Itching Hotspots on Cats

"I'm so itchy! I can't stop licking..."
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Hot spots, those areas of moist inflammation that can drive a critter nuts, are often thought to be a canine-only nuisance. Sadly for your cat, she can fall victim to these itchy natural disasters too. Take steps to help her avoid painful bacterial infections.

Anatomy of a Hot Spot

Hot spots are areas of acute dermatitis usually found in regions your kitty loves to lick, such as her legs and back, but can also occur on her head. A hot spot begins with irritation to your cat’s skin. This irritation can stem from a variety of sources, such as an allergic reaction, a small cut or scrape or an insect bite. Once her skin is irritated, your cat’s body kicks into overdrive. The area becomes itchy and inflamed, setting off a vicious cycle of licking and scratching that further damages the skin. Cats love to lick and it can be difficult to stop once your kitty starts the licking cycle. The moisture she manifests through her excessive licking creates the anatomy of a hot spot.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs of a hot spot are difficult to miss. You will notice a small, red area of baldness on your kitty’s skin, and before you know it, it will have doubled in size. Other signs of a hot spot include localized moist, oozing red skin and intense scratching. Immediately schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you notice a hot spot on your kitty. Do not wait to see if it heals on its own. Hot spots develop very rapidly.


Your vet will first shave the fur surrounding the lesion in order to begin treating your cat’s hot spot. This may be extremely painful for your kitty depending on the size and location of the affected area, so she may need to be anesthetized, though usually this is not necessary. Your vet will then cleanse the area with an antiseptic solution. Cortisone-like drugs or creams and an Elizabethan collar are options if the itching and scratching become unbearable. If your cat has come down with a severe hot spot, she may need antibiotics and pain management medication. Once home, it’s important to keep the area as clean and dry as possible. Your veterinarian will provide you with a cleansing solution and instructions for cleansing the area.


The underlying cause must be pinpointed in order to fully prevent any future hot spots. Cats with thick, long coats are more prone to hot spots, as their skin doesn’t receive as much airflow as short-haired kitties. Their coats trap moisture and bacteria near the skin; matted, dirty hair is a common cause of hot spots. It’s important to routinely groom your long-haired cat in order to prevent hot spots. Fleas and ticks are another common cause of feline hot spots. Keep your cat on a monthly flea and tick preventative if she’s prone to flea bite dermatitis. A food allergy could also be the culprit of your cat’s itching. Consult your veterinarian about hypoallergenic diets and a food trial if you think your cat has developed a food allergy.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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