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10 Common Causes of Scabs on a Cat – Everything You Need to Know!

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	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore


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Noticing scabs on your cat’s skin can be concerning. Not only do they make your cat’s coat look patchy and unsightly, but they can also cause your cat to become itchy to the point where he is constantly scratching. Constant scratching can cause bleeding, and it doesn’t help in the healing process either.

The good news is that scabs on a cat are quite common, but the bad news is that there are several things that could be causing them. This can make it hard to figure out what exactly is causing the scabs on your cat. Luckily, we’re here to provide you with 10 common causes of scabs on a cat so that you take action to help your cat feel and look better.


The 10 Common Causes of Scabs on Cats

1. Flea Allergies

One of the most common causes of scabs on a cat (and one of the easiest to diagnose) is fleas. Most cats that get bitten by a flea only have mild irritation, but in some cases, cats can be allergic to fleas to the point where they can have a severe allergy to just one flea bite, not to mention if your cat has multiple fleas on him. The reaction is caused by a substance in a flea’s saliva. If this is indeed the cause, most of the time there will be scabs and hair loss near your cat’s tail and neck. Get a flea comb and groom your cat, tip the contents of the brush onto a wet paper towel and if you see fleas or black granules that turn red on the towel, then your cat has fleas.  They need to be treated for the fleas and the allergy.

close up fleas on cat
Image Credit: KanphotoSS, Shutterstock
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2. Other Allergies

Another common cause of scabs on a cat could be caused by an allergy to something other than fleas. In this case, exactly what is causing the allergy can be a bit harder to pinpoint. But, common allergies that aren’t related to fleas are usually either due to an environmental allergy such as pollen, mold, or mildew or rarely food allergy.

Allergies in cats usually present themselves in the form of itching rather than respiratory issues. If the itching and scabs are sudden, consider whether you’ve recently changed cat foods, as your cat could be allergic to one of the ingredients in the food. If you haven’t changed cat food recently, the allergy could be seasonal due to an increase in pollen, for example.

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3. Feline Acne

Just like humans can suffer from acne, so can cats. If acne is the cause, your cat will most likely have scabs and pustules around his chin and mouth area. It is characterized by inflammation of the hair follicles (folliculitis). Feline acne can be caused by excess sebum, oil production, or poor grooming habits. Bacteria can get inside the hair follicles, which is what causes the inflammation, and your cat will scratch as a reaction, causing scabs to form.

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4. Mange

Mange is not really a skin disease, but it is a skin condition that is caused by mites. Mites are tiny parasites that irritate your cat’s skin. This can cause inflammation, itchiness, scabbing, and hair loss in patchy areas all over your cat’s body. Mange is more common in dogs than in cats, but a specific type of mite can cause feline scabies, which is the most common type of mange that cats get. If you have multiple cats and one of them gets mange, it’s highly possible that it will spread to the others as well if not treated.

Grey cat with mange
Image Credit: Casey Elise Christopher, Shutterstock
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5. Ringworm

Ringworm is one of the most common skin disorders that affects cats worldwide. It’s a type of fungal infection caused by types of fungus called dermatophytes—it actually has nothing to do with worms. It’s called ringworm because it sometimes leaves a ring-shaped rash on the skin of infected animals. Common signs of ringworm in cats include circular areas of hair loss, crusty skin, excessive scratching, changes in skin color, and inflammation, among others.

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6. Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex

Eosinophilic granuloma complex is used to describe three types of skin lesions that cats may get: eosinophilic plaque, eosinophilic granuloma, and indolent ulcers. The cause of this skin condition is not known, but it could be due to an allergic response or genetics. Depending on the exact type of lesion, the most common places to see them on cats are inside the cat’s mouth, on the lips, or on the hind legs and stomach. The lesions vary in size and can be itchy or may bleed in some cases.

Ringworm on cat's ear
Image Credit: Ameena Matcha, Shutterstock
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7. Pemphigus Complex

Pemphigus complex is the most common autoimmune skin disorder seen in cats but is still quite rare. This disorder is characterized by large blisters around the mouth, eyelids, lips, nostrils, and anus. There are five different types of pemphigus, so the exact symptoms that your cat may experience in addition to lesions, as well as the location of the lesions, will depend on the type of pemphigus that he has. However, this is another skin disorder in cats in which the exact cause is not understood.

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8. Abscesses

An abscess is a pocket of pus located somewhere on your cat’s body. There are a variety of different things that can cause an abscess, such as a rotten tooth, a bite from another animal, or another type of injury that gets infected due to bacteria entering the wound. If your cat has an abscess, you’re likely to notice it before it gets to the point of scabbing. You’ll notice sudden swelling in a particular area, sometimes accompanied by skin redness. If the abscess ruptures, it can cause a lesion and a foul smell as pus drains out of it before scabbing over. Some cats may also have a fever if they have an abscess. You may notice a small scab before the abscess occurs from the initial injury such as a cat fight.

cat vet
Image credit: JoannaReichert, Pixabay
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9. Skin Cancer

Skin cancer, also known as Squamous Cell Carcinoma, can also cause scabs on a cat, but it is more commonly seen in cats that spend a lot of time outside with exposure to sunlight and have light coloured fur. Symptoms of skin cancer in cats include crusty or bleeding sores that don’t go away with medication, sores that don’t heal, loose hair near the sore, crusty material near the sore, or even the growth of tumors. Skin cancer can spread quickly in cats, so it’s definitely important that it be treated as soon as possible if it is, indeed, the cause. Particularly at risk is the nose and tips of ears.

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10. Other Skin Conditions

In addition to the skin disorders and conditions above, there are a variety of other conditions that can affect cats as well. These conditions can be caused by bacteria, a fungus, other allergies not mentioned above, or even mosquito or other insect bites. Because many skin conditions present themselves the same way, such as forming scabs and causing itchiness, redness, hair loss, and inflammation, it can be hard to tell exactly what the cause is.

tired sick cat lying on bed
Image Credit: Natata, Shutterstock

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Diagnosis and Treatment of Scabs on Cats

Because so many skin conditions in cats can look similar, it’s a good idea to take your cat to the vet, even if you’re 100% sure that you know what the cause is. For example, even if you know your cat has fleas and that is likely what is causing the scabs, you may still need a vet to diagnose the issue in order to provide you with flea medicine that you can use to treat it.

If you aren’t sure what the cause of the scabs on your cat is, a vet can help you figure out what the cause is, whether it be due to allergies or some type of bacterial or fungal infection. Your vet can do tests to determine what the cause of the scabs is and provide you with options such as medication to treat it.

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Scabs on cats are a fairly common occurrence, but figuring out the cause of the scabs can be somewhat difficult. One of the most common causes is an allergy to something, but there are a variety of skin conditions that can affect cats as well so it’s possible that they may not be related to an allergy at all. Taking your cat to the vet is usually the only way to know for sure what is causing the scabs, especially if you want treatment for them and know if they are likely to happen again.

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