How to Get Rid of Hot Spots on Cats

Updated on February 17, 2016
Amber Killinger profile image

Cat lover to the max! I have helped rescue and re-home over 100 cats. My family cats fill my heart with joy every day.

What Is a Hot Spot?

A "hot spot" on your cat (or even on your dog) will look like an area of fur that is missing. It could be just a bald patch, or the bald patch could also resemble a lesion, with the skin broken and fluids oozing from the skin.

How do I know about this? It happened to my cat.

Causes

Hot Spot With Broken Skin

Here's an example of a hot spot on my cat. This is when it is still healing, just starting to dry up. You can see some matted fur around the edges.
Here's an example of a hot spot on my cat. This is when it is still healing, just starting to dry up. You can see some matted fur around the edges.

Hot Spot, Bald, Healing

Here is a hot spot under my cat's arm. It is in the process of healing, with the help of a cone and Treatment with HomeoPet Hot Spot. Some fur is discolored from the open lesions a couple days prior.
Here is a hot spot under my cat's arm. It is in the process of healing, with the help of a cone and Treatment with HomeoPet Hot Spot. Some fur is discolored from the open lesions a couple days prior.

Bald Hot Spot: Another Photo

Same place, under cat's arm. The hot spot healed, but the fur has not grown back yet.
Same place, under cat's arm. The hot spot healed, but the fur has not grown back yet.

According to my veterinarian, there are several possible causes for hot spots.

1. Diet Contains Too Much Starch/Carbohydrates

Check to see if you are feeding your cat a high quality cat food. If not, consider switching. One option is a grain-free diet. Grain-free pet food is readily available at most pet food stores—Natural Balance and Blue Buffalo Wilderness are two brands with grain-free options. The grain (corn, rice, etc.) in most cat food are carbs and can cause your pet to over-produce yeast.

2. Allergies

Allergies could be food allergies (see #1 above), especially to wheat or grains, or could be just the brand of cat food you selected.

Allergies could also be from something in the house. Check your household cleaners, odor reducer sprinkled in the carpet, etc.

Also check your kitty litter. It's possible your cat is allergic to perfumes in the litter. Try a wheat or corn-based alternative, or any of the other perfume-free options available today.

3. Age

As your pet ages, he or she is more susceptible to many ailments.

None of my cats ever had hot spots—until my oldest kitty was around 12 years old.

Miss Kitty With Hot Spot Under Arm

How to Get Rid of Hot Spots

Hot Spot (Lesion)

Here is a close-up of the hot spot on my cat. Pretty gross looking, right? This is after it was healing, and I took the cone off (too soon) and kitty licked the area raw (so cone back on).
Here is a close-up of the hot spot on my cat. Pretty gross looking, right? This is after it was healing, and I took the cone off (too soon) and kitty licked the area raw (so cone back on).

Hot Spot: Started Healing

Mostly skin. Some fur growing back and just a few tiny scabs left. This is after a week and a half of wearing the cone and hot spot treatment.
Mostly skin. Some fur growing back and just a few tiny scabs left. This is after a week and a half of wearing the cone and hot spot treatment.

Soft Cat Cone

This is my favorite cone for my pets. It's flexible, and doesn't get in the way of eating, drinking or maneuvering in small places.
This is my favorite cone for my pets. It's flexible, and doesn't get in the way of eating, drinking or maneuvering in small places.

Another View of Hot Spot, Mostly Healed

OK, so now you know a little more about hot spots and some things you can try to change to help get rid of them. But is there anything you can do right now to help heal your cat? Here are some options.

1. Take Your Cat to the Vet

Get advice and treatment from a professional. My veterinarian said that sometimes an all-raw diet helps cats get rid of hot spots, but it only works sometimes. And such a drastic diet change should be done gradually, since a cat's intestines are very sensitive. If you change your cat's diet too quickly, your cat could begin throwing up.

