How To Remove Skin Tags on Cats, As Used Safely by Vets
If you’re currently the owner of a feline friend, you’ll know how important it is to take their health seriously. Cats quickly become a part of the family, and keeping them fit and healthy is vital if you want them to live a long and happy life.
Cats – especially those that wander independently outside the home – are prone to all sorts of illnesses, injuries, and skin-related ailments. But one of the most common conditions a cat can develop is a skin tag (or acrochordon). These are fleshy bumps that appear on the face and body for many little-understood and scientifically unproven medical reasons.
You might start thinking about how to get rid of skin tags on cats. But before you reach for the fishing wire to perform ligation, there are lots of things you need to carefully consider. Is the bump a skin tag, or is it a tick, cyst or wart? What if the cat’s skin tag is infected or bleeding? Would it be better to take your kitty to the vet to have it expertly examined?
We’re going to look at how to remove skin tags on cats safely. We’ll also explore the causes of feline skin tags and other similar skin conditions, as well as help you decide whether you should book an appointment with a vet.
Skin tags are very common in cats. They appear as fleshy growths on the skin, and they can take lots of different shapes and sizes, but most of them are relatively small. Some are quite flat and close to the skin. Most have the appearance of a flap or look as though they’re hanging from the skin on the end of a ‘stalk.’
Skin tags are made up of loose collagen fibers and blood vessels which are surrounded by skin. They often have a fleshy color, although sometimes they can have a different tone to your cat’s skin. Your cat can develop skin tags anywhere on their body, but they’re far more likely to appear where there are folds in the skin – the flanks and the folds in the legs, for example.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Causes Skin Tags on Cats?
- 2 Are Skin Tags on Cats Dangerous?
- 3 Skin Tag Removal Methods That Are Used by Vets
- 4 Do Feline Skin Tag Home Removal Methods Work?
- 5 How Do I Prevent Skin Tags in Cats?
- 6 What Growths Are Mistaken for Skin Tags on Cats?
- 7 Feline Skin Tags Don’t Need to Be Removed
What Causes Skin Tags on Cats?
No one is sure what exactly causes skin tags. Experts have provided many explanations of the possible causes.
These include the following:
- Certain hormones in cats – particularly when they’re still growing.
- Lots of friction (and sweat) in a certain place on the body (which can be exacerbated if the cat is overweight).
- A type of diabetes associated with insulin resistance.
- The older your cat gets, the looser their skin. This causes more friction between the folds and creases in the skin whenever your cat moves.
- Genetics will also dictate whether your cat develops skin tags. If the cat’s mother or father had a lot of skin tags, it’s likely that your kitty will, too. It’s not known whether one particular cat breed is more susceptible than others.
Where Do Skin Tags Develop?
As a result of the friction caused whenever a cat moves, skin tags are most likely to develop around the flanks and the legs. However, skin tags can appear anywhere on the cat’s body at any time, even on the head and tail.
Skin tags are also common on the skin where the cat’s collar sits. If the cat’s collar is too tight or if it’s rubbing awkwardly, it can cause a skin tag to appear.
Are Skin Tags on Cats Dangerous?
They are harmless. They very rarely contain any cancerous cells, and they’re not usually a symptom of a serious illness. There’s a chance that the skin tag may have developed as a result of insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes if left unchecked – but that’s about as dangerous as feline skin tags get.
Depending on the location, it could also cause your cat problems with eating, their hearing or their vision. If you notice that a skin tag has appeared on your cat’s head or face, it could end up obstructing their vision, irritating their ear or making it difficult for them to eat.
In this instance, you should look into removing the cat’s skin tag as soon as possible so that they can return to their normal activity without disturbance.
Are Cat Skin Tags Contagious?
If you have a young family, it’s normal to worry that any lump or bump on your cat may be a contagious disease or illness. Fortunately, skin tags are not contagious at all. Your family can safely interact with your kitty as they always have done.
Skin Tag Removal Methods That Are Used by Vets
In many cases, a vet will be reluctant to remove a skin tag from a cat. They are completely harmless and don’t cause any pain. Cats won’t feel embarrassed about having a skin tag. The only reason a vet is likely to act to remove a skin tag is if it’s causing another problem.
If the skin tag has grown on the face and is causing issues with vision, hearing or the cat’s ability to eat, a vet is more likely to act. The same goes if the skin tag has formed in an awkward position on a leg or paw, causing them trouble when they try to move around. A vet is unlikely to consider surgical removal or other methods if the cat is in perfectly good health.
