What Causes Cat Dander (And How to Get Rid of It!)

Posted on
August 17, 2020
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What are those small dusty particles all over your cat’s back? Dander--small flecks of skin your cat is shedding. Cat dander can point to issues for your cat and is a big contributor for people with cat allergies. You can tackle your cat’s dander by figuring out:

  • Causes of cat dander
  • Possible health concerns connected to cat dander
  • How to get rid of cat dander 
A close up of a cat without dander looking next to the camera.
If you can figure out the cause you’ll be on your way to knowing how to get rid of cat dander. 

Causes of Cat Dander

Wait, What is Dander?

You’re probably seeing the little white flakes mainly on your cat’s back--it’s more likely to be around the tail than the head. The flaking skin of cat dander can be accompanied with hair loss, itching, red irritated patches, and patches of very dry skin. Shedding skin cells is totally natural for your cat, but excessive dander can and should be dealt with. 

Cat dander is dead skin cells, just like human dandruff. One difference is that technically dandruff refers to skin cells from the scalp and dander is skin cells from the body. 

The other important difference between cat dander and human dandruff is that cat dander contains a protein which makes it an allergen. If you or others in your house have allergies your cat’s dander is probably making those allergies worse. Solving your cat’s dander is good for you and your cat and the first step is finding out what is causing the dander.

Dry Skin = Cat Dander

Just like dandruff in people, your cat’s dander points to dry skin. There are a few possible causes of dry skin in cats which we’ll cover, but you can start by thinking about your environment. If you find your own skin reacting to dry air your cat is probably dealing with dry skin as well. 

If you live in a particularly dry region consider getting a humidifier to help both you and your cat have healthier skin. Dry skin also tends to be a problem in the winter when the air is dry and you have the heat running in your house. See if your cat’s dander lines up with when you’re putting lotion on your own dry skin--if so, dry air is probably the culprit. 

Nutrition and Cat Dander 

Your cat needs the right nutrients in order to have healthy skin and produce healthy skin oils. A lack of certain nutrients in your cat’s diet can lead to cat dander as well as other skin issues. 

Often the missing elements in a cat’s diet that causes dander are omega-3 fatty acids.  

Proper hydration is also essential for keeping your cat’s skin healthy. If your cat is dehydrated that might show up as dry skin, which results in dander. 

Allergies: A Cause and Consequence of Cat Dander

The cat dander that makes your allergies worse might be caused by your cat’s allergies. Your cat’s skin irritation could be a sign of an allergic reaction to food or something else in their environment. 

If your cat’s dander started around the same time you started them on a new food, they might be allergic to that food. Go back to the old food or try a different one to see if that solves the dander.

On the other hand, staying on one food for too long can cause a cat to develop an allergy to it. If you’ve never changed your cat’s food you can try that as a possible solution for the dander. 

Just like you, your cat can be allergic to things like plants, fertilizers, and soaps. Think about any new houseplants, cleaning products, outside factors your cat might be interacting with and check if those things are common causes of cat allergies

An allergic reaction is also a response to parasites such as fleas, lice, and mites. Comb through your cat’s fur and look closely for these tiny bugs which cause lots of damage. These parasites are a possibility even if you use flea prevention on your cat--your cat could be overdue for a new dose or need to switch treatments entirely. 

A cat licking it's paw.
Your cat needs the right diet and hydration in order to have healthy skin and get rid of cat dander. 

Should I Be Worried About My Cat’s Dander?

Health Conditions that Cause Cat Dander

Your cat’s dander might be a side effect of a health condition. If your cat’s dander is happening alongside some other symptoms you can identify the infection or disease and treat it. 

Walking Dandruff

“Walking dandruff,” or Cheyletiellosis, is a more severe dander caused by Cheyletiella mites. “Walking dandruff” is highly contagious--the Cheyletiella mites will also live on dogs and rabbits and can live on humans, though humans are not a natural host for the mites. 

The Cheyletiella mites move through the top layer of skin causing large flakes of skin to fall off. They will make your cat very itchy with large red spots of irritation and hair loss.

