Cat Dandruff Explained [What Causes It & What You Can Do]

Cat dandruff isn’t the nicest thing that could happen to our feline friends, but it’s among the common afflictions they get occasionally.

Cat dandruff might look like other skin conditions, so how can you tell for sure what it is? And once you verify it’s dandruff, what’s the best way to treat it?

In the following sections, we’ll talk about the differences between dander and dandruff, explain what causes dandruff, and suggest some effective remedies to help your pet get better.

The Main Causes of Cat Dandruff

  • The surroundings are too dry
  • Contact with chemical irritants
  • Contact with a biological irritant
  • A parasite found your cat
  • The cat has a health condition
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Cat food is missing essential nutrients
  • The cat gained a lot of weight
  • The cat is too old to groom itself
  • Changes in the cat’s environment

The Best Home Remedies for Cat Dandruff

  • Brushing and grooming
  • Bathing
  • Humidifying
  • Adding dietary nutrients
  • Decreasing stress
  • Removing irritants
  • Checking with the vet

Is Cat Dandruff a Serious Condition?

Cat dandruff in and of itself isn’t a serious illness. However, the reasons behind it could reveal a more serious issue, so it should be investigated thoroughly to make sure that whatever caused it isn’t a major condition.

It should also be treated as early as possible to avoid any more complications along the line. Dandruff is associated with dry itchy skin, and you can see your cat scratching more than usual.

What Are the Signs of Cat Dandruff?

The first thing you’ll notice is excessive scratching, and on further checking, you’ll start seeing other signs.

White Flaky Residue

These white flakes will spread throughout the cat’s fur, and spill over the floor or furniture where they sit.

Cat scratching outdoor. Cute red cat.

Some cats have thick fur, and if their dandruff hasn’t progressed too much, the flaky skin will remain close to their scalp, and you’d have to part their fur to see it up close.

Red Irritated Skin

Dandruff is an itchy condition and the constant scratching leaves the cat’s skin inflamed and irritated. In severe cases, it could have some cuts and sores too.

Dark Scales

These develop in spots where the cat’s skin was previously clear and soft. These scales are quite itchy and can easily become infected, so its best to treat them early on as soon as they’re detected.

Bald Patches

Dandruff, itching, and skin flaking can easily lead to hair loss. It’s not uncommon to find areas where the cat’s hair is thinning or completely bold.

Is Cat Dandruff Associated with Stress?

Cats are quite sensitive and emotional, even though they don’t express that aspect of their characters too well, and might across as poised and aloof.

Animals, in general, feel stress and anxiety the same way that we do. The reasons might be a little different though, for cats, any change in their surroundings could be stressful.

Can Humans Get Dandruff from Cats?

Cat dandruff has many causes. Most of them are related to environmental or dietary factors. In that context, the cat’s condition shouldn’t be transferred to its human friend.

Parasites should be a concern though, but seeing a vet can clear that up.

What Are the Causes of Dandruff?

Several diverse factors could lead to dandruff, which makes thorough treatment challenging at times, but you need to cover your bases.

These are the most common causes of dandruff, and luckily, most of them are easy to identify and treat.

The Surroundings Are Too Dry

A dry climate tends to dehydrate pets quickly, and sometimes satisfying their thirst isn’t sufficient to keep them fully healthy. Their skin suffers from the effects of dehydration.

Female hand and cute, charming kitten, lying on a white plaid near the window on the background of the rays of the spring sun. Pet care concept

Contact with Chemical Irritants

Grooming products, scented litter, cleaning materials, insecticides, or any chemical you commonly use around the house could potentially cause an allergic reaction and your pet’s skin starts showing discontent.

Contact with a Biological Irritant

This is pretty similar to the previous issue, but the cause here is a biological factor. It could be a new plant, a new kind of organic compost in the garden, another pet, or any number of inciting events.

Allergies are caused by a broad range of effects, and once the skin gets irritated and the scratching-inflammation cycle starts, dandruff could ensue right away.

An outdoor initiator could be harder to spot than an indoor factor, but close observation of your pet usually leads you to the culprit.

A Parasite Found Your Cat

This is the least pleasant factor, as it needs extensive treatment of your pet, any other pets in the house, in addition to the humans who live around the pet.

You should consult your vet promptly, and follow the proper course of action to contain the spread of that parasite.

One of these common parasites, the Cheyletiella mite, looks a lot like white flakes, and it’s usually referred to as ‘walking dandruff’.

It’s recommended to decontaminate the house along with giving the cat proper treatment, to make sure the parasite is gone for good.

The Cat Has a Health Condition

Aging cats usually show signs of degeneration. Dandruff is one of the skin issues associated with progressive diseases like diabetes, endocrine issues, and immune system disorders.

Excessive Sun Exposure

Getting too much sun isn’t good for most mammals. Cats have soft skin that’s prone to becoming sunburned, even with all the fur covering it.

The parts not normally covered by fur, like the ears and nose, are especially damaged by the harsh sunlight. The burned skin becomes itchy then flaky, and that’s how they show dandruff.

Cat Food Is Missing Essential Nutrients

A good diet is imperative to cat’s wellbeing, and ours for that matter. Your cat will probably show several symptoms at once if its diet is lacking critical nutrients.

Omega-3 is a highly needed part of a healthful diet, and if your cat isn’t taking sufficient amounts of that superfood, it’ll show skin issues and dandruff among other things.

