HEALTH & CARE

How to Get Rid of Cat Dandruff: Proven Tips to Offer Your Feline Quick Relief

Image presenting a snowed cat playing outside
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Cute, soft, squishy, and cuddly is how we all envision our cats. We do everything in our power to keep them clean and happy. There are, however, a few annoyances like dandruff that could undo all of our hard work to keep our cat prim and proper. If you notice that your cat is suffering from this condition, you need to figure out how to get rid of cat dandruff for your cat as soon as possible because it isn’t something that could go away on its own.

Dandruff in cats is a common menace that many cat owners have to contend with. Have you been racking your brain wondering how to alleviate your cats suffering? We have been there and pulled through successfully. That’s why we have compiled a list of only what works. Forget solutions that only sound good in theory but are hard to implement. These are practical and easy methods that will root out this problem.

A cat scratches itself.

A proper understanding of what sparks off dandruff in cats is essential in combating it. In this article, we explore both internal and external factors that trigger this problem. You will realize that most of these causes can be easily avoided. After that, we delve into the various ways to eliminate cat dandruff. With our tips and some tender loving care, your cat will return to his usual clean and healthy self in no time.

What is Cat Dandruff?

Before we dive in and discuss how to rid your cat of this nuisance, we will first help you understand what cat dandruff is and what it is not. Dandruff in cats is often confused with dander.

Cat dander is dead skin that is naturally and regularly shed by cats. Dander contains the cat’s saliva, whereas dandruff does not. Dandruff in cats will appear as dry, loose white flakes on the skin of the coat. Dander is known to trigger an allergic reaction in some people, whereas dandruff does not. Even so, don’t think for a second that you can ignore cat dandruff or wish it away.

Close-up image of a cat relaxing

It can cause suffering to your treasured cat. As is the case with humans, dandruff will cause your cat to feel really itchy. You’ll notice your cat scratching his body in search of relief, sometimes quite intensely. Excessive itching can cause sores and open wounds which can, in turn, get infected.

Causes of Cat Dandruff

There are internal and external cat dandruff causes that you must be wary of:

Internal Causes

Dandruff in your cat may be triggered by a number of factors that have to do with your cat’s internal state of health and well being. A proper understanding of these factors will help you make the right changes.

Internal Cause #1: Obesity

Fascinated by the huge amount of food your cat gobbles up? You may be oblivious to the health risks an overweight cat faces. Cats love to be clean, and you will often find them engrossed in a grooming session. They do this by licking themselves. But an obese cat will be less eager to move around as well as clean himself.

Image showing a big cat sleeping in the bed

When the weight gets in the way, your cat will not be able to reach some parts of his body, like the lower back or the tail base. Poor grooming will, in turn, be a breeding ground for dandruff.

Internal Cause #2: Feline Diabetes

Just like humans, cats too can suffer from diabetes mellitus—which is a condition where the body is unable to generate enough insulin. As a result, food eaten by the cat cannot be properly converted into fuel.

Image showing a cat at veterinarian visit

Diabetes in cats is a serious condition which if left untreated can result in death. Often the cat will exhibit symptoms such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, poor appetite, and weight loss. The cat will also appear lethargic, and his coat may become excessively dry. As a result, the cat will often develop a dandruff flare up.

Internal Cause #3: Poor Diet

The adage that we are what we eat holds true for our cats as well. For a healthy coat, make sure your cat is eating food packed with nutrients. Cats thrive better on animal protein than on vegetable protein.

Beautiful tabby cat sitting next to a food bowl, placed on the floor next to the living room window, and eating.

Your cat’s food should also be rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which promotes the release of essential oils in your cat. A diet that is deficient in Omega 3 will in turn cause dandruff and dry itchy skin. When it comes to your cat’s food, always choose quality over quantity.

Internal Cause #4: Dehydration

Water is critical for your cat’s biological functions as it constitutes 80% of the cat’s body. During hot weather, your cat will tend to drink more water. If your cat eats something that doesn’t agree with him and vomits, he will be looking for water to replenish his water storage.

Image showing a cat drinking water

When your cat does not have access to clean drinking water, his skin bears the brunt of dehydration. Flaky, dry, itchy skin with dandruff will result from it.

External Causes

Some dandruff triggers in cats don’t have anything to do with his internal health condition but have everything to do with the environment. Where does the cat spend most of his time? Which products have been used on the cat’s skin? Compared to internal causes, these triggers are usually much easier to demystify.

External Cause #1: Shampoos

Although cats do not usually require your intervention in cleaning themselves, once in a while the need arises. This is especially true for cats that love the outdoors or when your cat picks up a stubborn stain that just won’t go away.

Image showing owner washing her cat

One of the biggest crimes you can commit while washing your cat is to use human shampoos. These will dry your cat’s coat and strip it of its natural oils—causing dandruff. There are special shampoos for cats in the market which are mild enough for your pet. Even with these, however, make sure to give your cat a thorough rinse. Residues of shampoo, however mild, will also trigger a dandruff reaction.