The main methods of skin tag removal for cats by veterinary surgeons are as follows:
- Freezing – this method, often called cryosurgery, involves the use of liquid nitrogen to get rid of skin tags or other growths. Liquid nitrogen is applied directly to the skin tag, freezing the area. This cuts off the blood flow and causes the flap of skin to die. The color of the skin where the skin tag was may change afterwards. This procedure is only carried out in special circumstances.
- Cauterizing – the opposite of the freezing method is cauterizing, which uses heat to remove the skin tag. This can be challenging and painful for your cat – it’s not a method that many vets will use.
- Cutting – sometimes, skin tags can simply be cut off using the right tools. A vet will administer a local anesthetic to the area and will use sterilized scissors for removing the skin tag on a cat. This is a very direct method that has proven effective and doesn’t come with any painful side-effects. It’s vital to keep the wound clean afterwards to prevent infection from occurring.
- Tying Off Method – A vet will tie off the skin tag. This involves looping a piece of sterile string tightly around the base of the stalk so that it is unable to receive a supply of blood. Without oxygen, a skin tag is unable to survive for much longer than a week.
If your cat has had a skin tag removed by a vet, it’s important to monitor them carefully for a few days after the procedure. Prevent your cat from scratching or licking the area until it’s fully healed, and make sure they get plenty of rest – especially if they had a local anesthetic.
Ensure they are eating a healthy diet, which will help with the healing process, and if your vet has given you any instructions or medication, make sure you follow them to the letter.
How Much Do Vets Charge for Skin Tag Removal?
Every veterinarian will have a slightly different pricing structure for their services. There are also a number of factors that will play into the skin tag removal for your cat, including:
- The location and size of the veterinary practice.
- Whether local anesthesia will be needed during the removal process.
- Multiple skin tags will need to be removed.
- A biopsy will be required to rule out cancer.
- It’s an emergency situation.
In many cases, skin tag removal for your cat can run into the hundreds of dollars. That’s why so many people turn to DIY solutions to get rid of skin tags. You can also simply leave the skin tag as it is if it’s not causing your cat any pain or distress.
Do Feline Skin Tag Home Removal Methods Work?
If your cat’s skin tag is large enough that you can get a hold of it between your fingers and placid enough that it won’t bite you, you may be able to tie off a skin tag. All you’ll need is a little dental floss or some fishing line. A good antiseptic cream and some cotton balls will also be useful.
- First, clear the area around your cat’s skin tag with the antiseptic cream or gel. Making sure the area is clean to start with, and ensuring it stays clean throughout the tying off process, will help reduce the risk of infection.
- Then, tie a small length of fishing line or dental floss around the skin tag. You may need to trim away some of your kitty’s fur to gain good enough access to the skin tag. Make sure you don’t get any fur caught in the floss or fishing line.
- Make sure the floss or fishing line is tied tight around the base of the skin tag, as close to the surface of the skin as possible. Wrap it around a couple of times and tie it off, making sure there are no protruding strings or lines that could get caught on anything. This is likely to hurt your cat for a moment or two, but after a while, he or she will become oblivious to it.
This process cuts off the blood supply to the skin tag and causes it to die. In just 7-10 days, you may notice that the skin tag has started to change color. Soon, it will fall off. You should make sure the area is kept clean throughout this process.
It is a treatment that works well, but it can be difficult to carry out on a cat and the process must be performed correctly.
What If My Cat’s Skin Tag Is Infected?
There’s always a chance that it might become infected. Your cat could scratch or pull the skin tag and cause a small tear which could be exposed to bacteria. If you’re not keeping the area clean, it could also get infected and cause your cat pain and irritation. Never try to self-treat a skin tag on a cat that’s infected in some way.
If you think your cat’s skin tag is infected, go and see your vet immediately. They may provide some medication that will help your kitty fight off the infection quickly. They may also cut off the infected skin tag there and then for you, which will likely be a weight off your mind.
What If My Cat’s Skin Tag Goes Black?
Skin tags in cats tend to have a fleshy appearance, like the rest of the skin. So what happens if you see that your cat’s skin tag has started to get darker or purple in appearance?
A skin tag turning black is good news (surprisingly). It means the skin tag has become thrombosed and is dying. The blood flow to the area has been restricted and it’s likely that the skin tag will fall off in a few days. Keep a close watch on your cat and ensure the area remains clean.
My Cat’s Skin Tag Is Bleeding
There are a number of reasons why your cat’s skin tag might start to bleed. It’s most likely that your cat has caught or scratched the surface of the skin tag, causing the skin itself to rupture.
It should heal just like any other cut or wound – but it’s important to ensure the area stays clean. An open wound, cut or scratch is susceptible to infection.