My vet also said that cortisone shots often clear up hot spots. Sometimes one shot does the trick, but other times it may take two to three, one every two weeks until it clears up. Be warned that cortisone is a steroid hormone and can have negative side effects, especially on older pets. There have been reports of pets going blind, becoming ill, or even dying after receiving a cortisone shot. Most pets will not experience any side-effects, and it may clear the hot spots right up. Just be sure you know the risks before allowing your pet to be given a cortisone shot.

2. Hot Spot Anti-itch Spray

Many pet stores carry anti-itch spray that will help relieve some of the discomfort of your cat while he or she heals. You will find that there are many more sprays for dogs than cats, so just ask a store helper to assist you in finding the right product if you cannot locate it yourself. The one I tried, which seemed to help, was PetRelief Anti-Itch Spray for Cats.

3. Homeopathic Remedy: HomeoPet Hot Spots

I used this on my cat when she had hot spots. It seemed to help tremendously. I also changed her diet and the cat litter, to try everything possible, but I do think this treatment made a huge difference.

4. Pet Cone

I can't stress enough how much of a difference it can make to put a cone on your cat when trying to heal hot spots. Cats will often lick the site of infection, making it more raw and increasing the size of the hot spot. Blocking the cat from doing so with a cone will allow the hot spot to heal without being aggravated.

My story: My cat's hot spots seemed to be getting worse for a time, growing bigger and not healing. I noticed she was licking these spots quite frequently. So I got a cone, and put it on her. At first I tried a padded kind, the Comfy Cone Pet E-Collar, but it didn't look very comfortable. I already had the hard plastic kind from a previous vet visit, but those weren't my favorite either. So I tried a "soft" collar cone, the ElizaSoft Recovery Collar, and that one ended up being my favorite. It was flexible, so my kitty could still squeeze between legs, while it still kept her from licking the spots. The only thing I didn't like was that it has a fixed-size opening for the kitty's head, so you have to slide it over the cat's head. After that, it's easy because it's a drawstring tie, so you can get it as tight as needed.

One tip: Double knot the tie. My cat scratched at the cone and somehow managed to untie the bow, and get out of the cone. After I double-knotted the bow, that didn't happen anymore.

Only bad thing: Although I do really like this pet collar, it doesn't wear well after a lot of scratching from a cat. My kitty kept scratching her ears, and scratching the cone. The drawstring started shredding, and so did the collar. It still works, but it will probably need to be replaced after my kitty wears it for a month. Still, to me, it's worth it, because it's comfortable for my cat.

After using the cone and treating her with HomeoPet's Hot Spot for several days, everything really started turning around. The biggest hot spot under her arm, which was about five inches across, started drying up, the icky stuff came off, and then it was just bare skin. What an improvement! I decided to give my kitty a break from the cone and took it off for one day and night. After that, it was oozing icky stuff again just from her licking it too much. So back on the cone went. And once again, after having the cone on for several days and treatment, we're back to just bald again with no oozing. This time, she is keeping it on until fully healed.

Miss Kitty in Her Comfy Cone

See—not too bad for sleeping in.
See—not too bad for sleeping in.

Soft Pet Collar

Follow Up

Just a quick update–it's been several months since I first posted this article. Miss Kitty's hot spots healed up completely with the use of the cone. I didn't remove the cone until the hot spots had disappeared entirely, and her fur had started growing back in. That did the trick! I'm so happy to report that she has not had any hot spots for a couple of months now!

Comments

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    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      7 weeks ago

      That's a great suggestion Joey. Thanks so much for sharing that.

    • profile image

      Joey 

      7 weeks ago

      As an alternative to a cone, my cat is now wearing a dog t-shirt size M and he can no longer lick the bald red angry hot spot on his shoulder. After months, it finally has a scab. Like the author, I won't let him go without his t-shirt until it's completely healed because his licking seems obsessive on that one spot (he's licking the t-shirt now) and I'm almost sure he'll re-injure it unless it's healed and the fur has grown back. He looks cute in his Batman T.

