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Skin and fur

Bald patches etc

Bald patches, scabs, and sores


The first thing to check is whether your cat has a parasite or fungal infection. Even without a noticeable itch, a cat can develop scabs and hair loss as a sign of flea infestation, and things like broken hair, bald patches, changes in fur or skin colour, and flaky or itchy skin can indicate ringworm. Both fleas and ringworm, while potentially serious, are easily treatable by your vet.

Another possibility is a food or environmental sensitivity. Pay attention to the surfaces your cat inhabits and try changing the cleaners you use on those surfaces, such as floor cleaners or laundry detergents, and make sure that any traps or poisons for pests are kept well out of reach of curious paws.

For bald patches and thinning fur due to overgrooming specifically, sometimes anxiety is the culprit.

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Matted greasy fur

Matted or greasy fur

This kind of thing often gets overlooked as unimportant, but healthy, well-adjusted cats tend to be good about keeping themselves clean, so any sign that they’re not doing so should be investigated.


And as always, you should get your cat checked at the vet before anything else. A cat that stops taking care of itself is not a happy cat, and often that can be traced to illness or disease. Once your cat has been given a clean bill of health by your vet, there could be other reasons for your cat’s lazy grooming habits.

The most obvious reason for matted fur in cats is when a long-haired breed isn’t being appropriately groomed. Many of these breeds require aid from their carers to keep their fur from tangling.


Different grooming tools have different functions: A soft brush is good at picking up loose and dead hair, while a comb will detangle and is effective for denser coats. If you use a grooming tool that targets the undercoat, please be aware that it can be very easy to overgroom and destroy your cat’s undercoat with it. These should be used with caution.


Mats should never be cut out with scissors as there is considerable potential for injury. Apart from the wiggle factor, it can be very difficult to see where a mat ends and the skin begins, and it is consequently easy to cut the skin when you only meant to cut the mat. Mats are best picked out with your fingers or a comb. In cases where the mats have gotten out of control, it is best to bring your cat to a vet’s office or a professional groomer.

Greasy fur in a cat that is still regularly grooming itself and has no underlying health conditions can be a sign that it’s not getting all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Switching to a different food might help with this. Just like humans, individual cats have individual needs, and what works for one cat may not work for another. You can also try adding some omega oils to their food in supplement form.

If only the back end of your cat is greasy but the easy-to-reach bits are okay, then your cat could either be too overweight to groom themselves properly, or they’re getting old and arthritis is beginning to be an issue.


If weight is the issue, the same things apply to cats as apply to us: exercise and a healthy diet. If you’re free-feeding (leaving a bowl of food out for your cat to snack on whenever they want), stop. Set a meal schedule and stick to it. Your cat will be confused for a day or two but will soon get used to it.


If you have an erratic schedule yourself, consider getting an automatic feeder for the times when you’re not able to be at home.


If your cat is used to eating all the time, it will initially protest at any change to its routine, which means, unfortunately, that for a little while you’re going to have to practice tough love and probably learn to sleep through a yowling cat trying to wake you up earlier and earlier every day. Be strong, my fellow cat servants, this too shall pass. The worst thing you can do is give in to this behaviour as the cat will very quickly learn that howling in your ear at 3 a.m. is an effective way to get an early breakfast. Eventually, they will learn that the tactic is ineffective and they will stop.


Any weight loss plan must be done carefully and gradually. If at all in doubt or concerned, or if your cat is losing weight too fast or seems to be constantly hungry, talk to your vet immediately and get them to help you put a safe and healthy plan into place.

For exercise, two or three daily play sessions of 10 or 15 minutes each should be worked into your cat’s schedule. Even just making them move around more by putting their food at the top of the stairs or on a higher surface that they have to climb up to can help. (Please make sure your cat is able to get onto the surface before you do this. Always do small steps that are well within their capabilities.)


Water should not be moved and should always be kept in an easy to reach place.


Adding vertical surfaces for them is also beneficial, not just for their weight but for their mental well being. Using puzzle feeders or teaching them new games encourages them to expend a little more energy and will add some interest to their lives.

