Cat Dandruff: Know the Signs and Symptoms

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / October 22, 2018
cat dandruff

With one in every five people suffering from dandruff, you have likely heard of this itchy, embarrassing condition. However, did you know dandruff is prevalent amongst our feline friends as well? In fact, the uncomfortable condition is so common amongst cats that there are countless anti-dandruff shampoos lining the shelves of your local pet store.  Cats are famously into baths (google it for a good laugh), but do you really want to have to go through the process that often? Why not discover what is actually causing your cat dandruff, instead of just treating the symptoms.

In this article, we will discuss the causes and treatments of cat dandruff. Moreover, we will highlight more severe conditions that dandruff could be hinting towards. So here we go! Everything you need about cat dandruff… go!

cat dandruff

What is Cat Dandruff 

First of all, rest assured that cat dandruff is a common disorder and should not be cause for alarm. Dandruff is characterized by dry, dead skin flaking off in the cat’s fur. Typically, cat dandruff is associated with a bothersome itch that can lead to more severe skin irritation.

While a mild case of dandruff is completely harmless, too much scratching can result in skin damage that may need medical attention. Whatever the level of dandruff on your cat, it is important to know what is causing the issue at hand.

Cat Dandruff vs Cat Dander 

Before we dive deeper into the science behind cat dandruff, it is important to note this difference between dandruff and dander. Cat dander is dead skin shed by your cat regularly and is a completely normal physiological occurrence in all cats. Cat dander is what causes the notorious cat allergy amongst humans. Furthermore, dander does not cause your cat any itching or irritation.

On the other hand, cat dandruff is an abnormal response to an unexpected factor like excessively dry skin. Dandruff results in your cat feeling excessively itchy and uncomfortable.

What Causes Dandruff in Cats 

Cat dandruff is most commonly caused by one, or a combination of, several factors such as diet, dehydration, parasites, allergies, or a larger health issue. Let’s dive deeper into each cause, shall we?


With any living being, a healthy body starts from the inside out. Diet is one of the most important ways to ensure a long and healthy life for your cat. To illustrate, a lack of essential Omega-3 oils can lead to dry itchy skin linked to cat dandruff. Be sure to carefully select foods that contain a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals.


Naturally, a lack of water can lead to dryness. If your cat is not drinking enough water, their skin will begin to reflect this lack of hydration. Furthermore, dehydration can be environmental. Perhaps you live in a naturally drier climate, such as the desert. Thusly, changes in weather and humidity can affect the hydration of your cat’s skin.

Allergiescat allergies

Occasionally, dandruff can be a symptom of your cat having an allergic reaction. Changes in your cat’s diet, environment, or routine, could lead to an unfavorable reaction. Be sure to consult your veterinarian before introducing anything new into your cat’s diet, and perhaps consider getting them tested for allergies.


More common amongst our light-haired feline friends, sunburn is yet another cause of dandruff. As with people, sunburn affects the top layer of skin causing it to dry up and flake off. Sunburn most frequently affects the delicate skin around the nose, ears, mouth, and eyelids.


Cats are the original creatures of habit. Even small environmental changes can dramatically affect a cats mood or demeanor. Whether you recently moved, or simply took the vacuum on a trip around the house, your cat may be suffering from a bit of anxiety. These disruptions in your cats daily routine can lead to a physical stress response of, you guessed it: dandruff.

Overweight Cats

We’ve all seen it – a chubby cat with a belly that practically drags on the floor when they walk. Admittedly, fat cats can be adorable, but healthy they are not. Excess weight makes it harder for cats to groom themselves properly, leading to skin issues. Obesity comes with a long list of possible accompanying ailments, chief amongst them: diabetes. As we will discuss later, cat dandruff is a symptom of feline diabetes.

Advanced Age

Eventually, all cats will reach their golden years. With age, comes a lack of moisture and elasticity in the skin. Paired with slower blood flow and chaffing, dryness leads to flaking of the skin.


Often times, cats are victim to pesky parasites like fleas, worms, and mites. With this in mind, bites from these fur invaders can cause a reaction that leads to excessive itching and dry skin. Consequently, these external parasites can lead to more serious issues if left unattended. Be sure to seek counsel from your vet at the first sign of any unwelcome critters.

Bigger Health Issues

In rare cases, cat dandruff can be a sign of a bigger health issue. Notably, cat dandruff can be a symptom of feline diabetes. Other symptoms of cat diabetes include lethargy, weight loss, excessive urination, and increased appetite. If your beloved cat is suffering from one or more of these symptoms in tandem with dandruff, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Less frequent, but possible still, dandruff can be a symptom of Feline Lymphoma. The most commonly diagnosed cancer in cats, Lymphoma is cancer of the immune system. When the immune system is weakened skin conditions, like dandruff, are more likely to arise.

