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Do Cats Get Hotspots? (2022) How to Know and How to Treat It

Hotspots are the bane of many a pet owner. Few of us can stand by idly and watch our loved ones suffer from irritation, loss of hair and fur, and what seems like lots of pain and discomfort. Most often, hotspots are associated with dogs.

The continual biting and licking lead to concerning spots on the skin, lesions, and possibly further infections. But what are hotspots? And – pertinent to our concerns – can cats get them? Let’s look at the whole story, from what they are, what causes them, how to treat them, and when to be concerned.

ginger cat scratching itself using its back paw

Do Cats Get Hotspots?

Short answer: yes. Cats aren’t perfect creatures, nor are they automatically immune to life’s random afflictions. Just like dogs, they can snore, fart excessively, and get depressed.

Cats also like to venture outside and therefore are susceptible to a lot of environmental causes for various types of illness or ailments.

What is a Hot Spot?

So, all this begs the question: What exactly is a hot spot? And can your cat receive 5G? Firstly, it’s not that type of hot spot. Neither is it the type of hot spot that develops when you use tin foil incorrectly on a heating device.

No, hot spots are areas of your cat’s (or dog’s) skin that become inflamed, wet, and infected. They are called hot spots because, for some reason, they feel excessively warm to the touch. It also appears red because of the inflammation, scratching, and excessive licking. While hot spots are more commonly associated with dogs, cats do, in fact, get them too.

A hot spot can occur on almost any part of the body but commonly on the head, tail, thigh, or neck, in cats. It is generally unpleasant or painful-looking, especially if it reaches a stage where it is oozing fluid and the surrounding area has lost its hair

do cats get hotspots

A Hot Spot is Actually Dermatitis

Another name for a hot spot is acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis. In cats specifically, your vet might refer to miliary dermatitis. Like dermatitis in humans, it is based on the skin and is normally not associated with any other organ infection.

Is Your Cat Prone to Hot Spots?

Theoretically, any cat can develop dermatitis, but some cats may be more susceptible due to health or environmental issues. If your cat picks up a significant amount from its environment, or if it has a thick shaggy coat, for example, it may be more susceptible to skin irritations. Cats that are prone to allergies may also develop a hotspot easier than others.

Ginger cat licking its paw

6 Causes of Kitty Hot Spots

There are several possible causes for hot spots in cats. Many also cause hot spots in dogs. Here are the main ones, which account for most cases.

1. Allergies

A cat, like a human, can be allergic to a whole variety of things. Allergies are usually noticed through runny eyes, sneezing, scratching, and licking.

It’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint precisely what might be causing your cat’s skin to react, but here are a few suspects to look into when it comes to allergies.

Litter

Believe it or not, some cats react unfavorably to their litter box. A cat may be allergic to whatever cat litter is composed of. Fortunately, there are lots of different options to try, including organic, bamboo-based litter. Try a few options if you suspect an allergy in this area, and try to steer clear of perfumed options.

Small gray kitten in plastic litter cat on floor

Carpet Cleaner

A detergent you are using may be causing a kitty skin reaction. Carpet cleaners are a common culprit.

Food

If you have recently switched food, and your cat has suddenly developed a hot spot, take a look at what ingredients are different. Food allergies are possible in cats and may present as skin irritations. If your vet suspects that food may be the cause, he may recommend a grain-free cat food alternative.

Lazy Cat Eating Big Bowl of Food

Other Environmental Allergies

Aside from indoor irritants like detergents, outdoor cats may also react to various plants or substances found in the garden.

2. Eczema

A more general skin ailment, eczema, is caused by any of the other triggers mentioned here, like spores, pollen, contact with nylon or wool, or even dust.

3. Fleas & Mites

Fleas create problems for pets in that they carry infections and can affect the skin adversely. Cats who are not kept relatively flea-free may scratch excessively, leading to breakages of the skin and subsequently, infections.

If your cat’s scratching and infections seem seasonal, try to determine if it correlates with a bug breeding season. Check to see if your environment has signs of ear mites or skin mites. Along with other less common forms of parasites, these are among the top causes of hot spots.

flea in pet hair

4. Infections

Besides skin infections, seemingly unrelated ear infections may also lead to scratching, especially around the ears. Ringworm is another possible cause of scratching and skin breakage. Cats are prone to ear infections at the best of times. When they scratch to alleviate the irritation and pain, they can easily break the soft skin just below the ears.

