Take a good look at your cat. Does it have large flakes down the back? Does it feel a bit greasy, and does the hair separate? The good news is, your cat is not suffering from dry skin or hair. If it has dry skin, the flakes would be very tiny and there would be evidence of dryness on other parts of the body. If you check its belly, you'll see the dry skin clearly. It is actually rare to see dry skin on a cat, because they are naturally oily.
But if you have large white/yellow flakes down the back, you have either seborrheic dermatitis, or cat that is so dirty that the oil, skin cells, and dried saliva has built up to the point of flakey kitty pastry, and a potent allergen concoction. That's right, it is depositing its skin, grease, and salvia all over your clothes, furniture, bed, and home. Yummy.
Typical story: We have a new client who has a short haired cat that was always full of dandruff and getting mats down its back. Previous "professional" help had consisted of combing out the mats on an ever increasing cycle. The problem was happening more frequently and worse each time. She was frustrated and grossed out. Visiting our salon, we inquired as to the last time the cat had had a bath. The shocked owner replied that the cat had never been bathed in its entire 8 year life....to be continued.
The chances of having dandruff increases with age and being male (just like humans, there are more oil producing glands due to hormones, making men more prone to dandruff), although females can still have dandruff too. Other important factors is a diet that is lacking in fats, vitamin B, and zinc. So you may need to re-evaluate the quality of your cat's food. What goes in, reflects on the exterior and you will need at least 6 weeks to see a difference. Dandruff can also be due to stress or an undiagnoised illness. If your cat is on a good quality diet, gets a thumbs up from the vet on its health, then you have a dirty cat. Plain and simple.
Many people unknowingly believe the dandruff and often accompanying static is caused by dry skin. Not so. Probably the worst thing you can do is put oily conditioner on top of an already greasy cat. Static problems have more to do with an exchange of positive electrons than dryness, but that is a subject for another blog.
So if you want to effectively resolve dandruff here are some typical band-aid solutions that WILL NOT WORK:
1. Brushing and combing - a good daily practice to remove loose hair and exfoliate the skin, but will not remove existing dandruff in the hair or on the skin. It just helps spread it around more.
2. Wipes or drybath sprays - it might wipe the surface, but doesn't get to the root cause. Not an effective useful long-term solution.
3. Conditioning sprays - please no. This will make your cat greaser and still not solve your problem. Yuck.
Think logically here, and put all those myths you've heard about cats to one side for a moment.The only way to effectively resolve dandruff is to remove the oil and dander by proper cleansing the hair and skin by bathing with a cat appropriate shampoo and thorough rinsing to flush away all the residue. One without conditioner. You must then establish a regular washing schedule.
Getting back to our dandruffy cat story:
After some convincing the owner, desperate for a solution, relented and allowed us to bathe and properly groom her cat, start to finish. After 4 wash/rinse cycles to remove 8 years of typical cat owning ignorance (not her fault), the dandruff and mats were gone. The hair was smooth and shiny, and you could clearly see the tabby stripping that had been obscured since adolesence. The cat was grateful, purring, and happy. The owner was astonished at the difference and rebooked for another wash in six weeks.
I know you are surprised that the cat was getting another bath in "only" six weeks. Sure enough, when the owner arrived, you could see just the beginning of new dandruff, he was starting to get greasy again, and the owner was happy to report that there had not been any shedding hair or dandruff up until just a few days before and that brushing in the meantime had been unnecessary. It was the perfect time to have another bath and blow dry to prevent any problems and keep him clean. The owner immediately rebooked her cat for another appointment in six weeks. She had the seen the light, and it was a clean and happy cat. Simply washing it on a regular schedule had made a big difference in their quality of life together and had eliminated the dandruff.
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Janet Wormitt, CFMG CFCG
Cat-a-lyst and Ad-vo-CATe