Should I worry about this mysterious scab on my cat's neck?
September 26, 2009 11:42 AM   Subscribe

My cat, Mint, has a round scab on the back of her neck, right between her shoulderblades. It seems to have spontaneously appeared a couple of nights ago.

Possibly unnecessary photos here. Google results all seem to suggest it's an allergic reaction to a food (possible) or a vaccine (she hasn't been to the vet lately). I checked for more wounds, but couldn't find any. Her sister, Clover, is unscathed, as far as I can tell.

Of possible relevance:
  • We moved 6 weeks ago, but I don't think that's the problem. Both cats seem happier in the new place. Mint, in particular, mellowed out a lot.
  • I took Clover to the vet a couple weeks ago, and when she returned, Mint hissed at her for a few days. Soon after that, my husband woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of fighting cats, saying it sounded like it was coming from inside the house. It is possible that our cats fought, but that was after they'd gone back to being their usual cuddly selves. We do have some ferals hanging around the house, and I've heard them fighting in the yard in the middle of the night.
  • I'm pretty sure it wasn't there long before I found it--Mint loves being scratched between her shoulderblades.
  • They're indoor cats, but Clover has ventured out onto the porch. Could she have brought something in with her (fleas?) in the couple minutes she was outside?
There's been no change in either cat's behavior. Am I worrying about nothing> Should I have this checked out by the vet, or just let it heal on its own? She's not scratching at it, and it only seems to bother her when I inadvertently touch it.
posted by kiripin to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
Probably a bacterial infection from Clover's mouth/teeth. It won't heal on it's own. One of my mom's dogs had this happen recently after a bout of rough play.
posted by torquemaniac at 12:05 PM on September 26, 2009

Best answer: I'm not a vet.

IMHO, it doesn't look like an allergic reaction to diet or a vaccine. A reaction to diet is generally not localized in one spot; it tends to present as a flaky coat, or a thin coat, or symmetrical patches in areas where the cat can reach itself for repeated chewing or scratching.

Fleas will also result in a more generalized response, with lots of scratching and perhaps some hair loss. You should also be able to observe fleas on the cats, or at least the presence of 'flea dirt,' which looks like fine black dust or sand found close to the skin in the animal's coat.

From the photos, the lesion doesn't look inflamed. There does not appear to be much, if any redness, or swelling, or oozing. It looks scabby. I would guess it was from Clover. My cats also like to bite each other on the neck while playing, though they are usually quite cuddly.

The biggest danger with bite wounds in cats is the tendency for abcesses to form. Because cats have very loose skin and a great deal of subcutaneous space, and oftentimes fight other cats who make puncture wounds that, in effect, inject bacteria into that space, a simple bite can turn into a huge pocket of pus and a very sick cat.

As long as Mint's lesion stays small and dry, without swelling, you will probably be fine. If she gets lethargic and a big hump of fluid starts to collect around the wound, you will need to have the vet lance and drain the abcess and treat her with antibiotics.

Good luck! Keep us updated!
posted by Seppaku at 12:15 PM on September 26, 2009

If you would like to treat Mint at home, you can wet a clean washcloth in lukewarm water and a gentle antibacterial soap and apply this as a compress to the lesion. The heat will help her immune system reach the damaged tissue, it will keep the wound clean, and she may find it soothing.
posted by Seppaku at 12:18 PM on September 26, 2009

Check her back claws to see how sharp they are. My cat tore up the area between her shoulder blades because her back claws were razor sharp. After I trimmed her back nails, she stopped getting the scabs between her shoulders.
posted by Addlepated at 12:29 PM on September 26, 2009

Best answer: I'm not a vet, just a multiple-cat owner. My Zulu had something that looked almost the same, in exactly the same place. A couple days later, it was half falling off -- it was just a scab, most likely from some energetic wrestling with her sister. If it's not red, inflamed, full of pus, or warm to the touch, and Mint is otherwise acting normally (eating/drinking/pooping/playing) I'd just keep my eye on it, and not worry too much unless something changes.
posted by cgg at 12:32 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

continuing cgg's thought:

However, it is is red, inflamed, full of pus, or warm to the touch [and I would add smelly], then it could be an abscess, which is what one of our boys ended up with a few months ago after a tussle with his brother. He had to have a debridement, which was disgusting, spent four nights at the vet, 10 days in an elizabethan collar, and his hair (from where they shaved) still hasn't completely grown back.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:14 PM on September 26, 2009

Looks like a "hot spot" to me. Keep it clean, wash it with an antibacterial wash, and if it doesn't clear up on its own, see the vet. The vet will most likely clip away some extra fur (so it doesn't irritate the spot) and give you a more powerful wash.
posted by xingcat at 1:14 PM on September 26, 2009

Looks like a patch of ringworm to me, especially with the darker red line around the edges. If it persists and more little patches of hair fall out, this might be the culprit.
posted by Mouse Army at 4:32 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

2nding ringworm, which she could have picked up at the vet. The vet can check her out in person, or they may let you take a sample of the area by brushing it with a toothbrush, which they will test for the fungus.
posted by orme at 5:13 PM on September 26, 2009

Do you apply frontline or advantage there? It could be an allergy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:54 PM on September 26, 2009

I thought ringworm too. If that's what it turns out to be, watch out for itchy patches on yourselves and on the other cat. When I was a teenager one of our kitties had ringworm and gave it to her sister. And then to me. Fortunately only on one spot on me, but still, yuck. We had to wash the cats with special anti fungal wash for a few weeks (Which they loved. Not.) and I had to rub antifungal cream on the patch that appeared on my knee. There was also mass bedsheet and clothing washing with special stuff, if I recall rightly.

Of course, it might just be a scab from a fight, but I'd get the ringworm possibility checked out ASAP just because, in my experience, it was such a tremndous pain to deal with.
posted by t0astie at 8:32 PM on September 26, 2009

Response by poster: Sounds like it's most likely ringworm or a scab caused by Clover. I'll keep an eye on both cats and see if anything changes over the next few days. Thanks everyone!
posted by kiripin at 10:25 PM on September 26, 2009

Response by poster: Update: it was a scab. I'm tagging this resolved. Thanks again!
posted by kiripin at 7:17 PM on September 30, 2009

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