Curing Cat Dandruff For The Fashion Conscious Feline

Curing Cat Dandruff

Poor Sparrow. As if the little bastard didn’t have enough problems already – you guessed it – now he has dandruff.

First, let me clear something up. Where I come from, calling someone a ‘little bastard’ is a term of endearment. I love this feline to pieces, but please. How faulty can one cat be?

Obviously, being dandruffy is not a normal state of affairs for a cat, and just in case you’ve not been paying attention, Sparrow is black and white. This shit is seriously ruining his outfit and I need to get to the bottom of it. So here’s what I’ve found about curing cat dandruff.


What Exactly is Dandruff?

Just like in humans, cat dandruff is ugly – no surprise there. In fine, good skin conditions,humans and cats alike are constantly growing a new layer of skin, and the top layer is shedding – when it’s all going as planned, we don’t even notice this. Chances are,your cat is doing its OCD grooming thing and this light shedding of skin is taken care of.

When this shedding of the skin becomes excessive and noticeable, we have a problem that we call dandruff. Dandruff is not so much a disease in itself, it’s a symptom of an underlying problem either internally or externally.

Dandruff itself is harmless in most cases, but we do need to look for what may be causing it. There are a number of serious-ish internal disorders that can cause dandruff, so it’s a good idea to get to the vet and have your flaky cat checked out, just to make sure.


Dandruff or Dander?

You’ve probably heard of ‘pet dander’ as a major allergen for us people, but this is not the same as dandruff. As we’ve just learned, dandruff is an excess of shedding skin and usually has a medical cause.

Dander, on the other hand, is a mixture of minute skin particles mixed with saliva (the cat’s, not yours) and sebum and is completely normal. That’s the real reason people may be allergic to cats – it’s more to do with the mixture of proteins and less to do with the shedding skin itself, combined with the fact that these particles are a fraction of the size of normal household dust.

But I digress…check out PetMD’s great article on cat dander if you want more details.

The mother of all air purifiers gets rid of pet dander. Check it out!


What Makes a Feline Snowglobe?

There are a number of things that can cause dandruff in cats and most of them are internal, so you’ll need to get it checked out by a vet to help figure out what’s going on. Here’s a lovely veterinarian dermatologist with a quick rundown on the flaky cat:

Serious internal problems. Doesn’t sound like much fun at all. Things that could be making your feline flaky include:
  • Poor diet – no surprise here. A low-quality diet can cause all kinds of problems for your cat, including dry, flaky skin.
  • Dehydration – generally also caused by poor diet. Cats are not very good at drinking water, so a dry-food only diet could be the culprit here.
  • Allergies – food allergies tend to manifest as skin problems in cats, can often lead to open sores and infection if left untreated. Allergies to stuff around the house such as cleaning products, plants, scented things and even cat shampoo can cause dandruff.
  • Parasites – as mentioned by the good doctor in the video above, walking dandruff (technically called cheyletiellosis) is a mite that looks like dandruff flakes. Other parasitic causes of dandruff are common fleas and less commonly, demodicosis, a mite that favours immunocompromised or malnourished cats.
  • Fungal infections – such as ringworm and Malassezia, which often results in flaky patches of skin
  • Big bad diseases – diabetes and hyperthyroidism are the main offenders.
  • Poor grooming – this is usually seen in elderly or overweight cats who can’t groom effectively.
  • Low humidity – usually during the winter months when the air is drier.
  • Sunburn – damages the skin and causes it to peel.


When to See The Vet

It’s a good idea to get to the vet as soon as you can if your cat turns into a snow-globe. Sure, most of the causes of dandruff are not life-threatening, but you can bet they’re uncomfortable and unpleasant for your cat. Your cat’s dandruff is likely caused by something internal, so getting that corrected quickly is pretty important.

Your vet will want to know how long the dandruff has been around, if there are any other symptoms and probably some information about your kitty’s diet. Some tests may need to be performed to get to the bottom of what’s causing your cat to fall apart, such as blood tests, tape tests for parasites, thyroid tests and skin scrapings.

If a food allergy is suspected, your vet may advise a food trial, which involves switching your cat to a completely different type of food for a few weeks and making sure he eats only that. If the symptoms improve, you can switch back to the old food to see if the symptoms return.


How to Fix The Flaky Cat

Obviously, the cure for cat dandruff will depend on the cause, so at the risk of sounding like a broken record, get to the vet and get it checked out first. Medications may be needed to treat things like diabetes, ringworm and hyperthyroidism.

Bathing your cat with a medicated shampoo will help to kill some skin or fungal infections, but this should only be done in consultation with your vet. Please don’t assume you can just wash away the dandruff if you don’t know what’s causing it!

Often, simple changes in little things can make all the difference. If you haven’t already, switch your cat to a high-quality, moisture-rich diet. Poor diet is the cause of so many kitty ailments and it’s the easiest to fix. Getting the diet right will prevent more problems than I can even think of.

Give your kitty a hand with grooming, even if he’s fit and healthy and good at taking care of his own personal appearance. It’s the best way to bond with your cat and gives you a chance to inspect him from head to tail at the same time. Plus, you might end up with less cat hair on your clothes. Bonus. Adding a humidifier to your home in the winter months will help keep the kitty flake-free.


