Does My Cat Have Dry Skin? - Tips and Advice

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If your cat is flaking like a freshly baked pie crust when you pet them, or is constantly scratching an itch, you may be wondering: "Does my cat have dry skin?" If you're sure that fleas aren't to blame, then you'll need to get to the bottom of what could be causing your cat's scratching.

Dry Skin Symptoms and Likely Causes

A dry patch here and there or occasional scratching usually isn't something to worry about, but when the scratching goes on for days, or your cat is chewing and licking a specific area obsessively, it may be time to determine if your fur baby has a serious skin condition or irritation. Itching constantly or consistently in the same area may be a sign your cat has dry patches of skin. Other symptoms of dry skin in cats are dandruff-like flakes on their fur and bald spots.

One reason your cat may have dry skin is in their food bowl. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, cats need a nutritionally balanced food with adequate amounts of certain fatty acids, without which their skin can become dry and scaly and their coats can become dull. Talk to your veterinarian about your cat's food to see if they need to switch to a different food or try a supplement, such as fish oil. Keep in mind, however, that any recommendations from your vet may take up to a month to clear up your cat's dry skin.

If your cat's dry skin is mostly in the centre of their back, the problem could be caused by excess weight. Cats Protection notes that obese cats can have trouble grooming themselves properly, and may have dry skin, dandruff or matting in harder-to-reach spots as a result.

Skin and Sensitivities

Environmental sensitivities and other outside factors are common causes of skin conditions in cats. It's important to be aware of what's in your home that could cause skin irritation for your cat. Ask yourself:

  • Have I used any new household cleaners on the floors, on the furniture or in the air?
  • Have I washed any blankets or clothing in a different detergent?
  • Could my cat have eaten any medication that was lying around the house?
  • Have any new animals been introduced into the home?

If you answered yes to any of these questions and can isolate a possible source, then call your vet and describe the symptoms and what you think your cat came in contact with. From there, your vet will decide if they need you to visit or want to wait it out for a few days.

You may want to talk to everyone in your house and make a list of any new cleaners or cosmetics that entered right before your cat started itching. Cats can even be bothered by pollen, dust and mold. If your cat suddenly becomes lethargic, vomits or has seizures soon after you notice them scratching, get them to the vet immediately. They may have a severe sensitivity or have eaten something poisonous.

Striped gray cat scratching cat on a wicker chair in garden

Other Critters

Keep in mind that if a new animal was brought into the home, fleas could be the reason your cat has skin issues, even if other pets show no signs of irritation. Run a flea comb through your cat's fur and fold sections of the fur over to look for fleas or flea dirt (the black material left behind by fleas, which is actually flea faeces). Even if you don't find any bugs, there can be smaller itch-causing parasites at work, such as mites, according to the PDSA. Also, check for redness and scaly areas that could indicate a fungal condition, such as ringworm. Keep track of changes to your house menagerie to share with your vet so they can make an informed decision about what to do to help relieve your cat's itchy skin.

Dry Skin Treatment

When looking for dry skin solutions for your itchy cat, you may be tempted to turn to the internet for possible at-home or natural remedies. The PDSA cautions that some ingredients that are safe for humans, like certain essential oils, could be damaging and even toxic to cats. Only ever use products designed specifically for cats, and check with your vet before trying anything to relieve your cat's irritation.

Some cats may experience itchy, red, irritated skin due to food sensitivities. Talk with your vet about whether a dietetic cat food would help your cat.

While you work to resolve your cat's itchy skin, always try to keep your cat busy with active play, and distract them from scratching one area before it becomes raw or infected. You can also use humidifiers to add moisture to the air in your home, and give your cat lots of water to drink to keep them hydrated.

If your cat has dry, itchy skin, chances are the cause is lurking in your house — but it can probably be easily whisked away. You and your vet can work together to modify your home for a happy and comfortable cat!

Contributor Bio

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.

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