Flaky, scaly, and itchy skin in cats, which can cause “cat dandruff,” is a common problem in felines. Not only can watching your cat scratch their skin repeatedly be uncomfortable for you, but this and unsightly condition can lead to issues like permanent skin damage and bacterial infections. Fortunately, most causes of your cat’s itchy skin are not serious, and the good new is that there are natural treatments for cat dandruff. However, identifying and stopping the problem requires investigation and perhaps some trial and error.
Causes of Itchy Skin
The most common causes of itchy cat skin include under-grooming, under- or over-bathing, poor nutrition and dietary deficiencies, or exposure to weather and stress. Less frequently, cat dandruff may be a symptom of an underlying medical ailment.
Most cats perform self-grooming. That said, overweight or thick-haired felines may experience difficulty when attempting to reach certain parts of their coats, which can lead to skin irritation and/or the buildup of excess hair.
Too little or too frequent bathing can also adversely affect a cat’s skin. (See our article “How to bathe a cat.”) In the case of over-bathing, the culprit is typically the use of shampoos with too many harsh, skin-irritating chemicals that result in itchy skin and dandruff.
Weather conditions can play a huge role. A cat’s skin is often sensitive to extreme conditions like high humidity or extreme cold. Therefore, cat owners are urged to pay close attention to their cat’s skin in winter and summer in areas with four seasons, and all-year-round climatic conditions in places like Florida and the Southwestern United States.
Don’t omit dietary factors. The consumption of fatty acids are vital to a cat maintaining healthy skin and, unfortunately, most cat food preparations lack them. Even stress has been known to cause bursts of cat dandruff.
Remedies for Itchy Skin
There are a number of home-based, natural treatments for cat dandruff which can offer relief. In instances of under-grooming, it’s recommended that cat owners brush the areas their pets are unable to reach. Look for a natural bristled brush, and something that gives your cat pleasure when used. For dense or long-haired cat, a multi-teethed combing brush, gently used, can help. Regular brushing will ensure that any dead skin or patches of excess hair are removed.
Animal experts suggest cat owners only bathe their pets when necessary and, when they do so, that they only use gentler, less-abrasive shampoos. Veterinarians recommend supplementing your cat’s diet with a fatty acid supplement like Krill Oil to overcome any significant nutritional deficiencies.
In the majority of cases, the remedies listed above should resolve the issue of cat dandruff. If it doesn’t, however, it may mean your cat is suffering from a medical condition. While it’s not an exhaustive list, some ailments in which flaky skin appears range from Cheyletiella (an insect-born skin disease), Exfoliative Dermatitis, Hyper/Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s Disease, and Ringworm, to less serious afflictions like sunburn and mosquito bite sensitivity. A veterinarian is your best resource to diagnose these problems conclusively, as well as to establish the best and most appropriate course of treatment.