Please be advised, the purpose if this article is not to scare you into thinking something simple and typically harmless like dandruff means your car has cancer. Our job is to simply tell you the facts, one of which is that dandruff can possibly be a sign of bigger health issues.

Cat Dandruff Symptoms

Clearly, there are a number of ways in which dandruff can appear in your cat’s life. Now, let’s find out what to look for to determine whether or not your cat is dealing with dandruff.

Flaking Skin

A telltale sign of dandruff in humans, white flaking skin, is a signature of dandruff in cats as well. Sometimes, especially with lighter haired cats, the flakes are less apparent on the coat. For this reason, you may have to part your cat’s fur to see the build-up of dead skin. Conversely, if you have a dark-haired cat, you will likely be able to see the white flakes quite prominently.

Irritated or Scaly Skin

Unfortunately, skin flaking typically causes itchy skin. As a result, sometimes cats will irritate their skin with too much scratching. You can identify this easily by noting skin patches that appear redder than the rest of the body. Furthermore, feline parents need to keep an eye on over-scratching, as a breakage in the irritated skin can lead to infection.

Additionally, dandruff can cause thick, scaly patches of skin on your cat. Often times these area’s will be hard and have an excess of flaky skin around them.

Feline Hair Lossfeline hair loss

Sometimes, too much scratching can lead to hair loss and bald patches. If symptoms progress this far, it is incredibly important to seek medical advice and get to the cause of the issue. Left untreated, hair loss may be permanent or lead to other irritations and infections.

Other Cat Skin Problems 

Cats are, admittedly, incredibly prone to skin conditions. While dandruff is one of the more common external ailments amongst our furry friends, there are a number of other conditions that could be affecting your cat.

Contact Dermatitis

Dermatitis is marked by red, itchy bumps on the skin. Commonly caused by contact with a foreign chemical or irritant, dermatitis outbreaks are focused to an affected area. Plastic or rubber food bowls and/or toys are often the culprit that leads to a dermatitis outbreak. We advise using glass bowls for food and water and monitoring any reactions from new toys.

Feline Acne

Interestingly enough, acne is not just for the awkward adolescents of the world but affects cats as well. Typically concentrated on the chin, feline acne appears as “comedones” or blackheads. Most cases of cat acne are quite mild and do not bother your cat. However, in more severe cases, you will see red, puss-filled pimples which may require a vet-visit for further treatment.

Psychogenic Alopecia

A result of excessive self-grooming, psychogenic alopecia is the thinning of hair down the spine or abdomen. Typically, stress and anxiety are the chief causes of over-grooming. You can help prevent alopecia by re-directing your cat’s nervous energy into play and facilitating a calm, loving environment.


Marked by a red ring on the skin and often paired with hair loss, ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection. Sometimes, a cat’s only visible symptom is broken hair around the face and ears. If you suspect your cat is suffering from ringworm, seek veterinary aid immediately. However, be careful because ringworm is contagious amongst humans and all other animals the infected body comes in contact with. Be sure to consult your vet prior to entering his or her office on how to proceed.

Ear Mites

Another common condition in cats is an infestation of ear mites. Shaking of the head, excessive ear scratching, or a build-up of brown ear wax can be a sign that your cat is hosting an un-invited ear mite party. Fortunately, ear mites are easily treated with medicated ear drops. However, if left untreated, ear mites can lead to a more serious bacterial infection.

Cat Dandruff Treatment and Prevention 

Once you have confirmed your cat indeed has dandruff, and you know what is causing it, we can assess how best to treat the issue.

Regular Grooming

First of all, dandruff is a preventable issue. One of the best ways to keep your cats coat healthy is simply regular grooming. Luckily, cats are wonderful about self-grooming. However, the human hand is important to a well-rounded grooming regime. Regular brushing will distribute your cat’s natural skin oils, helping promote overall exterior body and hair health.

A Healthy Diet

A healthy cat starts from the inside out. Diet is easily the most important defense against any and all ailments. If your cat’s dandruff is caused by food or environmental allergies, consult your vet about the appropriate dietary supplements your cat needs. Incorporating healthy fats and Omega-3 fish oils can work wonders in promoting healthy skin and coat. Furthermore, your vet may suggest incorporating certain steroids or antihistamines to help alleviate possible allergens.

Topical Sprays and Lotions

Additionally, there are a number of all-natural sprays and lotions available to treat your cat’s dry, itchy skin.  Furthermore, this route is especially beneficial if you are wanting to take a more holistic approach to remedy your cat’s ailing skin. These specially formulated products are designed to help lock moisture into your cat’s skin, helping treat and prevent pesky dandruff.

Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoocat shampoo

In the case of treating fungal or flea/mite-induced dandruff, you will likely need to turn to medicated pet shampoos. Consult your vet about which shampoo is right for your pet before introducing anything new on the affected skin. While giving a cat a bath sounds perfectly easy, if you find yourself needing some direction, find solace in this amazing PetCo how-to video.