5. Starchy Diet

An excessively starchy diet is generally bad for cats. Cats are primarily meat-eaters, and a starch-heavy diet can lead to issues like dehydration, urinary tract infections, and, yes, skin issues. 

Some experts believe that a dry kibble diet should be supplemented with wet food for this reason. The argumjent is that many cheaper dry kibbles contain too much starch – sometimes artificial.

Young cat eating at home from its bowl. Female hand adding food

6. Stress and Boredom

Cats do suffer from stress for a number of reasons. They can even get depressed. Sometimes, stress causes flare-ups of skin allergies and infections and perhaps even compulsive licking and scratching.

Age Can Be a Factor

Bear in mind that as a cat gets older, it may become more open to some illnesses and ailments. With that in mind, a cat may develop a hotspot or two in later life, even though it never did before.

Somewhat related, cats with hip dysplasia may lick excessively at their bodies in reaction to pain or discomfort. As we know, this could bring about hot spots when the particular area is licked excessively.

Diagnosing Hot Spots

At a certain point, hot spots can be seen plainly with the eye. Once you know what to look for (see above), a vet or experienced cat owner will be able to identify a hot spot and take appropriate action.

cats licking each other

What’s of greater importance is trying to identify the cause of the hot spot. This might require some investigation or even some guesswork at first. A vet can certainly help by eliminating some causes, but you should definitely have something to go on if only to describe your suspicions to the vet.

At the very least, correctly identifying the cause can prevent it from recurring.

Symptoms of Hot Spots in Cats

The symptoms of hot spots are not hard to identify. They may be one or more of the below, in any combination. Usually, a degree of all of the below will be noticeable.

  • Biting self excessively
  • Crusty skin
  • Grooming excessively
  • Hair loss in the hot spot area
  • Inflammation of the skin
  • Licking excessively
  • Matted hair in the hot spot area
  • Oozy or pussy wounds
  • Pain in the hot spot area
  • Scratching excessively
  • Skin lesions
  • Warm area of the skin containing lesions
black and white cat licks his paw

Treating Hot Spots

The main concern when treating a hot spot is trying to decrease the irritation and inflammation around the affected area. As with many things in life, treatment and prevention go hand in hand. That is to say; if you can employ good practices to prevent hotspots, you will also be engaging in effective treatment habits.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Prevention

If you have more than one pet, and one of your pets has fleas, make sure that you treat all the pets for fleas, regardless of whether you’ve seen any on one of your other dogs.

The principle can be applied if you discover one has encountered a mite infestation. Keep especially shaggy or thick coats well-groomed and clipped if fleas and mites are a problem in your household.

Beautiful grey cat smiling while being brushed

You should also brush your cat regularly. This not only helps with shedding but spreads healthy coat oils around the body.

Finally, keep your cat’s bedding and regular relaxing area clean.

Treatment

Some causes of the hot spot cannot be prevented directly. That said, there are usually ways to treat hot spots once they are identified.

Allergies

Allergies are usually treated with cortisone injections. Cortisone can also be taken in tablet or liquid form and always administered or prescribed by a vet. Skin allergies can be tested by a specialist veterinary dermatologist. In some cases, immunotherapy by way of shots can alleviate much of the condition by way of shots.

Veterinarian cleans ears to a small kitten close-up

Dealing With The Lesions

The first priority is to clean the wound. Try to arrange for the area to be shaved. You may not be able to do this yourself. A vet or professional groomer will likely know the best way to do go about it.

Use a mild antibacterial soap to wash the area thoroughly – remember to remain calm to reassure your kitty. The lesions may be painful. In this case, a vet may be able to recommend a form of mild sedation as you start the treatment.

The Itching

The itching is what will be causing much of the scratching, licking, and biting. To try and stop this, a vet will likely prescribe cortisone. This could be either an injection, ointment, or spray. Cats are generally good with cortisone and seldom react badly.

silver cat with vet

Temporary Pain Relief

A sedated cat may still be feeling pain or irritation. And a cold compress might bring some relief. Follow a vet’s instructions on this, but a refrigerated cloth will work when appropriate.

Antibiotics

Now for the actual treatment of the infected area. In most cases, your cat will require some form of antibiotic. Depending on the type of infection and root cause, the vet may apply a topical cream, administer oral medication, and suggest an antibiotic shampoo.

