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‘‘How can I reduce cat dander in my home?’ – vet advice

Vet Vanessa Howie explains what to do about your cat’s dandruff, how to help a cat with dementia and what to do if you think your cat is drinking too much water.

Do you have a burning question for a vet about your cat? Have a read through the advice below from Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie, all covered in her recent live Q&A on Facebook.

What's the best way to try and reduce my cat’s dander or dandruff?

Should I be constantly grooming my cat with a brush? Can I reduce cat dander with food or coat products?

Cat dander is a normal and healthy shedding of dead skin cells, and it’s often blamed for causing allergic reactions to cats in people. (A protein produced in a cat’s saliva and oil glands, which is then spread onto the cat’s hair and skin during grooming, is actually the cause of cat allergies.)

Dandruff can also be normal in healthy cats, as long as it isn’t excessive. You may find that your cat shows increased levels of dandruff at certain times of the year and often, it is related to shedding of hair.

However, if your cat is suffering from excessive dander or dandruff, then I would recommend that you get your cat examined by your vet.

Obesity, arthritis, or dental disease can make it difficult for your cat to groom itself properly, which can lead to poor coat condition, hair matting and scurf or dandruff. Crusting and dandruff can also be a sign of skin disease.

A good quality, complete, balanced diet should ensure your cat is getting all the nutrients they need for healthy skin and a coat. You can get supplements which contain omega 3 and 6 to help to condition their coat and reduce dandruff, but get advice from your vet before giving your cat one of these.

brushing black and white cat

Photo by Brendon Connelly via flickr / Creative Commons 


How can I help my cat with dementia?

My 18-year-old cat was recently diagnosed with dementia. She is yowling most nights from about 4-6am and just sitting staring at a bookcase. She's also quite vocal before and after going to the toilet. Can you help, please?

Sorry to hear that your cat has been diagnosed with dementia. There are medication and a number of supplements that may help improve brain function, I would recommend that you talk to your vet about these.

I would also recommend maybe keeping a light on overnight (particularly if your cat's vision is deteriorating with age) and keeping routines and the house layout the same to avoid confusion. You may find our elderly cats leaflet helpful.


<h2">Why is my cat washing so much?

One of my cats, Rory, seems to wash himself more than needed to the point where he has created small bald patches. There are no scabs or dry skin though. Why is he doing this?

I would recommend that you get your cat examined by your vet in the first instance. There are a number of reasons a cat may begin overgrooming, including having a skin allergy, being in pain or stress. Ruling out skin parasites such as fleas is the first thing to do and your vet can advise on the best products to use both on your cat and in the environment – they can also check for fleas and flea dirt on your cat. Have a read of our skin disorder leaflet (linked to earlier) for more information.

tabby cat grooming its paw

If your cat is overgrooming you need to find out the underlying cause. Photo by Douglas O'Brien via flickr / Creative Commons


My young cat seems to drink a lot of water. He does also eat a lot of dry food though, is this a problem?

Cats that eat mainly dry food will drink more than a cat that eats either only wet food or a mixture of wet and dry food. Wet canned food tends to contain around 75 per cent water so a cat will obtain a large proportion of their daily water requirement from the food. However if you feel your cat is drinking in excess I would recommend that you get him checked over by your vet. Measuring how much water he is drinking in a 24-hour period will be useful for the vet to know.


Veterinary note: Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For medical problems, consult your vet who will have access to your cat's medical history and will be able to examine them.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection's feline experts a question about your cat? Don't miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: Nicky Trevorrow will be answering behaviourial queries on 14 April; Vet Vanessa Howie will be back on 28 April; and Jane Clements will be taking neutering questions on 12 May. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

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