A cat’s coat is often one of its most distinguishing, and attractive, features. They spend countless hours cleaning and grooming themselves, until their fur shines. They take their hygiene and appearance very seriously, and as cat lovers, we should, too! That’s why we are focusing our attention on one of leading external causes of hair loss in cats: hot spots.
Hot spots are, simply put, spots on your pet that are usually dry, hot, itchy, and painful. If a vet or pet groomer ever mentions “acute moist dermatitis,” they’re referring to hot spots. They start as small, irritated patches of skin that cause great discomfort to cats long before they become visible to you. During their normal bathing routine, an affected feline finds temporary relief in licking the raw skin. This, of course, leads to more licking, which intensifies the rash. Then, your pet will begin nibbling and scratching the spots, tearing them open and pulling out tufts of hair.
Sometimes we don’t get a clear look at the spot until it gets to this point. However, scratching furiously in the same place(s), wounds that resemble teeth marks, thinning patches of hair or bald spots, or a red rash are all early indications of hot spots, so watch your feline closely.
Causes and Prevention of Hot Spots
Unfortunately, there is no single blanket, iron-clad cause of hot spots. Kittens born from parents who had skin disorders or issues are prone to developing similar problems. Cats with long or thick fur often experience hot spot outbreaks during the warm seasons. Grooming too much, or not enough, can cause rashes. Of course, fleas are also a potential factor, because the more cats scratch, the more they soften and irritate their skin. Other causes are allergies to things in their environment (like your perfume/cologne, laundry detergent, etc.), stress and anxiety, insufficient entertainment, or even an allergy to their own cat food.
Prevention of hot spots can be tricky, since as we mentioned above, there is no singular cause. However, there are measures you can take that will help with your pet’s skin irritation. They’re even useful if they’ve never had hot spots at all!
Never take flea treatments for granted! Even if your cat is flea-free now, any contact with people coming from outside in wooded or sandy areas or animals who have fleas can change that at any time. Always keep your pet’s flea treatment schedule religiously, even if you think it’s ok to miss a dose or two.
Brush your cat’s coat daily. Yes, cats do just fine with grooming without our help. Usually. However, if a hot spot starts to form, the constant licking and biting can cause mats in their coat that cover the hot spot. These mats act as insulation around the spot, baking it with its own heat. A daily brushing can help you find and eliminate these mats before they create their brand of havoc on your poor cat’s skin. If you are unable to brush your cat yourself, ask a local grooming shop if they handle felines. They can have your kitty brushed and mat free in no time. They’ll also clip his or her nails upon request, which will reduce the damage they can do when scratching, and they will certainly know a thing or two about hot spot treatment!
Remedy and Treatment Suggestions
Even though there is no quick, 5-step plan to make these hotspots magically vanish, we bring a little good news! We know that taking your cat to the vet to learn the cause of the rash, eliminate the problem, and pay for lengthy prescription skin and infection treatments can get hopelessly expensive. So, we did a little homework to try and help! We found some remedies and tips for your cat’s condition that will soothe the hot spots until a professional can isolate the cause.
Of course, your primary concern is getting your pet out of pain. Coconut oil and antibiotic ointments and creams coat the broken skin and soothe the maddening itch that makes cats scratch themselves silly. Neither of these are harmful if the cat licks them, but it can be counterproductive to the healing process. You can, of course, use what we call a “No-no cone” to keep them from turning their heads to reach the spot. Or, you can make cat-sized clothing pieces from your old clothes and slip them on your pet, so that they cover the hot spot. They can still scratch, but the cloth creates a barrier between their claws and skin. Then, they get a little relief by scratching, without causing further damage to their skin or spreading the medicine everywhere except on the hot spot. Plus, the clothes are more comfortable, and less scary, than the cones!
Catnip also acts as a mild pain reliever, and it will improve your kitty’s attitude. Offer them catnip treats, toys, or plain catnip straight from the bag. They’ll care a little less about not wanting to cooperate with your treatments!
Swelling around the rash site is common because of the vicious licking-leads-to-worsening-leads-to-licking cycle. If you have any green or black tea bags, grab them! Get them damp with cool water, and place them on the hot spot, if your pet will allow it. If not, try again while they’re sleeping. Use steam to dampen the tea bags rather than water, so the cold moisture against their skin doesn’t startle them.
If your cat hasn’t started losing fur around the spot yet, gently shave and clean the area around the rash before treating it. In the absence of prescription or sensitive skin formula shampoos, you can mix a salt-water solution to wash away dried scabs and debris. Heat about a pint of water to boiling, and then add a teaspoon of salt. Once it cools, you can dip either a tissue or some cotton balls in the mixture and apply to the affected area. Or, if your kitty has multiple spots, you can bathe your cat from head to claw with the salt water twice daily.
If you don’t like the idea of doing this yourself, remember those pet groomers we mentioned! Call around until you find one who can squeeze you and your kitty in for a brief haircut and sponge bath! Also, remember that groomers are animal professionals, too! Many of them have either had jobs in vet’s offices, or they consulted vets for clients who couldn’t afford to bring in their pets. They might be able to help figure out what’s causing your cat’s condition, or make recommendations based on past experiences!
One Final, Important Note!
Although these remedies might work like a charm in some cases, it all depends on what is causing the hot spots! This information can NOT replace or override a vet’s treatment or observation! If not properly handled, hot spots can cause infections that lead to bigger health issues. It never hurts to try; these tips will at least give your kitty some relief from the discomfort. However, if there is no improvement in your pet’s condition within a few days, we strongly encourage you to call a vet or get them to a clinic ASAP!