Dry skin is no fun for anyone, including cats, but there can be many different reasons for it. Luckily, there are just as many ways to get rid of it. Find out more here on what is causing your cat's dry skin, and more importantly, how to help.
Can Cats Get Dry Skin?
Dry skin on cats is not only possible but actually very common across all breeds. The easiest way to tell if your cat has dry skin is if you notice patched, flakey spots around their coat. Another telltale sign that your cat has dry skin is if you see them constantly scratching and itching, especially if they’re focused on a certain spot on their body. The nose, back, ears, and base of the tail are some of the more common areas where a cat can develop dry skin.
What Does Cat Dry Skin Look Like?
Your cat's dry skin can appear as bald spots, scabs, scaly patches, or flakes that look similar to dandruff. These symptoms can appear anywhere on your cat, however, they're most commonly found around the nose, tail, lower back, and ears. Once you’re certain that your cat has dry skin, the next step is figuring out what’s causing it, and then appropriately treating it.
Dry skin is a common concern for cats, often bringing cats and their pet parents to the veterinarian. Here we’ll discuss the possible reasons for cat dry skin, and how to handle a serious issue or tell if it is just regular old wintertime chapping.
What Are the Top Home Remedies for Dry Skin on Cats?
Wondering what the best home remedies for dry skin on cats are? Use the following five remedies to treat your cat’s dry skin and heal their discomfort quickly:
Use a cat food that has a higher protein content.
If you suspect your cat has allergies, consult with your vet to determine an allergy elimination plan.
Use an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement to provide natural moisture for your cat’s skin.
If your home is naturally arid, use humidifiers to help protect your cat’s skin from becoming dry.
Use a natural moisturizing agent (such as coconut oil) on your cat’s dry areas. Certain shampoos and essential oils can also be used as remedies for dry skin on cats.
INDICATIONS OF DRY CAT SKIN
Dandruff and flakiness are the primary indications that your cat has dry skin. The skin itself may appear dull when you part the fur to have a look. Also, your cat may be itching, scratching, or licking more than usual.
CAUSES OF DRY CAT SKIN
More often than not, dry skin is a red flag alerting you to some other condition. By addressing the real issue, dry skin should go back to normal. The most common causes of dry cat skin are:
Allergies: Your cat may be allergic to anything from an ingredient in its food to the pollen in the air. They could also be reacting to something in their environment, like a new bed or grooming product.
Poor Diet: Your cat’s food may be short on vitamins and minerals. Their dry skin could be an indication of a deficiency.
Changes in the Weather: When the weather gets colder and heaters come on, everyone’s skin gets dry. Luckily, this type of dry skin is easy to treat.
Other, less common causes of dry cat skin can include:
Fleas: Sometimes, a flea infestation can cause dry skin. Getting rid of the fleas should resolve the skin problem unless an infection has also developed. In this case, antibiotics, or a special ointment, may be necessary.
Lice and Other Parasites: Eliminating the parasite should resolve skin issues.
Overgrooming: Sometimes, cats get carried away with their self-grooming. Over-grooming can indicate a serious medical problem or a behavioral issue like OCD. Both the medical problem and the excessive licking can lead to dry skin.
Fungal Infections: Fungal infections like yeast infections, ringworm, and sporotrichosis, for example, can lead to dry skin. Sporotrichosis can spread to humans and should be managed right away.
Serious Health Conditions: Older cats are especially susceptible to diseases like hyperthyroidism, heart conditions, and diabetes. Dry skin can be an early indication of one of these issues.
5 TREATMENTS for Cat Dry Skin
1. A Better Diet
More Protein: Most commercial dry cat foods are low on protein and high on carbs, which is the opposite of what nature requires for a cat’s health. The solution? More protein. Consider buying a higher protein food and/or mixing some wet food into your cat’s diet, and see how their skin fares.
Eliminating Allergens: If you think your cat has an allergy, ask your vet to help you plan an elimination diet to identify the source of the allergy.
2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids & Other Supplements
If your cat already has a well-balanced diet, consider an Omega 3 supplement. The benefits of fish oil for pets even go beyond skin moisture -- some tests indicate it may help prevent cancer. You may also consider a more general supplement, like Dermatrix, that includes keratin for skin health.
3. Topical Treatments, Shampoos, and Grooming
Shampoos: These should only be used if your cat has gotten very dirty, greasy, or sticky. Otherwise, there’s almost no reason to bathe a cat.
Flea and tick: Topical treatments will rid your cat of existing lice or flea infestations, which may resolve their related skin issues.
Brushing your cat regularly will help spread its own natural skin oils.
4. Antibiotics & Antifungals
Prescription medication will be necessary for just about any infection-related skin condition. Your vet will know which medication is needed.
5. Household Changes
Dry Heat: If the air is dry in your home because the heat is on, bring a humidifier into the room your cat spends the most time in.
Allergies: Have you changed laundry detergents? Brought in a new scratching post? Started using a new household cleaner? Your cat’s dry skin could be a reaction or an allergy to one of these substances.