If you notice that your cat’s skin tag is bleeding, apply pressure to the area right away. This will help the blood to clot. Once the blood flow has stopped, try to place a small bandage or gauze over the area to prevent any bacteria from entering the wound. Antiseptic gel or cream will also be helpful in keeping the area clean and avoiding an infection.
How Do I Prevent Skin Tags in Cats?
While skin tags in cats aren’t dangerous, they can be a bit unsightly. It’s normal to want to prevent them, but there’s no surefire way.
Here are some tips that may help to prevent your cat from getting skin tags:
- Keep your cat as clean as possible. Cats are renowned for cleaning themselves, but there’s nothing wrong with giving them a helping hand. Make sure your cat is washed regularly with a dedicated cat shampoo. This will prevent sweat and bacteria build-up which could potentially lead to skin tags and other skin conditions.
- Pay attention to the tightness of your cat’s collar. If the collar is rubbing or causing any irritation, there’s a chance it could cause skin tags to develop in the neck area. Monitor the collar carefully as your cat grows.
- Ensure that your cat eats a healthy, appropriate diet. It’s thought that one of the main reasons why skin tags develop is because of a condition called insulin resistance. This is linked with diabetes. Make sure your cat is eating appropriate food for their age and weight. Overweight cats are also more likely to develop skin tags because the number of skin folds they have increased with their weight.
It’s important to remember that skin tags in cats are not 100% preventable. You can take all the necessary precautions and your cat may still end up developing a skin tag. But with the proper care and the right solution, you can remove the skin tag for your cat safely.
What Growths Are Mistaken for Skin Tags on Cats?
There are dozens of different types of growths and skin conditions that can be mistaken for skin tags. Some of them are just as harmless as skin tags – but others can be dangerous if left without treatment.
Here are some of the most common growths mistaken for cat skin tags, and what you should do if you suspect your cat has developed one.
Cats are agile, adventurous creatures. If they’re let out of the house during the day or night, they can develop small injuries like cuts, scratches, and bumps. This may be from landing on a tree branch, scraping against a surface or even getting into a fight with another animal.
If your cat has experienced a minor injury, there may be a small bump there for a couple of days after. This is normal, and it happens while the site is healing. Sometimes very small lumps or bumps can be mistaken for skin tags in their early stages.
If you notice that your cat has a small bump on their body, check that it’s not infected and keep an eye on it for a few days. It will usually fade away as the site heals. If it grows larger, consider getting in touch with a vet.
An abscess is a pus-filled lump that is caused by bacteria or parasites getting under the skin. They’re incredibly common in cats – especially when they have been in a fight or experienced a puncture wound of any kind.
Abscesses usually result in pain and swelling in the area, as well as redness and a high temperature. If you notice that your cat has been a little out of sorts at the same time as developing a lump, it’s likely that it’s an abscess.
If you look closely at an abscess, you should be able to see a build-up of pus – almost like a large pimple. This is the result of white blood cells dying in the affected area. The cells are kept confined to the area around the injury to aid with healing.
Eventually, the abscess will rupture and the pus will drain away. In some cases, the white blood cells that accumulate in the area will destroy the bacteria or parasite that was causing the infection. This then causes the body to absorb the pus with no drainage required.
If you believe your cat has an abscess, keep an eye on the lump for a few days. Observe how it develops and how your cat reacts. If you’re concerned the lump isn’t going away, or if your cat seems to be ill, contact your vet for further advice. Your vet may offer a course of medication, or even surgery to clear the abscess.
When people detect a lump on their cat’s body, ‘tumor’ is one of the first words that spring to mind. There is a small chance that a small lump on your cat’s body may turn out to be a tumor – but even then, many tumors are completely benign and will not turn out to have any cancerous properties.
One of the most common types of feline tumor is called a lipoma, or a ‘fatty tumor.’ These are not cancerous, and in most cases, they don’t need to be removed. The only circumstance in which a vet would remove a fatty tumor is if they’re preventing the cat from moving comfortably. Lipomas are most common in cats that are older or overweight.
Mast cell tumors can also appear on your cat – usually around the head or neck. These tumors are more unusual in cats, though the Siamese breed appears to be most commonly affected. They develop as a result of the body’s natural tissue repair response, but they’re usually benign – around 1 in 10 of these tumors will turn out to be cancerous.
Breast cancer is common in cats that haven’t been spayed – spaying a cat before they go into heat for the first time can cut their risk of developing breast cancer by 90%. Breast cancer lumps can appear on the underside of the cat, and they often start out incredibly small. This means the tumors are usually missed until they’ve grown substantially.
