Does your cat appear to have dandruff flakes that move across his or her fur? This may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, but there's a good chance your cat is actually suffering from an infestation of Cheyletiella mites. Known as walking dandruff because of their skin-flake-like appearance, these mites are highly contagious and can make your cat very itchy and uncomfortable. Here's a closer look at how walking dandruff affects cats and what you can do about it.

How do cats end up with walking dandruff?

Cats contract walking dandruff by coming into contact with another cat that has the mites on its skin. They may also catch walking dandruff if they sleep on a cat bed or play with a toy that a cat with walking dandruff has used. This condition is most common in cats that come from shelters, spend time at boarding facilities, or go outside. Occasionally, a cat may pick up a case of walking dandruff at the groomer if proper sanitation practices are not used.

What are the symptoms of walking dandruff?

In addition to making it look like your cat's skin flakes are moving, walking dandruff makes your cat very itchy. He or she may scratch excessively, leading to scabs and hair loss.

What should you do if you suspect your cat has walking dandruff?

If you think your cat may have walking dandruff, a visit to the vet is in order. Your vet will examine the condition of your cat's skin and then recommend a medicated shampoo that will kill the mites without causing further skin irritation. Since bathing a cat can be difficult, your vet may do this in his or her office instead of sending you home to do it yourself. You may also be given a spray or cream to apply to your cat's coat for a few days following the shampooing session. If your cat has any sores or scabs, your vet will likely give you a cream to apply to them to prevent infections and to speed healing.

To prevent your cat from becoming re-infested, you'll need to wash all of his bedding in hot water and run it through the dryer on high heat. (The heat will kill the mites.) If your cat sleeps on your bed, you need to wash your bedding in the same manner – along with cat toys, pillows, and other plush materials that often come into contact with your cat.

If you think your cat has walking dandruff, don't ignore the issue. The sooner you deal with the infestation, the sooner your cat will feel comfortable and itch-free again. Contact a business like Gulfport Veterinarian to learn more.