Home Remedies for Cats With Itchy Skin
Coconut oil is a great natural remedy for cats with dry and itchy skin. You can apply coconut oil directly to your cat’s fur at any time, but you should start small if you're unfamiliar with the application process. Rub a tiny amount of coconut oil into your cat's fur (enough to cover roughly 3-4 inches of his body) and gently massage the area until it's fully absorbed. If this goes well, gradually increase how much coconut oil you use and where on his body you apply it until he no longer shows signs of discomfort when being touched in those areas.
Make sure that the product is 100% pure organic cold pressed virgin coconut oil without any additives or preservatives to avoid irritation or allergic reactions in your kitty!
Oatmeal is a natural anti-inflammatory, and it’s also effective at treating fleas. You can bathe your cat in oatmeal (either with or without water) or add food with oats to your cat’s diet. If you decide to try the latter method, start out small—a teaspoon at first—and gradually increase the amount as needed. If you have some left over after bathing them, there are plenty of other ways that you can use it around the house:
Oats can be used as an exfoliant for dry skin, especially on elbows and feet; put a handful into a sock, tie off one end and gently massage the area until smooth; rinse well afterward! They're also great as bath scrubs. Just grind them up slightly before adding 1/2 cup of coarse sea salt (or any kind of coarse salt) and mixing thoroughly until clumps form. It should feel like soft sandpaper when finished! Then add two cups of water, more if desired, and mix again until smooth; apply liberally all over the body while in the shower, then rinse thoroughly afterward (don't forget about those hard-to-reach spots like ears, too!).
Last but certainly not least, if crushed up finely enough, these little guys make excellent insect repellents! Apply generously under arms/behind knees before heading outdoors--you won't regret it once those pesky skeeters start buzzing around!
Green tea is a great option for cats with itchy skin. It's full of antioxidants that can reduce inflammation, and it also contains anti-bacterial properties that can help prevent infection. This herb is known to be a diuretic and works to reduce fluid retention in your cat's body, which will help them feel less bloated after eating. It's also considered a mild sedative that may calm your pet down if they're overly active or nervous about their condition (this is especially useful if you have multiple pets in the house!).
One note: green tea does contain caffeine, so keep an eye out for signs of overstimulation or hyperactivity after giving your cat this remedy!
Fish oil is a great natural remedy for cats with itchy skin. It contains omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce itchiness. You can give your cat fish oil in liquid form or in capsule form.
In addition to helping with the itchiness, fish oil also has other health benefits for cats. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can reduce inflammation and improve blood circulation, as well as help promote healthy joints and skin. Fish oil can also be used to treat depression and anxiety in cats, so if your cat is irritable because of its itchy skin condition, then you may want to try adding some fish oil into their diet too!
7 Signs of Cat Skin Problems
Cats, just like everyone else, can end up developing a skin condition. We may not think about it since their skin is pretty well covered with a thick layer of fur (in most cases), but when a cat skin problem occurs, they are just as uncomfortable as anyone else. If you want to be able to help your cat when the problem occurs, it pays to know the signs and what the likely cause could be.
1. Scratching, licking, and chewing at the skin
Fact: cats lick themselves clean, and they also scratch themselves. However, if you notice that your cat is really working a specific spot (especially around their neck or head), it could be their way of trying to deal with skin irritation. Often, this type of behavior is symptomatic of a parasite, such as fleas, ticks, or ear mites, causing your cat to go mentally trying to get at the source of the itch. If your cat is really going to a specific area, take them to the vet.
While they may not be visible, scabs can often be felt. If you are petting your cat and you feel a spot of crusty, scabbed-over skin, this could either be a legion or the result of excessive scratching, both of which are a sign that something is bothering your cat. It could be miliary dermatitis or another issue, and it's time to consult your vet.
3. Redness or inflammation
If your cat’s skin is becoming red and raised, chances are this is an allergic reaction to something they are interacting with within your home, commonly known as contact dermatitis. Frequently a result of an allergy to plastic or rubber, the best defense is to keep your cat away from potential triggers. Try feeding them from glass, stainless steel, or ceramic bowls, as rubber/plastic dishes are a leading cause. Talk to your vet as well, since it could also be a result of something more serious.
4. Round, scaly patches
Ringworm is an infectious fungus that causes scaly patches on the skin. If you notice any round, scaly skin on your cat's body, most commonly on the head or paws, take them to the vet to have them treated.
5. Dry, flaky skin
A symptom that can be attributed to a ton of different causes — from allergies and weather to parasites — dry, flaky skin can be alleviated with a dietary supplement such as fish oil to help their skin and fur regain their natural sheen and moisture. However, you should always consult with your vet before adding any supplement to your cat's diet.
6. Hair loss
If your cat is licking their coat to the point of removing hair, it is a good sign that they are in pain resulting from one of the aforementioned causes. If, however, the hair is falling out on its own, chances are that the cat is suffering from a different kind of condition, such as demodectic mange, an excess of cortisone, hyperthyroidism, feline endocrine alopecia, or some other type of disease. If your cat’s hair is falling out, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
7. Skin discoloration
Depending on how far the discoloration spreads (small spots or a large portion of their skin), this could either be a minor reaction to something like a mosquito bite or something more serious like Cushing’s disease. Regardless of the size, however, if there is a change in your cat’s skin color, you should take them to the vet immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I put coconut oil on my cat's dry skin?
