One of the traits people love most about cats is their soft, silky fur. There’s nothing better than coming home at the end of the day, settling down by a warm fire with a sweet kitty on your lap.
Stroking the cat’s soft fur can calm even the most anxious heart, but these adorable bundles of hair have skin underneath that needs more care and attention than many owners provide.
To treat dry skin in a cat, feed your cat ‘healthy coat’ food, brush your cat to distribute those natural oils into the skin, and give your cat flea treatments to prevent hotspots. Dry skin doesn’t go away on its own, and if left untreated, it can lead to more severe conditions and open wounds.
The rest of this article will explain what causes itchy dry skin in cats, suggest treatment options, and discuss when owners should call the vet.
What Causes Dry Skin in a Cat?
Before treating an animal for any medical condition, you must first understand that condition. The internet is full of information, but unfortunately, much of it is either flawed or so abundant and contradictory that it’s hard to know what to believe, so look for reliable sources.
The writers at Fetch by WebMD offer many solid reasons and possible cures for dry skin in cats. Still, these reasons can fall into three major categories:
- a poor diet
- inadequate grooming
- underlying health issues
Regardless of what’s causing it, however, dry skin in cats – or any other animal for that matter – must be treated immediately because it may become a more serious issue if left alone.
Some problems are more straightforward and more economically friendly than others, so the following list is in order of ease for you as an owner.
The most common cause for dry skin in cats is that the cat suffers from a poor diet. Though I’d discuss with my veterinarian before changing my cat’s food, many healthy food options on the market specifically address dry skin.
For example, Blue Buffalo has a line specifically for healthy coats, such as the Blue Buffalo True Solutions Perfect Coat Dry Cat Food and Blue Buffalo True Solutions Perfect Coat Wet Cat Food.
For those who want to see if a change in eating habits will cure the problem but don’t wish to change food right away, there are also food supplements and vitamin options, such as Greenies Smartbites and Nature Vet’s Skin and Coat Vitamins. Start with these first to see if they make a difference.
Cats are meticulous groomers, and they need to remain clean both for the cat’s comfort and for its health. Many health conditions are exposed simply by owners paying closer attention to the cat’s grooming habits.
If a cat grooms endlessly or with more speed than usual, for example, it may be a sign of an underlying behavioral or skin problem.
Therefore, because a popular belief is that cats prefer to groom themselves, it’s good to understand why cats may need help in the grooming process.
The health of a cat’s skin cannot be emphasized enough. According to RSPCA, there are many reasons to groom your cat, with the most common being to:
- Prevent hairballs
- Help their skin
- Check for fleas or other skin problems
- Check for lumps or bumps
- Check for debris that will cause matting
- Reinforce the positive bond between you and your cat
Hairballs in Cats
Let’s face it: hairballs are disgusting, and to a large part, avoidable. Assisting your cat in the grooming process helps eliminate large amounts of hair build-up that the cat may otherwise swallow, so getting rid of it before it gets to that point benefits everyone.
Hairballs can also cause other health issues, so it’s essential to help your cat avoid forming them. In doing so, by assisting with grooming, you’re helping your cat avoid both skin issues and potential intestinal issues.
Some cats are more prone to hairballs and need more grooming assistance than others. Himalayan cats, for example, are some of the more common breeds to have this dry skin issue, followed by Persian cats.
These cats have such a thick, luxurious coat that it’s hard for them to groom themselves adequately day-to-day.
Why Additional Grooming Matters
Fortunately, most people who seek long-haired breeds do so because of their soft fur and are ordinarily knowledgeable about the necessary additional grooming. But all cat breeds can benefit from grooming assistance.
According to VCA Hospitals’ vets, the grooming process is about much more than a pretty cat. As you brush your cat, the process helps distribute the coat’s natural oils throughout the hair shafts, making it easier for the cat to self-groom while moisturizing the area.
How and When To Groom
Short-haired breeds should need grooming assistance no more than once per week unless they get into something they can’t clean off of themselves. Long-haired breeds need daily brushing; otherwise, mats and tangles make the job harder, and blossoming skin problems may remain undetected.
There are several grooming products that every cat owner should have in their toolkit, including a rake, such as this Pat Your Pet Grooming Tool, for removing matting and tangles, a slicker brush, such as the Hertzko Self Cleaning Slicker Brush, to remove loose hair and trapped dirt, and a grooming brush, such as this Safari Soft Bristle Brush.
Of course, there are also all-in-one options, including this SDY IDUSE Pet Slick Brush, but the most important thing is to get something you will use and something your cat enjoys because grooming time should be a bonding experience rather than a stressful one.
Various health issues can cause dry skin in cats, including external parasites, hormonal disorders, and thyroid disease. Of these three causes, the only one that owners may be able to treat successfully at home is external parasites. Dry patches, for example, may be caused by ringworm, which is highly contagious and transmissible to humans.
Manhattan Cat Specialists warn that veterinarians take a twofold approach to cure a cat of ringworm: “a cured cat and a decontaminated environment.” Avoiding the spread of this fungus is essential and is most often accomplished by catching it early, which is usually accomplished by finding skin irritations while grooming.
Other external parasites include fleas and ticks. Over-the-counter products are also available to owners, such as Advecta Plus Flea Prevention Drops, a monthly topical treatment.
A common misconception is that fleas are only active in warmer months and that fleas are simply a nuisance rather than a real problem. The fact is that flea treatment must be year-round. Not only can fleas cause hot spots on the cat’s skin, but they can also cause heartworms, which can be fatal.
If fleas are discovered as the culprit for a cat’s dry skin, treating the entire house for fleas is the only way to rid the family of the issue, and products like Adams Carpet Powder generally work well.
It’s helpful to know that the listed concerns are not the only health-related causes. Regardless of the skin condition’s cause, please see your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.
Owning a cat is an enjoyable journey for a family to embark upon. Cats are curious by nature and have distinct personalities that are intriguing to watch. These pets are soft and cuddly – when they want to be – and they sense when a family member needs a little extra kitty time.
Cats don’t need to be walked every day and are happy to remain inside all day. They require minimal care, but they do need owners for more than shelter and food.
They need attention, toys, and help with grooming to remain in optimal health for many years.
- FETCH by WebMD: Slideshow: Skin Problems in Cats
- RSPCA: How often do I need to groom my cat?
- Wikipedia: Persian Cat
- Wikipedia: Himalayan Cat
- VCA Hospitals: Coat and Skin Appearance in the Healthy Cat
- Merck Vet Manual: Introduction to Hormonal Disorders of Cats
- AVMA: External parasites
- Manhattan Cat Specialists: Ringworm
- Heart Worm Society: Heartworm in Cats