Re-introducing omega-3 rich foods or supplements is known to restore the vitality of pets, and humans actually.

The Cat Gained a Lot of Weight

Proper self-grooming is your cat’s way of staying healthy and maintaining the integrity of its fur and skin.

This simple task becomes difficult if the cat gains much weight, as accessing certain parts of its body becomes mechanically hard to achieve.

You can help your cat with routine grooming. Try to give her the occasional bath, which isn’t always easy, but in that case, it’s particularly important.

The cat also needs to return back in shape, which should make full grooming much easier.

The Cat Is Too Old to Groom Itself

Cats get old, and this takes its toll on their overall capacities. They might opt for longer naps and much less grooming, which could affect their skin.

Cats need assistance throughout their lives. Despite their expressed attitude that they have everything under control, they’re more in need of your attention when they become older.

Brown Tabby Cat Scratching Head (1)

They’ll need regular baths, but not too often though, as that could dry out the natural oils in their fur.

They’ll also need regular application of moisturizing products, and if they show signs of dandruff, this has to be addressed with the proper cosmetics.

Changes in the Cat’s Environment

Cats get stressed out despite their chill disposition. They show it by jumping on all fours when a door is slammed, or by getting dandruff when you install a new TV-set.

The reasons that could disturb a cat and send it into the path of anxiety and stress are too broad to specify, but usually, changes of any kind in her environment rattle her a little.

Getting a new pet around the house causes much agitation in both the old and new pets, not just because of novelty.

They both have to test their authority and need to set the house rules. Choosing who’s the alpha and who’s the beta could be a very serious business for a cat.

How to Treat Cat Dandruff?

Treating dandruff starts from the moment you start seeing the white flaky dead skin, and its best to work in two directions simultaneously:

First: Soothing the annoying symptoms and finding the root cause behind the itch and dandruff. It’s imperative to sort out the causes, so they don’t keep on giving the cat an allergic or degenerative effect.

Second: Treating the dandruff is then a matter of using the right medicine, or making some changes in the cat’s living conditions to remove any irritants that could be causing her skin condition.

The Best Home Remedies for Cat Dandruff

These are some of the best remedies we know of to treat cat dandruff, as recommended by vets and old-time pet owners.

Brushing and Grooming

Regular brushing untangles your cat’s fur and stimulates the healthy natural process of oil secretion. You could use a cat slicker brush, which has a practical grip and would go easy on the cat’s fur. A grooming comb set might come in handy as well.

There’s also a de-shedding tool you can use on your pet’s fur to remove dandruff and loose hair.

You could also use Burt’s Bees dander reducing wipes. These soothe the cat’s itchy skin as they contain aloe vera and other calming ingredients.

Moisturization and a natural anti-irritant should keep the cat from scratching and give its skin a chance to heal, and hence eliminate the flaking and dandruff.

There’s also a spray variety of these wipes, which is the Burt’s Bees dander reducing spray. Both the wipes and spray have the same ingredients, so use the form that’s more convenient for you and your pet.


Bathing cats isn’t an event the pets or their owners look forward to! The good news is, you don’t need to do it frequently, cats are different from dogs in that respect.

Monthly baths are generally okay. Some mild shampoos would help you with the bath like Burt’s Bees Tearless kitten shampoo. It’s gentle so it wouldn’t bother the cat’s already inflamed skin.

Cat bath

Your cat might not be enthusiastic about bathing, so you could use a soft dry shampoo like Bert’s Bees natural waterless shampoo. This should do the job nice and easy.

You could also use a conditioning spray between baths, to keep your pet’s skin hydrated and clean. The JP conditioning spray is pretty good for that, and it contains aloe and chamomile in addition to panthenol for keeping the skin calm, intact, and healthy.


Dry air could cause several health problems, not just dandruff. Humidity is awful too, so try to keep the house well balanced.

Installing a humidifier could sometimes be the optimal answer. Keep your cat well hydrated at all times. That helps too.

Adding Dietary Nutrients

Dandruff could be the result of missing nutrients like omega-3, and you can easily add it as a supplement in your cat’s food.

A small amount of Nordic naturals Omega-3 Pet given daily or as the vet suggests should be good.

You could also use Feline Greenies smart bites, the cats love their salmon flavor, and it gives them a needed boost for their skin and fur.

Decreasing Stress

Stress can’t be eliminated completely from anyone’s life, but try to decrease its intensity, frequency, or effect.

Abrupt changes are the hardest on cats, and that could be just a new cushion. Introduce these changes gradually, and give your cat the reassurance it needs in such situations.

Removing Irritants

This is absolutely essential. Pinpointing the chemical or biological factor that’s causing your cat’s skin to act up isn’t easy, and you might need to use trial and error to get the culprit.

Start with the obvious, a new grooming product or plant. This is usually your best candidate.

Checking with the Vet

The cause of dandruff could be a parasite, and that definitely needs professional advice. The cat could also be suffering from other health issues, or needs to lose some weight.

Those cases usually need medication along with the previously mentioned grooming and dietary changes.


Cat dandruff doesn’t get the same attention as human dandruff, and it certainly doesn’t appear in ads as much, but it’s a common condition among pets, and many products alleviate its effects.

The best course of action is removing the cause that initiated dandruff for your cat, and then treat the discomfort that comes with proper grooming and dietary supplements.

Your cat will love you for all that care and attention!

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