Should I Pick Scabs Off Cats?

icon June 1, 2023

If you're a cat owner, you've likely encountered the occasional scab on your feline companion. These scabs can be unsightly and may raise concerns about your cat's health. While it can be tempting to pick at them to provide immediate relief, it's important to understand the potential consequences and whether it's the best course of action. In this article, we'll explore the topic and provide guidance on what you should do if you find scabs on your cat.

Scabs on cats. Causes

Why Do Cats Get Scabs?

Cats can develop scabs for various reasons, and it's important to identify the underlying cause to provide appropriate care. Here are some common reasons why cats get scabs:


Fleas are a leading cause of scabs in cats. When fleas bite, their saliva can cause an allergic reaction, leading to itching and scratching. Repeated scratching can result in scabs forming on the skin.


Cats can be allergic to certain foods, environmental factors (such as pollen or dust mites), or substances they come into contact with (like certain cleaning products). Allergic reactions can cause itching, which can lead to scabs if the cat excessively scratches or licks the affected area.

Skin infections

Bacterial or fungal infections can cause scabs in cats. These infections often occur when the skin's natural barrier is compromised due to injuries, allergies, or underlying health conditions.


Parasitic mites like ear mites or mange mites can infest a cat's skin and cause intense itching and scratching. Scratching can result in scabs and secondary bacterial infections.


Ringworm is a fungal infection that can affect a cat's skin, causing circular patches of hair loss, redness, and scaly, crusty skin. The affected areas can develop scabs over time.

Self-inflicted trauma

Cats may excessively groom or scratch themselves due to stress, anxiety, or boredom. Over-grooming can lead to skin irritation and scab formation.

However, this is not the most common cause of scabbing in cats.

Scabs on Cats: 4 Types (with Pictures) & How to Treat

Should I Pick Scabs Off Cats?

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

So, removing the scabs from her sounds like a good solution. But think about the scabs on our skin - does it do any good to take them off too soon? Not exactly. The same is true for cats' skin.

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

Risk of Infection

Picking at scabs can introduce bacteria, dirt, and other pathogens into the wound, increasing the risk of infection. Cats have a delicate immune system, and infections can quickly become serious health issues.

Pain and Discomfort

Picking at scabs can cause pain and discomfort for your cat. 

Because cats do a good job of hiding their pain, they may not show it by wailing, but they may exhibit unwanted behaviors, such as hiding or hissing at you, that indicate that you are not being pleasant to them by peeling off the scabs. Scratching or pulling at scabs can irritate the surrounding skin and potentially lead to further injury. Causing pain to your cat.

Delayed Healing

By removing scabs prematurely, you disrupt the natural healing process. Scabs serve as a protective barrier over the wound, allowing new skin to form underneath. Premature removal can hinder the healing process and may result in prolonged recovery time.

What Should I Do If My Cat Gets Scabs?

Check for parasites!

One of the most common causes of scabs on cats is a parasitic infection of fleas, ticks, or fleas. If you notice scabs on your cat, you should check for these three parasites immediately.

Why does my cat get scabs?

Flea infestations are a common cause of itching and scratching in cats. When cats are bitten by fleas, they may develop an allergic reaction, leading to intense itching and scratching. The constant scratching can cause the skin to become damaged, resulting in scabs.

To check for fleas, follow these steps:

Place a white pillowcase on your lap and have your kitten sit on it
Brush their fur with a flea comb, concentrating mainly on the common flea-infested areas around the base of the tail and neck. If you see any tiny black bugs, your cat probably has fleas

Mites, which may be visible to the naked eye. Look carefully at the crusts and surrounding area for any signs of crawling or burrowing parasites. Three different types of mites can cause mange, some of which are more contagious than others and can cause more severe itching. The worst are burrowing mites, which burrow into the surface of the skin to lay eggs and form extremely hard scabs on the cat.
The best way to check for mites is to pay close attention to your cat's symptoms and you may find signs of:

  • Loss of fur
  • Redness, swelling or inflammation
  • Excessive licking and scratching

Then there are the ticks, when a tick attaches itself to a cat's skin and begins to feed on its blood, it can cause irritation and inflammation. As a result, the cat may scratch or bite at the tick, leading to the formation of scabs.

If you think your cat has a flea or mite infestation, you can treat it at home. Using a wormer such as albendazole can be a quick fix. If you are not sure which brand and type of treatment is best, your veterinarian will be able to advise. By helping your cat heal the infection that caused the scabs, his skin and scabs will recover quickly!

Recommended Reading: Ringworm in Cats / Flea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Eliminate allergens

If your cat doesn't have fleas or mites on her, scabs are the number one suspect. After all, they are the most common cause of feline cornrows and crusts. Therefore, improving allergy symptoms will help reduce itching, scratching and scabbing.

This is best accomplished by removing and eliminating substances that trigger allergic reactions in the home. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to figure out what that allergen is - a classic case of easier said than done!
Here are some general strategies.

