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4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Pick Scabs Off Cats

4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Pick Scabs Off Cats

You’re looking at your cat’s wonderful, shiny fur and thinking how elegant these animals actually are.

But, something suddenly seems to be odd on your cat’s coat. It looks like she has scabs! This doesn’t look pretty, but the most important thing is that this is definitely not good news for your cat’s health.

So, I’m sure you instantly thought of picking those scabs off your cat’s coat. Well, you shouldn’t do this! You can actually make things worse by doing so.

Let’s see why you shouldn’t pick the scabs off your cat by yourself, and what are some better options for this problem.

Should You Pick Scabs Off Cats?

Closeup of dirty hurt cat with injured face

You see your cat dealing with scabs, and, of course, you want to help her. 

So, picking scabs off her sounds like a decent solution. But, think of scabs on our skin – does taking them off too early bring anything good? Not exactly. This is also the case with your cat’s skin.

Let’s take a look at the main reasons why you shouldn’t pick scabs off your cat. 

1. Slowing Down The Healing Process

A wound on a cat’s skin needs some time to heal. If you pick the scab off the cat, you will slow down the healing process. 

Pulling a scab means pulling the new skin growing under it, too.

2. A Wound Exposed To Infection

infected wound on cat's skin

Peeling the scab off makes the wound vulnerable to dirt and bacteria, and increases the risk of the wound becoming infected.

So, picking scabs off your cat’s skin too early can damage it even more.

3. A Permanent Scar 

Picking the scab off might leave a scar on the cat’s skin. 

Any permanent damage on your cat’s skin can be avoided by simply not touching the scabs!

4. Causing Pain In Your Cat

Picking scabs off might look like a good way to relieve your cat’s discomfort, but this process will actually be painful and stressful for her.

Since cats hide their pain very well, they might not show it with whining, but they are likely to display unwanted behaviors that will show you peeling scabs off is not pleasant for them, such as hiding or hissing at you.

If you’re thinking: Scabs will fall off by themselves naturally; I’m only speeding up this process, you should know that scabs fall off only when the skin underneath has completely healed. 

So, the best thing you can do is wait!

However, you might be patient, but your cat will have an even stronger urge to pick those nasty, itchy scabs off.

Still, I have some helpful advice on this, too. Let’s first look at the main reasons for scabs in felines. 

How Do Cats Get Scabs?

tabby domestic cat with scabs on nose

Scabs are lesions or dry patches on a cat’s skin. Simply said, these lesions serve as a kind of band-aid for a healing wound.

You have all probably seen them at least once on your cat, but, how much do you know about the causes of these skin changes in felines?

Sometimes scabs might mean your cat is under stress. Stressed felines might over-groom themselves, which can cause scabs to develop on their bodies. 

Still, this is not the most common cause of scabs in cats.

These skin changes usually happen due to miliary dermatitis. According to Karen Moriello and Daniel Morris [1], the miliary dermatitis refers to crusted reaction patterns on the cat’s skin. 

Scabs are more likely to appear on the cat’s face, neck, abdomen, and inguinal region.

There are several causes of this skin condition in cats, such as:

Dry Skin 

white cat scratching its face

Sometimes your cat’s skin will be dry, which can be caused by a poor diet. This means your cat lacks some of the key nutrients that make her coat look healthy and shiny.

Together with food, excess exposure to the sun, using the wrong shampoo on your cat (even baby shampoo is not a safe option for felines), and dehydration are also potential causes of dry skin in your cat.

Overly dry skin can lead to miliary dermatitis – scabs in kittens.

Allergic Reactions 

Allergies are the most common cause of feline miliary dermatitis. Besides visible scabs, cats with an allergic reaction might also show symptoms such as coughing, trouble breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, and sneezing and watery eyes

Flea bites are the most common type of allergen in cats, together with food ingredients, dust, pollen, mold, as well as environmental allergens, such as grass.

Bacterial And Fungal Infections

Some kind of bacterial or fungal infection can cause scabs in your kitten.

Feline acne is one of the most common infections of this kind. 

According to Danny Scott and William Miller [2], feline acne is usually localized to the cat’s chin, but might also occur on her lower or upper lips.

Eventually, these pimples on the cat’s skin turn into scabs.

Another type of bacterial infection is pyoderma, which usually arises with cats that are not grooming themselves properly. This might happen with cats with arthritis or obese cats who have trouble grooming.

The most common fungal infection in cats is ringworm, which causes the formation of dry patches on their skin.

What To Do Instead Of Picking Scabs Off Your Cat?

vet applies ointment on a cat

No matter what the cause of scabs in your cat is, the veterinarian is the only one who can confirm the diagnosis by conducting a detailed physical examination.

After discovering the cause of this skin change in your cat, there are some following steps you should undertake instead of picking scabs off her. 

1. Soothing The Scabs

Applying ointment that contains benzoyl peroxide or using an antibacterial soap will soothe the scabs on your cat’s skin.

These products will also calm the irritated skin, and will decrease your cat’s urge to scratch the scabs.

Of course, you can do this by yourself at home, but you should first consult your veterinarian on the best kind of ointment for your cat’s condition. 

2. Bandage The Scabs Area

Rewinding cat's paw by bandage.

While now you might understand that you shouldn’t pick scabs off your cat, your cat might not be able to comprehend things in the same way!

The scabs will be itchy for her, and, of course, she will scratch them, hence prolonging the healing period.

A useful thing to do here would be to bandage the area around the scabs. This is also a good way to know your cat won’t ingest the ointment you’re using on her scabs. 

If you’re not sure how to use this method in the best way, ask your vet for help; after seeing him doing it, you’ll be capable of doing it in the same way yourself!

3. Using A Cone

A veterinary cone is another way of preventing wound irritation in your cat, as well as preventing her from scratching the scabs.

This is a useful method, but you might be worried about how your cat will react to the cone.

As the VCA Animal Hospital suggests, many cats will not initially be thrilled to wear a cone, but the majority of them will quickly become accustomed to it. 

If you have any additional questions, such as whether you should remove the cone of your cat, and then place it back again – to relieve things for her, the best would be to consult your vet.

How Long Until Scabs Are Healed In Cats?

cat licks its paw

This will depend on every individual cat and the cause of the scabs in her.

Of course, it will also depend on you as a cat parent and your way of managing this skin issue. Once again – if you try to peel the scabs off, or you don’t do anything to prevent your kitten from doing so – you can expect the scabs to take longer to heal than they would otherwise.

Even worse; picking scabs off too early can lead to an infected wound.

On the other hand, if you don’t mess with the scabs, and if you prevent your cat from scratching them, they should fall off in a week or two, leaving the skin underneath healthy and healed.

In Conclusion

So, should you pick scabs off cats? You definitely shouldn’t, since you can only make things worse. 

The scabs will fall off naturally in their own time, so you shouldn’t rush the healing process. Instead, you should try soothing the scabs or bandaging the area to make sure your cat won’t try to peel the scabs off, either.

Have you ever dealt with this type of skin problem in your kitten? What helped you solve it? Share your thoughts with us!


[1] Moriello, KA, Morris, DO: Chapter 22 – Dermatology. The Cat: Clinical Medicine and Management, 2012, Pages 371-424. DOI, Retrieved April 14, 2023. 
[2] Scott, DW, Miller, WH: Feline Acne: A Retrospective Study of 74 Cases (1988–2003). The Japanese Journal of Veterinary Dermatology. 2010 Volume 16 Issue 4 Pages 203-209. DOI, Retrieved April 14, 2023.