Thursday, February 25, 2016

3 DIY solutions for cat chin acne

Closeup shot of Maggie the cat
Maggie the cat has excellent grooming skills. She devotes several hours every day to licking, chewing and polishing her pretty black-and-white fur. But a few weeks ago, I noticed that she was adding a new move to her grooming routine. Instead of just licking her front foot, swooping it over her head and then moving on, she was licking her back foot and then dig, dig, digging at her chin.

When I pulled up her head to peep at that chin, I could see what was going on. Mags had a nasty case of chin acne. Her entire lower lip was black and crusty, and the edges were swollen and bleeding.

Maggie has never dealt with this problem before, but apparently, it's pretty common. Just as some people struggle with excess skin oil, some cats have overactive glands on their chins and lips, and the oil those glands excrete can mesh with the food the cats eat and cause big problems.

Maggie the cat has chin acne on her lip
See that black dot by Maggie's nose? That's acne.

Since Maggie's outbreak was so severe, she needed a trip to the doctor for help. There, she had a big-time cleaning and pore extraction (a spa day!), and she had an order for antibiotics on hand. If she didn't get better within a week or two, I'd need to fill that prescription and get her on the road to wellness.

She is much better now, even without the medications. And it occurs to me that the things I'm doing at home might be great things for anyone to do when cat acne strikes. So here are those steps, in no particular order.

Switch bowls

Acne is caused by overactive glands, but bacteria also plays a role. And bacterial colonies thrive in plastic bowls. There are so many cracks and creases and divots in a traditional plastic bowl that it's nearly impossible to get things completely disinfected. When acne hits, all the plastic must go. Maggie now eats exclusively out of stainless steel or glass bowls.

Rub down after meals 

Cats usually take care of their own post-meal cleanup. But, it's hard for a cat to really keep that chin clean. Tiny bits of food can linger, as can speckles of grease and grit. A quick post-meal rubdown with a warm washcloth can remove those irritants and block a breakout before it starts.

Maggie the cat resting after a meal

Nightly polishing 

Wiping a cat's face after meals can help a ton. But many acne-prone cats still struggle with oil production. These cats may need a little extra help in order to keep their pores clean and clear. An evening wash-up with mild soap and water (I use Dr. Bronner's) can help to break up big acne clumps. And in severe cases, you can use a human skin treatment like Clearasil pads to clean things up. But if you go the medication route, talk to your doctor first. Some meds are too harsh for a cat's skin, so you'll need a product your doctor approves of.

I've read a little about a possible link between food additives and acne. And I'll be honest: I tried a few foods with Maggie, just to see what might happen. Unfortunately, Maggie has chosen a specific brand of food and she pretty much refuses to budge from it. That food might be causing her acne, but she doesn't care. She won't eat anything else.

Same goes for fish oil. Supplementing her diet with fish oil might help her skin. But Maggie absolutely hates the taste of salmon, tuna and/or pollock oil. When I add oils to her food, she won't eat.

So instead, I clean her bowls and her face. It's a quick and easy way to help my senior girl look her best.

Any of you have cats with chin acne? What did you try? Love to hear your ideas in the comments.


  1. Tim has NASTY reactions to plastics....

  2. We use all metal and ceramic bowls here. Luckily, we've not had cats with chin acne.

  3. Our cat Sam used to get this some, but I haven't seen it for a while now. We feed different foods now and also only use stainless steel or ceramic bowls. That must be what made the difference!