If you think the lump your cat has developed is a breast cancer tumor rather than a skin tag, see your vet straight away.
What Are the Signs of a Cancerous Growth?
If you’ve discovered a lump on your cat’s body, cancer might be your primary concern. Here are some important signs and symptoms:
- Texture. Skin tags usually have the same sort of texture as the cat’s skin. Cancerous growths (and also warts) have a dry, rough texture when you touch them. If you notice a strange texture, keep an eye on the growth.
- Thickening. A skin tag should be soft and fleshy. Cancerous growths are usually thicker, especially around the base.
- Growth. Skin tags can take a while to develop fully, and they don’t usually change in size quickly. If you’ve observed a lump on your cat’s body, and it seems to be growing rapidly, get it checked out at by a vet.
- Bleeding. Yes, skin tags can bleed if they’re caught or snagged, but it’s unusual. If you notice any strange bleeding in the area around the lump, it’s not a good sign.
- Scratching. Skin tags aren’t usually itchy. If your cat is constantly scratching, consider the possibility that it could be a cancerous growth or another kind of skin condition.
- Weight loss. If you’ve noticed that your cat seems to be getting thinner despite no changes to their diet or exercise, see a vet.
- Loss of appetite. The same goes if your cat seems to have lost their appetite. Of course, there are many reasons why a cat might not be feeling hungry, but if it coincides with the appearance of a strange lump, you may want to get it checked out.
- Changes in behavior. If your cat seems lethargic and has lost interest in playing or interacting, it could be a sign of a more serious internal problem.
- Problems defecating or urinating. If you have a cat that spends a lot of time outdoors, it can be hard to track how often they’re emptying their bowels and bladder. But if you have an indoor cat and have noticed that they’re not filling their litter tray, in the same way, it could mean the lump you thought was innocent may be something more serious.
These pimples and blackheads can feel like lumps and bumps under the surface. Acne is completely harmless but can be inconvenient to your cat if it’s affecting their face.
There’s also a chance the pimples or blackheads could become infected if they’re not cleaned properly. If you think your cat may have feline acne, you can ask your vet for medicated wipes or washes to help get rid of the extra oil that could be causing the problem.
Ticks and skin tags look and feel very similar, which is why it can be hard to tell which one your cat is suffering from. A tick is a pest which can burrow into your pet’s skin. They can be as tiny as the tip of a pen, or up to half an inch long and visible.
Ticks can be irritating to your pet, causing itching in the area – but they can also transmit dangerous diseases that could cause a serious illness in your cat.
If your cat spends a lot of time outside the house, you should check them for ticks regularly. Ticks can be removed without a visit to the vet. You can buy tick removal tools online, or you can use a simple pair of clean tweezers to remove the pest from the site. Make sure you get all of the tick out and kill it afterwards.
Skin Tag vs. Tick
The appearance of skin tags and ticks in cats can be very similar, which means it can be hard to make an accurate assessment.
Here are a few signs:
- Grab a magnifying glass. In many cases, you’ll be able to see the legs of a tick sticking out around the site.
- Skin tags can often appear flat against the body. Ticks usually look swollen or engorged because they’ve consumed blood.
- Ticks are common on the underbelly, neck and the insides of the legs. Skin tags are more common where the skin folds, such as the area around the elbows and legs.
Cats that spend a lot of time outdoors can also be at risk of bug bites, especially in the warmer months. These can cause small bumps and lumps under the skin which may concern you when you first spot them.
These bites can cause a lot of itching for your kitty. Use a cold compress to help reduce inflammation and ease their irritation a little.
These are another skin condition that can look a lot like skin tags – the two are very commonly confused. Warts in cats are caused by the wart virus, and while warts themselves are not dangerous, if the underlying virus is not treated, it can lead to cancer.
Warts in cats (known as papillomatosis) causes warts to appear all over your cat’s body. They’re especially common around the eyes, nose, and mouth because these areas are damp and help the virus to spread.
The bumps themselves may be white, fleshy or black (much like skin tags). If you suspect that your cat may have the wart virus which is causing regular, recurrent warts, talk with your vet.
They may need to prescribe some medication to help get rid of the virus. They may also recommend removing warts through methods like freezing or surgical removal.
Feline Skin Tags Don’t Need to Be Removed
Skin tags are harmless and will not cause your cat any pain or side-effects if they’re left alone. However, if you notice that the lump does not look right, it’s important to rule out other possibilities first.
Keep an eye on the growth and rule out conditions like warts or ticks, as well as a cancerous lump. Once you’re certain that the bump is a skin tag, you can safely remove it. Getting the procedure performed by a vet is recommended.