Cat Dandruff Causes, How to Get Rid (Treatment), and Home Remedies

cat dandruff - old cat
Cat with dandruff on the head

Having dandruff all over the fur steals from the beautiful, natural look of your cat’s coat. Cat dandruff is usually a sign of various problems that affect the skin, some benign and others serious. This article takes a look at some of the underlying causes of dandruff in cats along with the various treatments and home remedies available to get rid of the problem.

Cat Dander vs Cat Dandruff

Although dandruff and dander are both products of shedding of skin cells, they are not technically the same.

The term “cat dander” refers to tiny skin cells shed off from the skin of a healthy cat as a part of natural skin rejuvenation. Dander is in most cases invisible. It is however common for it to hang on the hair shed from off by your cat and move about in the air and around your house. This can trigger allergies in some people.

Cat dandruff on the other hand refers to large, white (and sometimes grey) specks of dead skin that are often seen on a cat’s fur and skin. For dogs with long hair, the flakes may be seen when brushing. Dandruff is usually a symptom of an underlying skin or systemic condition, or external factors such as low humidity.

We can therefore conclude that cat dander is a product of natural shedding process in a healthy skin while dandruff is a product of skin aggravation from external or internal factors (e.g. diabetes). Cat dandruff is usually harmless but it can be a sign of a serious issue.

Cat Dandruff Causes

Why do cats get dandruff? Causes of dandruff in cats can be broadly classified into internal and external. Some of these require the attention of a veterinarian, but others resolve easily with the use of home remedies. Some of the most common causes of cat dandruff are discussed below:

Poor Diet

Nutrition plays a significant role in the appearance of a cat’s skin and coat. Many cats suffer from dandruff simply because of inadequate intake of vital nutrients in their meal. A diet that is low in fat – especially omega 3 – is in particular a likely culprit for dandruff in cats. A deficit of omega 3 causes the skin to dry and flake easily.

Dehydration/Low Skin Moisture Levels

Low humidity levels – common during winter – could also be the underlying reason for cat dandruff. A cat that doesn’t drink or get enough water can also suffer from dry skin and dandruff. Though cats are not particularly fond of drinking water, they still need water for optimum health. Water sources for cats include food, water fountains, and humidifiers (skin moisture).


Parasitic infestation is another common underlying cause of dandruff in cats. Fleas, lice, and mites are common culprits. Bites from these parasites often triggers allergic reaction in the skin which manifests in cat dandruff and itching. One particular genus of mites known as Cheyletiella which resembles dandruff flakes may cause a condition known as “walking dandruff”. You should suspect parasitic infestation if the appearance of dandruff is accompanied by regular itching (scratching).


Dandruff in cats could also be the outcome of an allergic reaction to foods. It could also be the result of skin aggravation (contact dermatitis) by allergens and irritants such as poisonous plants, soaps, chemicals, and soaps, shampoos, etc. If your cat has suddenly developed dandruff after introducing a new detergent or food? It could be to blame.

Underlying Health Condition

Persistent cat dandruff may be a sign of an underlying condition such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism occurs more commonly in older to senior cats. It is advisable to seek immediate attention of your veterinarian if you suspect diabetes, hypothyroidism or any other condition.

Inadequate Grooming

During grooming, cats get rid of excess sebum (grease) and dead skin cells (dander) from their skin and fur. Any factors that causes your cat to become less capable (or less willing) to groom their coat makes them prone to sebum and dander buildup. This can eventually manifest itself in greasy, flaky skin, especially on the back and near the tail.

This is seen more in overweight cats, which often have trouble reaching certain parts of their body as they groom. Elderly cats also tend to suffer the same fate as old-age conditions such as arthritis often makes it painful for the affected cats to groom property.


Dandruff in cats may as well be a sign of a skin disorder called seborrhea where the sebaceous glands in the skin secrete too much sebum (oil). With too much sebum on the skin, your cat is not able to shed dead skin cells as fast as it should.

