Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 6, 2023 by Crystal Uys


Feline acne is a common problem in cats. Cat guardians usually notice small, oily black bumps on the cat’s chin, very similar to blackheads in humans. These blackheads may become red and itchy if they get infected.


The exact cause of feline acne is not known, but it is believed that there are several contributing factors:

  • Overactive sebaceous glands
  • Stress
  • Plastic food bowls
  • Food allergies
  • Poor grooming habits


  • Small black bumps on the chin or lips
  • In advanced stages, red, swollen pustules that may bleed


Treatment depends on how severe the condition is. If symptoms are mild, gentle cleansing and a topical ointment may be all that is needed. In more advanced cases, conventional treatment may include antibiotics, topical ointments containing Benzoyl Peroxide, and steroids. In very severe cases, your veterinarian may want to sedate your cat so he can clip and clean the area thoroughly.

A holistic vet may view feline acne slightly differently. Acne, as well as other skin conditions, including allergies, are considered a symptom of systemic toxicity, and a holistic approach will look at identifying and removing the root cause of the condition, rather than just treating the symptoms. Treatment may include a systemic cleanse (do not attempt to to this without the guidance of a holistic veterinarian), homeopathic remedies, a change to a natural grain-free canned or raw diet, and appropriate supplements.


To prevent feline acne, switch to ceramic or metal bowls. Plastic bowls become porous over time and can trap bacteria. When they come in contact with your cat’s chin, acne can develop. Wash all food and water bowls in hot soapy water every day. If your cat is prone to acne, you may want to gently wash her chin with warm water after eating.

Photo by Melanie Tata, Flickr Creative Commons

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20 Comments on Feline Acne

  1. What’s the difference between kitty acne and kitty herpes? I assumed it was herpes since my kitty suffers from outbreaks. He does eat out of a cermanic bowl, but I think I will change it to metal after reading what one of your readers posted about it.

  2. As for the pet-human bond, I tried to clean/comb the chin in the morning before going to work so that my kitty had the whole day to put that experience behind and our afternoons and evenings were to enjoy each other’s company in a stress-free environment:-) That only works when the chin needs to be cleaned once a day, of course. Whenever I needed to clean/comb it again after work, I would try to approach her when she was dozing off or just lying relaxed somewhere. Giving her some of her favorite food right after the cleaning also helped.

  3. Here’s an update on my kitty. Her acne indeed disappeared after the wipes and was gone for over a year. Until later last year when it came back again… We used only glass bowls, the same food as always, and yet acne came back and this time the wipes didn’t help. They calmed the inflammation a little bit but acne stayed on. When the black stuff gathered the only thing that helped was dabbing some water with apple cider vinegar on the chin which would make it all completely go away during combing. It was very helpful because thanks to being able to get rid of the black stuff easily, the whole combing of the chin didn’t take much time and was less stressful for the cat. But that worked only for the black stuff that looks like pepper. And of course it would collect again the next day or so. Nothing else helped. The acne would calm down a little and then there would be another outbreak. And then my baby started to sleep in a donut she didn’t want to use before. She has two donuts, one flat, one round and deep. She always slept in the flat one and now suddenly started to sleep in the deep one. I don’t know what the reason was but her acne started to diminish very quickly and eventually it disappeared. It was at the beginning of 2014 and her acne hasn’t come back for now. My theory is that her chin is simply warmed up when she sleeps in the deeper donut. No matter how she positions her head the chin is always in a warm place (the donut is really deep, with a high rim). I think that’s what helped the skin heal. She loves that donut now and sleeps in it all the time. The chin is perfectly clean, it’s hard to believe she’s ever had acne. Hopefully it will stay this way.
    I guess sometimes the most unexpected thing can help.

    • Hello,

      We just discovered some cat acne on our beloved, and I was wondering if I needed to dilute the apple cider vinegar before applying it to her chin, and if so to what ratio? I found another site that stated for ingesting it should be diluted 1-2 tsp of acv to 1 C of water…would the same be for external application as well? Also, how often should it be applied? My cat has 1 larger pink bump, and several (maybe 10) small black pepper like pieces.


      • Mmm, it was a while ago so can’t remember exactly. I think I just used a little bit of apple cider vinegar, maybe half a capful (of a vinegar bottle cap) for a cup of water. It wasn’t a precise measurement. What you are listing, 1-2 tsp sounds right. You really need just a little bit, a cat’s chin is small. My cat had a lot of the black stuff so I used it every day. It didn’t help with the pimples, just with getting rid of the black pepper-like stuff. Which was of huge help in general. I used a flea comb to comb the black stuff out immediately after the vinegar/water thing had been applied. My cat didn’t have fleas but that comb was excellent for this type of job. Her acne didn’t come back since my last posting. Sometimes she will have a little swelling or redness but goes back to sleep and wakes up without it. Hope your kitty feels better soon!