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      2 months ago

      Hi Jay,

      I had good luck with anti-itch spray to help relieve some of the itching and discomfort. Is the cone rubbing on the hot spot by chance? The most important thing I found was to find a way to keep my cat from licking or scratching the spot. Any type of rubbing on it kept it from healing. If it's been 3 months, you may want to take him back to the same or different vet to see if there's anything else they think can be done.

    • profile image

      Jay 

      2 months ago

      hi amber so my kitty is about a year old he developed this hotspot around his neck nearly 3 months ago, I've taken him to the vet and his had the cortisone injections and the works but he still keeps on scratching the past day his been in alot of pain, moody and wants to be left alone I'm really worried and wondering should i go to another vet for a second opinion or is there anything i can do at home besides an e-cone?

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      3 months ago

      Hi Karen. In most circumstances, you shouldn't need to give your cat a bath unless you're doing it to help with allergies you have to cats or if your vet told you to for some special reason. Cats bathe themselves and so most are very clean. Taking her to the vet for the hot spot sounds like a good idea. You might consider anti-itch spray to help alleviate her discomfort in the mean time. I hope she gets better soon!!

    • profile image

      karen 

      3 months ago

      my cat is 10.5 years old. I have been giving her a bath every month but his last three or so months I didn't cause I was feeling well. Now I see her have a hot spot down my her tail. I gave her a bath right away from the pet store it says medicated on the bottle oatmeal and tea tree good for itchy and dry skin. I may take her to the vet next week to see what is the best thing to do. I haven't changed her food for four years but I did just give her a lick a bowl as a treat twice in two months I wonder if this may have cause it so I will not give it to her anymore.

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      3 months ago

      Hi Jacey. If I were in your shoes, if the kitten is weaned, I would trap her and take her in the house to treat her. Keep her locked in a small room like a bathroom until she is healed and then you can let her back outside if you want. I have done that with several adult feral cats. They aren't happy to be confined and in a strange place...but it allows them to be treated and healed.

    • profile image

      Jacey 

      3 months ago

      I have a problem right now, my KITTEN has a hot spot on her neck. I don't have vet and I want to heal it myself, but here is the big problem, I live in the country in the middle of nowhere and my kitten is a outdoor wild kitten, and it has a mother, so I don't have anything to help her.

    • profile image

      Leslie 

      11 months ago

      Hi Amber,

      My vet immediately ruled out food allergy because my cats have been on raw food for a couple years. They feel like rabbits their coat is so dense and soft. The OTC spray from Petsmart has appeared to reduce a lot of the red spots/hot spots. Just one left, which is likely the origination of this issue. As it’s taking the longest to heal. I’m using 21st Century Hot Spot spray for cats. To me, it smells like the Chloraseptic spray for sore throat. And that spray, from when I used it, made my mouth and throat numb for a bit. Thanks for this site... good to know other people going through the same issues. What we do for our cats :)

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      11 months ago

      Leslie, one other thing you could consider is your cat's diet. I have one kitty who has a lot of issues with dry skin and dandruff and her fur used to feel dirty. I switched my cats to grain-free diets except some food with rice and her skin is much better and her fur feels soft again. It took several months to see a difference.

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      11 months ago

      Hi Leslie, so sorry to hear of the ails of your elder kitty. It sounds like you're doing everything you can for him.

    • profile image

      Leslie 

      11 months ago

      I had my 16 yo male cat diagnosed by vet as having general dermatitis. After 6 days on dermalone and a cone, it healed. Took cone off and he went right back to licking. Cone back on and healed again... took cone off... Yep, you guessed it, he licked again and red spots appeared. His hair has grown back but if he keeps licking, he’ll take it off again. He can’t live in the cone. I bought some hotspot spray from Petsmart. Going to apply 3 times a day. See how that works. As my vet said, a lot of times, the cause can’t be determined and his age complicates things. My cat has a heart condition and can’t be given oral or a shot for fear of heart failure. So only topical can help him. This whole thing has been exhausting, with many sleepless nights. Senior cats are very hard to take care of. I have another 16.5 yo cat with no issues.

