Cat Mange and Scabies: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Mange is a skin problem that affects many animals, including cats, but it's not an illness. Mange is caused by tiny parasites called mites that bite your pet's skin and cause itching, flaking, hair loss, and inflammation. 

Scabies is a specific type of mange that is associated with the Sarcoptes species of mite, which causes sarcoptic mange.

Mange is uncommon in cats, so owners don't always recognize it right away. It is highly contagious and can spread between pets, so it's important to treat mites as soon as you can. There are several medicines that can effectively get rid of mange. Your veterinarian can help you find the best one for your cat.

What Types of Mange Can Cats Have?

There are several types of mange mites, which are tiny arachnids that burrow under the top layers of skin and cause discomfort to the host. Adult mites can lay eggs under the skin.

There are several types of mange in cats:

  • Canine Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange): Despite the word "canine" in the name, these mites can affect cats as well. Cats usually get them from an affected dog living in the same house. They cause sores, hair loss, and itching.
  • Feline Scabies (Notoedric Mange): Feline scabies are a different parasite than canine scabies, but the symptoms they cause are similar.
  • Ear Mites (Otodectic Mange) : Ear mites burrow inside your cat's ears. They tend to be found inside the ear canal, but they can also affect the outer ear. They cause itching and can result in damage to your cat's eardrum.
  • Walking Dandruff (Cheyletiellosis): These mites get their name because they are small and white and move around a pet's body. They affect many types of housepets and can also affect humans.
  • Trombiculosis: These mites are more commonly known as chiggers. They attach themselves to your cat's skin and feed on blood before dropping off. They look like small, orange ovals, and they may appear on your cat's head, paws, or belly.

Feline demodicosis, which can cause itching and hair loss in cats that are already sick, is caused by mites, but it is not classified as mange.

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How Can I Tell If My Cat Has Mange?

Most cat owners suspect mange because their cat is scratching themselves more than usual. Mites are itchy and uncomfortable, so your cat will do whatever they can for relief. They will lick, bite, or scratch the affected spots. 

Your cat's attempts to stop the itching can worsen the problem by irritating their skin even more. The mites, along with the scratching, can result in hair loss and inflamed skin. You might see scaly patches of skin, sores, or scabs on your cat.

With ear mites, cats shake their heads and lay their ears flat to relieve discomfort inside their ear canals. You may be able to see a buildup of heavy ear wax and mite residue in your cat's ears.

You may also notice that you are being bitten by mites. Some mange mites can get onto humans and cause itching, redness, and swelling. However, these mites can't breed on humans, so it's much easier to get rid of them on yourself than on your pet. Talk to your doctor about treating mite bites on your skin.

What Is the Treatment for Mange in Cats?

If you suspect your cat has mange, you will need to take them to the vet for diagnosis and treatment. Your vet will take skin scrapings from the affected area and look at them under a microscope for evidence of mange mites.

There are several treatments for mange in cats, including some that are commonly used for preventing fleas and heartworm. However, the dosing for mites may be different, so make sure to speak with your vet.

Your vet may also suggest special shampoos or soothing medicines for any sores on your cat's skin.

If you have other pets at home, your vet might tell you to treat them for mites or to isolate any affected pets so the mites won't spread. You should also ask your vet for cleaning tips. Mites can linger on your pet's bed, toys, or collar, as well as your carpets and furniture.

If your cat gets mange, make sure to follow your vet's suggestions for treatment and follow-up care. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on February 09, 2021

Sources

SOURCES: 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Parasites - Scabies."

Cornell Feline Health Center: “Ear Mites: Tiny Critters that can Pose a Major Threat.”

Fenton River Vet: “Sarcoptic Mange (Scabies).”

Merck Manual: “Mite Infestation (Mange, Acariasis, Scabies) of Cats,” “Overview of Mange.”

Veterinary Partner: “Notoedric Mange in Cats (Feline Scabies).”

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