Cat Dandruff: My Cat Is Flaking Out! What Should I Do?
Just like people, cats can get flaky. (Insert funny cat behavior comment here. Admit it - you know you've got one.) ☺
But what we're talking about is flaky skin, not crazy cat antics. Yep, cats get dandruff too. It's actually a common problem. And like people dandruff, cat dandruff is made up of dead skin cells. But unlike people dandruff, the flakes that cats shed contain a protein that can be really irritating if you're sensitive or allergic. So aside from stopping the spread of white stuff on your furniture, there are good reasons for getting your cat's dandruff under control.
What Makes the Flakes?
Why do cats get dandruff? Seasonal changes or a dry environment can get under your cat's skin - literally in this case. Obesity or other problems that limit a cat's mobility and grooming can also contribute to the problem.
Another cause could be an actual skin disease. If your cat's dandruff is accompanied by hair loss and skin redness, this could be a more serious condition called "walking dandruff." It's actually not dandruff, but a form of mange caused by the Cheyletiella mite. Unfortunately, without medical attention, this condition may get worse. If you see any signs, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Caring for the Skin Your Cat's In
If you've ruled out the issues above, it's time to focus on restoring your cat's healthy skin (and her dignity). Try these tips to help keep the flakes at bay, and to limit excessive scratching and shedding.
- Give her the brush off.This is probably the first, simplest and best step you can take as a cat owner. Brushing provides great bonding time with your cat and helps her if she's unable to groom all of her body. Regular brushing helps distribute her skin's natural oils through her entire coat and may help keep her free of flakes and loose hair. Brush longhair cats daily and short hair cats at least 3 times per week.
- Brave a bath.Your cat might consider it a fate worse than death… but a bath can really reduce the amount of dandruff she leaves around the house. Choose a hypoallergenic shampoo, and add a conditioner to moisturize her skin. Make sure both products are made specifically for cats. And make sure you rinse well - excess shampoo can cause more dandruff. If a bath is too terrifying for your cat (and therefore too dangerous for you), try wiping her skin with a damp cloth.
- Supplement her skin.When your cat eats healthy, it shows in her skin. Ask your veterinarian about supplements like Omega 3 fatty acids that help keep skin healthy and enriched with skin essential oils. Your veterinarian might also recommend adding wet food to her diet. And speaking of wet, watch the amount of water your cat drinks. If she's dehydrated, her skin will be too.
- Moisturize the air.Contrary to popular wisdom, you can control the weather… at least in your home. Get a humidifier, and improve the air quality for everyone. Especially your cat.
- Moisturize your cat.Believe it or not, there are actually skin moisturizers made for cats. If your cat can handle a massage, they can be the perfect remedy for skin-dryingwinter cold and household heat.
If your cat's dandruff simply won't go away, or if you have more questions about why she's shedding her skin, ask your veterinarian. However, the tipsabove may help keep your cat's skin from flaking. And keep both of you from flaking out.
You might be wondering whether cat dandruff is related to allergies in your home. Find out with "Pet Allergies: 5 Ways to Manage Your Symptoms."
- McLennon A. Master Cat Groomer representing Nestlé Purina PetCare. Instructional Videos: "How to brush your cat"; "Cat Grooming Tips: Cat Advice from Purina Cat Chow."
- Pet Health Network. "'Walking Dandruff' In Cats." Reviewed by Peter Kintzer DVM, DACVIM, Apr 2014.<http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/cat-health/cat-diseases-conditions-a-z/walking-dandruff-cats>
- Vetinfo. "6 Ways to Get Rid of Cat Dandruff." <http://www.vetinfo.com/get-rid-cat-dandruff.html>