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Why Does Your Cat's Skin Look Like It's Crawling?

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Are you looking at your cat's skin or hair and seeing what looks like wiggling or crawling pieces of skin? Sometimes known as walking dandruff, this problem is also caused by a species of mites known as Cheyletiella blakei. It's properly known as cheyletiellosis, and what you're actually seeing is pieces of dead skin being carried by mites.

Here's what you need to know about cheyletiellosis in cats.

How do cats get walking dandruff?

The mites that cause this damage are highly contagious. Your cat can contract them if he comes into contact with any other cat who has walking dandruff. The mites may also come into your home on a piece of furniture, a cat bed, or a used cat toy. Sometimes cats contract this condition at a groomer or boarder if items are not sanitized properly.

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

Because of its distinct symptoms, walking dandruff is pretty straightforward to diagnose. Give your vet a call -- they may have you come into the office, or they may just prescribe a pesticide for you to pick up at a local pharmacy. You'll need to apply this spray or rinse to your cat's skin. If your cat is a hard to handle, you may want to just take them to the vet's office to have this done. If your cat's skin is itchy, scabby, or irritated as a result of the mange, your vet may also recommend a soothing antibiotic cream to fight the itching and help prevent bacterial infections.

Can humans get walking dandruff from their cats?

In short, no. Most mite species, including the Cheyletiella mites that affect cats, are species-specific. They might bite you once or twice, but they won't take up residence on your skin. They also won't infect your dogs, rabbits, or other pets. Though these animals can also develop walking dandruff, the condition is caused by different -- though related -- species of mites in these animals.

How can you protect your cat from walking dandruff?

To keep your cat from contracting this disease again, avoid bringing home used cat toys or beds. If you do bring home used cat items, wash them thoroughly in hot water and bleach before you allow them anywhere near your cat. Only use groomers who have excellent sanitation practices, and keep your cat indoors where he won't come into contact with any infected cats.

Contact a vet, like Pitts Veterinary Hospital PC, for more help.