Yes, you can use coconut oil to help soothe your cat's dry skin. Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer that can help to hydrate and nourish the skin. However, it's important to use caution when applying coconut oil to your cat. Some cats may have an allergic reaction to coconut oil, so it's best to do a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area of your cat's skin before applying it more widely. Also, be sure to use pure, unrefined coconut oil, as some products may contain added ingredients that could be harmful to your cat. When applying coconut oil, start with a small amount and massage it gently into your cat's skin. You can also add a few drops to your cat's food or treats to help hydrate their skin from the inside out. It's always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian before using any new product on your cat, especially if they have a skin condition or if you have concerns about how your cat may react.
Why is my cat's skin dry and scabby?
There could be a variety of reasons why your cat's skin is dry and scabby. Cats can be allergic to food, environmental allergens (such as pollen or mold), or chemicals found in household products. Allergic reactions can cause dry, itchy skin and lead to scabbing. Fleas, mites, and lice can all cause skin irritation and scab in cats. Bacterial or fungal skin infections can cause scabbing and other skin symptoms in cats. Certain skin conditions, such as feline acne or seborrhea, can cause dry, flaky skin and scabs in cats. A lack of certain nutrients in your cat's diet, such as omega-3 fatty acids, can contribute to dry, itchy skin and scabbing. If you're concerned about your cat's dry, scabby skin, it's best to consult with your veterinarian. They can help to diagnose the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment, which may include medications, dietary changes, or changes to your cat's environment.
What can I put on my cat's dry skin?
There are a few things you can use to help soothe your cat's dry skin. You can use a pet-specific moisturizing cream or ointment to hydrate your cat's skin. Make sure to choose a product that is safe for use on cats and does not contain any ingredients that may be harmful. Adding a source of omega-3 fatty acids to your cat's diet, such as fish oil, can help to improve skin health and reduce dryness. Using a humidifier in your home can help to add moisture to the air, which can be beneficial for cats with dry skin. In some cases, bathing your cat with a gentle, moisturizing shampoo can help to hydrate its skin. However, be careful not to bathe your cat too frequently, as this can strip its skin of its natural oils and make dryness worse. As mentioned earlier, coconut oil can be used as a natural moisturizer for cats. Make sure to use pure, unrefined coconut oil and do a patch test before using it more widely. Keep in mind that the underlying cause of your cat's dry skin should be addressed to prevent future dryness. If you're unsure about the best course of treatment for your cat, consult with your veterinarian for advice.
How can I soothe my cat's itchy skin with home remedies?
There are a few home remedies that may help to soothe your cat's itchy skin. You can mix oatmeal with warm water to make a paste and then apply the paste to your cat's skin. Leave it on for 10-15 minutes, then rinse it off. The oatmeal can help to soothe and moisturize your cat's skin, reducing itching. Aloe vera is a natural anti-inflammatory and moisturizing agent that can help to soothe your cat's skin. You can apply pure aloe vera gel directly to your cat's skin or add a few drops of aloe vera juice to their drinking water. Dilute apple cider vinegar with water (1 part vinegar to 3 parts water) and apply the mixture to your cat's skin using a cotton ball. The vinegar can help to soothe itching and reduce inflammation. Mix baking soda with water to form a paste, and then apply the paste to your cat's skin. Leave it on for a few minutes, then rinse it off. The baking soda can help to neutralize skin irritants and soothe itching. Certain herbs, such as chamomile or calendula, can have a calming effect on the skin and help to reduce itching. You can make tea with the herbs, let it cool, and then use a cloth to apply the tea to your cat's skin. Remember, these home remedies may not work for all cats, and some may have an adverse reaction to certain ingredients. If your cat's itching persists or worsens, it's best to consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
What anti-itch cream is safe for cats?
There are several over-the-counter creams that are safe for use on cats and can help to relieve itching. Hydrocortisone is a mild steroid that can help to reduce inflammation and itching. Look for a cream that is specifically labeled for use on cats, as some hydrocortisone creams contain other ingredients that may be harmful to cats. Benadryl is an antihistamine that can help to relieve itching caused by allergies. Again, make sure to choose a product that is safe for use on cats and follow the recommended dosages. There are also creams available that are specifically formulated for use on pets and are safe for use on cats. These creams may contain a combination of anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, and soothing ingredients. While these creams can help to relieve itching, they do not address the underlying cause of the itching. If your cat's itching persists or worsens, it's best to consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, never use a cream on your cat without first consulting with your veterinarian, as some ingredients may be toxic to cats.
More on Skin Health
Dog and Cat Dermatitis: Itchy Skin in Pets
Cat Dandruff Remedies and Solutions
Skin and Coat Care: A Pet Parent's Guide
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.