Cat dandruff due to seborrhea tends to be seen more commonly on a cat’s face, back, and flanks. The skin beneath the fur tends to be flaky, itchy, red, and scaly. It may be either dry (a condition known as dry seborrhea), oily (seborrhea oleosa), or both (combination). Although seborrhea may have an underlying issue to blame e.g. poor diet, a disease, parasites, etc., it often starts for no apparent reason.


Severe sunburn in outdoor cats can manifest itself in dry, flaky skin.

How to Get Rid Of Cat Dandruff – Cat Dandruff Treatment

Cat dandruff is usually not a serious condition by itself, but it could be a sign of a more serious medical issue. It is only prudent, therefore, for cat owners to NOT ignore a case of dandruff. As regards how to get rid of dandruff in cats, you (or your vet) will need to rehydrate the skin to stop the flaking as well as address any underlying health issue. Here are some of the most commonly used approaches to treatment of dandruff in cats:

Treatment for Parasites

If mites or any other parasites are involved in a case of cat dandruff, it is absolutely important that the cat is treated accordingly. Anti-parasitic medications are usually needed for effective treatment of parasitic infestations; no medicated shampoo or number of baths can completely take care of this problem.

It is absolutely crucial that all cats (and other pets) are as well treated as cases of re-infestation with mites and other parasites do occur commonly. All bedding garments also need to be treated and washed thoroughly with hot water.

Cat Dandruff Shampoo

A medicated shampoo formulated specifically for cats and other animals is also very helpful for cases of cats caused by seborrhea or fungal infections such as Malassezia.

How to get rid of cat dandruff with medicated shampoos? Simply pour an appropriate amount of the anti-dandruff shampoo of your choice to your cat’s bathing water. You should however not making the mistake of grabbing the shampoo in your shower. Human shampoos may have adverse effects on cats and other pets.

Omega 3 for Cat Dandruff

You may find adding some omega 3 to your cat’s diet very helpful in getting rid of cat dandruff. Omega 3 helps to keep pet’s skin and coat shiny and smooth. Some dry pet food brands however don’t provide enough amounts of omega 3 (check the label), in which case supplementation with omega 3 would help fill the gap. Omega 3 supplements are widely available in the form of fish oil, salmon oil is one of the most popular sources of omega 3 for cats and dogs.

Allergy Medications

For a case where environmental allergens are seriously affecting your cat, your veterinarian may recommend treatment with allergy medications such as steroids and antihistamines, says If food allergy is involved, you may have to change your cat’s food to another low-allergenic variety as advised by your vet.

Cat Dandruff Remedies

Even as you treat the underlying causative factors for dandruff in cats, you will want to use the following remedies and measures to moisturize your feline friend’s skin and fur and stop further flaking:

  1. Run a humidifier. This helps to add moisture in the air and by extension to your cat’s fur and skin. This is especially important during winter. Hydrating helps to stop flaking and thus fix dandruff in cats – from the root cause.
  2. Groom your cat regularly. This is one of the most important cat dandruff home remedies. Grooming don’t just soothe your cat and stretches your bond. It also stimulates blood flow as well as skin turnover. Grooming is particularly helpful for obese and old cats suffering from dandruff.
  3. Ensure your cats has adequate supply of water at all times. This will help to keep your cat adequately hydrated. It is particularly important during summer.
  4. Introduce your cat to wet canned food. Most good quality wet food brands have adequate amounts of not only proteins but also healthy fats and vitamins, with minimal carbohydrates. Rich supply of omega 3 is a step in the right direction while trying to get rid of cat dandruff.
  5. Bathe your cat regularly. If your cat can tolerate a regular bath, then you have a good weapon with which to stop the dandruff problem.


1 Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing this information. I went away for one week and had friends/family come by to feed, water and play with my 2 black cats Sunny and Lucky. Upon my return, both girls seemed well and happy to see me but Sunny had dandruff all over her back. I’ve been grooming her regularly but it was sudden and a bit shocking on her black fur.

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