Skin tags are harmless growths that can appear on your cat’s skin, usually in areas where the skin rubs together such as the neck, armpits, groin, and belly. While not dangerous, tags can become irritated or infected if left untreated. As a loving cat owner, you want the best for your furry friend. So how do you safely and effectively remove cat skin tags?
What Are Skin Tags?
Skin tags, also known as acrochordons or fibroepithelial polyps, are small outgrowths of skin that appear on the surface as soft, skin-colored flaps. They typically range from 1-5 mm in size but can grow larger.
These benign tumors are composed of loose collagen fibers and blood vessels covered by epidermis. They tend to form in friction zones where skin constantly rubs against skin or clothing. The constant irritation is thought to trigger extra skin cell growth, leading to tags.
While unsightly and bothersome, cat skin tags are noncancerous growths. However, they can snag on fabrics and furniture, becoming red, inflamed and painful. Infected tags may ooze pus or blood, requiring prompt veterinary care.
Tip: Check your cat’s neck, armpits, belly and inner thighs regularly for any new skin tags or changes to existing ones. Seek treatment for fast-growing, bleeding or irritated tags.
What Causes Skin Tags in Cats?
The exact causes of feline skin tags remain unknown. However, certain factors are believed to increase a cat’s risk of developing these fleshy flaps:
- Friction – Areas prone to rubbing and chafing have higher friction, which can trigger excess skin cell growth. Collars and tight clothing tend to create more friction on cats.
- Obesity – Overweight cats have more skin folds where irritation occurs. Their reduced grooming mobility also allows more debris and moisture to accumulate.
- Hormones – Hormonal imbalances may increase skin tag susceptibility, especially in unneutered males.
- Genetics – Some cat breeds like Persians and Devon Rex seem more predisposed to skin tags, suggesting a possible genetic component.
- Skin Infections – Feline leukemia virus and other skin infections may instigate abnormal skin cell growths.
- Age – Older cats tend to develop more skin tags as their skin loses elasticity over time.
- Moisture – Damp skin and wet folds provide prime conditions for friction-induced tags to form.
Tip: Keep your cat at a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise. Groom regularly to minimize moisture and debris accumulation in skin folds.
Signs and Symptoms of Feline Skin Tags
Skin tags typically develop in clusters rather than singly. Look for the following signs:
- Small, soft flaps of hanging skin
- Fleshy or polyp-like protrusions
- Color similar to surrounding skin
- Attached by a thin stalk-like neck
- Range from 1-5 mm but can grow bigger
- Found where skin rubs against itself or clothing/collars
- Common body zones include neck, armpits, nipples, groin
- Can become inflamed, infected, bleed or ooze if irritated
Tip: Monitor tags for any signs of injury, inflammation or discomfort. Redness, swelling, discharge or bleeding warrant prompt vet inspection.
Dangers and Risks of Feline Skin Tags
While generally harmless growths, cat skin tags do pose some risks and discomforts if left alone:
- Tags can easily snag and tear on materials like fabrics, furniture, and carpet. This leads to bleeding, pain and infection.
- Larger tags may become twisted, cutting off their own blood supply. This causes tissue death or necrosis necessitating emergency removal.
- Constant friction on tags can erode surfaces, resulting in crusting, bleeding and irritation. Bacteria can then enter causing infection.
- Infected tags often ooze pus and blood becoming painful. Some cats may bite or scratch at them worsening the infection.
- Aggravated skin tags emit foul odors requiring frequent cleaning. Their unsightly appearance also detracts from your cat’s coat.
- Cats with numerous tags may have an underlying hormonal or immune disorder needing veterinary diagnosis.
Tip: Schedule regular vet visits to monitor for any changes or problems with existing tags. Early intervention prevents complications.
Where Do Skin Tags Develop on Cats?
Cat skin tags typically arise in skin folds or high friction areas where constant rubbing and chafing occurs. Common body zones afflicted include:
Collars and necklaces rub against neck skin frequently, inducing tag growth. Check under chin, behind ears and around the collar area. Persians with their thick neck ruffs are prone to neck tags.
The folds in a cat’s armpits sweat profusely leading to moisture buildup. This dampness along with leg movements facilitates tag development.
A cat’s groin area contains thin skinned folds that breed friction tags, especially in overweight cats. The nearby nipples also grow tags.
Obese, pendulous bellies sway with movement creating prime friction. Skin folds harbor moisture promoting tags.
Some cats develop small fleshy tags on their eyelids or corners that can impede vision and require removal.
Tip: Examine your cat’s high friction zones regularly for any new or problematic skin tags for early treatment.
Are Skin Tags on Cats Contagious?
Feline skin tags themselves are not contagious. However, any open sores or infections arising from bleeding or irritated tags can spread between cats. Practicing good hygiene is key:
- Isolate cats with infected, oozing tags to avoid cross-contamination.
- Sterilize grooming tools after use on affected cats. Disinfect bedding too.
- Wear gloves when treating discharge from aggravated tags.
- Disinfect wounds using antibiotic ointments. Keep wounds bandaged.
- Remove infected tags as soon as possible to limit infection exposure.
Following these measures minimizes the risk of contagion from secondary skin tag infections in multi-cat households. The tags themselves do not transfer between cats.
Tip: Quarantine cats with infected skin tags until treated to avoid spreading infection to other household pets.
