What is this dirt on my cat's chin?
January 1, 2007 4:34 PM   Subscribe

My cat's chin looks dirty - what is going on?

My 2 year old male tabby (indoor only) has what looks like black dirt in his fur on his chin. (Do cats have chins? It's under his mouth and jaw).

It looks almost like flea dirt (flea poop?), but he doesn't have it anywhere else, does not go outside, and I checked for fleas pretty thoroughly.

It comes off if you pull it from his fur, but there is more and more every day now. I cannot think of anywhere this "dirt" might be coming from.

It started about a month after we adopted a new kitten, who was also checked out by the vet and is okay.

I don't want to take the cat to the vet because he gets very scared, and I haven't been able to find a really good vet since we moved a year ago. (We did take him to one so he is up to date on his shots, but I want to avoid taking him if possible). Plus, I don't think he's sick or anything - I just cannot figure out what this stuff is.

What is it and do we need to do anything?
posted by jesirose to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Probably acne..one of our cats gets it from time to time. See a vet to be sure.

We find cat specific vets to be less stressful to our cats, although the high strung one gets upset no matter where she goes.
posted by wierdo at 4:40 PM on January 1, 2007

It's kitty acne (google for lots of info and pictures); unless his chin gets inflamed and painful, I wouldn't worry about it. All of my cats have had it. You can just clean it with your finger every other day or so. Some people say that it's caused by bacteria left on plastic food or water dishes, but I've switched to metal and glass and see no difference at all . . .
posted by agent99 at 4:40 PM on January 1, 2007

Kitty Acne. When my kitty had this, my vet suggested I lightly clean the area with Witch Hazel, as it's a mild astringent.
posted by punkrockrat at 4:48 PM on January 1, 2007

Feline acne, and in addition to the witch hazel, try using ceramic or glass foos & water dishes, rather than plastic. I also noticed that my one cat with acne got much better after feeding him better food.
posted by kellyblah at 4:51 PM on January 1, 2007

Looks like it must be kitty acne.

Googling it shows a lot of vets blame the plastic bowls - but we use ceramic bowls, not plastic. Perhaps it's because we leave the bowls out after they eat, and don't wash them until the next feeding? :( Oops.

The fact that their chin must be a hard place to clean explains why it would appear there.

I guess I will make an appointment with the vet tomorrow, to see if that's what it is. And start cleaning the bowls as soon as they are done.

Thanks :)
posted by jesirose at 4:51 PM on January 1, 2007

Keep an eye on it and prevent it if you can. Our cat Jason just bit through his own lip, after his feline acne caused his chin and mouth to swell, putting one lip right in the way of a canine. A steroid shot on Saturday seems to have helped a lot already, but the vet said this might become an occasional problem.
posted by Scram at 5:05 PM on January 1, 2007

Definitely acne, one of my orange tabbies gets it frequently. If you use ceramic bowls already, then probably no real good reason to go to the vets over this, unless it will put your mind at rest. Check the pads of your cats feet, if they look a bit crusty, then your cat may have allergies, of which the acne is a side effect, in which case do take him to the vet and get him checked out.

My vet suggested that the acne can be treated with a daily cleansing with Neutrogena Acne Treatment, 2.5% benzoyl peroxide. She was very specific about finding that percentage, and that particular active ingredient. She also suggested an every-other-day application of Stridex pads (alcohol free, sensitive skin) which is 0.5% Salicylic acid. We find that the acne comes and goes every so often, and the acne cleansing helps a little, but I think it treats the symptoms not the cause, just hurries its departure a bit.
posted by Joh at 5:09 PM on January 1, 2007

I just wanted to post to say I had no idea cats could get acne. Thanks for the tip!
posted by symphonik at 7:39 PM on January 1, 2007

Our cat Maggie got a bad case of acne several years ago, but I cleaned her chin daily with hydrogen peroxide and -- with clean hands -- VERY gently squeezed any really large blackheads. I didn't try to go after all of them. (She won't let me clean her teeth, but I can clip her nails, pill her, and pop her blackheads with little resistance. Go figure.)

Her chin was clear within a couple of weeks and the problem has never come back.
posted by maudlin at 8:08 PM on January 1, 2007

second the hydrogen peroxide treatment. soak a cotton ball, rub it well into her chin, and repeat daily. it should clear up soon.
posted by raconteur at 10:46 PM on January 1, 2007

Odd. I figured the cat was spending time sticking his face/nose underneath someplace all dusty.
posted by Goofyy at 5:51 AM on January 2, 2007

i was planning on asking this question myself - glad to finally know the answer!
posted by noloveforned at 7:34 AM on January 2, 2007

Goofyy, that's what I thought it was at first but it's actually on his skin, not his fur, and nowhere else...it'd be on his face too if it were dust I'd think.

Glad it helped noloveforned!

Because it's really my husband's cat, I'm going to let him decide what to do, if he wants to try a home remedy or take him to the vet.

Thanks guys! I feel much better knowing what it is and that it's actually common.
posted by jesirose at 12:18 PM on January 2, 2007

My cat had that too, and it was indeed acne. Turns out he developed it after I started adding a vitamin oil that was supposed to improve his coat to his food. When I stopped adding the oil the acne went away.
posted by mintchip at 8:06 PM on January 2, 2007

My tabby/siamese mix gets this occasionally... In the past we tried washing/wiping with mild cleansers, using fish oil supplements, and a few other things (and I'm not entirely sure that any of those really had an effect) - but since we moved from an apartment with carpet to one with wood floors, he's had very few outbreaks.
posted by sluggo at 8:32 PM on January 2, 2007

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