acne takes the form of blackheads. You might mistake it for coffee grounds, dirt, or flea droppings (a.k.a. "flea dirt") at first. It typically forms along the edges of the lips and chin. If you scratch at it gently, it does not come off. Feline acne is much more visible on cats who have a light colored chin, versus cats with darker coats.
If it persists or gets worse, feline acne can turn into pustules and a chronic facial infection. Thus, it is important to address this problem as soon as you notice it.

Feline Acne Causes
There is no single cause of feline acne. Some common causes include:
  • Feeding out of plastic bowls, rather than ceramic or metal.
  • Feeding out of dirty dishes.
  • Poor quality food, or food with an ingredient that your cat is sensitive to.
  • Hormonal issues (many teenage cats get acne, just like teenage humans).
  • Immune system problems (a common cause of feline acne in senior cats).
Preventing Feline Acne
The first step is to address the cause. If you use plastic dishes for your cat's food or water, switch to ceramic or metal bowls. Surprisingly, this alone will clear up many cases of feline acne within just a few days. Some cats are apparently sensitive to the chemicals in plastic, or it may be that plastic dishes are more likely to harbor the bacteria that cause feline acne.
Swap out your cat's dishes with clean ones once a day. Clean the dishes well, to kill the bacteria that can cause feline acne.
Next, upgrade your cat's food to a better brand. If you are feeding Purina, upgrade to Iams. If you are feeding Iams, upgrade to a premium brand like Natural Balance or Nutro MAX. Try a hypoallergenic food, like Natural Balance Duck & Pea or Nutro Natural Choice.
Treating Feline Acne
If you have done all of the above and your cat's acne has not improved or has gotten worse, see a vet. Depending on the severity, your vet may prescribe an antibiotic, and may recommend daily cleanings to keep the area clear and promote healing.