Cat Dandruff 101

Cat scratching itself

Noticing flaky skin, sometimes referred to as cat dandruff, in your feline’s fur? Cat dandruff can be frustrating for the cat and worrisome for her human counterpart. However, it is treatable once you determine its source.

Dander or Dandruff?

It is important to distinguish between cat dander and cat dandruff. Dander is not the same as cat dandruff. Dander occurs normally and is quite healthy for your cat. Dander results when your cat's skin cells are being shed. Dander is often called out as an allergen in humans (although a cat’s saliva is the primary allergen that causes allergies in humans).

Causes of Cat Dandruff

Cat dandruff is a direct result of dry skin in most cases. Generally, dry skin results from diet, such as a low-fat diet, or from low humidity (such as dry indoor air) and other environmental factors. However, cats with oily skin can also experience cat dandruff, since excess oil in the skin leads to excess skin cells that flake away. Regardless of oily or dry skin, cats with arthritis or who are obese may also have flaky skin, since these conditions can cause limitations in the cat’s capacity to get rid of dead skin cells from her fur during self-grooming. There are some potential medical causes of cat dandruff too. Always consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical causes of your cat’s flaking skin.

Cat Dandruff Symptoms

The main symptom of cat dandruff is white flakes on the cat’s skin, coat or bedding. However, if your cat is experiencing cat dandruff along with hair loss, itching, redness of the skin or excess grooming, or if your feline seems generally unwell, consult your veterinarian right away. These symptoms can be indicative of a health condition or infection (usually due to excess scratching caused by the dry skin) that requires veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Treating Cat Dandruff

Luckily, your cat doesn’t have to suffer from dry skin and cat dandruff for long. Plenty of cat dandruff remedies can help get rid of your cat's dry skin or treat its symptoms. A few cat dandruff remedies to try:

  • Providing daily grooming. Give your cat a good daily brushing using a slicker brush. Follow up with a metal comb. This is one of the most effective methods of resolving your cat’s dry skin problem because the brush helps distribute oil throughout her coat. It also releases dander from the cat’s fur and removes dead hair that’s weighing down the follicles. This helps the oil glands work more efficiently. The metal comb is useful because it removes mats and clumps that a brush might miss.
  • Increasing the humidity in your home. Low humidity is a known cause of cat dandruff. Because indoor heating systems tend to remove moisture from indoor air, both cats and their humans can experience dry skin. Adding a humidifier to the mix can help restore moisture, which can reduce the issues caused by dry skin, including cat dandruff.
  • Adding dietary supplements. During the cold and dry months, it can be beneficial to your feline to add additional essential fatty acids to her daily eating schedule. Fatty acids are directly related to the health of her coat and skin. Omega-6 fatty acids can help restore your cat’s healthy skin barrier, and omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation that can result from scratching. Ask your veterinarian about adding salmon oil, a fatty acids source, to your cat’s food a few times each week, at least during the winter. A few drops of salmon oil per serving is a proven cat dandruff remedy.
  • Selecting food with essential nutrients. Cat food formulated with essential nutrients that nourish the skin can help combat dry skin too.
  • Making sure your feline is hydrated. Like humans, cats don’t always get the hydration they need, especially cats consuming dry food only. Supplement your cat’s diet with some wet cat food to help her with hydration, and you may see a reduction in the amount of cat dandruff you see.
  • Reducing stress for your cat. Dry skin and shedding increase when your cat is stressed. Do what you can to help her keep stress at bay by avoiding any changes in her routine or environment. Cats are sensitive to some of the same stress reducers you may use yourself, such as soothing sounds and scents. Playing some classical music or adding a scented lavender candle to your home may help your cat feel calmer and more relaxed.
  • Helping her shed a few pounds. If your cat is overweight, losing weight can help her get back to her normal grooming habits, and in turn, her skin should improve. Giving her a healthy weight cat food or helping her get into a daily exercise routine can help.

See Your Veterinarian

Cat dandruff is certainly no fun for you or your feline friend, but it is treatable once you know how to help. And while it may seem like a small issue, it’s still a good idea to get your cat checked out at the veterinarian’s office in order to rule out something more serious. Your vet can also offer tips and dandruff remedies to help your cat cope with this all-too-common skin condition.

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