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      12 months ago

      Wow Krista, that's great information. Thanks so much for sharing. Hopefully other pet owners can benefit from this information.

    • profile image

      Krista 

      12 months ago

      I had this very similar issue! After finally switching to a hypoallergenic food from the vet... I realized it was a good allergy. It turns out, my cat is allergic to chicken, which is almost in every pet food. I've been lucky to find many foods now exclude chicken as the vet tells me that the most common food allergy for pets is CHICKEN!

    • profile image

      Deborah 

      13 months ago

      my cat seems to have two hot spots just in front of her ears. Vet says he doesn't know what it is. Looks like blisters which when scratched bleeds and looks awful. She had anti inflammatory and antibiotic injections, and told to bathe in salt water, the lesions tripled in size within 3 days. Return to vet, gave us hibiscrub to bathe twice a day, which is drying it up. Was given steroids but we didn't give her as she has a heart murmur, so gone back to the liquid antibiotic given once a day. Only got a cone by second vet visit. We had been on holiday, one of our other cats bullies her, we had a cat sitter. Don't know if she was stressed, or the new food she had or her flea drops, no idea which. If it's hot spots we don't want them ever again. Half her face looked burned, sore, bloody and weeping and not drying up but spreading over her face until we got the hibiscrub from the vets. Which is available from Chemists. She is 4 years old.

    • emhontz profile image

      emhontz 

      14 months ago

      My Phoebe is 12-13 years old and just in the last few years has developed a major hot spot on her belly. I have switched food, changed the type of litter and I had been taking her to the vet on a regular basis for a steroid shot and antibiotics. The shots will help to dry the oozing, but it always comes back. I just ordered the HomeoPet cream and a collar hoping that will help her. She leaves a mark everywhere she sits or lays down - it's disgusting. It hasn't been bleeding, so I just put blankets everywhere and clean up after her. I'm hesitant to take her back to the vet because they suggested having her seen by a vet dermatologist 2-3 hours away $$$$$$!!!!!!! I'm going to look into a grain-free diet and see what the ingredients are in what I have been giving her now. Anything I give to her has to be ok with my 16 yo male cat who has had urinary issues since he was 5. Pets!! I have been doing my research and I hope that I'm not missing anything. Are there any other suggestions?

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      17 months ago

      Hi Frustrated momma.

      I'm so sorry to hear about the troubles with your kitten. What does your vet say about the hot spots?

      One other consideration is maybe stress.

      My sister has a cat that recently was licking herself, creating hot spots and she determined it was stress related. Her household has multiple cats and one of the other cats was sometimes aggressive towards this one and the stress exhibited as hot spots. My sister isolated the hot spot kitty for several weeks in her bedroom, with a separate litterbox and food, and door shut to keep all other cats out. The cat calmed down and she eventually healed from the hot spots. My sister said she could tell the cat was more relaxed when separated from the other cats.

      I have heard of some cats having anxiety issues and sometimes medication can help, but that's something your vet would need to determine. If it's stress, maybe Feliway could help.

      May I ask why an e-collar isn't an option with her? Is this a new kitten? If so, sometimes change can bring on stress and once she gets used to her new environment she may calm down.

      I sure hope you get it figured out. Good luck!!

    • profile image

      Frustrated momma 

      17 months ago

      My kitten is on an excellent diet - vet approved. No fleas or ticks. Top quality litter. and she still gets hot spots. I have lick guard for her spots but the little stinker wipes it off (on my pillow no less! and that stuff stinks something horrible). she used to only have one on her front arm ... but now she has them on her back hip and belly and back thigh. we went from just 1 to 5 and they are huge and itchy oozing and scaley. I just don't knw what to do anymore with her. I am desparate to find something that will work for her. I can NOT put any type of e-collar on her.

