Cheyletiella Mites in Cats

Cheyletiella mites in cats causes an infection known to vets as cheyletiellosis. Cheyletiellosis is commonly referred to as "walking dandruff." This type of mite infestation causes scaly dandruff in cats, and when the cheyletiella mites move around under the dandruff, it looks as though the dandruff itself is walking. Here's what you should know about cheyletiellosis in cats.

Life Cycle and Transmission of Cheyletiella Mites

There are three species of cheyletiella mites responsible for cheyletiellosis or "walking dandruff." They are Cheyletiella yasguriC. blakei and C. parasitivorax. The adult female mite lays its eggs on a host animal, typically a rabbit, dog or cat. The eggs hatch and the larvae grow to adulthood in about three weeks.

The adult female cheyletiella mite can survive away from the body of the host for several days, so this mite infestation can spread through contact with bedding or other objects in the infested animal's environment. Cheyletiellosis can also spread via direct contact between an infested and non-infested animal.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Cheyletiellosis

Cheyletiella mites cause irritation of the skin, usually on the torso. Your cat may develop itchy, scaly dandruff and suffer some fur loss; fur loss typically occurs in a symmetrical pattern across both sides of the torso. Skin lesions can occur, and dandruff and scaling can become quite visible. Your cat may appear to be grooming and scratching excessively and you may even be able to see small, yellow mites on his skin, or dandruff that appears to be moving on its own. 

Your vet can diagnoses cheyletiellosis by performing a physical exam. These mites are large enough to be seen with the naked eye or with a magnifying glass. Your vet may take skin or hair scrapings in order to confirm infestation via laboratory analysis.

Treating Cheyletiellosis

Vets typically prescribe the same chemical pesticides used to treat flea infestations to treat cheyletiellosis. Lime sulfur dips and ivermectin can also treat this type of mite infestation. Follow your vet's instructions carefully and use only prescribed medications to treat your cat for cheyletiellosis. Not all flea pesticides are safe or effective for use against cheyletiella mites.

Once you've begun treating your cat for cheyletiella mite infestation, you'll need to treat your cat's home environment as well. Wash all bedding in hot water and eliminate mites from your home by using an appropriate pesticide bomb. Your vet can recommend an effective product.

Preventing Cheyletiellosis

Your cat is most likely to become infested with cheyletiella mites after coming in contact with infested animals. Mites can also spread through contact with bedding or other other objects in an infested animal's environment, especially since the adult female mites can live for several days without benefit of a host.  

Your cat could catch cheyletiella mites from stray dogs, cats and rabbits or from staying in grooming and boarding kennels, breeder's kennels, animal shelters or veterinary hospitals. Before you send your cat to a kennel or veterinary hospital, make sure the establishment practices adequate hygiene and decontamination to protect your cat from the risk of cheyletiella infestation.