How to Get Rid of Cat Dandruff

Published October 13, 2018
Cat being brushed

Cat dandruff is a common condition for cats with dry skin. There are several effective cat dandruff remedies you can use to keep your kitty flake-free. Discover a variety of ways to get rid of your cat's dandruff, as well as solutions to prevent future problems.

Cat Dander Vs. Cat Dandruff

When applying any treatment, you should first make sure you know the difference between cat has dandruff and dander. Dander is too small for you to see so if you see white flakes on your cat's fur, this is most likely dandruff. A cat can, however, have both as dander occurs naturally as part of a cat's regular grooming routine.

Daily Brushing

Cats with mild to moderate cases of dandruff can show significant improvement with just a daily brushing. Massaging them gently as well can help as it improves blood circulation which promotes healthy skin and fur. Some cats suffer from dandruff because they are unable to groom themselves, so brushing may be enough to remove dandruff entirely.

Bathing Your Cat

Giving your cat regular baths can improve dandruff, though this does not always work. If you bathe him too much with regular shampoo, it can dry his skin out. Look for a shampoo designed specifically for cats with dandruff that has additional moisturizers like fish oils and oatmeal to help with the condition.

Fish Oil Supplements

Dr. Amy Learn with Veterinary Services of Hanover indicates that she "definitely recommends fish oils for cats with dandruff." You can find fish oil supplements in powder, tablet or liquid formulas. You can also add fish oil to your cat's diet by pouring a bit of the liquid from a can of tuna onto their food.

Skin Conditioners

Using a skin moisturizer made for cats can help cats with dry skin, which is an underlying cause of dandruff.

  • Dr. Learn says, "I love a mousse from CEVA called Seborrhea. You rub it in and it nourishes the skin and helps to rebuild the brick and mortar structure of the cells to restore a healthy barrier."
  • Olive oil is another skin conditioner you can use on cats with dandruff. In addition to using it as a supplement in your cat's food, you can warm some regular (non-flavored) olive oil and gently massage it into your cat's skin. The oil shouldn't be heated so that it's too hot to the touch but just warm enough to help ease it onto your cat's skin for a relaxing treatment.
  • Another type of skin conditioner for cats comes in a spray format.

While these are not specifically cat dandruff sprays, these products can be helpful for dry and irritated skin. Speak with your groomer or veterinarian to find out what products they recommend.

Change of Diet

Some cats on a dry-only diet can see improvement if you add more wet food into their daily diet. If you already use a mix of wet and dry food, try switching to a wet food only diet to see if that has an effect on the dandruff. Another option is to simply switch the type of dry food that your cat is on. Look for a food that has supplements added to it designed to promote healthy skin, such as fish oil and other sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. Diets that are higher in protein and with more quality protein sources can also improve a cat's skin.

Removing Food Allergens

Dandruff can result from a food allergy. If you are able to identify one or more substances that seem to cause your cat(s) to get dandruff, look for food that does not have those substances in it. Certain grains and proteins are often the culprits behind food allergies in cats. Changing to a food your cat does not have a reaction to can go a long way toward reducing dandruff.

Lose Weight

Obesity in cats can be a factor in the presence of dandruff. You should want your cat to be a healthy weight regardless of the dandruff problem, so if your cat is a bit on the Rubenesque side, discuss nutritional options with your vet designed to promote weight loss. You can also try to add in more exercise to your cat's day to increase his caloric burn, such as playing with a wand teaser or fishing pole toy with you.

Add Moisture

Is your cat drinking enough water? Make sure the water bowl is always filled and provide alternate methods for your cat to get water. Some cats prefer drinking from fountains, so using one could increase your pet's water intake. You may also want to install a humidifier in your house. This can be helpful to your health as well as that of your cat.

Keep Your Cat Inside

Because dandruff is often caused by dry skin, cats can develop dandruff from getting a sunburn. Keeping your indoor/outdoor cats inside can reduce the chance they'll get sunburned.

Reduce Stress

Stress and anxiety can cause a cat to develop dandruff. If your cat has suddenly developed dandruff after a specific event, such as moving, bringing in a new pet or a baby, or other changes in the environment, you might consider that your cat's dandruff is due to stress. In this case, try solutions designed to help calm your cat. Examples include:

  • Allowing your cat space to hide when he feels nervous
  • Providing your cat with enriching activities, like playing with toys
  • Setting up some places for him to climb, such as cat trees

If your cat continues to be anxious, consult your veterinarian or a qualified behavior professional.

Cat playing with toy

See Your Veterinarian

Finally, dandruff can often be the first sign of a more serious medical condition. Before you try any cat dandruff remedies, make sure you visit your veterinarian to rule out any serious medical conditions. Dr. Learn cautions, "Any skin problem should be checked out by a vet. It may be a simple allergy or fleas, but it could be a sign of a serious health problem such as cancer or liver disease." Your veterinarian is also a great source for product recommendations for dandruff shampoos, skin moisturizers, supplements, and skin-friendly diets.

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How to Get Rid of Cat Dandruff