Your Cat's Healthy Skin and Coat

A tabby cat looking at the camera

A cat's skin and coat are among the most visible signs of health and vitality. The skin and coat are of vital importance to the body's protective mechanisms against environmental assaults of all kinds: from infectious agents to temperature changes.

Good nutrition is essential to normal skin health. Normal keratinization requires an adequate supply of several nutrients, including protein, fatty acids, zinc, copper, vitamin A and B vitamins. Deficiencies in numerous essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins or minerals can cause various skin issues. Inadequate nutrition may also increase susceptibility to parasites, such as mange mites, fleas and lice, as well as skin infections.

Nutrition Essentials


Cat’s skin contains a significant amount of protein and serves as a major source of protein reserves when intake is inadequate. The hair shaft is composed primarily of alpha-keratin protein. Protein deficiency can cause red, flaky skin, loss of hair color, and hair breakage. This may be seen as crusty skin lesions with patchy spots and dry, brittle hair coats.

Fat and Fatty Acids

Flaky scales, coarse, lusterless coats or hair loss, and itchy skin are among the changes seen with essential fatty acid deficiency. Essential fatty acids may be oxidized and denatured in poor quality foods, foods stored too long or at high temperatures, or those inadequately preserved with antioxidants. Animals fed these foods may show evidence of essential fatty acid deficiency. Such signs also may be observed in pets fed low-fat diets over extended periods, pets with fat malabsorption syndromes, or those with unusually high requirements for these nutrients.


Riboflavin deficiency can cause a dry, flaky skin with reddening of the skin and hair loss. Biotin deficiency can cause the hair to become thin or lose pigment and the skin to become dry and flaky or greasy. Pantothenic acid deficiency can lead to loss of hair pigment and hair loss. Such deficiencies of B-vitamins are rare among pets fed quality commercial pet foods. However, since table scraps, treats, and other foods can make up a large portion of the diet for many pets, deficiencies may occur.

Vitamin A deficiency can appear like an essential fatty acid deficiency and lead to dry, scaly skin. Excessive vitamin A also causes skin lesions that appear similar to those of vitamin A deficiency, including dry skin, hair loss, and itchiness.

Though all dry adult cat food formulas from Purina are complete and balanced, it may be beneficial to feed your cat a sensitive skin cat food to promote healthy skin and coat.

What to Do If Your Cat Has Itchy Skin

Dry indoor air can cause your cat to have dry, itchy skin. This can lead to excess shedding and dander, exacerbating human allergies to cats. And it can cause your cat to feel uncomfortable or even be susceptible to skin infections from excessive scratching. So use the tips below to help keep you both feeling your best.

Brush it off

Daily brushing with a slicker brush followed by combing with a metal comb is one of the most effective ways to help battle your cat’s dry skin. Here’s why: As you brush, you distribute oil through the entire coat, release the dander and remove dead hair from the follicles, allowing the oil glands to work properly. The combing will remove any matting and clumping your brush can’t.

Increase the humidity

Indoor heating systems remove moisture from the air, which can lead to dry skin in both humans and cats. But humidifiers add that moisture back in, helping to alleviate issues of dry skin.

Try a diet supplement

Adding more essential fatty acids during cold, dry months can help, too. These fatty acids play a huge part in a healthy coat and supple skin, so talk to your vet about adding a few drops of salmon oil to your cat’s food a few times a week during the winter months.

Lower household stress

When your pet is stressed, you’ll see an increase in dry, flaky skin and shedding. Changes in environment or routine can cause your cat to become stressed, but some small changes can help relieve that stress, too! Just like humans, cats respond positively to soothing scents and music, lowering their stress levels. So try adding the scent of lavender to your home and softly playing classical music. Really - it’s been known to work!

Ask Your Veterinarian

Consult your Veterinarian if you have seen a sudden or severe change in your cat’s skin or coat to rule out an underlying issue.

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