External Cause #2: Parasites

If your cat has bites from lice, mites, or fleas, they will scratch themselves excessively. This may cause the outer layer of the skin to flake off—resulting in a dandruff outbreak. The Cheyletiella mite is a major culprit and is often referred to as the “walking dandruff” since it can be spotted by the naked eye.

Image showing a cat scratching fleas

This mite causes intense itching, flaking, and dandruff on your cat. Intestinal tapeworms can also spark off a dandruff reaction in your cat. If left untreated, your cat will scratch excessively and cause open wounds and sores.This is quite unsightly and painful to your cat.

External Cause #3: Sunburn

Cats worry about very few things, and getting sunburnt is definitely not on the list. So they will gracefully walk in the scorching sun, oblivious to the damage they are causing their skin.

Image showing a cat relaxing in the sun

Mainly for cats that love the outdoors, hot, dry weather causes the top layer of their skin to dry and flake off. This could get especially bad in the areas where they have sparse hair. They will then start itching and scratching. That would ultimately lead to dandruff.

Now that you know some of the more common causes of cat dandruff, it’s time we discuss how to react to this situation properly so you can help your cat recover from this annoying skin condition as fast as possible.

Getting Rid of Cat Dandruff

Dandruff is more noticeable in cats with black hair as opposed to bright-colored cats. Either way, if you notice that your cat has been scratching at his skin intensely yet you don’t see any fleas, you should immediately start to suspect dandruff.

Here are some guaranteed practical tips that will that will help you nip this problem in the bud:

Add Moisture to the Environment with a Humidifier

During hot, dry weather, your cat’s skin is highly susceptible to dandruff since it will be excessively dry and flaky. If your cat prefers to snuggle indoors, you can add some much-needed moisture into the air using a humidifier.

Image showing an air umidifier on a table

A humidifier is a worthy investment because it will not only help soothe your cat’s skin, but it also works great to alleviate your cat’s respiratory problems.

Get Rid of the Parasites

As aforementioned, bites from external parasites like fleas, lice, mites, and ticks can cause skin problems and dandruff in cats. These tiny creatures can be a nightmare not only to your feline friend but your family as well.

A haphazard approach to eliminating external parasites won’t do. You have to be thorough. If you keep other pets, you may need to treat them as well. You may also need to do a thorough cleaning of your furniture, bedding, floors, carpets, and other places where your cat loves to nestle.

woman with vacuum cleaner cleaning carpet at home

You will often require your vet’s assistance in identifying which parasite you are dealing with. Each of these external parasites will then require a specific and targeted approach so you can get rid of them effectively. Below are specific ways of eliminating some of the most common external parasites in cats:

Parasite #1: Fleas

Fleas thrive in warm, humid climate and can cause severe itching to your cat. Your cat will be extremely restless and often develop open sores and wounds from excessive scratching. The most effective way to stamp out this menace is by getting a treatment plan from your veterinary. Often, this involves giving your cat flea baths and anti-flea meds that would drive these annoying pests out of your cat’s vicinity.

A cat having a check-up at a veterinarian

Additionally, you must thoroughly clean all the places in your house where your cat frequents. This will completely kill the fleas’ eggs, larvae, and pupae. If you keep other pets, also ensure that they go through the flea treatment.

Parasite #2: Ticks

Ticks are a real nuisance not only to your cat but your family as well. These tiny blood-sucking creatures will not only pounce on your cat but will also bite humans. They thrive in bushy areas. An innocent trip with your cat in the woods may be the reason your cat gets infested. Ticks mostly bite your cat’s neck or face. As unpleasant as it may be, you will need to gouge the ticks out physically.

cat-scratching-itself in the sun

Wear a pair of protective gloves before you begin. With a pair of tweezers, firmly grasp the head of the tick while being careful not to crush it. Exterminate the ticks you pull out by putting them in a bottle of insecticide.

Parasite #3: Lice

Your cat may easily become lice-infested by coming into contact with other infected cats or objects. Your cat will then exhibit a dry coat with a severe case of dandruff. In comparison with other external parasites, it is relatively easy to eliminate lice in your cat.

Cat laying down sick

Your vet may recommend bathing your cat with a medicated shampoo. You may also need to make use of insecticidal powders and sprays. You may also need to dispose your cat’s bedding and thoroughly clean your cat’s favorite spots. Your vet may also recommend specific products to root out the nits and lice from your home completely.

Parasite #4: Mites

The Cheyletialla mite, also known as the “walking dandruff” is a great cause of distress to your cat. Furthermore, you may also begin itching after contact with an infected cat. Your vet may ask you to bathe your cat using an insecticide shampoo. All the other animals in your house will need to be treated as well.

Brush your Cat

Quite literally, you can actually brush the dandruff menace off of your fluffy friend. This is no permanent solution, and it is not thorough enough, but it should help reduce the itching a bit until you can gain access to a better solution.

