Mange in Cats

Otodectes under a microscope.
Ear mites cause otodectic mange in cats.

Getty Images/Agency-Animal-Picture / Contributor 

There are several different types of mange that can affect cats but some are more serious than others. Both indoor and outdoor cats are at risk for getting these external parasites but there are things you can do to minimize their chances of infection. Knowing how to treat and prevent mange infestations in cats can help keep your feline comfortable.

What Is Mange in Cats?

Mange is caused by mites. Depending on the type of mange mite, these pests may live off ear wax or burrow into your cat's skin but regardless of what they do on your cat, they all cause discomfort. The most common types of mange in cats are scabies, demodex, ear mites, and walking dandruff but trombiculosis and fur mites are also problems in cats.

Scabies

Scabies is caused by either Sarcoptes scabei (sarcoptic mange) or Notoedres cati (notoedric mange) mange mites and is highly contagious. The Notoedres type is very rare in healthy cats and the Sarcoptes type is more commonly found in dogs but both can cause scabies in felines.

Demodicosis

Demodicosis is what it is called when a cat or dog has an infestation of demodex mange mites. Both Demodex cati and Demodex gatoi mites can cause demodicosis. D. cati is thought to be a normal resident of a healthy cat's skin but can cause demodicosis in an unhealthy cat. D. gatoi is a very contagious type of demodex and is more likely to be found on young cats.

Ear Mites

Like the name implies, these mange mites are found in the ears of cats. Otodectes cynotis are referred to as otodectic mange mites and are one of the most commonly seen types of mange in cats.

Walking Dandruff

Cheyletiella blakei are mange mites that cause walking dandruff, also known as cheyletiellosis. These mites get their name from what is seen when they walk around on a cat and move flakes of skin around giving the appearance of "walking dandruff."

Fur Mites

Lynxacarus radovskyi are fur mange mites that affect cats in certain areas of the world. Cats living in Australia, Brazil, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas may be infected with these mites.

Trombiculosis

Cats get trombiculosis from mange mites in the Trombiculidae family. These mites are often called chiggers and their larval stage attaches to the skin and fur of a cat causing trobmiculosis.

Since mange is an external parasite, the signs of this issue are seen on the skin, ears, and fur of a cat.

Signs of Mange in Cats

  • Itching
  • Hair loss
  • Small skin bumps
  • Skin crusting
  • Red skin
  • Excessive ear debris

Excessive itching, hair loss and redness are the most common symptoms of mange mites in a cat. Skin crusting and small skin bumps may also be seen in some cats with mange. If the mange is located in the ears of a cat, a cat will also have excessive ear debris that are dry and dark when compared to normal ear wax.

Black and white cat with scabies on the face.
Scabies can cause hair loss, skin redness, and crusting. photographer/Getty Images

Causes of Mange in Cats

Most mange mites are contagious so they are easily spread if your cat interacts with an infected cat or bedding that an infected cat used. Some mites are also found in the environment and can hitch a ride on your cat. Other mites, like demodex mites, are naturally present on your cat and only cause issues if your cat's immune system is compromised.

Diagnosing Mange in Cats

If you suspect your cat has mange, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your cat and take some small samples of the skin, fur, ear debris depending on the affected area. They will look at these samples under the microscope to look for the mange mites.

Treatment of Mange in Cats

Various anti-parasitic drugs are used to kill mange mites. Depending on the type of mite, the severity of it, and the location of the infestation, your veterinarian will recommend either a topical, oral, or injectable medication.

How to Prevent Mange in Cats

The best way to prevent your cat from getting mange is to keep it away from other animals with mange and to use a preventative. Various anti-parasitic drugs are used on at least a monthly basis and may help prevent your cat from getting mange mites, even if the label doesn't say so. These same drugs may also help protect your cat against fleas, heartworms, ticks, and intestinal parasites. Ask your veterinarian if they recommend selamectin (Revolution®), moxidectin (Advantage Multi®), sarolaner (Revolution Plus®), or fluralaner (Bravecto®) for preventing mange mites in your cat.

Is Mange Contagious to Humans?

Yes, some types of mange are contagious not only to other pets but also to humans. Sarcoptic mange (Sarcoptes scabei) is the main type of mange for zoonotic potential. Other types of mange mites are typically self-limiting in people.