Hot Spots In Cats: Its Cause, Treatment, And Prevention

What Are Hot Spots On Cats?

Hot spots in cats are superficial skin infections caused by licking, chewing, scratching, or biting the skin. Typically, cats have a balanced amount of bacteria, yeast, and fungus on their skin. However, when a cat's actions irritate the skin, an overgrowth of bacteria can result in pyoderma infection.

The terms "acute moist dermatitis" and "pyotraumatic dermatitis" are also used to refer to hot spots in cats. It's important to note that long-haired cats and those with thicker coats are more prone to hot spots due to their dense fur, which can trap irritants against the skin, making them more vulnerable to these conditions.

Hot spots, which can be more frequent during hot, humid summer months but can occur at any time of the year, depending on the cause, are not just a minor inconvenience. They are typically found on a cat's face, chin, belly, or at the base of the tail, but can appear anywhere on the body. These lesions are often painful and should be treated by a veterinarian promptly to alleviate the discomfort they cause.

Symptoms Of Hot Spots On Cats

A hot spot-induced skin infection starts as a moist, itchy, and inflamed area, often turning the skin red and possibly leading to hair loss. This infection then produces pus, making the wound wetter. The remaining hair traps the moisture, forming mats over the wound.

As the pus dries, the damaged skin sticks to the infection site, creating a crusty, moist area that can be very uncomfortable for your cat. The matted fur can hide the severity of the skin condition underneath. Chewing, biting, or scratching worsens the hot spot, so it's essential to have your cat examined by a vet as soon as possible.

Causes Of Hot Spots On Cats

Hot spots are more common in hot, humid climates, especially during spring and summer, but they can occur any time of year. Year-round itchiness caused by bugs or allergies can lead to hot spots. Cats with dense, heavy coats are more prone to hot spots because their saliva can get trapped under the fur, causing skin infections and itchiness.

Multiple species of Staphylococcus bacteria, the most common natural inhabitants on a cat's skin, often cause these bacterial skin infections. Staph infections in cats are usually not contagious. Hot spots can result from various underlying conditions, including:


Allergies frequently cause hot spots in cats. Flea allergies are particularly common; even a single flea or its egg can make a cat extremely itchy, leading to self-inflicted hot spots. Outdoor cats, exposed to more pollen and environmental allergens, may have a higher risk of developing hot spots.

Insects Or Parasites

Fleas are the primary cause of hot spots in cats. Other parasites, like mites (including skin mange or ear mites), mosquitoes, and ants, can also lead to scratching or biting due to pain or itchiness, resulting in hot spots.

Stress, Behavioral Issues, Or Anxiety

Cats are excellent self-groomers. However, any disruption to their routine or environment can cause stress, often resulting in excessive grooming. This overgrooming can lead to hair loss and skin infections, ultimately causing hot spots.

Pain From Trauma, Disease Or Injury

Hot spots in specific areas, like over the hips or hind end, can indicate pain or discomfort in your cat. Cats often chew or bite at painful spots, such as those affected by arthritis, leading to hot spots. Anal gland disease can also cause cats to focus on their hind end, resulting in wounds that develop into hot spots.

Any wound or injury on the body can lead to hot spots. It only takes a few minutes of chewing, biting, or scratching for normal bacteria to multiply and cause a skin infection.

How Vets Diagnose Hot Spots On Cats

Hot spots on cats can usually be diagnosed with a physical examination by your veterinarian. While the skin lesion might be visible to the naked eye, diagnostic testing is sometimes needed to determine the underlying prevent and cause the itch or pain from returning.

For primary skin issues, a skin scraping, cytology, or culture may be required to identify the bacteria, mites, or fungus causing the problem. If pain is suspected, especially with hot spots over the hips, x-rays might be necessary to check for conditions like arthritis. Diagnosing the hot spot and its underlying cause is essential to prevent recurrence.

Treatment Of Hot Spots On Cats

When treating hot spots on cats, your veterinarian will first remove the hair around the lesion. Using clippers or a special razor, the infected skin will be exposed. This allows the moisture and pus trapped behind the hair to be removed and the skin to be thoroughly cleaned.

Removing the hair also lets the veterinarian see the full extent of the hot spot, which might have been hidden. Since hot spots can be painful, your vet may sedate your cat with pain medication during cleaning. After cleaning, your vet can perform cytology, culture, or scraping tests to identify the underlying cause.

The skin infection from a hot spot is usually treated with topical and oral or injectable antibiotics. Topical treatments, such as wipes, cleansers, mousse, and shampoos, should contain chlorhexidine, an effective antibacterial agent.

Prevention Of Hot Spots On Cats

Preventing hot spots in cats involves staying attentive to their medical needs. Regular checkups with the veterinarian, at least once a year, are essential. During these visits, your vet can diagnose and discuss any medical conditions like allergies, pain, or stress to ensure they are appropriately managed and do not lead to behaviors causing hot spots.

All cats, even those that stay indoors, should be on a regular tick and flea prevention regimen. This protects them from itching caused by these parasites and the diseases they may carry. Your vet will recommend the best tick and flea prevention for your cat based on its lifestyle, health, and location. Remember, hot spots can quickly become more extensive wounds, so it's essential to have them examined by your vet, regardless of their size.

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