What Does Cat Dander Look Like? (Explained)

What Does Cat Dander Look Like

I’m sure you’ve heard about cat dander and how it can cause flare-ups for people with allergies, but what does cat dander look like exactly?

If you’re seeing little white dandruff-looking flakes in your cat’s coat, it may well be dander.

Here is a more detailed explanation of what cat dander is, what cat dander looks like, and whether it really does cause allergies!

What Does Cat Dander Look Like?

Cat dander is actually not visible to the naked eye. It’s microscopic dead skin cells that are being shed by cats all the time.

If you take a close look at your cat’s fur, you may be able to see small, white flakes.

These are actually tiny pieces of skin – that’s right it’s cat dandruff, it’s not dander you’re seeing.

There can be, and most likely is dander mixed up with the dandruff though and I think this is why I often see people referring to dandruff as dander.

However, dander is different from dandruff even if it is intermingled on and off your cat.

Cat dander is made up of tiny skin flakes, along with other things like saliva, urine, and sebum (a natural oil produced by the skin).

All of these things can contribute to allergies, but it’s generally a protein called Fel d 1 in the dander that is the main culprit.

Dander is so small that it’s easily inhaled and can become lodged deep in the lungs where it causes problems for people with allergies.

Related A look at cat dander vs cat dandruff.

Can You See Cat Dander?

No, it’s important to note that you cannot see dander.

If you have cats, it’s safe to say that dander is airborne in your home. Simply avoiding touching your cat isn’t going to help you avoid coming into contact with it.

This is why when people with serious cat allergies enter a room they’ll start sneezing, getting watery eyes, and experiencing all the other allergy-related symptoms.

In fact, I used to sit next to a guy at work with cat allergies, and he’d have a reaction if I’d been stroking my cat that morning before leaving for work!

Sure, you can see cat hair floating around, dandruff, and other bits of debris you cats leave behind, and that may contain dander.

But you cannot actually see dander particles, they’re microscopic in size.

What Are Those White Flakes on My Cat?

If you’re seeing white flakes in your cat’s fur, it’s most likely dandruff and not dander.

Dandruff is caused by dry skin and is actually quite common in cats.

Much the same as why we have dandruff, except cats are a lot less aware of it and not as embarrassed!

There are a few things that can cause cat dandruff such as poor diet, dehydration, allergies, parasites, and even stress.

If you think your cat may be suffering from a serious dandruff condition, it’s best to take them to the vet for a check-up.

But it’s very unlikely to be anything serious. Sometimes changing food and upping their brushing routine can resolve dandruff.

What Cats Produce the Most Dander?

There’s no definitive answer to this as all cats produce dander, but there are some factors that may contribute to a cat producing more dander than others.

For example, if your cat is constantly licking themselves they’re likely to produce more saliva which can contain high levels of Fel d 1.

This protein is what causes allergies in people, so the more saliva your cat produces, the more dander they’re likely to have.

So, longer-haired cats that require more brushing and groom themselves more are more likely to shed more dander into the air.

Cats that shed a lot will also produce more dander as they’re constantly shedding skin cells.

If you’re looking for hypoallergenic cats, I’m sorry to break this to you but there are no 100% hypoallergenic cats – just cats that produce a much smaller amount of dander.

Related How long does cat dander last around the home?

How Harmful Is Cat Dander?

While cat dander isn’t harmful to people without allergies, it can cause serious problems for those that are allergic.

Dander particles are so small they can be inhaled deep into the lungs and cause all sorts of respiratory problems.

If you have asthma, cat dander can trigger an attack and some people even end up in hospital.

Remember, we can’t blame cats for this!

If you are aware that someone you know has cat allergies, if they’re coming round your house the best thing you can do is hoover up before they arrive and keep your cats out of sight.

In Summary

Cat dander is tiny particles of microscopic skin that become airborne and along with a specific protein can cause problems for people with allergies.

You cannot see cat dander, but if you have a cat you’re likely to have it all over your home.

All cats produce dander, but some may produce more than others depending on their breed, coat type, and how much they shed.


Image credits – Photo by Aleesha Wood on Unsplash

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