How to Treat a Sebaceous Cyst on a Cat

Reviewed By Kim •  Updated: 11/06/23 •  11 min read
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Have you been snuggling with your kitty and found a strange growth or bump under her skin? This can be frightening, especially since our feline fur babies can develop skin cancer, just like us. However, the issue could be caused by a sebaceous cyst. If you hop on the Internet to look for pictures similar to what you found on your feline companion, you’ll quickly learn that a sebaceous cyst often looks like skin cancer. However, don’t panic. Just be sure to call the vet and take your fur baby to be checked out.

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What is a Sebaceous Cyst?

A sebaceous cyst, also known as an epidermal inclusion cyst, is a benign tumor of the skin. In fact, these are the most common type of skin tumors on cats. These cysts are not considered dangerous or threatening to your kitty unless they suddenly rupture and become infected. The cysts can become larger or smaller over time. Sebaceous cysts can form anywhere on the cat’s body; however, they are most common on the kitty’s chest, sides, and legs.

What Causes Sebaceous Cysts in Cats?

These red, raised bumps with the funny name are made of sebum, which is a thick, cheesy, yellow substance. Sebum is secreted by the sebaceous gland, which is made of fat and cellular debris. It works to keep your kitty’s skin protected and lubricated.

The sebaceous glands are found at the end of each hair follicle. The cyst forms when the follicle is blocked, which leads to a build up of sebum. When the hair follicle becomes damaged or clogged, the cat’s immune system causes the surrounding tissues to wall off the damage. The result is the formation of a small “pocket” that fills with keratin, a yellowish substance (found in nails and fur). Over time, the sac fills with more fluid. This may cause the cyst to stop growing; however, the cyst could also continue to grow until it bursts and releases the trapped fluid.

The cat sebaceous cyst rupture can result from an untreated cyst that has burst, which can lead to infection. This is why your fur baby needs to see the vet.

If the cyst is somehow damaged by constant trauma, such as excessive licking or chewing, then it can become inflamed and/or infected. This type of cyst can develop on cats of any age, breed or sex. The bumps can appear anywhere on your cat, but are most often bound on a cat’s chest, sides or legs. Cats don’t seem to be bothered by these cysts; however, when not treated, the cyst can continue to grow and rupture.

A cat cyst burst can allow an infection to set in, which will need to be treated by the vet

Sebaceous Cyst and Cat Abscess Symptoms

In the beginning, a sebaceous cyst may resemble a small red, raised area on your kitty’s skin. The bump may even be difficult to find when it first develops. Your fur baby’s fur is thick and may make it difficult to even see the cyst. When the cyst grows, it will become readily apparent. And if your cat finds the cyst and constantly licks or chew it, the bump will become bigger and swollen. It may also have a reddish color. Other symptoms of sebaceous cysts can include:

A DVM should be consulted by cat owners as soon as something unusual is visible on a cat’s body. You cat health may require you to use an Elizabethan collar to make your cat isn’t gonna create inflammatory issues on the cyst area. A follow-up with a vet will ensure that your cat’s immune system is normal and that raised bumps or a scab on parts of the body will not require sutures to avoid a bacterial infection.

Diagnosis of Sebaceous Cysts in Cats

Your vet will ask you questions about the cyst, such as when you first noticed it, has it broken open or gotten bigger, etc. The vet will then give your kitty a physical examination and check her skin for any other bumps and skin issues. Sebaceous cysts can appear in multiples, along with different sizes and numbers. Your vet will determine how many cysts your fur baby has, and then will be able to determine the best treatment for her.

One thing to keep in mind is that sebaceous cysts can resemble skin cancer, so the vet may want to perform a biopsy of your kitty’s cyst to make sure it’s benign (not cancerous). The term for this type of procedure is a fine needle aspiration and biopsy. Your precious fur ball will not need to be sedated for this procedure. The vet will insert a sterile needle into the cyst, and then take some of the fluid and tissue, which will then be sent to the lab for testing. The vet may do this with each cyst.

Treatment of Sebaceous Cysts in Cats

Treatment of sebaceous cysts on cats can vary. It depends on how many cysts a cat has, if they’re causing problems, etc. For instance, where the cyst hasn’t changed in size, is causing no discomfort, and doesn’t appear to bother the cat, the vet may choose to leave sebaceous cyst intact for now. This may also be the recommended treatment for cats who aren’t comfortable at the vet’s or that are not very friendly, and easily managed. In this case, the vet will recommend that you monitor the cyst and bring the cat back in for an appointment if the cyst changes or you find additional cysts on your kitty.

