Our feline friends may seem above it all most of the time, but they’re still susceptible to ailments that we humans have to deal with as well. One of those things is dandruff — visible white flakes that come off your cat’s skin, usually when their fur is matted or otherwise unhealthy. If left untreated, feline dandruff can not only be unsightly, but can also irritate your cat’s skin, making them itchy and uncomfortable.
There are several reasons why your cat may develop this condition, and there are several options for treating it as well. Read on to learn what causes cat dandruff, and how you can potentially treat it.
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“Cats sometimes will develop what’s called an unthrifty coat,” Dr. Deirdre Frey, founder of the house veterinary practice Vet At Your Door, explains. “The coat may look unkempt and have some dandruff.” There are many causes for cats having an unkempt coat — it may be as simple as your feline friend having dry skin, which Dr. Frey says is common in the drier, winter months. Other causes include your cat having an allergic reaction to something (usually food-related), a parasite infection (ringworm, for example, can cause dandruff in cats), or a sign of a larger condition like diabetes or hyperthyroidism.
If your cat has an unkempt coat (and consequently dandruff as well), it’s important to determine whether there are any underlying causes — have their grooming habits declined because they’re not feeling well? Or are there other outside factors that may be giving your cat dandruff?
If your cat’s behavior hasn’t changed or they seem otherwise normal, the first step may be to try some simple fixes to see if that relieves their dandruff problem.
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Brushing your cat will improve the health of your pet’s fur by spreading their oils around evenly, and thus may consequently prevent dandruff. Make sure to brush them regularly to see a noticeable difference. If you’re up for it (and more importantly, if your cat is up to it) you can also try giving your beloved feline a bath with some hypoallergenic shampoo and conditioner.
If the air in your home is dry, you could also try getting a humidifier for your cat. Your cat’s skin will thank you if you make sure their living space has a humidity level of around 50%.
Allergies also cause dandruff in cats. “Cats manifest allergies through their skin, not their upper respiratory system like us,” Dr. Frey explains. “Most allergies are food-related, primarily to the protein in the food, such as chicken or beef. If you're suspicious of a food allergy, you could try finding a limited ingredient food with a single, different protein than the one that he is on currently.”
Supplements may also help your cat maintain a healthy coat. Dr. Frey suggests giving your cat some Omega 3 fatty acids, which can help with your cat’s coat health by giving them more of the essential oils they need to keep their fur in good shape.
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“To figure out if there is an underlying reason for the unkempt coat, have your cat seen by a veterinarian,” Dr. Frey recommends. “Your vet will do a good physical exam, and may recommend doing lab work to look for underlying causes.” Visiting your vet is especially important if your cat seems sickly overall, or has other symptoms, as you want to make sure something else like ringworm or diabetes isn’t affecting your cat’s health.
No matter what the cause though, your cat will thank you (in their own special way, of course) for making sure their skin and fur are in tip-top shape. A healthy cat is a happier cat, and a happier cat usually makes for a happier human, which is good for everyone.