Why Does My Cat Have DANDRUFF? (Treatment And Cure)

It is often a rude awakening. You cuddle your cat and absentmindedly scratch her head. To your surprise, white flakes start to cascade from your cat's head onto your lap. You look at it in disbelief and ask: Why does my cat have dandruff?!

Don’t panic. It’s normal. Some people have dandruff and cats can have them too.

Read on to find out what the underlying causes are, and learn how you can get rid of cat dandruff before it gets worse.

Why Does My Cat Have DANDRUFF? (Tales of Woe)

It may seem funny and weird to some but like humans, cats can also develop dandruff problems.

Dry, itchy scalp can lead to cat flakes littered on your tables, floor, bed, furniture and all over the house. It’s unsightly and embarrassing but don’t worry; it’s very treatable. Besides, it’s actually more common than you think!

Dandruff on cats is often mistaken as “dander”. But they’re not the same. Like dandruff on humans, dandruff on your pet looks like small flakes coming from her scalp, not her body.

This happens because the skin is always renewing itself by shedding its top layers.

Cats already shed fur, and dandruff gets shed almost at the same time as your pet's hair.

A few bits here and there can be considered as normal, but large quantities are an indicator of a deeper problem.

Dandruff in cats is more easily observed in those with darker fur simply because of the color contrast. But what causes it, exactly?

For one, cat dandruff may be due to environmental factors. Cats are now being kept as house pets and are no longer allowed to roam around as much as their ancestors.

Modern pets are kept inside plush cages, with their own mats and personalized pet collars.

While there is nothing wrong with treating pets so much better and not having them chase mice all day, they also need to be active.

As with people, being sedentary causes a lot of problems. In cats, it can even trigger dandruff. The logic is simple.

Your pet cat has become so fat she can no longer reach certain parts of her body and groom herself. Imagine blobs of fat in her belly and face...the result of one too many bowls of cat food and treats.

So allowing your cat to get of the house, run around, play with cat toys and get dirty will not only do wonders for her self-esteem, but it will also help her lose weight.

The excess fat will melt off, and she will once again be able to lick herself clean and then preen under the sun.

That's not only a dandruff solution but an answer to many other problems surrounding today's house pets.

dandruff on a cat

credit: Alice

Other Causes of Dandruff in Cats

When a cat has dandruff, it is first and foremost a grooming problem. But when the condition becomes extreme, it's time to take your pet to the vet for tests.

What seems like a harmless condition may actually be a symptom of a more serious problem such as:

  • Diabetes – cats develop diabetes too. This metabolic problem may have been triggered by age, an imbalanced diet, as well as a sedentary lifestyle. When a cat is no longer active, he accumulates fat and makes insulin absorption difficult.
  • Hyperthyroidism – here a cat's metabolism becomes hyper active. This happens when the thyroid gland secretes excess hormones.
  • Seborrhea -this skin problem is characterized by the production of excess oil by the glands.
  • Demodicosis – this is a skin problem caused by a parasite.
  • Cheyletiellosis (walking dandruff)
  • Poor grooming. Aging cats are no longer able to groom and clean after themselves, so dandruff inevitably forms.
  • Contact dermatitis – cats may be allergic to all that perfume, soap, or cream you are putting on him.
  • Dry weather and less humid air.
  • Sun damage or sunburn.
black cat with dandruff

credit: Rachael Moore

What’s the Best Cat Dandruff Cure?

A cat's back, head, and the base of its tail are the areas of the body that are most commonly affected by dandruff. These bits of dry and flaky skin make your cat itchy and uncomfortable.

Other symptoms of cat dandruff are greasy skin, scaly patches, and a really bad looking coat of fur.

A lot of people have asked what can be used to remedy cat dandruff, but be prepared. Your vet will ask you to do more than just apply creams or buy cat dandruff shampoo and lather it onto your pet.

Instead, your veterinarian will ask you to prepare your cat for a series of tests and examinations.

You will be asked how long you have been seeing dandruff as well as questions like what do yo feed your cat? And is your cat getting enough exercise outside?

You will also be asked to mention other symptoms that had started manifesting around the same time as when the dandruff started.

  • Your cat will have to undergo some procedures like a complete blood count, biochemical profile, and urinalysis.
  • Skin scraping test to check for mites or ringworm infection. A swatch of your cat's skin will be taken and placed under a microscope.
  • T3 and T4 tests to check thyroid hormone levels.
  • Blood glucose levels to check for diabetes.
  • Skin prick test to rule out allergies.
cat scratching because of dandruff

“Help! My cat has dandruff!”

I’ve had people tug at my sleeves and uttered this line many times. While I understand the concern, most people don't realize that dandruff in felines should be addressed by a vet.

There are several things that can be done to address the problem. And even if most of them are traditional and commonly prescribed to humans as well, never give your cat over the counter remedies for humans.

So, before you try the following treatments, take your pet to the vet or, at least, call their clinic:

  • Use anti-allergen sprays.
  • Medicated shampoos  can be given when your cat has dandruff.
  • Diabetes can be addressed by modifying your cat's diet, having him exercise more, and with insulin shots.
  • Topical or oral steroid cream for severe cases of sunburn.
  • Mites can cause diabetes, and your cat can be given anti-parasitic meds to kill the mites.
  • If your cat is allergic to certain foods, he will require a change in diet or cat food
  • Hyperthyroidism in cats can be addressed with radio active iodine.

Again, the treatments are mostly diet and environment-centered. Making the necessary changes will benefit your cat's overall disposition and good health as well.

When a cat has dandruff, it could be due to the environment or diet. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Your cat may be too old or have become too fat to groom and clean herself properly.
  • She may have become arthritic or diabetic
  • She may have parasites in her body
  • She may have severe allergies
  • Your cat may have a thyroid problem

You can use medicated bars, special dandruff shampoos, and other solutions, but the bottom line is that a vet will be more qualified to give a proper diagnosis of your cat and what kind of treatment to give.

If you have comments or questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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