If your older cat simply can’t reach their more hard-to-reach bits anymore, talk to your vet about supplements for joint care, and if your cat is in obvious pain, medication could be required to make them comfortable again.


On top of everything else, helping them keep themselves clean with regular brushing and with some cleaning wipes or a washcloth with warm water will help them feel better.

Greasy fur on a cat who’s stopped grooming entirely is fairly obvious: your cat is no longer cleaning itself and needs help. Since you've presumably already rushed to the vet and been given the all clear, it’s possible your cat is experiencing anxiety or depression. Pay attention to your cat’s life: Has something changed? Has someone left? A companion died? A separation occurred? Have you moved? The same as you would for a friend or family member who’s going through something similar, give your cat a helping hand as they need it, either by being there for them or literally by grabbing a brush and helping them out. No cat wants to be dirty.

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Flaky itchy

Flaky skin/itchy skin

The first thing to check for is parasites, fungal infections, or any other types of dermatitis. With the exception of fleas, which you can check for at home, you will need to bring your cat to a vet. It’s important to rule these things out, not only because they can lead to more serious health problems but also because ringworm in particular is highly infectious and can spread to other pets and to humans.

Once you’ve safely ruled these things out, you can start looking at less alarming possibilities.


The easiest place to start is that your cat simply has dry skin. Adding moisture to the diet by switching them to a wet food or adding water to an existing wet diet can help. Adding an omega oil supplement to their food can also be effective.

If you live in a climate controlled space where the air tends to be very dry, add a humidifier to places your cat likes to hang out (please remember to clean your humidifiers often and thoroughly). Similarly, large bowls of water placed around the room, particularly near heat sources such as radiators, can help. The evaporating water will add humidity to a space without having to go through the hassle of cleaning out a humidifier.

It’s also possible your cat has a food allergy or some other kind of sensitivity.

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Rough knobbly chin

Rough or knobbly chin

Your cat might have a bad case of chin acne. You can get rid of this easily by giving your cat’s chin a scrub twice a day with a cloth and a disinfectant soap.


You can help prevent it by ensuring your floors and your cat’s space is kept clean and their bedding and their bowls are regularly washed.

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Fleas and ringworm

Fleas and ringworm

Ringworm, in spite of its name, is not a worm but a fungal infection. It can show a variety of symptoms, but the most common are


  • bald patches

  • patches of broken or brittle hair

  • scaly or flaky skin

  • infection around the nail bed or brittleness in the nail itself

  • changes in skin or fur colour

  • excessive grooming or scratching

  • a circular mark on the skin similar to a bullseye


Ringworm can present a fairly mild appearance, but it can lead to more alarming health problems if not treated. It is also highly contagious and can be transmitted to humans. Fortunately, it is easily treated by your vet.

For fleas, cats can still somehow manage to pick them up even if they don’t go outside, haven’t been in contact with another animal, or haven’t in any other obvious way been exposed. The most common signs are


  • the development of bald patches

  • sores and scabs

  • excessive itching or licking

  • biting themselves

  • signs of restlessness and discomfort

You can test for fleas at home as long as you have a flea comb, a white piece of paper, and a bit of water.

  1. Give your cat a good, deep combing, making sure you get right down to the skin.

  2. Shake any dander or dirt from the fur on the comb onto the piece of paper.

  3. Give the paper with the dirt and dander on it a sprinkle of water.

If the moistened flecks from the comb appear red, this is an indication of fleas.


Topical flea treatments from your vet are going to be the safest, most effective way of getting rid of fleas. Avoid flea collars and be careful of over the counter remedies. Even the ones that don’t contain obviously toxic chemicals can be dangerous for your cat, and anything directed towards dogs should be avoided at all costs unless okayed by your vet.


If you prefer cheap and natural, diatomaceous earth can be effective for both fleas and worms, but it is also very messy. It’s very important that you get the food grade variety and avoid letting yourself or your pet inhale it as much as possible as it can cause irritation. You should always follow directions on this product as overuse or misuse can render it ineffective or hazardous.

To get rid of fleas in your home, unless it is a severe infestation, a good vacuum and a change of bedding will usually do it: you needn’t throw out all your furniture. In the case of a severe infestation, it is best to consult a professional pest control company.

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