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Why Does My Cat Have Dandruff?

orange cat hiding its face in its paws

Although human dandruff is a pretty run of the mill health problem to encounter, many people are surprised to find out that their cat can have dandruff as well. But it really should come as no surprise. Afterall, humans develop dandruff on their head which is typically covered in hair. Well a cat’s whole body is covered in hair just like the human head so it's reasonable that they might encounter similar types of skin issues underneath of their hair as well. To find out what’s causing your cat’s dandruff and what you should do about it, check out the article below.

cute kitten getting its chin scratched
If you notice your cat seems to be particularly itchy, it is a good idea to check them out even if you can’t see any dandruff. It’s quite possibly for your cat to be very itchy in an area that dandruff will soon occur.

What Is Dandruff?

And What Causes It In Kitty Cats?

Dandruff is pieces of your cat’s skin that flake and fall off. This is different from dander which is a totally normal shedding of the skin. Dander is just small individual skin cells being shed in the natural process of the skin renewing itself. Dandruff on the other hand is an unnatural shedding of skin. You can tell the difference because you can see dandruff whereas dander is too  small for you to even see.

Dandruff is caused by the outermost layer of your cat’s skin flaking and shedding more often than is normal.This is often caused by your cat’s sebaceous glands overproducing oil. The oils that are produced are normally meant to protect and replenish your cat’s skin, but when they are produced in too high of quantities they cause the skin to become irritated. This is what causes the shedding of the skin cells.

It is natural for irritated skin to be removed from the outer layer of skin. However, don’t just brush dandruff off as being a totally normal occurrence. There is a reason your cat has dandruff. So whether it is a brand new development, or your cat has had dandruff for a while, it is still important to get to the root cause of what’s irritating your cat’s skin. Some reasons are pretty benign and inconsequential, whereas other reasons can be far more serious. It’s important to get to the bottom of the reason your cat is having dandruff in order to ensure that your cat stays happy and healthy.

There are many reasons your cat can develop dandruff, but one common culprit is from parasites they can get when they are outdoors.

So Your Cat Has Dandruff But You Don’t Know Why?

How To Determine the Cause of Your Cat's Dandruff

There are many reasons that are typically the culprit behind your cat’s dandruff problem. Take a look at the list below to get an idea of what is causing your cat’s skin to flake, including:

  • Cleanliness/grooming problems
  • Poor nutrition/lack of certain nutrients
  • Dehydration
  • Health issues

Now let's take a closer look at each of these common cat dandruff culprits in more detail to help you determine if your cat is over-grooming, under-grooming, needs a little extra nutrition, or something else is going on.

Cat Dandruff Cause #1: Cleanliness/Grooming Problems

  • If your cat has dandruff there is always the possibility that they simply aren’t grooming themselves correctly. This is an issue that is particularly prevalent in obese cats. If you notice the dandruff forming on their back or near the base of their tail it means they aren’t able to stretch around to their back when they are licking/grooming themselves.
  • Another potential grooming related cause for kitty kat dandruff is the shampoos/soaps you use on them when you give them an official human bath. If you have recently switched soaps and noticed your cat has recently been shedding more skin than normal there is a good chance the soap is the cause of the problem. Maybe they are too sensitive to it or are even outright allergic but soaps and shampoos that irritate the skin are one potential cause for dandruff.

Cat Drandruff Cause #2: Poor Nutrition

  • Specifically a lack of fatty acids in their diet.
  • Cats are just like people and in order to keep their skin healthy they need a certain amount of fatty acids in their food. So if you notice your cat is having dandruff issues, it might be a good idea to check their food and see if they are getting enough fatty acids, and if they aren’t then you need to get them more .

Cat Dandruff Cause #3: Dehydration

  • Cats have to drink a certain amount of water each day just like any other living organism needs to. If they don’t then a myriad of different outcomes can occur including dandruff. If your cat is anything like mine, it can probably be a huge pain in the butt to get them to drink from their water dish. But not getting enough water in their diet can cause their skin to become dehydrated and flaky.
  • Similarly if you live in a very dry household that keeps the humidity in the air very low, your cat can become dehydrated even if they are getting enough water so be sure to keep your pets in mind when you adjust the climate in your household.

Cat Dandruff Cause #4: Potential health issues

  • Your cat’s dandruff can sometimes be caused by a more serious health issue than dehydration or a reaction to a shampoo.
  • One common issue that can cause dandruff, but is actually a more serious problem, is parasites. Different parasites cause your cat’s skin to become overly irritated and this causes the dandruff. There are a variety of different parasites that can irritate your cat's skin, but the most common ones are things like mites, fleas, and lice.
  • Other much more serious conditions, such as feline diabetes, can be the cause behind your pets dandruff. So if nothing else on this list stood out to you, be sure to get your cat looked at by a veterinarian at the first available opportunity.
outdoor cat walking on a wall near a bay
If your cat is an outdoor cat, keeping them inside so you can control the climate they are in is one possible route to go in order to prevent the formation of dandruff in the first place.

Once You’ve Identified the Cause, What’s Next?

Take Steps to Help Your Cat’s Skin Get Back to Normal

So if your cat has dandruff there are a wide variety of different things you might need to do to prevent it from happening in the future. But in the meantime what should you do for your cat’s dandruff immediately? Well there are actually a few things you can do. Start by turning the humidity up in your house, particularly near the rooms your cat likes to spend time in. You can also make sure that they stay indoors, this is particularly important if you live in an overly hot, dry, or arid environment as the harsh conditions outside will just keep the skin dry and irritated. And finally it is a good idea to get some protective spray that you can use to protect and nourish the skin. This will help the skin that is irritated that is causing dandruff  to become normal healthy skin again.

cat sleeping peacefully and comfortably after the causes of his dandruff problem have been addressed
Adjusting the humidity in your cat’s favorite places to hang out is another great way to go about combating dandruff.

Cat dandruff is a fairly common problem that many cat owners encounter. And while there are a variety of basic things that can be causing it to occur, there are more serious problems that can be afoot. So any time you are in doubt, or are unsure about the health of your pet, be sure to talk to a medical provider as soon as you can. Because in such a scenario the worst thing that happens to you is that you discover that your cat only has dandruff, and doesn’t have a more serious health condition.

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