Mange in Cats

Jennifer Coates, DVM
By Jennifer Coates, DVM on Apr. 30, 2024
A beautiful cat sits beneath a pine tree.

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In This Article


What Is Mange in Cats?

When you hear the word mange you probably think of dogs, but cats can suffer from the hair loss, itching, and skin damage caused by mange too. In fact, there are three common types of cat mange, each caused by different parasitic mites.

Mange isn’t a frequent problem in cats, but it needs to be considered if more common causes of skin problems—like fleas—have been ruled out.

Mange is rarely a medical emergency, but cats should be seen by a veterinarian right away if they have signs of systemic illness like lethargy, weakness, or a poor appetite.

Types of Mange in Cats

There are three main types of mange in cats:

  • Demodectic mange (demodicosis)—Two species of Demodex mites (D. cati that live inside hair follicles and D. gatoi that live on the surface of the skin) can cause problems for cats.

  • Notoedric mange—Notoedres cati mites cause notoedric mange, which is also sometimes called feline scabies.

  • Cheyletiellosis—A bigger mite, Cheyletiella blakei, is responsible for a condition in cats called cheyletiellosis, also known as walking dandruff.

Occasionally, other types of mange mites can lead to skin problems in cats, including the ear mite Otodectes cynotis, as well as Sarcoptes scabiei, which causes sarcoptic mange in dogs.

Symptoms of Mange in Cats

As you can imagine, mange mites that crawl on or burrow into a cat’s skin create a lot of discomfort.

Symptoms of mange in cats can include:

  • Hair loss

  • Itching

  • Skin lesions such as:

    • Rashes

    • Sores

    • Miliary dermatitis (small, crusty bumps)

    • Eosinophilic granuloma complex (patches of raised, red, and oozy skin)

  • Hair pulling, especially on the abdomen when caused by D. gatoi

  • Chin acne or other skin problems primarily affecting the chin (D. cati)

  • Crusty skin, especially around the head and neck (notoedric mange)

  • Skin flakes that might move (cheyletiellosis)

These symptoms aren’t specific to mange in cats. Other conditions, such as fleas, skin infections, allergies, and ringworm can also be to blame.

Causes of Mange in Cats

Most of the time, a cat will get mange because they came in contact with another cat who is carrying mange mites on their skin. The mites can also survive off a host for a while, so they may be spread through infested environments or objects, such as brushes.

In contrast, D. cati mites are not contagious; they are a normal part of the microbiome that lives on a cat’s skin. But they may become a problem when their population becomes too large, which can happen if a cat’s immune system is suppressed because of disease, age, or medications.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Mange in Cats

The first step in diagnosing mange in cats is for a veterinarian to do a physical exam and learn about your cat’s lifestyle and health history. Have answers to these questions ready before your appointment.

  • Has your cat been outdoors?

  • Are there other animals in your home, and are any of them (or you) also having skin problems?

  • Has your cat been sick recently, or do they have a chronic health problem?

  • What medications or supplements are you giving your cat?

Next, your veterinarian will probably take samples from your cat’s skin so they can search for mites under the microscope. They may press a piece of clear tape against your cat’s skin or lightly scrape it with a scalpel blade.

Other diagnostic tests can include fecal exams, flea combing, and blood work to look for underlying health problems. Sometimes a veterinarian will recommend treating mange even if they didn’t see mites during the diagnostic workup because some types of mites are hard to find.

Treatment of Mange in Cats

Many treatments for cat mange are available. The best choice will depend on your cat’s age and health status and the type of mange that they have. Options include:

Most of these treatments need a veterinarian’s prescription and may need to be given at dosages that are different than what is printed on the label.

Never give your cat any treatment for mange without speaking to your veterinarian first.

Recovery and Management of Mange in Cats

Cats with mange will usually start to get better within a week or so of starting the right treatment. First, their itchiness should improve, but it can take longer for their skin to heal and fur to grow back. In severe cases, cats may also need medications to control itching or treat secondary skin infections.

You may also need to treat other animals in your home because they could be carrying the mites on their skin even if they seem healthy. These asymptomatic carriers can be a source of treatment failure and reoccurring problems with mange.

Talk to your veterinarian if your cat’s symptoms get worse after starting treatment or don’t improve as expected.

Prevention of Mange in Cats

Cheyletiellosis, notoedric mange, and demodicosis caused by D. gatoi are all contagious, so the best way to prevent them is to keep your cats inside, away from other cats who might be carriers.

If your cat must go outdoors, many of the products used to treat mange (Bravecto® and Advantage Multi®, for example) can help prevent the condition and are also effective against other external parasites, like fleas.

However, demodicosis caused by D. cati is not contagious. Severe cases usually happen with immunosuppression. Therefore, the best way to prevent this type of mange is to keep your cat as healthy as possible, provide them with excellent nutrition, avoid the use of immunosuppressive medications whenever possible, and see your veterinarian right away if problems arise.

Mange in Cats FAQs

Is mange in cats contagious to humans?

Notoedric mange and cheyletiellosis (but not demodicosis) can be contagious to people. Talk to your physician if you think there is any chance that you could have gotten mange from your cat.

What does a cat with mange look like?

The most common symptoms of mange in cats are itchiness, hair loss, and skin lesions. Of course, signs like these are also seen with many other health problems, including allergies, skin infections, fleas, and ringworm.

Can a cat survive mange?

Most cats will recover quickly from mange and will not have any long-lasting effects. However, mange (especially severe cases of notoedric mange) can be fatal if a cat does not get proper treatment.

Jennifer Coates, DVM


Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary...

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