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If your cat is flaking like a freshly baked pie crust when you pet her, or is constantly scratching an itch with no fleas in sight, you may be wondering: "Does my cat have dry skin?" If it's winter and you live in a cold climate, it is possible your feline friend's skin is getting dried out just like human skin does over the winter. However, if you don't have the weather to blame for your itchy cat, you may need to get to the bottom of what could be causing your cat's scratching.
Dry Skin Symptoms and Likely Causes
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. 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.
One reason your cat may have dry skin is in her food bowl, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center. Cats need a nutritionally balanced food with plenty (but not too much) of fatty acids to maintain a healthy skin and coat. 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 kitty's dry skin.
If your cat's dry skin is mostly in the center of her back, her problem could be caused by excess weight. The Happy Cat Site notes that obese cats have trouble reaching certain areas to groom, and may have dry or matted spots as a result.
Skin and Allergies
Environmental allergies 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 pet. Ask yourself:
- Have I used any new household cleaners on the floors, 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 around my 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 kitty 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 allergy or have eaten something poisonous.
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 feces). Even if you don't find any bugs, there can be smaller itch-causing parasites at work, such as mites, according to The Spruce Pets. 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. Keep in mind that some oils, soaps and products that are safe for humans could be poisonous for cats, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 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 therapeutic 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 of it 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!
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.