Nobody likes dandruff, certainly not your kitty. Dry, itchy skin isn't just uncomfortable for your furry buddy, it could indicate an underlying medical condition or an improper diet. Rule out any illnesses with a visit to the vet to properly diagnose your cat's dry skin before attempting to treat it.
Visit the Vet
If you notice any dry skin flakes on your kitty's coat, consult your veterinarian. Your kitty may just be experiencing nothing more than dry skin, but sometimes other conditions -- such as flea infestations, allergies and fungal or bacterial skin infections -- could be the underlying cause of the dryness. To rule out such medical causes, your vet will physically examine your kitten's coat and may take some skin scrapings as well. In the case of allergies, a hypoallergenic diet may cure your little one's dry skin. The vet may also test for other health conditions, like hypothyroidism, kidney disease or heart disease, all of which can result in dry skin as a side effect, according to the VetInfo website.
Brush your kitty's skin daily to remove dead skin flakes and properly distribute her natural oils throughout her skin and coat. Avoid bathing your kitty, because this can contribute to or cause dry skin. Frequent bathing strips the coat of the proper balance of oils, causing it and the skin to become dry and brittle. If you must bathe your furry friend, only use cat-specific shampoo; human shampoos strip too much oil from the coat. Follow bathing with a cat-safe conditioner to keep the skin moist, rinse, and finish with a few spritzes of a leave-in conditioner. Never use lotions or conditioners designed for people, which will just leave your little one's coat oily and gummy, according to the American Animal Hospital Association.
If your vet rules out internal problems, her dry skin could be the result of improper nutrition. Choose commercial cat food for your kitty that meets the nutritional profiles of the Association of American Feed Control Officials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends. A diet that doesn't meet your cat's basic nutritional needs can lead to a dry, unhealthy coat and flaky skin, among other health issues, if fed long-term. Ask your vet if your little one's diet should be supplemented with omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids, which can sometimes help alleviate dry skin, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine website suggests. An article in the Baltimore Sun suggests giving your kitty a variety of high-quality cat foods and avoiding large amounts of fish, which contain low amounts of vitamin E and could contribute to cat's dry skin.
Dry climates can cause your kitty to develop dry skin. A humidifier placed near her favorite resting spot can help prevent weather-related dry skin, especially in winter. If the skin of her paws is dry, rub petroleum jelly on them, especially if she goes outdoors during cold weather, recommends PetPlace.com. Feed your cat a well-balanced diet rich in fatty acids and vitamin E to combat and prevent dry skin. Follow any instructions that your vet gives you regarding your kitty's health. Treating the underlying condition should clear up the dryness. If no cause is found for your kitty's dry skin, your vet may prescribe some topical medication for you to rub into the cat's skin to clear up her dryness and relieve any itching.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- American Animal Hospital Association: Dry Skin
- WebMD: Slideshow: Skin Problems in Cats
- The Cat Health Guide: Care and Treatment of Cat Skin Problems
- VetInfo: Causes of Dry Skin on Cats
- PetPlace.com: Why Do My Cats Shed and Have White Flakes All Around the Area?
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: The Challenge of Skin Disorders
- Cat Channel: How Do I Cure My Cat’s Dry Skin?
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Selecting Nutritious Pet Foods
- PetPlace.com: Winter Skin and Paw Care in Cats
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.