It is important to note, over bathing is a possibility. Too many baths can actually reverse the desired effect and actually dry out your cat’s skin. For this reason, to maintain regular hygiene, you should only bath your feline once every few months.

Consider a Humidifier

Due to the fact that the environment is a huge factor in dandruff development, a humidifier may be a nice addition to your home. Correspondingly, cat dandruff is a product of dry skin, and often times the air around you and your cat’s home may be too dry. Especially if you live in a drier climate, you may want to consider getting a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home. As a result, you and your cat may find yourselves feeling worlds better.

Topical or Oral Steroids

Most often prescribed when sunburn is the culprit, sometimes topical or oral steroids may be administered to treat dandruff. Indeed, there are a number of pet-friendly creams and ointments that can be applied to your ailing cat. Consult your vet about which method of treatment is best for your cat’s special needs.

The Best Cat Dandruff Remedy 

Clearly, there is more than one way to treat a cat for dandruff. Be that as it may, you may want to consider a more holistic approach to treating and preventing your cat’s dandruff. In which case, we present to you…

CBD for Cats

If you keep up with homeopathic wellness, you have likely heard of the so-called “miracle herb” CBD. Also known as “cannabinoid,” CBD is a liquid derived from the hemp plant used to treat and prevent an impressive list of ailments. Growing in popularity for humans and pets alike, more and more research continues to surface promoting the benefits of incorporating CBD oil into you and your pet’s healthy lifestyle.

What is CBD?

So that all sounds great, right? But what is CBD oil really? To get scientific, CBD is an oil derived from the hemp plant which is a member of the cannabis family. If you went to high school, you are probably familiar with the term “cannabis”. Let us clear something up straight away, we are not trying to get your cat “high”. While hemp is a species of the cannabis plant, the hemp plant is legal in all 50 states unlike its cousin “marijuana”.  Furthermore, hemp is used to make countless common products such as milk, fabric, coffee, and so much more.

Any negative stigma that exists regarding cannabis stems from the psychoactive properties of marijuana. The “high” effect associated with marijuana is a direct result of the levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (aka “THC”) that exists in the marijuana plant. To further illustrate, marijuana has upwards of 20% THC, while its cannabis cousin CBD only contains, at most, .3% THC. Therefore, you can rest assured giving any CBD products to your feline friend is not only perfectly safe but incredibly beneficial to their overall health.

Benefits of CBD Oil for Cats

There you have it, you know the science behind the increasingly popular homeopathic remedy CBD. Now, let’s get to the good stuff: the benefits of using CBD Oil.

Benefits include:

  • Eases pain and inflammation
  • Treats epilepsy and seizures
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Prevents and cures cancer (by promoting overall homeostasis in the body)
  • Treats inflammatory bowel disease
  • Reduces nausea and boosts appetite (helpful if your cat is undergoing chemo or other harsh treatments)
  • Treats asthma
  • Improves coat and skin wellness (hence, treating and preventing cat dandruff)

Clearly, CBD has an impressive array of benefits. Moreover, we are happy to report that CBD oil has virtually zero side effects. However, if you still have questions about CBD, we highly recommend this comprehensive article by the pet wellness company Honest Paws. Now, you may be wondering where to get CBD for your cat’s holistic wellness needs. Which leads us too…

Where To Buy CBD for Cats

First and foremost, it is important to note that while CBD oil is growing in popularity for human and pet use – not all CBD oil is created equal. Thusly, it is imperative that you do your research and only purchase CBD oil that is 100% natural, lab tested, soy free, and non-GMO. We highly recommend using products from Honest Paws, because all of their products are just that. Furthermore, administering the oil is easy, simply add a few drops to your cat’s favorite meal. To start, one to five milligrams of CBD oil is recommended daily for cats.

Lastly, it is vital to note that like humans, each and every cat is unique. Certain treatments react differently with every cat. Therefore, it is imperative that you seek the counsel of your veterinarian before introducing anything new into your beloved cats routine.

My Cat Has Dandruff, Now What? 

Well, you clearly have several options when it comes to treating your cat’s dandruff. To start, it’s important to understand what is causing your cat’s flaky skin. That way, you can treat the issue at hand, as opposed to simply temporarily alleviating the symptoms.

There are dozens of medications and harsh treatments out there, most of which are riddled with grizzly side effects.  For that reason, we find it is best to stick to a more holistic approach to your cats overall wellness. CBD Oil is a wonderful answer to your cat’s troubled skin, and it comes with a myriad of other benefits. At the end of the day, your cat is as unique as you are, and they deserve the best possible care. We wish you and your feline fur baby the healthiest, and happiest of lives together.



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About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for