    • profile image

      Lyverne Miller 

      17 months ago

      Thank you! Have cat about 8 years old, has 1st hot spot...was not sure what to do..this is a great help.

    • profile image

      Susan 

      20 months ago

      THANK YOU soooo much for sharing!! It was like we were telling our story. That is exactly what we are experiencing! We have tried band-aids & spray. The collar we found was way to tough, so now we get the soft one

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      20 months ago

      Barbara, I personally would not condone declawing a cat. Maybe you can try a different vet to get a second opinion.

    • profile image

      Barbara harling 

      20 months ago

      My vet suggested to have my back nails removed . I don't want to do this.the hot spot is behind his ear and the cone would be on the wound. .i don't want to do what the vets recommended.

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      23 months ago

      Hi Rose, from my experience all cats hate the cat collars but if you can get it on her it may help in the long run. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Rose 

      23 months ago

      I have adopted a semi feral young cat (11 mos. old). And she has 2 hot spots that have just started, trying to start treating it before it gets to the oozing stage everyone speaks of.

      I live on a remote island of Hawaii (Molokai). There is a vet on the island, so I will check in with them. Prior to finding this posting (which is very helpful!!) I read on another site, to try swabbing the area with a dilute solution of betadine... does anybody know about that?

      I have ordered some grain free dry food.

      I'm not sure how well she will take to a cat collar being semi feral...

      thanks for posting this information.

    • profile image

      Paige 

      2 years ago

      My cat has a spot on his back that is at times very hot to the touch, and he has licked most of the hair off the spot but he doesn't have any open wounds and his skin is not red. He doesn't scratch it and he meows when people touch it. Because of where it is located my Mother thinks it arthritis. He is an older cat. Any thoughts?

    • profile image

      Debbra 

      2 years ago

      This was very helpful, as my poor Philly has been suffering with this at times. Thank you, everyone. My vet was not in favor of steroids, though my old vet used them and it fixed the problem almost immediately.

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      3 years ago

      I hope you do try a cone or e-collar before giving up. That was the only thing that made a difference with my kitty to allow the lesions to heal.

    • jrhall22 profile image

      jrhall22 

      3 years ago

      I realize you posted this 3 years ago, but thanks for all the ideas. My cat (also named Ms. Kitty) has a hot spot on her back that occurred after a flea infestation. We got rid of the fleas months ago, but she still obsessively licks her back and causes bleeding sores. I've taken her to the vet several times, but all they do is give her antibiotics and a cortisone shot, charge me over $100 and send us on our way. I asked the vet if an e-collar might help but he assured me that it would only make her mad and she could still rub her back under furniture to scratch it. I currently have her in a medical pet shirt, but she keeps getting her paws stuck in the shirt and can't get around. I had to lock her in the bathroom, because our other 3 cats were picking on her. I'll try switching her food, the aromatic spray and possibly the soft e-collar before I give up. I just hope something works!

    • profile image

      Tanya 

      3 years ago

      My girl's about the same, 9 pounds. I just hope with the velcro she can't remove it - with the rigid cone she learned how to remove it!

      Thanks for all your help!

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      3 years ago

      I bought this one: ElizaSoft Recovery Collar, SIZE: SMALL 5.5in. My kitty is about 9 lbs, so fairly small. I felt better putting a soft cone/collar on her so she could be more comfortable. I didn't take it off her for weeks because when I did, she licked the spots and aggrevated them. She healed only after I left the collar on without giving her breaks from it.

      I wish you luck with your kitty.

    • profile image

      Tanya 

      3 years ago

      What size cone is the one your kitty is sleeping in? It looks like it extends at least an inch past her adorable face? I'm just second-guessing myself on the size I bought - I thought the X-Small would be too short so I got the Small. I'm hoping it's ok for not letting her get her face around it. When your girl had to wear it did you take it off while watching her so she could clean herself after using the litterbox?