Image showing a woman brushing cat

Using a soft brush, gently stroke your cat’s hair in its natural direction. You should brush him/her daily even if your cat is not suffering from a dandruff outbreak. Brushing helps improve the circulation of blood in your cat’s skin. This, in turn, helps to revitalize and restore damaged skin. You should not, however, brush your cat if you notice they have injured their skin from scratching. Brushing a cat that already has injuries may trigger an infection.

Ensure a Proper Diet

Having found a true friend and companion in your precious cat, it is possible to forget what their diet in the wild looks like. Cats are carnivores, meaning they must eat meat to thrive. A cat’s ideal diet should be packed with protein. If you opt for commercial foods for your cat, ensure that they contain meat as the main ingredient.

Please note that you should only buy food that has been properly stored. Commercial foods that have been stored under extreme temperatures are bound to have their vital nutrients ruined.

Little cat looking at her bowl of food

To repair damaged and itchy skin in your cat, offer Omega 3 fatty acids supplements and fish oils. It is also important to ensure your cat is properly hydrated by offering him access to clean and fresh drinking water. Canned wet foods are also an ideal way of making sure your cat gets enough water.

Bathe your Cat

Most cat owners will tell you what a daunting task bathing your cat is. Luckily, your kitty does a decent job of cleaning himself up. You may only need to give him/her a bath when they are extremely dirty. When your cat has dandruff, a bath will offer him/her some much-needed relief. A proper bath using a mild medicated shampoo should eliminate the itch. Ensure you give him a thorough rinse to avoid a recurrence of the itch.

Image showing a cat after the bath

Unless your cat is used to baths, he/she may not take your gesture to offer him a bath kindly. Here are a few tips to make the experience more bearable for both of you:

  • Trim your cat’s nails before the bath
  • Proper timing is everything. An ideal time to bathe your cat is when they are well fed and tired. They will most likely exhibit less resistance
  • Familiarize the cat with the bathroom environment before his bath
  • Offer a toy to distract your cat
  • Place rubber mats on your bathroom floor to prevent your cat from slipping
  • Wear protective clothing. Your dear kitty may get aggressive during this new adventure
  • Be gentle. Wash him/her in a soothing, massaging way
  • Keep the shampoo out of the cat’s eyes and start washing him from the neck then move downwards
  • Rinse the cat thoroughly and pat dry with a towel
  • Get an extra pair of hands if possible
  • Reward your cat with his favorite meal after the bath

Keep the Kitty Out of the Scorching Sun

Cats that love the outdoors will go out despite the weather. During hot, dry weather, exposure to the sun causes great damage to their skin. This takes them on an itching and scratching spree crowned with lots of dandruff.

Image showing a cat napping in the sun

As much as you may hate inhibiting your cat, you may need to keep him/her indoors when the sun is excessively hot. There are a few clever tactics that you can employ to coax your explorative feline to stay indoors:

  • Close all the windows and doors. Simply provide no access to the outdoors
  • Offer lots of toys to distract him/her and kill boredom
  • Invest in an electronic pet door that allows you to dictate when your cat can go out and when he can’t
  • Place a pet-proof barrier on doors and windows. This will send off an alarming “beep” sound when your cat approaches—consequently keeping them off
  • Use a pet proofing spray. This is a harmless spray that can be used on areas where you do not want your cat to go through
  • Allow your cat access to a clear view outside from a specific window. This will partially satisfy his desire to be out there
  • When the weather cools off, walk your cat outdoors. This will also quench any pent-up desire for the outdoors.

Put your Overweight Cat on a Diet

As pointed out earlier, a major cause of dandruff-packed skin in cats is poor grooming. This is mainly when cats are overweight and cannot clean some of their body parts. You need to help your cat shed the extra pounds. This requires a lot of patience. Aim to have your cat drop the weight gradually. Your kitty will express his displeasure with your new project but remember that it is for his own good.

Overweight-Cat laying down

Ask your vet for help if you’re not sure how to do this. Your vet may recommend portion control, diet change, more exercise, and more water intake for your feline. Stick to the plan, and with time you will have a healthier and cleaner cat.

Wrap Up

Dandruff in cats is a very common occurrence. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to alleviate it. Never ignore dandruff in your cat, hoping it will naturally go away. As with most things in life, solutions don’t just happen—they must be made to happen. Some of the methods we have discussed are downright upsetting for both you and your cat like if you have to put kitty on a diet, restrict him indoors, or bathe him regularly (if kitty resents bath time).

Image showing a cat after the bath sitting in a towel

Do not, however, be dissuaded from implementing them as the end will justify the means. Not only will your cat be relieved from all the uncomfortable itching, your house too will benefit from it as your cat will no longer leave white flakes around your house.

Has your kitty ever suffered from dandruff? How did you eliminate it? Please share with us what worked for you in the comments.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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