What is Stud Tail?
Although stud tail can occasionally affect neutered males and both spayed and unaltered females, the excess oil that results in stud tail is generally caused by the raised hormonal levels that occur as a young unneutered male cat experiences puberty, becoming sexually mature and capable of mating with a female. Whereas in human beings the excess oil usually clogs pores on the face and back, on cats it clogs the pores where the back and the tail meet and, at times, spreads down the tail. The cat appears to have blackheads in between the hairs on the tail, the fur in the area becomes very greasy, and the area can become infected, raw, and very sore. A mature unaltered male cat is called a stud, and this condition affects the tail. A cat that is experiencing stud tail is very likely quite uncomfortable and should be seen by a veterinarian.
Stud tail is a fairly rare skin condition that occurs mainly on the base of the tail in cats. It is similar to acne in humans and results from excess skin oil, which is referred to medically as keratosebaceous debris, in the rear area of the cat’s body.
Symptoms of Stud Tail in Cats
Unlike many internal veterinary conditions, the symptoms of an external condition such as stud tail are quite easily observable to any pet owner that pets, handles, or interacts with their cat. If you notice the following symptoms, your cat is likely experiencing significant discomfort and it is important to make an appointment with your veterinarian:
- Greasy fur near the rear of the back and on the tail
- In cats with light-colored fur, a yellowing of the fur near or on the tail
- Loss of hair on or near the tail
- Comedones, or blackheads, on or near the tail
- Raw, red, and/or swollen skin on or near the tail
- Red bumps on or near the tail
- Pus on or near the tail
Causes of Stud Tail in Cats
Stud tail is caused by overactivity of the sebaceous glands near the rear of the back and on the tail, which results in an overabundance of sebum or skin oil in that area. It is believed that the most common cause of this over-activity is the high level of hormones that are secreted when unneutered male cats experience puberty, their transition to being a stud, or male capable of breeding. For reasons that are not fully understood, in very rare cases some neutered males, unaltered females, and spayed females experience stud tail as well.
The overabundance of skin oils in the region near the base of the tail causes greasy fur and clogs hair follicles, resulting in comedones, which are commonly called blackheads, in the region. These comedones can become infected, causing swelling, hair loss, and pain.
Diagnosis of Stud Tail in Cats
While diagnosis of stud tail is often straightforward and based upon visible observations, it is still very important that this condition bis diagnosed by a veterinary professional. The reason for this is that your veterinarian can rule out other skin conditions and is able to both diagnose and treat secondary infections. In order to diagnose stud tail as well as secondary infections caused by stud tail, your vet will likely utilize the following procedures:
- Ask you questions about your observations that have caused you to be concerned about your cat’s health.
- Determine the likelihood of stud tail based upon your cat’s gender and whether your cat in altered or unaltered.
- Thorough physical examination, concentrating on skin and fur near and on the base of the tale.
- Test your cat’s level of sensitivity when the affected skin is touched.
- Take a bacterial culture sample from the infected area to diagnose the particular kind of infection.
Treatment of Stud Tail in Cats
If your cat is diagnosed with stud tail, your veterinarian will recommend treatment based on the severity of the case, which will be determined by the appearance and sensitivity of the skin and whether or not the skin is infected. If the affected cat is an unneutered male, it is likely that your veterinarian will suggest castrating the cat in order to lower the hormone levels. In addition to castration for unaltered males, and in order to treat previously altered males and both altered and unaltered females, your vet will prescribe the following:
For mild to moderate cases of stud tail:
- Wash the affected area with a degreasing shampoo and/or antibacterial shampoo
- Apply topical ointment such as benzoyl peroxide
In addition to the treatments above, severe cases of stud tail may require:
- Using clippers to remove the hair from the affected area
- Steroids to reduce swelling
- Antibiotics to fight secondary infection
Recovery of Stud Tail in Cats
The main concerns with stud tail in cats is avoiding infection and helping your cat to be comfortable. A cat that has received antibiotics and steroids will likely recover from any secondary infections in a matter of days or a week. For most cats, once consistent washing of the area and application of the ointment will help to resolve the condition over time. In rare cases, as sometimes happens with acne for some human adults, stud tail may be a chronic problem for some cats. These cats will need your long-term help to keep the area clean and treated. It is important that you schedule follow up appointments with your vet in order to avoid any further discomfort or infection for your cat.