Sometimes, it may be a combination of all of the above.

tabby cat with cone

Apply a Cone

The next objective is to prevent the kitty from going back to the wound to bite, scratch and lick. A medical cone – or an e-collar (or Elizabethan collar) – is your best bet. Of late, soft e-collars have become popular choices, as they are less immobilizing and still provide some degree of comfort.

Why Identifying the Cause is so Important

I mentioned earlier that identifying a cause may be difficult. But it’s vitally important that the cause of the infection or hotspot be identified as soon as possible. There’s no point in going through the pain and discomfort, then treatment, only to find that the condition returns.

For that reason, making changes to routines and habits becomes necessary. For example, change the cat’s food if it is proven to be the cause.

comb brush being used under the chin of a Persian cat

Start buying different shampoos if the cause seems to be environmental or allergy-related. In extreme allergy cases, ask your vet whether steroids might be applicable to your situation. Remember also to make a point of keeping your home as free from dust and potentially triggering substances as possible.

Finally, if your pet is bored, buy some awesome interactive cat toys and invest in some playtime! Not only will it be good for your cat’s mental wellbeing, but it will also likely make you feel a whole lot better, too.

Hot Spots & Cats: 5 FAQs

Here are a few frequently asked questions related to hot spots and cats, with more details around some of the main issues.

Can I Get Anti-Itch Spray Without a Vet Prescription?

You can definitely find anti-itch spray over the counter. At least as a temporary partial fix, it may set your mind at ease and prevent some further damage to the skin due to scratching and biting. But it’s not a solution within itself. Remember that it won’t fix the underlying cause. Chances are the condition will worsen if not properly treated.

white cat with black marks about to be sprayed

What Type of Cone is Best?

A good cone can make a huge difference. Traditionally pet medical cones were hard reverse-shaped cones, which would not allow a cat or dog to reach anywhere on its body. Unfortunately, it also often affects mobility. For a cat, who may like to wander around and get into tight spaces, it can actually become hazardous, too.

A more modern approach is the Elizabethan collar, which is usually soft, and designed more ergonomically. It’s also recommended to look out for an adjustable collar or one that can tie securely without choking.

silver scottish fold cat with cone

Will Cortisone Completely Fix the Hot Zone?

Usually, cortisone will do the trick. It may require more than one round of treatment if the condition is severe, but it is certainly the primary treatment option when it comes to hotspots.

One caveat is that cortisone can have side effects that are unintended, especially if the cat is older. There are minimal risks of blindness or illness, but they are risks nonetheless. In very rare and extreme cases, pets have had reactions to medications like cortisone that proved fatal.

Do Homeopathic or Natural Treatments Work?

It’s difficult to vouch for whether natural treatments or homeopathic approaches work for hotspots. What can be taken into account is that there are very specific medical explanations for hotspots, so scientific medical treatment is likely to work best.

That said, it is possible that some home remedies can alleviate some of the symptoms, though to what degree, is uncertain. 

Cat in a veterinary clinic hairdresser doing beauty care

Are Hot Spots Really Caused by Age, Dysplasia, and Arthritis?

Hot spots may indeed come about as an indirect result of old age, arthritis, and hip dysplasia. When a cat feels pain or discomfort, it is likely to lick at the affected area in an effort to alleviate that pain.

Excessive licking and scratching will lead to hair loss and eventually breaking of the skin, which is the key factor in creating an infected hot spot.

If the cause of the issue is indeed internal or age-related, the vet’s best bet is to prescribe pain medication that will need to be managed. In most cases, this will suffice.

There are other measures you may need to take, like making your cat’s favorite areas easier to access (litter box, cat tree, etc.) or providing a comfortable, warmer place to relax if your winters are cold.  

Ginger cat-scratching itself

Final Thoughts on Cats and Hot Spots

So, in answer to the original question: yes, cats can get hot spots. It seems a common enough occurrence in domestic pets like cats and dogs. Fortunately, a well-recognized regimen of treatment exists for the condition.

Moreover, hot spots may not be immediately serious as a medical condition. Nonetheless, it is irritating and can lead to complications if the wound becomes seriously infected.

If you suspect your cat has a hotspot, seek a vet’s advice immediately, and make a point of isolating the possible or probable cause. That way, you can fix the problem once and for all.

cat tongue licking up close

Related Posts:

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