Cheyletiellosis in cats

Cheyletiellosis in cats is a condition caused by a mite called cheyletiella. The mite lives on the skin surface. It can affect cats of any age but is more common in kittens. Cheyletiellosis is an uncommon condition in cats. It usually only causes mild symptoms, such as itching and dandruff, and is normally easy to treat. 

Cheyletiellosis is highly contagious; most cats catch it from direct contact with an infected cat, dog or rabbit. It also has the ability to spread to humans, though luckily, this is not common. Cheyletiellosis is also known as “walking dandruff”, rabbit mites or Cheyletiellosic mange.



What is cheyletiellosis in cats?

Cheyletiellosis in cats is an infestation with a mite that lives on the surface of the skin.

  • Cheyletiella mites are very small but can sometimes be seen with a magnifying glass or the naked eye.
  • The mites look like small white flakes that move around, hence the name “walking dandruff”.
  • Cheyletiellosis is spread through direct contact with an infected animal, often in areas where there are large populations of cats, such as breeding facilities or shelters. It can spread through indirect contact too, on objects like blankets. It may also be able to spread through fleas, flies and lice.
  • Some animals can carry and spread the mites but have no symptoms.
  • The symptoms usually take up to a month to clear with medication.
  • An infestation with cheyletiella does not cause any long-term problems if it’s diagnosed and treated appropriately.


Do you have any questions about mites or skin problems in cats? Download the app and call us now. Our vets are available 24 hours a day. 



Symptoms of cheyletiellosis in cats

The most common signs of cheyletiellosis include:

  • Itchy skin leading to overgrooming or scratching
  • Dandruff or flaky skin
  • Miliary dermatitis: small, crusty, red lumps on the skin
  • Crusts at the ear tips
  • Hair loss

Skin lesions are most commonly found along the back, between the neck and tail.

cheyletiellosis in cats
“Walking dandruff” is one of the signs



Are some cats more at risk of cheyletiellosis than others?

Cheyletiellosis is uncommon in healthy adult cats.

Cats at risk include:

  • Kittens
  • Elderly
  • Immunosuppressed, i.e. those with FIV, FeLV or stress


Is my family at risk of catching cheyletiellosis?

It is possible for cheyletiella to cause itching and rashes in humans. Spread from cats to humans is uncommon but contact your GP if you have any concerns. It can easily spread to other pets in the house, including dogs and rabbits.



How is cheyletiellosis in cats diagnosed?

The diagnosis of cheyletiellosis in cats is usually based on the physical exam (finding dandruff) and symptoms of itching. Your vet will take a sample of the skin or hair to confirm the mite under the microscope. Cats that overgroom can ingest the mites, which removes them from the hair, leading to a negative skin sample. In this case, a stool sample can help with the diagnosis.

Other tests that may be included to rule out other conditions:

  • Skin scrapes
  • Hair pluck
  • Skin biopsy


Vet treatment

Vet treatment for cheyletiellosis in cats

Your vet will prescribe anti-parasite control to kill the mites, usually a spot-on treatment. This may need to be repeated a few times to prevent a recurrence.

Other treatments may include:


Home treatment

How to look after a cat with cheyletiellosis at home

  • All in-contact pets should be treated with vet-recommended anti-parasite control
  • Routine cleaning of the house and car is advised. Hoover the whole house and disinfect any surfaces that your cat has been in close contact with. Wash all bedding and grooming equipment.
  • Most household sprays that kill fleas are often effective against cheyletiella too



Tips on how to prevent cheyletiellosis in cats

Many flea preventatives will also prevent cheyletiellosis in cats. Products containing fipronil, selamectin or imidacloprid/moxidectin are known to be effective.

Speak to a vet before you use parasite-control, some products may be harmful to cats.


When to worry

When to worry about cheyletiellosis in cats

Seek help from a vet if your cat:

  • Is constantly scratching themselves
  • Has skin problems but is also lethargic or vomiting

Call us and speak to one of our Joii Vets if:

  • You have any questions about parasite control in cats
  • You need help using a spot-on treatment on your cat
  • Your cat has been in contact with an animal infected with cheyletiellosis
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