Is Your Cat’s Food Dish Causing Acne?

Caitlin Dempsey


The head and front paw of a sleeping calico with a dark patch of acne on her nose.

While cats may not go through a hormonally driven pimple phase like humans, cats can get acne.

Acne in cats typically appears as small, black or brown bumps on the chin or around the mouth. It is caused by a buildup of oils and bacteria in the hair follicles.

What causes feline acne?

Hormonal changes, stress, and certain foods or bowls can all cause acne in cats. Cats can also get acne if they are taking certain medicines or have certain health problems.

Known possible causes of feline acne are:

  • Allergies
  • Irritation from plastic food dishes
  • Environmental irritants
  • Bacterial infections
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Poor hygiene or grooming habits

What are the signs of acne in cats?

Symptoms of feline acne include:

  • Blackheads (comedones) on the chin
  • Pustules (pimples)
  • Scaling
  • Crusting
  • Hair loss
  • Itching

Acne on a cat’s chin will often look like the chin is dirty and have a dark brown or black appearance.

A close up of a white cat with acne on its chin.
A detailed look at acne on a cat’s chin. Photo: © tewpai/

Where does acne show up on a cat?

Acne mostly affects the mouth and chin on a cat. Acne can show up in other places around the face and the body of the cat but this isn’t as common.

The head and front paw of a sleeping calico with a dark patch of acne on her nose.
Acne in cats is mostly commonly found on the chin and around the mouth but can show up in other places. This calico cat has a patch of acne on her nose. Photo: © Kristina Blokhin/

Check your cat’s food dish

One of the main culprits that can cause cats to develop acne is their food dish.

Some cat experts believe that plastic food dishes are particularly problematic. This is because plastic is prone to developing scratches. Food particles can get stuck in the grooves of these scratches even after washing. The trapped food promotes bacterial growth.

As your cat eats, they often brush their chins against their food dishes. Cats have sensitive skin, and when they come into contact with oils and bacteria from their food or water dishes, it can cause irritation and inflammation in the hair follicles.

Additionally, certain types of food bowls can cause friction on the skin, which can also lead to the development of acne. (Related: Whisker Fatigue in Cats)

Proper cat bowl hygiene

If you find your cat developing acne, switch their food and water bowls to glass or ceramic from plastic. Also make sure you clean the food and water dishes in between meals to reduce any oil and bacteria buildup on them.

Food allergies

It is also possible that the food itself is causing the acne, as some cats may have food allergies or sensitivities that can lead to skin issues. In these cases, switching to a different type of food may help to reduce or eliminate the acne.

Treating Acne

As always, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment, as some underlying medical conditions can cause skin issues that may mimic acne.

Your vet can also recommend treatment options for clearing up your cat’s acne after an examination. Cat specific medical wipes are often use to help clean the affected area. Your vet may also prescribe topical or oral treatments to help clear up the acne.

You can use a warm, damp hand towel to gently dab and clean the affected area. Never rub harshly on the skin where your cat’s acne is as you can further irritate the area. Never try to pick off scabs as this can introduce bacteria and cause a secondary infection.


DeBoer, D. J. (2014). Getting to the bottom of feline facial dermatitis: what to do when your client exclaims,” My cat has Something Wrong With his face!”. Veterinary Medicine109(12), 370-373.


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey holds both a master's in Geography from UCLA and a Master of Library and Information Science. She is the editor of and an avid researcher of geography and feline topics. A lifelong cat owner, Caitlin currently has three rescued cats: an orange tabby, a gray tabby, and a black cat.