When a Lion Loses Its Mane: The Most Common Cat Skin Problems and Conditions


Over 36 million people in the United States own a cat. Even though dogs are still man’s best friend, cat ownership is increasing in popularity.

More Americans see kitties as one of their family members. That’s why cat owners do whatever they can to ensure Fluffy lives a long, healthy and happy life.

While cats are prone to certain health issues, you especially have to look out for skin conditions.

Here are the most common cat skin problems.

Look Out for These Cat Skin Problems

Were you cuddling your cat and notice their fur or skin looked or felt off? Read these common cat skin concerns and contact your vet.

Skin Parasites

If you let your cat outside, you need to look for skin parasites. These are most commonly fleas, ticks, and mites, but your kitty can get bit by a myriad of different bugs and parasites.

The most common symptoms of skin parasites include inflammation, itchiness, hair loss, and skin lesions. While this is rare, severe allergies and bites can cause anemia.

Some cats are allergic to fleas. If your cat gets bit by fleas, they can develop flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Your cat will show normal flea bite symptoms, such as itchiness and inflammation.

But their condition will get more severe, developing scabs (called miliary dermatitis) near the flea bites.

Dry Skin

Like humans, cats can get dry skin. While this isn’t a huge concern, it can be irritating to your kitty. The most common symptom is constant scratching.

The best way to treat dry skin is to avoid a dry skin breakout.

Like humans with dry skin, cats are most prone to a dry skin breakout during the winter. Keep them inside during the colder months. Cats can also get dry skin during the hotter months, especially if you live in a dry climate.

If your cat has dry skin, keep a humidifier in the house. Keep your house temperature at a middle temperature — not too hot but not too cold.

Hair Loss (Alopecia)

Cats shed their hair because of a process called moulting. It’s normal and is usually of no concern. But there are times when cats will lose clumps of hair, called alopecia.

Alopecia can occur because of numerous reasons. Some are basic and don’t stem from anything serious. This includes itchiness, over-grooming, and hormonal problems.

A major change can also throw off a cat’s body, resulting in hair loss. An example is having a litter of kittens.

But alopecia can also be the first sign of something serious. This includes a skin infection, sore and irritated skin, fungal infections, ringworm bite, skin parasites, or any underlying disease. General poor health and nutrition can also be blamed.

Alopecia is hard to detect in some cats. Many cats naturally have thick fur and constantly shed. The best way to recognize alopecia in these cats is by identifying their hairballs.

Do you notice your cat is coughing up more hairballs? Are their hairballs getting bigger?

Overgrooming is a common reason for alopecia but can also signify something serious.

If a cat detects something is wrong, they will act on their instincts — grooming themselves. If you can’t notice your cat overgrooming, you will likely notice a change in the hairballs they puke out.


While we discussed an allergy to fleas, your cat can be allergic to just about anything. Skin issues are the first sign of an allergic reaction.

Cats can develop allergies to normal things that humans can. This includes pollen, mold, and dust.

There are also aspects of your home that may be irritating your kitty. Unfortunately, your cuddle time may throw off an allergic reaction.

Do you wear perfume or lotion? These fragrances can cause a skin allergy. The material of your clothing can also irritate their skin. If you spray your house with products such as Lysol or Febreeze, these products can cause a skin allergy.

If your cat loves nothing more than running and playing outside, certain plants in your yard and garden can also trigger an allergic reaction. The food they eat and even their kitty litter may also cause a skin reaction.

Last but not least — do you also own a dog? Dogs can cause an allergic reaction in cats. Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up Fido. Just make sure your puppy is well-groomed. Learn more here.

Weather Reactions

Do you notice your skin is oily during one season and dry during another? This is called combination skin and is common amongst humans. It’s also common amongst cats.

We already mentioned cats can develop dry skin during the winter and dry heat. But that’s not the only skin issue cats develop during certain months of the year.

Cats can get dandruff like you. Dandruff is caused by dry skin, forming flakes of dead skin. Cat dandruff also happens in cold climates and any climate with low humidity.

Don’t only be concerned for Fluffy during the winter. Spring and summer bring lots of pollen.

Pollen can cause all sorts of allergies, including skin irritation. If your cat has an allergic reaction to pollen, keep them inside during the spring and summer.

Don’t forget some common environmental concerns, such as rain. Never leave your cat outside in the rain.

Not only does your cat hate the rain, but rain is also actually bad for their skin. Too much moisture can cause skin lesions and is most commonly a result of oversaturation (such as from the rain).

When to Take Your Cat to the Vet

As you noticed, many of these cat skin problems are normal and likely don’t need medical attention. But some concerns, such as alopecia, may signal an underlying disorder or disease.

You should always know when to take your cat to the vet. The best way to know is by looking for other signs and symptoms. Here are cat emergencies you should never ignore!