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Why do cats lick excessively? It can be one of several different reasons. By far, the most common is itchiness due to feline allergies. Other reasons include such things as feline endocrine diseases and cat obsessive compulsive disorders.

Hi Dr. Neely,

I found one other cat dermatology question that resembles my question about brown spots on a feline, but there are a couple of important differences that I feel make a difference in the advice you will provide.

I noticed several brown spots on the belly of my five year old female Devon Rex cat this week. She has short hair on her tummy, so I am 100% sure that these spots are new. I am attaching a picture of my cat, although I am not sure you will be able to identify the problem by the pictures. I do not shave my Devon Rex kitty, and although she doesn't mind having a cat bath in our kitchen sink, I have not done this in several months. She is an only cat in a child-free, smoke-free home.

The spots do not appear to be painful, and I have not noticed any abnormal amount of licking in this area. However, I think the fur is thinning a little where the spots are located. Although I am 100% that the spots are new, I cannot be sure if the fur is actually thinning. I also do not know if she has more spots where her fur is more dense.

I have searched the internet, and found answers from freckles to age spots, but she has just turned five. I assumed she was too young for age spots but too mature to develop new freckles, but I just do not know for sure.

Do you think I should take her into the vet's office? Or should I expect these kinds of things to happen as she ages? Do you have any idea about her condition?

Thank you so much, and I am so excited to find your site. I wish I could have uploaded an adorable picture of Emily in addition to her spotty belly!


Blayne, worried mommy of Emily

New Spots on my Devon Girl Emily

Hi, Blayne,

Thank you for the detailed history and for the picture of your Devon Rex Emily's skin. By all means, send a picture of Emily's beautiful face anytime you can and I'll add it. There's a special page where you can upload pictures to display on the web site anytime you like. The more, the better!


Regarding the spots on Emily's skin,the picture is helpful but doesn't give me the same information an actual exam would. I can, however, tell you what to look and feel for so you can make the most educated decision about the spots.

I am not aware of a particular skin condition unique to the Devon Rex that would look like this.

In regard to "freckles", they can appear on any cat at any age and new ones develop throughout a cat's life.

In answer to your thought about "age spots", I agree that Emily is probably too young to consider the spots to be age spots.

I cannot tell from the picture whether or not the spots are completely flat and just feel like normal skin. You need to feel them and make sure they're not lumps or that the skin is not noticeably thicker there. It seems from the picture and your letter that they are flat and not raised nor have depth.

The picture of Emily's belly looks most like areas of salivary staining. If they are flat and not thick or lumpy, that supports my thought. Also, if the hair is thinner where the spots are and I suspect it is, that also supports salivary staining. I know a Devon Rex can have sparser hair on their abdomen to begin with, but if you look closer and continue looking over time, I think you can tell the difference.

What is salivary staining? Just as it sounds, it is "stain" - a change in color in the skin where a cat has been licking excessively. I know you said you have not noticed any abnormal amount of licking in that area, but I have seen many cats with this condition that do their excessive linking when the owner is at work or even just out of the room. When you're around, Emily may be too distracted, happy to be with you, to engage in the licking behavior.

Why would she be licking excessively? It's usually one of two reasons. By far, the most common is itchiness due to an allergy. The other reason is psychological in nature, somewhat like an obsessive/compulsive disorder. This is far less common than allergies.

The questions you need to ask yourself are:

(1) are the spots totally flat and just part of the skin, but discolored?

(2) Feel each mammary gland. Are they all the same size and shape?

(3) Is the hair in that area thinner? Again, I know I talked about Devon Rex hair above and I know it can be difficult to determine, but try your best.

(4) Could she possibly be licking excessively in that area and you just haven't noticed it? Or perhaps she's doing it while you're away. Try to start watching her when you're not interacting with her. Peek quietly into a room she is in when she's not expecting you. In general, just have your radar more tuned to her activities anytime you're home and can see her.

(5) Concerning allergies, think about anything new that could have been used in your home. Different litter? New carpet? Carpet cleaner? A new chair or sofa or cover that Emily lies on? Did you change cat food? Try to think of anything and everything.

(6) In regards to stress, have there been stressful events in her life recently? Did someone move out or in? Were you away and Emily missed you? Was anyone away that she would have missed? Is there construction going on? Any new noises or activity in your house or even outside? Have you been stressed about something relating to your job or a relationship or anything in your life? Have you had less time lately to interact with her? Were you with her more in the summer and now you're not?

Bottom line, if it's just a change in pigmentation and is flat, not raised or thickened, you don't need to panic. You can give it some time and go over the above questions and watch Emily for awhile and watch the area to see if it changes.

If, however, these areas are lumpy or are all associated with a teat, you should make an appointment with your vet.

I hope this has helped. And I'll be waiting for a picture of the rest of your sweet little Devon Rex!

Thank you,

Dr. Neely

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