Cats’ skin is thin and sensitive. This means that the skin, especially on the lower back, can easily dry out. If scratched by a cat in an attempt to deal with an itch, this can lead to unsightly, scaly skin and scabs.
Dry skin on a cat’s lower back can be caused by dehydration and a lack of humidity. Improve the airflow in your home and encourage your cat to drink more water. Ensure your cat is getting sufficient protein and omega-3. Brush your cat’s fur regularly, especially if it is overweight, as obese cats struggle to groom their lower back.
If you find dry skin on your cat’s back, it can usually be resolved at home without any form of medication. You’ll need to identify the cause of the dry skin and take appropriate action to remedy it.
My Cat Has Dry Skin and Dandruff
Dandruff in cats is usually linked to dry skin. When the skin of a cat dries out, it will start to flake and fall off. Oftentimes, cats have dry skin on their back, near the tail. It can present itself on any part of feline anatomy, though.
Feline dandruff is most noticeable in cats with black fur. It is an ailment that can impact cats of any color, but the contrast of white skin flakes to dark fur makes it most noticeable.
As unpleasant as cat dandruff is to the eye, it rarely causes discomfort. Alas, in some cases, the dry skin may itch, causing the cat to scratch. This is not ideal as cats’ skin is paper-thin at the best of times, more so when dry.
If your cat is scratching a lot, ensure the dandruff is static. As explained by the Western Journal of Medicine, your cat may be infested with cheyletiella mites. These arachnids cause a condition called cheyletiellosis, colloquially referred to as “walking dandruff.”
If your cat has a parasitic infection, this must be resolved immediately. Cheyletiellosis is zoonotic, and the mites will not think twice about attaching to an owner.
Why Do Cats Get Dry, Flaky Skin?
To resolve feline dandruff, you need to know what causes dry skin in cats. Different solutions will present themselves, depending on the cause of the issue. Common explanations for dry, flaky feline skin include:
- Obesity – overweight cats struggle to reach their backs and tails while grooming.
- Arthritis – this plague of senior cats, much like obesity, restricts grooming mobility.
- Allergic – an allergic reaction to food, plastic, or dust can lead to dry, inflamed skin.
- Inappropriate diet – Cats rely upon protein and omega 3 to retain healthy skin.
- Lack of humidity – the hotter and drier a cat’s environment, the likelier the skin is to dry out.
- Dehydration – cats often fail to drink enough water and grow dehydrated, drying out the skin.
- Excessive petting – human fingers contain oils. When these build up, they can dry out feline skin.
- Fungal infection – ringworm is a concern that leads to dry, flaky, and itchy skin.
You should also rule out an illness. The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association explains that hyperadrenocorticism, a condition that impacts overweight cats, lists thin, flaky skin among the symptoms.
In most cases, dry skin, especially around the base of the tail and the back, is a lifestyle or environmental issue. This makes it comparatively simple to resolve.
Do Cats Get Dry Skin in Winter?
If you find yourself wondering, “why is my cat’s skin so dry?” during the colder months of the year, you will not be alone. Just like humans, cat skin dries out more during the winter.
This is due to a lack of humidity in the cooler air outside – enhanced by artificial heat sources indoors. This lack of humidity costs feline skin around 25% of its moisture. Unless your cat is actively replacing this, dry skin and dandruff will follow.
This should not necessarily be limited to the lower back. Cold weather will cause dry weather all over a cat’s body. It may just be more pronounced at the lower back.
As mentioned, this will primarily be due to weight and muscular conditions. Cats are roughly 15% hungrier in the winter, so they will eat more. This, coupled with the instinct to sleep away during cold weather, will lead to weight gain.
In senior cats, arthritis can also likely be added to the equation. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice stated that arthritis is common in geriatric cats (aged 15 or over).
This immobility of the joints, coupled with excess weight, makes grooming the back almost impossible. Dry skin will build up and need to be managed during the winter months with more regularity than warmer times of the year.
How Do You Moisturize a Cat’s Skin?
Now that you have determined the reason for your cat’s dandruff, you need a solution. What helps a cat’s dry skin? Never apply a human moisturizer to the skin of a cat. No matter how natural or expensive the product may be, it will aggravate the issue. Cats’ skin has a different PH to our own and cannot withstand products intended for humans.
Equally important is that you do not bathe your cat constantly. You may think that getting feline skin wet will hydrate it. In reality, bathing will cause more dryness.
If your cat is struggling to take care of its own grooming needs, lend a hand. Limit this to brushing and, if necessary, the application of unscented wet wipes. Turning a shower head on your cat will do more harm than good.
Brushing may not always be enough to deal with your cat’s dry skin and dandruff. In these instances, you will need to step up your solution. You have two options – seeking professional help or taking a DIY approach.
Home Remedies for Dry Skin on Cats
You’ll rarely need medical intervention to resolve dry skin on a cat’s back. Once you know what to put on cats’ dry skin, you’ll often be to resolve the problem at home. You may not even need to physically interact with your cat at all.
Olive oil is nature’s moisturizer. It can be a powerful weapon against dry skin and dandruff in cats. This oil, or vegetable or almond oil, will sink into a cat’s skin, providing moisture and soothing any dry, flaky skin.
