Cat Dander vs Dandruff: Differences Explained!

Cat Dander vs Dandruff

In this article, I’m going to explain the difference between cat dander vs dandruff.

There is often some confusion around what cat dander is, and what dandruff is on a cat, but it’s actually not hard to tell the difference.

In short, cat dandruff is visible white flakes of dead skin, much the same as our dandruff.

While dander is microscopic and not visible to the naked eye – although allergy sufferers are aware of when dander is present!

Cat Dander vs Dandruff

What Is Cat Dander?

Dander is basically tiny microscopic flakes of dead skin that are constantly shed from the animal’s body.

Dander is made up of proteins that are found in an animal’s saliva, urine, and feces.

It’s the protein called Fel d 1 that is what causes allergic reactions in people, and some cats’ dander has a higher concentration of this protein than others.

All animals have dander, but some (like cats) produce more of it than others.

The amount of dander a cat produces also varies a lot depending on the breed, their general health, lifestyle, and some other factors.

Related What cat dander looks like and how to spot it.

How Much Dander Is Your Cat Producing?

If you’re wondering how much dander your cat is producing, it’s really very difficult to answer this question.

The first problem is that dander is not visible to the naked eye.

The second problem is that there is no way to know or measure how much dander a cat is producing.

The only real test and this is very unfortunate for the sufferer is to see how badly affected someone with a cat allergy is!

What Is Cat Dandruff?

Cat dandruff is basically the same as human dandruff. It’s made up of dead skin cells that are shed from a cat’s body.

Dandruff can be caused by a number of things, including dry skin, not grooming enough, or an underlying medical condition.

While cats don’t usually have dandruff problems, if they do, you’ll see visible flakes of skin on their fur.

I had a black cat with terrible dandruff a few years ago. Reminded me of people who wear black suits or tops and have dandruff, it’s very visible.

It’s not as embarrassing for cats though!

How to Tell if Your Cat Has Dandruff

The best way to tell if your cat has dandruff is to look for visible flakes of skin on their fur.

The longer their hair, the deeper you’ll have to look. Just part some of their hair and take a look near their skin, it will be very obvious if flakes of skin are being shed.

Is Dandruff the Same as Dander?

This is something that confuses a lot of people, but dandruff and dander are two very different things.

Dander is tiny particles that are not visible, while dandruff is visible.

Where it gets a little confusing is that dandruff can contain dander, so a lot of people that see white flakes on or from their cats see it as dander.

But an important distinction is that dander is what causes allergies, not dandruff.

RelatedA look at how long cat dander lasts in the home.

Why Does Dander Cause Allergic Reactions?

Dander is an allergen because of the protein Fel d 1 that is found in a cat’s saliva.

When these proteins become airborne, they can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

The scientific explanation, as so well put by is that “People who are allergic to Fel d 1 react by creating immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies.

These induce mast cells to spew out histamine and other chemicals that create sneezing, itching and congestion.”

The most common symptom of a cat dander allergy is sneezing, but it can also cause watery eyes, a runny nose, and difficulty breathing.

In severe cases, it can even cause an asthma attack.

Fortunately, I don’t suffer from allergies, but some people who are close to me do and I’ve seen firsthand how horrible it can be.

How to Get Rid of Cat Dandruff (Without a Bath)

Bathing a cat is always the last resort for me as it’s something neither my cat nor I enjoy.

The best and most effective ways to reduce your cat’s dandruff are:

  • Brush your cat regularly – there are special brushes and grooming tools with long teeth that’ll help capture and remove dandruff.
  • Make sure they’re not stressed – cats are easily stressed by changes in their environment, loud noises, other cats marking their territory, etc. Stress can increase the severity of dandruff, so do everything you can to create a calm, stress-free environment.
  • Increase the humidity in your home – low humidity can cause dry, flaky skin for cats, just the same as it can for us. It’s worth checking the humidity in your home and trying out a humidifier in the room your cat spends the most time.
  • Change your cat’s diet – recommends a diet enriched in essential fats. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and Omega-6 fatty acids help restore a healthy skin barrier.

If you follow these tips, you should see a significant reduction in the amount of dandruff your cat is producing.

If nothing seems to be making a difference and you really want to do something about it, or at least rule out any other health issues, a trip to the vet is always an option!

In Summary

Dandruff and dander are two very different things, but there is an interchangeable element!

Dander isn’t visible, but this is what causes allergies, while dandruff is just dry, flaky skin that you’ll easily spot in your cat’s coat.

You can get rid of cat dandruff by brushing them regularly, increasing the humidity in your home, and changing their diet.

Dander is something you’ll have to live with, but you can also reduce it by brushing your cat and increasing your cleaning schedule.


Image credits – Photo by bao sabrina on Unsplash

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