Home Remedies for Removing Cat Skin Tags
While home removal may seem convenient, it is not recommended for cat owners. Improper techniques can lead to:
- Excessive pain, bleeding and distress
- Infection from unsterilized equipment
- Tag roots remaining under skin
- Scarring from botched wound closure
- Cat biting or scratching you
- Tags quickly recurring
Skin tags have a good blood supply. Home removal risks severe bleeding or shock. Let your veterinarian handle tag elimination safely and completely.
Tip: Never try DIY skin tag removal on cats. The risks outweigh any benefits. Leave it to the professionals.
How Vets Remove Skin Tags on Cats
Veterinarians use the following professional techniques to remove feline skin tags:
This is the most common method. Liquid nitrogen is applied topically or sprayed on the tag, freezing and killing the cells. The dead tissue then naturally sloughs off within 1-2 weeks.
A special electric current or caustic chemical is applied to burn off the tag. The cauterizing also seals off blood vessels minimizing bleeding.
Under anesthesia, the tag is simply shaved off at its stalk using sterile surgical scissors or a scalpel. Stitches may close the wound site.
A thread is tightly tied around the tag’s stalk to cut off its blood supply. The lifeless tag dies and drops off within days.
Precision laser light is used to destroy the tag with minimal damage to surrounding skin. This is faster than cryosurgery but more expensive.
Tip: Let your vet select the best skin tag removal method based on the size, location and number of your cat’s tags.
Preparing Your Cat for Skin Tag Removal
Help ease your cat through the removal process by:
- Withholding food starting midnight before the procedure to prevent vomiting under anesthesia. Limit water that morning too.
- Arriving early at the clinic to complete any paperwork and consent forms.
- Helping hold your cat still during the procedure if permitted. Your reassurance keeps them calmer.
- Having a carrier, blanket and post-op care instructions ready for bringing your cat home.
- Clearing your schedule to monitor your cat for 6-12 hours after. Most recover smoothly but some experience nausea or bleeding.
- Having emergency contact numbers handy in case you need urgent vet guidance.
Proper planning makes the removal and recovery as quick and smooth as possible for all involved.
Tip: Get a cost estimate beforehand and consider pet insurance to cover expenses like anesthesia and biopsies.
Post Removal Care and Recovery
Follow your vet’s instructions carefully after skin tag removal to promote healing:
- Transport your cat home in a carrier to avoid irritating the surgery site.
- Check the incision daily for bleeding or discharge. Clean gently with saline solution.
- Apply prescribed antibiotics/ointments to prevent infection as directed.
- Use an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking and chewing at wounds.
- Ensure your cat takes any prescribed pain or anti-inflammatory medications.
- Avoid baths and rigorous playtime while healing. Keep the area dry.
- Have any sutures removed about 2 weeks later or once the wound has closed.
- Monitor for recurring tags. Early re-removal prevents large growths.
With proper aftercare, your cat will be tag-free and recovered in no time!
Tip: Restrict activity and grooming after removal to allow the skin tag site ample healing time.
Are Skin Tags Preventable in Cats?
While not always avoidable, you can reduce your cat’s risk of developing skin tags by:
- Feeding a balanced, nutritious diet to prevent obesity and hormonal issues.
- Exercising regularly to maintain an ideal body weight.
- Grooming frequently to minimize debris and moisture accumulation in skin folds.
- Using well-fitted cat collars that don’t rub or chafe the neck excessively.
- Having your vet investigate and treat any underlying conditions contributing to skin tags.
- Spaying/neutering your cat to balance hormones, especially if breeding is not intended.
- Keeping your cat’s environment clean to protect against skin infections.
- Scheduling annual wellness exams for early diagnosis and removal of any concerning tags.
While not completely avoidable, staying vigilant and proactive helps limit skin tag occurrences in cats.
Tip: Groom your cat regularly and ensure their collar fits properly to reduce friction on the skin.
When to See Your Vet About Skin Tags
Schedule an appointment promptly if your cat’s skin tags are:
- Rapidly increasing in size or quantity
- Bleeding, oozing fluid or emitting foul odors
- Showing signs of infection like swelling, redness or pus
- Obstructing eyesight, movement or bathroom functions
- Causing obvious pain or discomfort to your cat like skin irritation
- Located in delicate or risky areas like eyelids, face or groin
- Impacting your cat’s quality of life through their appearance or discomfort
Routine skin tag monitoring enables early intervention before problems arise. When in doubt, have your vet assess any changes.
Tip: Record details like tag locations and appearance each month to readily notice troublesome changes needing a vet visit.
FAQs About Feline Skin Tags
Are skin tags on cats dangerous?
No, skin tags themselves are harmless. But they can become injured and infected which requires treatment.
Do cats need surgery to remove skin tags?
Yes, cats need full sedation or anesthesia for safe, painless skin tag removal. Never try removing them yourself.
Should I remove my cat’s skin tag?
Have your vet assess problematic tags that are bleeding, infected or impacting quality of life for professional removal. Otherwise, monitor benign tags.
Can skin tags appear overnight on cats?
No, skin tags develop slowly over weeks-months. However, you may just be noticing new ones that already existed.
Will cat skin tags fall off on their own?
No, feline skin tags won’t disappear without removal. Some may drop off if the stalk dries out or becomes necrotic but this isn’t common.
The Takeaway on Feline Skin Tags
Cat skin tags are benign growths that occur frequently in areas prone to chafing. While usually harmless, they can become irritated or infected warranting removal by a vet. Prevention involves maintaining your cat’s ideal weight and grooming regularly. Check for any changes to existing tags at home and schedule vet exams for concerning ones. With simple monitoring and prompt treatment if required, skin tags don’t have to be frightening.