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Cat Dandruff: Is It Something to Worry About? Facts & FAQ

Written by: Dr. Eric Barchas

Last Updated on January 4, 2024 by Nicole Cosgrove

A gray and white cat scratching and itching.

Cat Dandruff: Is It Something to Worry About? Facts & FAQ

You’re likely here because you have noticed some dandruff on the back of your cat. You’re not alone in wondering what the cause is or what treatment would help. We’d love to help you decide if it’s time to see the vet or if there is anything you can do at home to help. Let’s dive in.

First, what is cat dandruff?

An orange tabby cat being brushed or groomed by a human.
What is cat dandruff and is it something to worry about? Photography ©Aksenovko | Thinkstock.

Given that veterinary medicine even has a term to describe freckles in ginger cats — lentigo simplex — it should not surprise the reader that veterinary medicine has a term to describe severe dandruff: seborrheic dermatitis. I prefer to call it dandruff.

Is cat dandruff common? Why does cat dandruff happen?

Yes, cat dandruff is common. It occurs most frequently exactly where you have described: on the back, closer to the tail than to the head. This cat dandruff may be accompanied by greasy hair.

Most of the time, dandruff, even when severe, is not representative of a disease. However, some skin parasites (particularly one called Demodex) and fungal infections (such as ringworm) can lead to cat dandruff. So can glandular disorders such as hyperthyroidism, allergies to fleas or food, and even severe problems such as lymphoma. Some cats appear to respond to dermatological insults (such as exposure to chemical irritants) by producing dandruff.

What should you do if your cat has dandruff?

To be sure, you did the right thing by taking your cat to the vet. I hope that she did the appropriate tests to rule out those more serious problems. If she did, it is safe to say that your cat has a good, old-fashioned case of feline dandruff. That means two things. First, the problem will be hard to solve. Second, the problem isn’t a problem and it doesn’t need to be solved.

Cat dandruff is, in my experience, hard to treat. Some vets have touted success with dietary supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids. Others recommend special shampoos or spot-on therapies (specifically, I have seen some vets recommend Douxo Spot On or Alloderm). A few owners have reported success after changing their cats’ diets.

However, most people who have cats with dandruff end up frustrated. In my experience, the cat dandruff “problem” does not improve no matter what is done.


I put “problem” in quotes for a reason. If your vet has ruled out serious skin disease, and your cat is not suffering from itching, hair loss or pain, then as far as your cat is concerned, there is no problem. Cats, unlike humans, don’t worry about first impressions. They don’t obsess in the mirror.

Since the dandruff isn’t bothering your cat, I recommend that you not let it bother you. Why risk gastrointestinal upset from a diet change, or an adverse reaction to a shampoo? The problem isn’t really a problem, so why not do nothing? Veterinary medicine has a fancy term for this as well: benign neglect.

Featured Photo: ©chendongshan | Thinkstock. 

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