Categories: Cat Health

Cat Mites

Cat mites are spider-like cat parasites that can hardly be seen unless by microscope and which live on the cat’s skin and/or ear canals. They cause skin conditions called mange. Mange can take the form of patches of hair loss, sores, crusty skin or dandruff.

There are several types of feline mange caused by different types of cat mite.

Important: mites are killed with insecticides. These are chemicals that should be administered with great caution. Check with a vet and personally I would seek out the least toxic treatments and the ones with the least side-effects. One example is Defendex™ Flea, Tick, Lice, and Mange Shampoo. This is a “a proprietary homeopathic pet shampoo”. Homeopathy for Cats.

Demodex Mite

This mite is called a “normal resident of the cat’s skin”1. It causes a mild localised infection if the cat is healthy and the cat has a normally functioning immune system. Demodex mange is “extremely rare””1 in cats and more commonly seen in kittens; the symptoms of which are hair loss around the head, neck and ears that progress to scaly, itching sores that become infected. The mange can cover the whole body.

The treatment for localised mange can be carried out without veterinary supervision. Generalised mange treatment requires veterinary supervision1. Localised mange can be treated with Pyoben shampoo (see below) followed by Rotenone. These are USA products. Caveat: Please check with your vet before applying chemicals to your cat. You can cause problems that are worse than the one you are trying to cure.

Head Mite

The scientific name of this cat mite is Notoedres cati. It causes head mange or feline scabies. It is uncommon and it is highly contagious through direct contact. It can also be present around paws and genitalia.

This horrible cat mite causes intense itching when they burrow into the skin to lay eggs. The cat scratches the skin causing hair loss and raw skin. Yellow/grey crusts form on the skin. Wounds caused by scratching can become infected.

Treatment: this takes the form of an insecticide lime sulphur dip (2.5%) – see image above. This is given weekly after a bath in warm water and soap which loosens the crusts and should continue for 2 weeks after apparent cure. Dips are safe on kittens older than 6 weeks – caution please. All cats on the premises should be treated. Itching can be relieved with an anti-itch product and infected sores can be treated with Panolog (the illustrated links are USA products) – see images below. Vets in the US and UK or in Europe generally should be able to provide these over the counter if you ask for lime sulphur dip or substitute and anti-itch creams and shampoos etc.

Anti-itch (USA product) Pet Meds – Panolog Ointment 15ml Tube

Cheyletiella Mite

Another horrible microscopic but relatively large, reddish, cat mite that causes “walking dandruff”; more scientifically called Cheyletiella mange.

Walking dandruff is:

  • highly contagious;
  • seen over the back, neck and sides of the cat in the form of lots of dry, scaly skin;
  • not common in cats and can infect people.

Treatment is the lime sulphur dip referred to above for 2 weeks beyond apparent cure.  An alternative is a pythrethrin shampoo insecticide (this may be a toxic chemical and should be used with caution). All cats/dogs on the premises must be treated and the premises treated generally in the same way as for a flea infestation – see Cat Flea Treatment.

Trombiculid Mite

The common term for this little devil is “Chiggers” or harvest mite. It is the larvae of this cat mite that infests the cat. The larvae cause severe irritation to the cat by sucking on the skin. The larvae are just visible as red/orange specks particularly on the areas where the fur is thinnest (e.g. between the toes and ear canals).

Treatment is as for walking dandruff and head mite: the lime sulfur dip as illustrated above. A  single application would appear to be sufficient. Anti-itch creams can also be applied. Proactive steps are to keep cat away from decaying vegetation where th e mite lives.

Ear Mite

I have covered this nasty cat mite elsewhere: Cat Ear Mites (opens in a new window). The scientific term is Ododectes cynotis. See also: Natural Cure for Cat Ear Infection.

Sarcoptic Mange Mites

These cat mites are rare in cats fortunately and more commonly seen on dogs. Treatment is as for head mange above.


1. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs Carlson and Giffin et al.

From Cat Mites to Cat Health Problems

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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