What are these little black specks on my cat’s chin?

Photo by Vie Lum Visuals

I pulled this little question from my Instagram comments this week, noticing that several people asked about it, and there seemed to be a decent amount of confusion on the subject. Those little black flecks you see on your cat’s chin are called feline acne. It doesn’t necessarily look like human acne (although it can). In its mildest form you may notice tiny black specks on your cat’s chin- it almost looks like flea dirt or pepper. In its most severe form you may notice large red pustules accompanied by large blackheads and even chin swelling. That debris comes from your cat’s sebaceous glands on his/her chin. The same glands they use to mark their territory by casually rubbing their face on literally every thing in sight.

Mild chin acne

This is the classic look of a mild case of feline chin acne. Have you ever noticed this on your cat? Leave a comment below!

Over the years I’ve heard veterinarians give a few different talks on chin acne. One theory is that some cats have an allergy to plastic, so ditching plastic bowls in favor of stainless or ceramic ones may help. Another theory points the finger more directly at owners by accusing them of not cleaning the bowls often enough, and encourages vigorous and frequent washing of both water and food bowls daily or at least every few days. I even had a client today (while writing this article) that said her vet told her that feline chin acne is often the result of toxins in the liver. I’m not sure where this theory came from but I could not find any verifiable evidence that this is the case. See what I mean by confusion?

Moderate Chin Acne

This may look terrible but it’s really quite common! Don’t forget, cats rub their chins on virtually everything, so really it’s no surprise that these pores become clogged and inflamed. Think of your cat as the dirty teenager boy who never washes his face!

I’ve seen many cats with chin acne over the years, both mild and severe, and I’m here to tell you- I’m not sure that ANY of these tips made any measurable difference. Does this mean there’s nothing you can do? Absolutely not. The best advice I ever heard regarding chin acne in cats is to treat it just like you would if it was your own face (No- I don’t mean pick at it for hours until it looks worse than it originally did!). Use acne pads (remember Stridex?) when you notice a flare up, and ease up on treating it once it calms down. I love using a good metal flea comb to get all that loose dried up goop away from the chin. After that, I use a grooming wipe to lightly clean the area. If I notice any inflammation or actual pustules then I go ahead and scrub the area with a Stridex wipe (or any generic benzoyl peroxide wipe).

Occasionally a case will be so severe that the cat needs antibiotics and/or steroids to clear it up, so if you notice that your cat’s chin is becoming swollen then it’s time to make a trip to the vet! That being said, there is no reason why a confident cat owner can’t tackle a mild to moderate case of chin acne by themselves, armed with just nail trimmers (Don’t forget my golden rule-always trim their nails first!), a flea comb, grooming wipes, and stridex pads! Good luck- you can do this!

5 thoughts on “What are these little black specks on my cat’s chin?

  1. Thanks for blogging this! My 6.5yo foster cat has mild cat acne and I wash the food and water dishes daily. Would human acne pads be ok to use or are there more cat safe options?

    Liked by 1 person

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