The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

October 12, 2010

Cat & Dog Acne from Plastic Bowls?

Our cats have always eaten their homemade food out of nice ceramic dishes that we got for free or almost free at a yard sale. (Arya is practicing her scary Halloween demon kitty face.)

ceramic cat food dish

But apparently, not all cats are so lucky. Michael came home last Friday and told me his workmate’s cat had developed acne, and that her vet said she should stop feeding him from a plastic bowl. Huh? I mean, I’ve heard a lot of negative things about plastic, but that was a really new one for me.

So I Googled “cat acne plastic,” and guess what: it’s conventional wisdom (although I haven’t found a definitive source) that cats can develop acne on their chins from eating out of plastic bowls. (Dogs, too! Google “dog acne plastic.”)

Dirty Plastic Bowls

According to The Spruce:

Plastic food dishes have long been suspected as a culprit in chin acne. Plastic is a magnet for bacteria and dirt that work their way into scratches and nicks, reinfecting your cat and/or spreading bacteria to other cats in the household. Veterinarians and other feline experts recommend using only glass or metal food bowls, and daily washing of those, in order to help prevent this common condition.

It does make sense. Plastic is lipophyllic, meaning that it attracts oils. Have you noticed how hard it can be to clean grease off of plastic? And once plastic is roughed up a bit, it’s even harder to clean.  Our ceramic dishes, on the other hand, clean up beautifully.

ceramic cat food dish

Plastic Allergies

Also, some pets are allergic to plastic, and what appears to be acne is actually an allergic reaction. According to The Humane Society’s Complete Guide to Cat Care:

Many cats are allergic to plastic. Replace plastic food and water bowls with stainless steel, U.S.-made ceramic (glazes on foreign made ceramics often contain lead), or heavy glass. If your cat habitually lounges on plastic surfaces, drape his favorite spots with thick, soft towels to prevent skin contact. Plastic allergies are often betrayed by outbreaks of rashes or raised, itchy patches on your cat’s throat, neck and chin — where he touches his food and water bowls.


Maybe the reason for pet breakouts is bacteria trapped in plastic, and maybe it’s plastic allergies, but I want to suggest another reason: leaching chemicals.  Okay, don’t quote me on this! I haven’t found any studies definitively linking the chemicals in plastic to outbreaks of acne, but consider this: many plastics contain hormone-disruptors like bisphenol-a and phthalates. And changes in hormones are a major cause of acne.

I don’t know if the chemicals in plastic affect hormones in such a way as to promote acne or if they might even do the opposite. Biosphenol-A, in fact, mimics estrogen, not the male hormones associated with acne. But I’m just tossing the idea out there that we’ve created this environmental soup of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and no one really knows what the long term affects will be for us or for the animals with which we share this planet.  Why wait to find out? Let’s just stop feeding ourselves and our loved ones, including 4-legged ones, out of plastic.

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Amy Ferimer
5 years ago

I just wrote the company, my cat is allergic to plastic and we use their litter.

5 years ago

Do you think I should replace the plastic container in which I store the cat’s dry food? And what about the plastic lids that we put on wet food cans to store them? Are those the cause too?

sarkari naukri
10 years ago

It is by now well documented that plastic pet fountains can cause chin acne in cats.

Condo Blues
12 years ago

Bizarre! Makes me glad I feed my dog out of ceramic bowls

12 years ago

The place I buy our dog food also said that animals can develop cancers from plastic bowls.

13 years ago

Interesting article. And I’ve heard that before, actually.

But I currently have 12 cats and 11 dogs, and they’ve eaten out of plastic bowls their whole lives and none of them have acne. Meanwhile, at the animal shelter where I work, we feed our animals out of metal dishes, and there’s almost always at least one critter with chin acne. Maybe plastic can cause acne in some animals, who knows. But until I find some real scientific evidence that says so, I’m gonna save my monies and keep feeding my kids out of their old dishes. Why fix what ain’t broken?

13 years ago

My vet told me years ago to stop feeding my pets (who were suffering from “food” allergies) to stop feeing out of plastic bowls. They both (a cat and a dog) had what I now know is chin acne and it cleared up. Thanks for giving me a better explanation as to what caused it.

Michelle Cassar
13 years ago

Well you learn something everyday!! Glad I’ve only ever used glass for ours.

13 years ago

re the stop feeding ourselves and loved one out of plastic:
I’m sitting here and eating peanut butter out of a glass jar while reading this. My favourite brand (unfortunately nothing compares to it in taste) is sold in plastic, thus I don’t buy it anymore.

When we had a cat its bowl was made out of plastic and she never had a problem with it, but knowing what I know now, if I ever have one again, I’m defintely not going to buy plastic bowls!

Molded Plastic Parts
13 years ago

I`ve read something about animal plastic allergies prior to this post, an now I stumbled upon this. I just want to support life less plastic and to say that we need to recycle as much as we can.

13 years ago

Very interesting. Our dog developed an allergic reaction to his bed. We thought it may be the cedar filling but after removing the filling, washing the cover and stuffing it with a foam (made of I don’t know…bad me.) he again reacted to the bed. Not sure if it still has cedar oils, it has some funky fabric finish on the cover or if its a plasticy fabric that he is allergic to. Hmm, I think I still have the tag, will have to check its contents. In any case, he doesn’t have that bed anymore for daily use. Just blankets/towels on the floor.

13 years ago

I had never heard of this and my cats and dog never had acne. About a year ago, I replaced the plastic cat bowls (I no longer have my dog). I figured if plastic was bad for me, it was probably bad for my cats and they deserved at least what I deserved. They now have very cute little ceramic bowls that I got at deep discount at TJ Maxx.

13 years ago

I’ve used ceramic and glass bowls for my cats food for many years but there was a time I used plastic . . . and they had ACNE!!!! This is fabulous information Beth! I have shared it on FB and know I will get feedback . . . thanks again!

13 years ago

Well it makes sense if we’re taking plastic out of our life we should for our animals too.

But just curious what about wooden bowls? Cos, if like wooden chopping boards, they apparently have a natural antibacterial property. Plus wood (well in some case) is a lot more likely to be sustainably harvested and perhaps not as chemically intensive as glass and steel in the mining/manufacturing process (just look at the recent disaster in Hungrary)

13 years ago

Wow. Time to get some new cat bowls, clearly.

Debbie B
13 years ago

My cat Felix developed chin acne last year and the vet asked us about the bowls that we use. Yep, they were plastic and he told us to ditch the plastic and switch to ceramic or glass. That and a few weeks of benzoyl peroxide cleared it up and he’s been clear ever since. And I was thinking it was teenage cat stress….

13 years ago

Yes, plastic cat bowls = ewww.

13 years ago

Euwww! Although now that I think about it, my cats did have acne way back when they were younger. At the time I was feeding them out of plastic bowls.

After they were about a year old the acne went away… but that’s also about the time I bought these adorable small ceramic bowls from Uwajimaya (the awesome Asian grocery store in Seattle).

Crazy! Ya learn something every day!

13 years ago

Oh my gosh! Is this why my 8 year old grey kitty, Jacques, developed chin acne?? I am replacing the plastic bowls ASAP. Thank you so much for the great tip!!!!