Your cat’s skin is actually an organ, and it’s one of the largest in the cat’s body. It serves a multitude of purposes, including:
- protecting the other organs and joints,
- keeping the cat’s body temperature stable, and
- producing glandular secretions, hair and claws.
Most skin problems in cats result in redness and itching of the skin, a well as oozing, crusting and hair loss.
Here are some of the most likely causes of that elusive cat skin rash you just can’t seem to beat:
Cats can contract allergies in the same way as humans do. Whether these are food allergies, a reaction to being bitten by fleas or irritations triggered by environmental allergens, they occur when your cat develops a hypersensitivity to something.
Food allergies are less common in cats than in dogs, and they usually result in vomiting and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Flea and environmental allergies, however, can cause what looks like a cat skin rash. It’s also possible for your cat to actually have more than one type of allergy at a time.
Without suitable prevention measures it’s possible for your cat to pick up ringworm, which is a fungal infection that affects her skin. The risk isn’t limited to outdoor cats, either; according to the ASPCA, an indoor cat can contract it from infected bedding, contact with another animal (such as the family dog), or even materials that carry ringworm spores. These can survive for up to a year, and can infect her long after their arrival.
Ringworm isn’t actually a worm, either. It’s a highly contagious fungal disease that leads to hair loss and red, itchy, round patches on your cat’s skin. It’s transferable to humans, so if you have an infected pet and your or your children start developing circular patches, it’s a good idea to visit your own doctor, too.
Cats are susceptible to a range of immune system disorders, one of which is known as feline eosinophilic granuloma complex. This develops when your cat’s immune system cells release anti-inflammatories in response to what they think is a parasitic infection—even when there isn’t one! This results in lumps that resemble tumors, lacerations and oozing of the cat’s skin. The condition is painful and irritating for your cat, and causes ulcers on her lips as well as skin damage from itching and scratching.
Yes, your cat can get sunburnt just like you can! This is a particular danger for light-colored, pale-skinned cats. Even if your cat isn’t white all over, a light nose, ears and eyelids can put her at risk for sun damage. This usually looks like a cat skin rash that has spread to her head and face, but it can be caused purely by exposure to ultra-violet rays.
Skin problems in cats can also be signs of something more serious. Skin growths and tumors may be an indication of cancer, and cats that have previously had sun damage are more likely than others to develop squamous cell carcinomas. It’s also possible for your cat to contract injection-site sarcoma, which is inflammation and scarring just beneath her skin at the spot where she received a former vaccination.
Then, of course, you get the kitty that indulges in over-grooming and ends up with bald patches as a result. She’s not necessarily OCD—this may be caused by pain in a particular part of the body that makes her pay more attention to the area. For example, urinary tract disease often causes cats to over-groom the skin on their tummies, in an effort to soothe the internal discomfort.
When you see signs of a rash or other cat skin problems, it could be an indication that your kitty has a serious medical condition. Bring her in as soon as possible for an examination, so we can ease both her discomfort and your concern.