Skin Tags on Cats: How to Identify & Treat Them

Dr. Martha G. Cline, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Martha G. Cline, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/15/20242-4 minutes
cat standing at persons feet looking up

You and your kitty have settled in for some quality time. Your cat is purring and you’re giving ear scritches when you feel a bump on your cat’s skin. You pull the fur back for a better look and see a small bump, maybe red in color, on your cat’s skin. Is this cause for worry? 

While finding a strange bump on your pet’s skin is alarming, having your veterinarian check them out can determine if there is any reason to worry. Can cats get skin tags? Yes, skin tags can happen on cats although less commonly than on dogs.

What Are Skin Tags and Can Cats Get Them?

A cat skin tag is a benign small, fleshy mass of skin composed of connective tissue. They can show up anywhere on your cat’s body. They are usually flesh colored and can appear as a small bump. Some skin tags may dangle slightly. A skin tag on a cat will usually remain the same size, although they can grow.

Because other skin conditions, such as cysts, warts, or Mast Cell Tumors (MCTs) can cause growths on your cat’s skin, and even ticks can appear as a skin growth, it’s important to have your vet check out anything unusual on your cat’s skin.

Cysts are a benign skin mass that typically form around a hair follicle. They can fill with keratin, a protein produced by the skin. It’s important to not squeeze these as it can irritate and inflame the surrounding skin.

What Causes Skin Tags on Cats?

While we don’t always know the cause, skin tags typically occur in areas of friction like  

between the folds of the skin or beneath the armpits, leg joints, and abdomen. Cats that are overweight may have more areas with friction, increasing the likelihood of tags. As cats get older, their skin becomes less supple and looser, leading to more friction.

Types of Skin Tags

Skin tags are soft, fleshy bumps. They can start small and grow, while others stay the same size. Some tags are raised slightly or dangle from a stem or stalk. Is it a skin tag or something else? Let’s look at other things that can cause bumps on your cat. 

Nipples: You may notice a growth on your cat’s stomach that looks like a skin tag. If there are 3 to 4 matching skin tags on your cat’s belly, those are nipples, not tags. All mammals have nipples—even male cats! 

Ticks: Is it a skin tag or a tick? If it looks like a black skin tag on your cat, it might be a tick. Have your vet check the growth thoroughly to make sure it’s not an imbedded tick. If it is an imbedded tick, it’s best to have your vet extract it. 

Warts: While rare on cats, warts are caused by the papillomavirus and can be spread by bedding and other contact materials. They are usually flat and scaly and can be contagious among cats.

MCTs: Mast Cell Tumors, also known as MCTs, are skin tumors that can grow or change shape typically occurring on the head or neck of the cat. Your vet will run tests to determine the diagnosis. Surgical removal is the treatment of choice among most vets. A biopsy of the mass can determine the type and grade of the MCT.

Abscess: An abscess is a painful, pus-filled infected sore usually caused by a bacterial infection from a bite or scratch. Your vet will likely clean and drain the wound and then prescribe antibiotics and/or pain medicines. 

Acne: This can be common among cats, especially for cats that eat out of porous ceramic or plastic dishes that can harbor bacteria. Acne will appear as small bumps and blackheads on your cat’s chin or face. Your vet may prescribe a wash or medicated wipes for cleaning the area. Switching to stainless steel or glass dishes and cleaning dishes daily can help.

Bug Bites: Bites or stings from mosquitoes, bees, or wasps may cause bumps or swelling on your cat’s skin.

What to Do About Cat Skin Tags

Skin tags are generally not harmful and often, cats may not even know they have them.  

The first thing to do is have your vet identify the skin growth. Once the bump or growth has been identified as a skin tag by your vet, you don’t have to do anything, except take care around the tag when you’re grooming your cat.

If the tag interferes with your cat’s quality of life, you may want to have it treated by your vet. For example, if it is located around the mouth and makes it difficult for your cat to eat, or around your cat’s eyes and interferes with his or her vision or is in a place where it might get caught on something, it’s probably best for your vet to remove it.

What Are the Skin Tag Treatments?

Usually, skin tags do not require treatment. Do not try to remove them yourself or use products developed for human skin tags on cats. Rather, go to your vet for any cat skin tag removal. If your vet has determined that the skin tag needs to be removed, your vet may be able to do this using several methods. This can include applying a local anesthetic if your cat is awake or lightly sedated. Your vet will determine the best course for removal.

Can You Prevent Skin Tags on Your Cat?

Skin tags, cysts and other benign growths are difficult to prevent. Keeping your cat’s skin and coat in good condition starts with good nutrition that includes the protein, fatty acids, minerals, vitamins your cat needs to feel his or her best.

Unusual bumps and marks on your cat’s skin can be scary, so getting your cat to a vet for diagnosis can help relieve some of your anxiety. 

Want more cat health tips? Get advice from our experts with our other cat health articles.

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