Is Dandruff on Cats Normal? (The Answer Is Yes!)

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Everybody loves having a furry friend around and cats are one of the most popular. 42.7 million households in the United States have a cat as a pet. Cats provide companionship and entertainment for those who choose to have them as a pet.

Dandruff on cats is an issue that’s common to most cats. When humans get dandruff, they immediately seek out shampoos and haircare products that’ll rid them of it.

It can be hard at first to figure out why your cat has dandruff and what you should do about it. In this guide, we’ll go over what causes dandruff on cats and the steps you can take to remedy the issue.

What’s Cat Dandruff?

Cat dandruff is the white flakes that appear on your pet’s fur. There are glands in your cat’s skin that produce oil. They’re called the sebaceous glands.

The oils procured by the sebaceous glands protect and nourish your cat’s skin. When the glands begin to produce too much oil, it can irritate their skin. It results in more shedding than normal and flakiness.

Dandruff shows up as white specks on their fur. These flakes can shed on their bedding or onto your clothes. Their skin will also look inflamed and dry.

Your cat may begin itching and grooming more often. Hair loss and irregular bald patches may start to appear.

Cat dandruff is similar to human dandruff. It’s not a serious issue but one that is bothersome. With cats, it can sometimes indicate that there’s something else going on.

If the cat begins scratching too much, it can cause hair loss, additional damage to the skin, and result in open sores.

Black Dandruff on Cats

Black specks or flakes that appear on your cat aren’t dandruff. It’s either flea dirt or feline acne. Feline acne is a common skin condition that affects cats and it’s usually caused by:

  • Bacteria
  • Stress
  • Environmental irritants or allergens

Flea dirt is caused by one thing – fleas. Determining whether your cat has acne or flea dirt will help you treat the issue. These types of skin conditions are treated differently than cat dandruff.

Why Does My Cat Have Dandruff?

If your cat is showing symptoms of having cat dandruff, you need to evaluate what’s causing it. Treating cat dandruff needs to happen right away and getting to the root of the issue is essential to treating it properly.

Diet and Nutrition

A lot of cats have undiagnosed food allergies. These can cause skin disorders, like inflammation and dandruff. Other food allergy symptoms include:

  • Biting at skin
  • Scratching
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

It’s important to contact your vet right away if your cat is showing any of the above symptoms.

30% of your pet’s daily protein intake goes into renewing their skin cells. The food you’re feeding them may not have enough of the essential nutrients they need to keep their skin functioning healthily. Their food should include highly digestible and high-quality proteins that can absorb into their system.

Omega 6 and omega 3 essential fatty acids are key ingredients for improving the overall health of your cat’s skin. Vitamin A and other vitamins can help regulate cell growth, oil production, and skin health.

Obesity is another factor that contributes to dandruff in cats. You’ll start to notice dandruff on the cat’s back near its tail. This is usually because overweight cats have problems reaching those areas when they groom themselves.

Parasites

External parasites like fleas and mites can damage your cat’s coat and skin. Dandruff is also a symptom of ringworm.

Ringworm is a fungal infection where spores get into a cat’s skin through a scratch or bite. They attack the outermost layer of a cat’s skin.

If ringworm is the cause of their dandruff, you’ll also notice:

  • Circular or irregular patches of hair loss
  • Reddish patches of skin
  • Brittle or weak hair

Ringworm and other parasites can be treated by your veterinarian, so seek help right away.

Seasonal Allergies

You may not realize this but humans aren’t the only ones who suffer from allergies in the spring and summer. Cats suffer from seasonal or pollen allergies as well. Their symptoms include skin disorders, itchiness, watery eyes, and/or coughing.

Contact allergies from household products like laundry soap and shampoo cause a lot of issues for their skin as well.

Dehydration

Your cat needs to stay hydrated and healthy so their skin can moisturize itself from the water they drink. If they aren’t drinking enough water, this can cause issues with their skin. Feeding them wet food can help increase their water intake.

You can also encourage them to drink more water by getting rid of their water bowl in favor of a fountain dispenser.

Lifestyle

Your cat’s lifestyle can contribute to the development of cat dandruff. If they’re living in an area that’s too warm, it can cause their skin to dry out. That’ll trigger the sebaceous glands to overproduce oil, causing dandruff.

If you excessively groom your cat, it can irritate their skin. This can also cause dandruff to occur.

How to Treat Dandruff on Cats

Once you’ve determined the cause of your cat’s dandruff, it’s now time to treat them for it. You want to take care of the issue before it leads to something worse. Plus, you want to make sure they’re not feeling any discomfort.

Feed Them Better Foods

Look for cat foods that have real and fresh ingredients. Food with highly digestible nutrients helps support the natural systems in your cat’s body.

You can also look for foods that limit the number of synthetic additives that they include. They should also include ingredients that are dense in nutrients like fresh meats, produce, and organs. Since cats are carnivores, it’s best that they get their nutrients from proteins from animals.

Change Your Grooming Tactics

If you bathe your cat often, cut back on that. Cats have more sensitive skin and don’t need as frequent baths as other animals do. Over bathing your pet cat can result in issues with their skin’s healthy oil production and alter its pH balance.

Don’t wash your cat more than once every six weeks unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you need to spot clean your cat, use warm water and a tiny amount of baking soda. Limit your brushing to around twice a week for optimal results.

Improve Their Environment

Don’t use harsh chemicals around your cat. Since even your laundry soap can affect their skin, use gentle solutions. Ensure that your home is well ventilated.

You can invest in an air purifier for small spaces, especially during the winter months. If your house is overly dry, research humidifiers. They’re a great way to put moisture back into the environment where your cat lives.

Treat Parasites

If your cat is plagued with fleas, ringworm, or another parasite, take them to the vet to have that issue treated. Regularly check your cat for the presence of bugs.

Taking them to the vet on a regular basis and grooming them will help you catch any problems quickly. You can be preventative when it comes to fleas and ticks, giving them medication before it becomes a problem.

What Is Walking Dandruff?

Walking dandruff is something that looks like dandruff but is far from it. It’s a form of mange and skin disease caused by the “Cheyletiella” mite.

The mites go under the scales of your cat’s skin, moving around. It gives the appearance that dandruff is present and moving. While it may look like dandruff it is far from it and contagious.

Cheyletiella can pass from a dog to a cat to a human through a shared environment or being in close contact. Symptoms are similar to regular dandruff, including:

  • Scales or dandruff
  • Itchiness
  • Skin redness
  • Hair loss

If you notice anything appearing on your cat that looks like dandruff but seems like it’s “moving,” contact your vet immediately. They’ll examine your cat with a microscope or magnifying glass to see if any of the dandruff flakes look like they have legs.

To treat walking dandruff, the mites on your cat and in their environment will have to be eliminated. Keep your cat away from any exposed animals to prevent them from catching walking dandruff.

Take Care of Your Furry Friend

Taking care of our beloved pets is a full-time job. We want to give them the best care possible. Dandruff on cats is a common issue that most often isn’t a serious one, but it’s still something that should be addressed immediately.

Check out our blog for other lifestyle and pet articles.