Besides being unattractive, dandruff in cats is usually a sign of something bigger going on, so please make an appointment with your vet and get it checked out. Once you’ve figured out the cause, the cure is usually pretty straightforward. It might take a while, but your cat will thank you for playing detective and putting an end to the flake.

Has your cat turned into a snow-globe? What was it, how did you fix it? Head to the box below and share your comments or questions…

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  1. We have adopted three cats last February, and the only problem they have are uncombed hair/fur they got matted. I had one of the cats shaved by the vet…the other two worked out fine with combing them everyday. I haven’t experienced seeing them with dandruff…yet and I hope I won’t…but I use dry shampoo to bathe them since they were not groomed by the previous owner to love water baths. 🙁

    I guess as you mentioned, good quality food would help in cats’ overall health. Thank you for the tips, I now have ideas on what to do in case we encounter this problem.

    1. Yeah those long haired cats can be troublesome, but it sounds like you’re taking good care of them. Thanks for saying hi again, Marie.

  2. I just love your Sparrow. He has the cutest face and makes great logo! Thanks for a very informative article. I will take it into consideration in case my feline comes up with a problem.

    1. Haha thanks Eril. Gotta admit, I wasn’t thinking about what a great logo he’d make until recently, but you’re right.

      1. Sparrow does make a lovely logo! How is the dandruff now? Is it more under control? I have never seen a cat with dandruff but it’s good to know what to do if it ever does occur. Great article, again! And I am so curious about how Sparrow is fairing!

        1. Thanks Manika-Nia, nice to hear from you again. Sparrow’s fine, he’s just a sensitive little critter. It seems to be getting better with regular good brushing sessions, I’m sure he just does this stuff for attention…

  3. I LOVE your title, “Fashion Conscious” haha how adorable! Your sense of humor makes reading about cat dandruff enjoyable. And your informative take on things – well, that makes reading about cat dandruff worthwhile! I mean, who WANTS to read about cat dandruff?? I have a Maine Coon … I think I picked up at least four new pertinent facts from this article that relate to him. Thanks so much! I feel enlightened in an area I didn’t realize I wasn’t 🙂

    1. Great Courteney, that’s exactly what I like to hear. There’s no reason why learning about cat things can’t be fun, right?

  4. Great to learn something new, I never knew pets, in more specifics, cats could get dandruff. It is the worst, and a pain to deal with, I have several friends with cats I will definitely recommend them to this post if their cats ever get dandruff, thanks for sharing.

  5. I’m not a cat lover but I found your article not only very informative but also very amusing. I’m sure the causes and remedies will also apply to dogs which is why I read it.

  6. Nice article on curing the Dandruff! My Garfield keeps scratching all the time can Dandruff be the reason?

    Anyway, I fell in love with your cat! How cute!?

    Thanks for sharing these tips, wish you a great day!

    1. Could be, Anis. Keep an eye on him, if he’s scratching the same places a lot there could be a problem there. Thanks for reading again, it’s always nice to hear from you.

  7. I shared this post on Facebook last night, but I wanted to come back and make a comment. I love your sense of humor and the fact that your post doesn’t stay with just some witty comments.

    You have put a lot of work and effort into this and have delivered some great quality content. Cat lovers everywhere should be flocking to your site for all the best information to care for their cats. Congrats.

    1. Thanks Alan, what a lovely thing for you to say! I’m glad you like my stuff enough to share. Come back and say hi again soon!

  8. Wow. That’s a lot of causes of dandruff and the process to find out what causes it must be long. Did you find out the cause of Sparrow’s dandruff?

    P.S. I just have to ask..did you name your cat after Johnny Depp’s character from Pirates of the Caribbean?

    1. Hi Vanessa, I think it’s diet related in Sparrow’s case, I’m doing a bit of food experimenting at the moment. He’s otherwise all healthy and good.

      And yes…Sparrow was born on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I named him after my favourite pirate 🙂

  9. Great article per usual! I actually just ordered a cat water fountain myself because once in a while Beast just won’t eat her wet food and when she doesn’t I definitely start to notice more dandruff.

    She seems to like the non healthy ones more, just like me and eating sweets I suppose! We will see if it helps.

  10. I have always been a cat lover and have had many cats over the years. I like dogs too, but I just always preferred cats you know? They have all been more than just pets to me; they are like my children and I love them to pieces.

    I never knew that something as simple as dandruff could be caused by so many different underlying issues. I must say that I have never come across any dandruff related issues with any of my cats, but I will be sure to keep an eye out in the future just in case. The only issues I’ve had are hairball related, which was easily fixed with a diet change.

    I really enjoyed reading this article as it was very informative and also humorous. Your cat is simply adorable and I hope his dandruff has cleared up and he is his happy self again.

    1. Yeah, I know. I like cats more than dogs too, I completely understand.

      I think most things can be fixed with a diet change, hairballs are not supposed to happen but for some reason, we all think it’s normal.