Apply two tablespoons of olive oil to a bowl and massage it into your cat’s skin and fur. Pay particular attention to the base of the back, where the dandruff is likely to be most pronounced. After 20 minutes, rinse the oil out of the fur.
Do not use this technique any more frequently than once every two weeks. An olive oil skin treatment is effective enough to only require sporadic use. Olive oil is safe to consume, especially when extra virgin, so do not be alarmed if your cat licks its fur.
Convincing a cat to hydrate can be challenging. Domesticated cats are descended from desert animals, so they feel perfectly comfortable living on the edge of dehydration. What’s more, cats can be fussy about their drinking water.
Alas, the longer a cat goes without drinking sufficient amounts of water, the drier its skin will become. By extension, this will lead to more unappealing dandruff. Try these techniques to convince a cat to drink:
- Change the water regularly so that it remains fresh.
- Keep water far away from food and litter, ideally in an opposite corner of a room.
- Use bottled or filtered water. The scent of chemicals in tap water deters cats from drinking.
If your cat remains unconvinced, get a water fountain. Cats prefer to drink from moving water sources due to wild instinct. A water fountain will provide a constant flow of fresh, flowing water.
Increased Humidity and Airflow
Keep an eye on the temperature of your home and that of your cat. If a cat is running a body temperature above 102 degrees, it is too hot. This will cause the skin to dry out, in addition to more concerning issues such as hyperthermia.
Where possible, leave windows open to reduce ambient temperature and keep the current of air flowing. This will not always be a realistic option. In the winter, for example, you’ll want all windows and doors firmly closed.
In such times, especially if utilizing central heating, invest in a humidifier. This will keep your cat’s skin moist without creating an unwelcome draught or making your home feel inhospitable.
Do not forget that your cat may be struggling to groom its back due to weight gain. We mentioned earlier that weight gain is inevitable in winter, and we stand by that. This is only safe if the cat’s default weight is acceptable, though.
Keep an eye on your cat’s weight, ensuring it does not become obese. It’s only natural that older, arthritic cats will be less interested in exercise. You’ll need to work to encourage movement to keep the risks of excessive weight at bay.
You may feel that your beloved companion deserves the opportunity to live out its later years without worrying about weight. Still, it’s often unpleasant for a cat to carry excess bulk. Cats are fussy about their cleanliness. Inability to groom, leading to dry skin and dandruff, may be causing your pet psychological distress.
Medical Remedies for Dry Skin on Cats
Dry skin can look worrying on a cat, leading to owners making a veterinary appointment. Ensure that this action is necessary. Unless your cat is in visible distress, scratching at dry skin, and opening wounds, you can usually persevere with home remedies.
Sometimes, though, dry skin will need the intervention of a health professional. If you present a cat with dry skin to a vet and lifestyle changes have proved unsuccessful, there will be potential treatments available.
Creams and Ointments
If a cat’s skin is particularly dry and inflamed, a vet will prescribe ointments to soothe it. These treatments are typically used for remedying allergies, so your vet may wish to run further tests before agreeing to a prescription.
Ointments are lotions are often effective, but there’s a caveat. These remedies will treat the symptom but not the cause. It can quickly grow expensive to constantly need to apply medical-grade ointment to your cat’s skin.
If your cat is in discomfort, creams and ointments offer immediate and welcome relief. Just pair their application with learning why your cat’s skin is so dry. With luck, you’ll only need one dose of tropical treatment.
Medical Grade Shampoo
In conjunction with ointments and lotions, a vet may prescribe a medicated shampoo designed to add moisture to feline skin. These shampoos are used in smaller doses than a typical variety, so always read the label and follow instructions carefully.
Even if you have a medicated shampoo, it is not free reign to constantly bathe your cat. This will still dry out the skin – and your cat will loathe the experience. Used in appropriate moderation, though, medical shampoo can improve the condition of feline skin.
Omega-3 is the collective term for a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids should feature heavily in the feline diet, especially if your cat is prone to dry skin. Omega-3’s many benefits include superior skin.
Omega-3 is commonly found in most cat superior cat foods, especially fish-based meals. Equally, scaly fish will provide your cat with plenty of these acids. Just ensure the fish has been completely deboned and cooked before serving.
Alternatively, you could look into omega-3 supplements. These are available over the counter in any reputable pet store in liquid or solid forms.
It’s advisable to consult a professional before introducing any supplementation into a cat’s diet. Older cats, in particular, may react poorly to supplements. If you get the go-ahead, omega-3 may resolve your cat’s itchy skin and dandruff.
As discussed, protein is just as important to cat skin as omega-3. Consider protein to be the building blocks that superior skin grows from. If necessary, switch your cat to a high-quality wet food diet with genuine meat produce.
In some cases, this still may not be enough. In such an instance, a vet may recommend a specialist prescribed cat food for dry skin. Oftentimes, this is reserved for serious illnesses such as chronic renal disease or failure.
Dry, flaky skin on a cat’s back is unsightly, but it isn’t irresolvable. Learn what is responsible for the issue and take the appropriate steps to rectify it. In most cases, you’ll be able to do that is at home with no professional intervention.