If the biopsy has come back with no sign of cancer, then the vet may decide to drain the cyst. This is done using a needle that’s placed into the cyst, and then withdrawing the fluid. This procedure generally doesn’t hurt your fur baby and doesn’t generally require that she be sedated. If the fluid is very dense, the vet may need to lance the cyst in order to drain it. For this procedure, your cat will receive a local anesthetic. Once that takes effect, the vet will cut into the cyst and drain the fluid. Stitches are usually not used, so the cyst can heal as it continues to release fluid. In some cases where the cyst continues to recur and/or grow, your fur baby will likely need surgery. The surgery may include the removal of the cyst, the follicle and the cyst wall. Your kitty will be put under general anesthesia for this procedure.

Once the surgery is completed, your fur baby will receive stitches to close the wound

Cat Sebaceous Cyst Removal Cost

The average cost of surgery to remove a cat’s sebaceous cyst may cost anywhere from $200 to $800. It will largely depend on your location. If you live in a large city, then the cost will generally be cheaper. However, if you live in a small town or rural area, the cost may be more expensive than in the city. In addition, the cost will depend on whether or not your fur baby needs to be hospitalized, needs medications, etc.

How to Drain a Cyst on a Cat at Home?

This is a common question. After all, if it’s only a simple bump, can’t we take care of it at home? The short answer is no, at least when it comes to draining a sebaceous cyst at home. You should never do this at home. Draining a cyst can be painful for your cat. In addition, if the instruments you use are not sterile, the cyst could develop a serious infection, which could even become life-threatening. You should never try to drain your cat’s sebaceous cyst at home. This should only be done by a veterinarian.

If your cat’s cyst bursts open, here’s what you can do:

1). Clean the area with warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing at the area. Just clean it gently, so you don’t cause further damage to your kitty’s skin. You only want to clean the area.

2). If the area appears to be inflamed and sore, then it’s time to call the vet. However, if the cyst doesn’t appear to be causing your cat any discomfort, then just monitor it to make sure it doesn’t grow and/or develop an infection.

You may also bathe your kitty with a special shampoo such as:

Davis Benzoyl Peroxide Shampoo

This shampoo can be used on both dogs and cats, and it helps to open and flush out hair follicles. This type of shampoo can help to keep your cat’s skin clean; however, it can be too drying for some cats. If you use this product, be sure to watch her for itchy, red, or irritated skin. If the shampoo seems to be irritating her skin, discontinue use and call the vet.

Prevention of Sebaceous Cysts in Cats

There’s not much you can do to prevent sebaceous cysts in cats. However, you can help her to avoid developing cysts by making sure she lives in a clean environment. This also includes ensuring your cat’s litter box is kept clean. You can also keep her clean by bathing her once a week (or as directed by the vet). Grooming your fur baby is also an excellent way to help your kitty prevent sebaceous cysts. If you brush her regularly, you can find the cysts when they first develop. Then you can keep an eye on them and get your fur baby to vet if the cyst grows or changes.

Not only that, but regular brushing helps you spend quality time with your fur baby, and you can help her to remove shedding hair and other debris, which also helps to keep her environment cleaner. You can also ask the vet about supplementing your kitty’s diet with salmon or other oils, as these can help reduce the incidence of sebaceous cysts in cats.

Prognosis of Sebaceous Cysts in Cats

Sebaceous cysts in cats usually resolve well. In the event your kitty needs a cyst aspirated by the vet, they will give you instructions on after care. You’ll need to watch and make sure your cat doesn’t lick, scratch or somehow bother the cyst, as this can make it become inflamed and infected. If she’s had surgical removal of the cyst, your vet will give you specific instructions on how to care for your cat. Again, it will be important that she doesn’t lick or scratch the surgical site. And you’ll need to watch for any signs of infection after the procedure. The vet may also ask you to bring your cat back in for a post-surgery check-up to make sure the wound is healing as it should, etc.

Other Common Cat Skin Lumps and Bumps

Sebaceous cysts are only one type of skin lump or bump that’s common in cats. In addition to cysts, cats can develop other benign skin lumps and bumps, including the following:

Most of the time, sebaceous cysts in cats are not a life-threatening condition. If your fur ball has had her cyst drained or removed, she is expected to have a normal lifespan and her health should not be affected. Be sure to regularly check your cat for any signs of cysts or bumps on her skin. Usually they’re harmless and are probably sebaceous cysts; however, your kitty could also have a type of skin cancer or other health issue. If you find a cyst or anything suspicious on your kitty’s skin, be sure to get her an appointment with the vet to have it checked out as soon as possible.

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Kim is a talented author, who loves animals especially dogs. She engaged in writing books and articles relating to animals a decade ago. Kim resides in Chicago with her husband and son. The family is the proud owner of a dog and a parrot (Jack and Lily). Kim wanted more than these two pets, but her husband put his foot down... She often visits elementary schools to talk to the kids about what she learned about pets and how they could learn from them.