Critter Culture
Cat Dandruff: Causes and Treatments

Cat Dandruff: Causes and Treatments

Critter Culture Staff



Did you know your feline friends can get dandruff, just like you and me? Unfortunately, there’s no Head & Shoulders for cats, so what can you do about their flaky skin, and how do you know if it's a sign of something more serious?


Cause: skin dryness

A tan coloured Ragdoll kitten with bright blue eyes relaxing in a cat bed with paws over the side. Alex Walker/ Getty Images

The most apparent sign of cat dandruff is dry skin with flakes. If your cat has thick fur, part the fur to see if the skin underneath is flaking. You may also notice flakes on your cat's bed or upholstery.

Environmental factors, like low humidity, exposure to cold or dry air, and harsh grooming products can cause the skin to become dry and flaky. So can medical conditions like allergies, hormonal imbalances, and parasites.


2. Cause: skin irritation

Girl washes a fluffy cat in a white bath. Alexander Pytskiy/ Getty Images

Cats can develop patches of red, irritated, or inflamed skin, and sometimes fur falls out. The condition can be caused by excessive bathing or using soap or shampoo not designed for cats, brushing too often, and a dry, overly warm environment, which can cause excess oil production that leads to dandruff. Cats that excessively groom themselves may remove the natural oils from their skin, leading to dryness and flakiness.


Cause: fungal infections

A senior woman is getting cozy with her fluffy and cute cat. Liam Bell/ Getty Images

Some cat skin infections may cause dry, flaky skin and dandruff. One of the most common kitty skin infections is ringworm, a highly contagious fungal infection that can affect cats of all ages, breeds, and sizes. People can get it, too, so you'll want to follow the advice of your veterinarian. Cats with ringworm may develop circular, red, and scaly lesions on the skin, which can become covered in dry, flaky skin and dandruff.


Treatment: the right diet

Domestic life with pet. Cute cat eating from bowl at home kitchen. Chalabala/ Getty Images

Just as you would start feeling sick after a diet of old food or ingredients that you're intolerant of, your cat is the same way. Make sure they’re eating a diet formulated for optimal health. Look for cat food that uses fresh ingredients. In canned foods, the first three ingredients should be meat or fish, not processed meal or grains. Raw ingredients are easily digestible and offer nutrients that support the cat’s entire system.

Feeding your cat a healthy diet and making sure they’re not eating too much also helps prevent obesity, another contributing factor to dandruff. Overweight cats have a hard time grooming themselves, which they need to do to keep their coats clean. As a result, dandruff can build up.


Treatment: herbal remedies

A woman bathes a cat in the sink. Mukhina1/ Getty Images

You can try herbal remedies to treat your cat’s dandruff. A few drops of olive oil and aloe vera in their food may help. Try giving them a bath with chamomile or a specially formulated chamomile shampoo for cat dandruff. Many cats hate the smell of lavender, lemon, and peppermint, so if you decide to take an herbal route to treat their dandruff, stay away from those.


Treatment: ACV and oatmeal baths

Gray cat in a white bathroom. Bathing process, pouring water, frightened wet cat, hygiene procedures. Zulkarnieiev Zulkarnieiev/ Getty Images

Dandruff often means your cat is itchy and uncomfortable. Rinsing them with an apple cider vinegar mixture (one cup ACV and three cups of water) after you’ve given them a bath can help relieve their discomfort.

Another natural remedy for itchy skin and dandruff in cats is an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal contains natural compounds that can soothe irritated skin and reduce inflammation.


A cat’s natural oils benefit their skin and fur

Man combing his lovely grey cat with FURminatoror grooming tool. Pet care, grooming. Cat loves being brushed. Daria Kulkova/ Getty Images

Cats have specialized glands in their skin called sebaceous glands that produce natural oils. These oils provide several benefits to a cat's skin and fur, including giving it moisture, serving as a protective layer with antibacterial properties, acting as a defense against hairballs, and helping control their body odor.

The oils help to prevent dehydration of the skin and keep the fur soft and supple.


Treatment: incorporating essential fatty acids

Red cat wants to steal a big fish from a white plate on a wooden table Okssi68/ Getty Images

As mentioned above, what you feed your cat plays a pivotal role in their fur health. When they’re getting enough essential fatty acids, it helps their fur and skin retain moisture, which prevents dandruff, flakiness, and itchiness.

Rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish and algal oils and flaxseed. You can also add raw sources of omega-3 fatty acids by feeding your cat salt-free or fresh sardines or salmon.


Importance of proper grooming habits

Tabby cat lying in her owner's lap and enjoying while being brushed and combed vladans/ Getty Images

The ASPCA recommends regularly bathing your cat with a gentle shampoo specially formulated for felines. Just be careful not to over-bathe your kitty because that can detrimentally increase their natural oil production and alter their skin’s pH balance, leading to more skin problems rather than fixing the dandruff.

They also recommend brushing your cat a few times per week to remove dead skin cells and keep their coat healthy.


Precautions and tips for avoiding dandruff

Cute cat enjoying his life outdoors. DeanDrobot/ Getty Images

Be sure your cat stays hydrated by keeping their water bowl clean and filled with fresh water. If your cat prefers drinking running water, consider buying a cat fountain.

Inspect their coat daily to make sure there are no tangles or clumps, particularly behind their ears, under their arms, and in their groin area.

Here are some other things to consider:

  • Feed your cat wet food in addition to dry food. This helps with hydration.
  • Stick to natural foods with real ingredients.
  • Cats need fresh air. Avoid using air fresheners or exposing your pet to secondhand smoke.
  • Increase the humidity in your home. Dry air can aggravate cat dandruff.
  • When all else fails, call the vet. They can prescribe medical-grade dandruff shampoo and other supplements if your cat’s dandruff just won’t go away.



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