Fungal Infections

Cat dander can be a response to irritation from fungal or yeast infections like ringworm. Take a close look at your cat’s skin for fungal infections and solve the cause of the dander with an anti-fungal spray.  

Weight

Obesity is a cause of cat dander. Overweight cats struggle to properly groom themselves and will therefore develop dander in the places they can’t reach, usually the base of the tail or lower back. 

Maintaining a good weight is very important for keeping your cat healthy. Even if you haven’t noticed your cat feeling or looking heavy, pay attention to whether they’re struggling to groom and getting dander as a result. Your veterinarian will also tell you if your cat is becoming overweight.

Anxiety

Your cat’s dander could be connected to high anxiety. Small changes in your life or home that you hardly notice can be very stressful for your cat. If your cat is acting strangely or being abnormally destructive or messy along with their dander, you might solve their anxiety (and dander) with a little extra attention. 

Feline Lymphoma

Feline lymphoma is the most common cancer in cats. When a cat has cancer, they have a weakened immune system and are more susceptible to skin conditions such as dander. 

Cat dander is very unlikely to be the only symptom if your cat has feline lymphoma. You may notice lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, or difficulty breathing.   

A cat without dander sleeping in a flower pot.
Brushing your cat is a great way to move healthy oils through their coat and get rid of dander.

How to Get Rid of Cat Dander

Caring for Your Cat’s Skin

Giving some extra attention to your cat’s skin care is often the solution for getting rid of cat dander. If your cat’s dander is a symptom of a parasite, “walking dandruff,” obesity, or anxiety you’ll have to address those issues separately. These four tasks will help you get rid of cat dander and improve your cat’s skin. 

1. Brush Your Cat

The oils your cat’s skin produces are essential for keeping their skin dander free and healthy. Brushing your cat helps move those oils throughout the coat and gets rid of naturally occurring dead skin cells, especially if your cat isn’t the best at grooming itself. 

You should brush a short haired cat around 3 times a week and a long haired cat daily. Frequent brushing should help stop the dander problem by removing skin flakes and loose hair. 

Brushing also gives you a chance to look closely at your cat’s fur and skin to check for fleas, lice, mites, ticks, fungal infections, or any other sources of irritation. As an added bonus, removing loose hair yourself will limit the cat hair shedding all over your clothes and furniture. 

2. Bathe Your Cat

Giving a cat a bath is obviously easier said than done, but it is a way to get rid of your cat’s dander. The most important part of giving your cat a bath is thoroughly rinsing out any shampoo you use. 

There are hypoallergenic and anti-dandruff cat shampoos available, but leaving shampoo on your cat’s skin is bad for them and will cause more dander. Be sure to be thorough and not leave any shampoo residue on your cat. 

If bathing your cat isn’t an option, you can wipe them down with a damp cloth in order to remove the dander and get their skin back on track.

3. Give Your Cat Supplements

As mentioned above, there are some key nutrients your cat needs in order to keep healthy. You can give your cat omega-3 fatty acid supplements to encourage production of healthy skin oils and eliminate excess dander. 

Check with your veterinarian before you give your cat anything new. 

4. Up the Moisture

If you live in a dry place, a humidifier is a good investment for you and your cat. Dry weather and dry air caused by the heat in your house during the winter are often responsible for excess cat dander. 

Consider putting a humidifier in the room your cat spends the most time or where your cat sleeps at night. 

You can also moisturize your cat’s skin like you moisturize your own--except with cat lotion. There are moisturizing lotions made for cats so you can give your cat’s dry skin some soothing treatment and limit their dander in the dry winter. 

Remember that your cat could end up being allergic to newly introduced soaps or moisturizers, so pay attention to what their skin and dander look like after you use a new product. 

A cat without dander relaxes with his feet in the air.
You can easily help your cat get back to comfortable by figuring out the cause of their dander and getting rid of it.  

If your cat has more than a normal amount of dander causing them irritation and you allergies, take a close look at their skin and figure out the cause. Treatment may be as easy as a quick brushing once a week or a dose of an anti-fungal or it may require some more serious attention. Either way, use this guide to get rid of cat dander and get your cat’s skin healthy again.


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Posted on
August 17, 2020
in
Advice
category

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