    • profile image

      Tanya 

      3 years ago

      Ok Amber, thanks! I phoned around today and neither my local animal hospital nor Paulmac's had soft padded cones, only the hard rigid ones, which I had one from before & the little vixen removed it! I've purchased one on ebay called a ProCone. I picked the closest supplier so hopefully it gets here sometime this week (Michigan to S. Ontario)

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      3 years ago

      Tanya, I highly recommend putting and keeping a cone on your cat until the hot spots go away. Try it for at least a couple of weeks. I had to do that to get my kitty to stop locking her hot spots. Her licking them made them worse and prevented them from healing.

    • profile image

      Tanya 

      3 years ago

      I forgot to add that she has been on fish oil for some time now. It is called Ascenta FelineOmega3 fish oil supplement. She doesn't take it on her own so I have to syringe-feed to her slowly with an eyedropper. My other kitty is a good boy - if I pour some into a dish for him he will lap it up on his own. He's got the best fur in the neighbourhood! And my girl's got the worst:(

    • profile image

      Tanya 

      3 years ago

      My little girl cat has been battling hot spots several times now. She's been on Prednisone pills 2 or 3 times, each time it only works at the full pill or half pill dosages - then we wean down to a quarter pill the spots start to return. Even the vet said she cannot be on these pills indefinitely as they suppress the immune system & can damage the liver over time.

      I switched her food 2 days ago to a wheat-free diet. I spent nearly $70 on Performatrin dry & all kinds of grain-free moist food. So far no improvement. She is still licking her spots red & they are oozing. At least she switched over to this new food readily, as she is a picky eater. I know dietary changes take time to show in the skin, I just am impatient for her to start feeling & looking better! Right now she looks like the victim of an acid attack:(

      I have tried a couple of times to dab on some cooled plain black tea with a teabag - nice cool tea should feel soothing to a 'hot' spot. I also put a small amount of Apple Cider Vinegar in some cool water & dabbed that on a couple of times. I had hoped the vinegar would taste repellent enough that she's leave the area alone, but I still catch her licking it. Perhaps the ACV will help her a bit from the inside.

      Has anyone here had any success with a cone called Contech ProCone? I just purchased a size Small one on ebay.

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      4 years ago

      I'm happy to say that Miss Kitty has not had any recurrences of hot spots since I wrote this article. So happy!!

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      4 years ago

      When this first happened I switched cat food to a grain-free and kept her (and all my kitties) on that since then.

      It's been a year and a half since I posted this article and luckily Miss Kitty has not has any recurrences of hot spots. Yay!

    • Heather Lear profile image

      Heather Lear 

      6 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      My cat Semi is dealing with this as we speak, I don't like the comfy cone pet E-collar. He is very uncomfortable and is unable to eat or drink in it, I have to take it off constantly to get him to eat and drink. I did use the other soft collar, I must have had the wrong size because he was able to push it down and get to his wound. I will do that and get the hot-spot spray for him. Steroids don't work good with him because he is Diabetic. My poor old kitty. I am so happy about this post, I was starting to lose it mentally.

    • profile image

      Angie Horn 

      6 years ago

      Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! That article on hot spot on cats was very helpful.

    • Rusti Mccollum profile image

      Ruth McCollum 

      6 years ago from Lake Oswego, Oregon

      I have a cat, that I battle hot spots with badly. I have to take him for cortisone shots, which I must say helps a great deal.AS YOU SAID, THERE ARE RISKS.Changing their diet gradually is also recommended by my vet. Flea control is a major help too. Great Hub, Great info.Learned some new things I didn't know.Wonderful job!

    • profile image

      Mel 

      6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your cat's experience with hotspots (with pictures!!!!!)

      I just found out a lesion with hard crusts hanging on top of the lesion under my cat's arm.... she wouldn't stop licking it and it's bleeding and oozing out clear liquid...

      Bringing her to the vet later and hopefully she won't be given cortisone as it sounds quite scary...

      Thanks for sharing again!

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