  • Maintain low humidity: Dust mites and mold thrive in humid environments. Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels below 50% and prevent the growth of allergens. Fix any leaks or water issues promptly to prevent mold growth.
  • Keep your home clean: Regular cleaning helps reduce allergens indoors. Vacuum carpets and upholstery frequently using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to trap small particles. Dust surfaces with a damp cloth or electrostatic duster to avoid spreading allergens into the air.
  • Regularly groom your pets and wash them to reduce allergens.
  • Eliminate food allergens

Orlando woman says someone shot her cat, Colby, in the head

Application of ointment or antibacterial spray

While it might be tempting to remove or scratch off the scabs, it's best to avoid doing so as it can further irritate the skin and potentially lead to infection. The use of antibacterial sprays or the use of antibacterial ointments can soothe crusts on the cat's skin.

These products can also calm irritated skin and reduce the urge for your cat to scratch and scab.

Of course, you can do this yourself at home, but you should consult your veterinarian first to find out which ointment is best for your cat.

Prevent scratching

To prevent your cat from scratching the scabs and causing further irritation or infection, you can take several measures:

  • Trim your cat's claws regularly to reduce the potential for damage from scratching.
  • Use a scratching post or pad to redirect your cat's scratching behavior. Encourage your cat to use the post by placing treats or catnip nearby.
  • Provide alternative outlets for your cat's energy, such as interactive toys and playtime, to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.
  • Consider using soft, breathable, and non-irritating fabrics for your cat's bedding to minimize discomfort and scratching urges.

Prevent self-trauma

If your cat is scratching or biting at the scabs, consider using an Elizabethan collar (also known as a "cone of shame") to prevent further self-inflicted damage. It will help discourage your cat from accessing and aggravating the affected areas.

When it Might Be Okay to Pick Scabs Off Cats?

Cats groom themselves to maintain their fur and skin, and picking at scabs can disrupt this natural process. However, there may be certain circumstances where intervention is necessary, such as:

  • Severe discomfort: If the scab is causing significant discomfort or pain to your cat, it may be necessary to remove it. This should be done gently and with caution to avoid causing further harm.
  • Embedded foreign objects: If you notice a scab that seems to have an embedded foreign object, such as a splinter or a thorn, it may be necessary to carefully remove the scab to extract the object. However, this should ideally be done by a veterinarian to ensure proper care and minimize the risk of infection.
  • Persistent or worsening condition: If the scabs are not healing or if they are spreading and becoming more widespread, it could indicate an underlying skin condition or an allergic reaction. In such cases, it's important to seek veterinary advice to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.


How to Keep a Cat From Scratching a Neck Wound?

If your cat has a neck wound and you want to prevent them from scratching or further irritating the area, here are some steps you can take:

  • Use an Elizabethan collar (E-collar): E-collars, also known as "cones" or "cone collars," are plastic collars that prevent your cat from reaching their neck with their paws or mouth. These collars create a physical barrier and can be effective in preventing scratching. Your vet can provide you with the correct size and instructions on how to use it.
  • Cover the wound: If the wound is not too large or sensitive, you may be able to cover it with a breathable, non-adhesive bandage or gauze pad. Make sure it is applied securely but not too tight, allowing for proper airflow. Be cautious and consult your vet before applying any bandages to ensure it won't worsen the wound or cause discomfort.
  • Provide alternative scratching surfaces: Cats have a natural urge to scratch, so it's important to provide them with acceptable alternatives. Invest in a sturdy scratching post or cat tree and place it near your cat's usual resting areas. Encourage your cat to use these surfaces by placing catnip or using toys to attract their attention.
  • Environmental enrichment: Cats may scratch out of boredom or frustration. Providing them with a stimulating environment can help prevent excessive scratching behavior. Offer interactive toys, playtime, and rotate their toys regularly to keep them engaged. Consider puzzle feeders or treat-dispensing toys to keep their minds occupied.

Can Cats Get Scabs from Scratching?

Yes, cats can develop scabs from scratching. Scratching is a natural behavior for cats, and they often use their claws to groom themselves, mark territory, and relieve itching or discomfort. However, excessive scratching can lead to skin irritation, inflammation, and the formation of scabs.

There are several reasons why a cat may scratch excessively, leading to scabs:

  • Fleas
  • Skin allergies
  • Skin infections
  • Mites
  • Dermatitis

Can Fleas Cause Scabs on Cats?

If you notice scabs on your cat, especially around the neck, back, or the base of the tail, it's important to check for fleas. You may be able to see the fleas themselves or their feces, which looks like small black specks known as "flea dirt." When fleas infest a cat, they feed on the cat's blood by biting and sucking. Flea bites can be itchy and irritating to cats, and cats may scratch or bite at the affected areas in response to the discomfort. This excessive scratching and biting can lead to skin abrasions, sores, and scabs.

Can I Put Coconut Oil on My Cats Scabs?

While coconut oil is generally considered safe for cats and can offer some benefits, it's essential to consult with a veterinarian before applying any home remedies to your cat's skin issues, including scabs. 
Coconut oil is sometimes used topically on cats' skin to alleviate dryness and itching, as it has moisturizing properties. 

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