      Thanks for reading, Tabitha. Sparrow is getting less flaky by the minute 🙂

  11. Shirley, funnily I knew where you were from as soon as I read about your little bastard. You must be north of me as you can’t go much further south from here!

    Now our Katie doesn’t have dandruff. In fact none of our cats have had it. But I did have one tortoiseshell miss who could shed at will. She often ruined my friend’s black outfits by shedding white hair. So my friend decided to wear a white shirt for one visit. Miss then promptly started shedding her black hairs!

    You are right about checking this and any other not normal cat issues with the vet. Often dangerous conditions sneak up on the cat and the problem is too advanced for fixing by the time the vet is involved.

    Now to the dehydration. We do feed one moist meal a day. Katie also gets a small bowl of lactose free milk in the morning. The remaining milk after the minuscule amount she drinks is a wonderful treat for the evening visiting possum (at least the possum thinks so)! She approaches her water bowl infrequently but loves getting on the counter and drinking out of tap. I don’t know what is wetter, the sink or her.

    And I must say I get a laugh out of the different type of food. Not on in our house. My long dead (of old age – 19) furry friend refused to eat if the food was changed. Now many will say just leave that food down. Yeh right. I once wormed her with that paste. The directions are to either squirt it into the mouth or daub it on their fur. I squirted the appropriate dose and then dabbed a bit on her paw. A week later I washed the paw. New tastes –no way.

    PS I hadn’t come across feline asthma before finding your site. Now, not too long afterwards, I watched a UK show called ‘Vet on the Hill’. One episode had a puss with feline asthma. They almost lost her on the examination table as the investigation included giving her a bit of help with with a breathing tube. The tube actually increased the blocking of the air ways and they had to resuscitate her. She was OK when she went home.

    So I can see that this is a very serious problem for these cats.


    1. Hi Neighbour! Thanks for stopping by, what a great comment! I’ve had a couple of tortoiseshell cats as well, the main problem with them is they can ruin any coloured outfit. Still pretty cute thought.

      Sparrow’s always been a bit hot and cold with his food. He’ll just get tired of it and go on a hunger strike, so he gets to try plenty of things but this is the first time he’s had this kind of reaction. It seems to be clearing up pretty fast so I’m not overly concerned.

      Most people haven’t heard of feline asthma, I’d never even heard of it until I started living with it. I guess he can’t help it if he’s faulty, it definitely adds to his character.

      Come back and say hi again soon, Helen 🙂

      1. Will do Shirley. I love your site. Sparrow might be faulty but at least he doesn’t (unless you are hiding this) act as the best paper shredder in the world. At one point I found something under the bed that was so shredded that I couldn’t find enough to identify it!

        1. Funny you should mention that, there are some things about my darling Sparrow that I haven’t released into the world just yet 😉

  12. Wow, didn’t know cats could even get dandruff. Poor Sparrow – it sounds like your cat has had it all, and maybe a good thing as it is giving you loads to learn and write about on this most entertaining site.

    It makes sense that the dandruff could be caused by something internal, and you have given a good list of things that pet owners can check against.

    I will certainly be visiting your site when my cat shows any signs of a problem, as it looks at though Sparrow has certainly been there and done that.

    1. Yep, Sparrow is one special, furry little ball of problems. Lucky he’s so cute…

      Thanks for saying hi, Michel.

  13. Hello Shirley,

    Wow, that’s some deep stuff, great article, I didn’t know cats can suffer from Dandruff.

    I have a 6 yo cat and he’s really beautiful! But actually, I am worried about him these days. I think he’s a stressed cat.

    I don’t know why but he’s constantly taking off his fur with his fangs. Then I saw him puke several times some ingurgitated fur. He’s eating well and he’s in great shape but I don’t know he’s maybe some parasites tickling him.

    I know my cat’s problem is not really related to your article but I wanted to hear your opinion.

    Btw: I liked your Google+ page and I also tweeted about your article. I hope this helps.

    I will analyze him more often to see if he’s not other health problems.

  14. Great post! You definitely have a way with words!
    Both my cat and my dog suffer from unsightly dandruff. We have a pretty airtight house. It’s great for keeping the heat in and cutting down on heating costs in the cold months but it also seems to be excellent at keeping the moisture out. Not a wonderful thing for pets! I’ve tried using a humidifier to put more humidity in the air, and giving them both wet food but it still seems to be a constant struggle.

    1. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I’m not sure what else you could do apart from what you’re already doing. I’ll be sure to write something about it if I find the solution!

  15. I have a question. I have a cat and her name is Willow, she is a dilute calico cat, about 2 years old. I am guilt of charge, I haven’t brushed her in a while, and when I started brushing her fur today, I realize there were white flakes in her fur. I can’t go to the vet right at this moment, but I can’t tell if it’s dander or dandruff? I also don’t know if I should take her to the vet if it’s nothing serious? She seems to be healthy and normal, but about a few months ago, I changed her food to something different. I’m wondering if it’s a serious problem?

    1. Late to the party, but I’d say if Willow seems otherwise happy and healthy it’s probably not a problem…but that’s just me using some common sense, I don’t know for sure…

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