  4. My six year old cat, Bella, has severe chin acne that also spreads to her upper lips. It started out of the blue a year ago. Antibiotics and steroids did nothing to help. I am finally washing her chin every evening with soap and water. I do apply benzoyl peroxide to her chin that I got from the vet. It comes in an odorless gel that she tolerates well and it does not cause over drying. I found witch hazel helped reduce inflammation and stopped infection. It just did nothing to resolve the issue from developing in the first place. Bella is a very oily cat and does have allergic rhinitis. So the acne could be due to allergies. I use metal or ceramic bowls. She does, however, have a plastic drinking fountain. I do plan to upgrade it to a metal one soon. This condition can hurt the human pet bond and she will run from me in the evenings. I have to refrain from physically popping the pimples as this only makes the situation worse. So does shaving her chin. Shaving can actually spread the bacteria and make the situation worse. I really don’t have a solution just that daily maintenance can provide some relief.

    • Thank you for sharing what helps Bella, Dasha. That’s a very astute observation that a condition like this can impact the bond between cat and human, which makes it even harder to deal with.

  5. My cat got feline acne this year. She’s four years old, never had it before. It just appeared on her chin out of the blue. We’ve always used stainless steel bowls which were washed every day, etc, etc. There were no hygiene problems. And yet kitty had acne. I took her to the vet several times, he gave her a shot of an antibiotic twice which helped perfectly but only for two days or so each time. I got her glass bowls even though stainless steel should have been safe. No change. She also got prednisone in tablets which she wouldn’t eat with her regular food or pill pockets until I finally found good advice on the Internet: I crushed the pills into a little bit of Gerber baby food (chicken). It’s important to give just a little bit of baby food to make sure the cat eats it all. She loved it but two weeks on prednisone brought no results. We used On-the-spot for humans, Dawn dish soap (both vet-recommended), wiped her chin with hydrogen peroxide, went to a different vet who gave her Hexachlor-K wipes and Pyoben gel. Nothing worked. Obviously we didn’t use everything at the same time, I’m just listing all the remedies together:-) The best results brought plain simple neosporin but it only helped reduce the symptoms, didn’t cure it. My poor kitty was getting stressed by all this medicine application and her chin was not getting any better or at times it even got worse. Finally, I went to a different pet store and found “Earthbath” hypoallergenic wipes with Awapuhi. I had this idea before but all the wipes from pet stores I tried had strong fragrance – to put it mildly – which was really discouraging for the cat and didn’t do anything for her. These new wipes were fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, all natural. Came home, wiped my kitty’s chin and a few hours later there was a rather dramatic improvement. I thought I would cry, I was so happy. After 2 or 3 days acne was gone! Unbelievable. It may mean she was allergic to something or maybe her acne started because something had bitten her (she’s an indoor cat but loves to sit on the screened-in balcony)? When her acne first started she had a red bump on her chin apart from the black stuff, which did look like something had bitten her. I don’t know what had caused the acne but it did disappear. Her chin is acne-free. I think it’s different with every cat. I tried all the remedies people recommended, that worked miracles for them, and nothing of that worked for us. And then some simple wipes worked beautifully. I’m posting our story just to share what helped my cat. Maybe it will help someone else.

    • I’m not familiar with these wipes, but I’m so glad they worked for your kitty! I’ll definitely have to check them out.

  6. I have been fighting this forever! And my brofur, Orion, sometimes gets it too! Meowm is going to try some of these suggestions!


  7. Moses, a gray tabby, and Nikka, a dilute tortie, both had mild cases of feline acne. I have always used tempered glass bowls because I won’t eat out of plastic either, but I always wondered what might have caused this in each of them. No vets paid much attention, and I wondered if fur type could correspond with skin type and related issues, as it does with hair and humans and related issues.

  8. Ahh yes-another article relating to this household. My vet has suggested a once a week-spa treatment-soak a facecloth in hot water and hold it their affected area-Make sure it is not too hot -this is to open the pours. Then clean with a warm water mixture of water and Dawn dish soap.

    We can not get rid of the acne however I keep it clean. Magellan pushes his food with his chin so I do not think this helps the situation.

    • My human slaves (3 of which are vets) treat chin acne all the time! They recommend using glass or stainless steel bowls (some cats appear to have issues with some ceramic glazes). They also recommend using sensitive skin baby wipes instead of human acne products like benzoyl peroxide- it can be too harsh and actually promote acne! You don’t have to rinse after baby wipes like you do with any kind of soap. A lot of kitties seem to have chin acne secondary to mild allergies- these kitties seem to be really “oily” everywhere- chin, nail beds, ears, and coat. Sometimes a combination treatment (antibiotics and local or systemic steroids) are needed to clear up the really nasty cases!

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