What Causes Mange in Cats?

Mange is caused by the infestation of mites that proliferate into the cat’s skin. However, there are various types of mites that cause different types of mange. It is important to identify the type of mange as treatment varies accordingly. Here are the various mites that cause mange in cats. 

what caused mange in cats?
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Canine Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange)

Sarcoptic mange, which is also known as canine scabies is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei or canis mite. It usually occurs in cats that have come in contact with infected dogs. These mites can also be transmitted to humans and other animals. Indirect transmission through infested bedding is also possible, although less common. 

Mange that is hard to diagnose is referred to as ‘scabies incognito’. It may be hard to find mites on pets that are bathed regularly or have a well groomed coat even though the animal seems to be scratching excessively. Crusty skin also comes off with regular bathing and grooming. 

Feline Scabies ( Notoedric Mange)

The Notoedres cati mite is the cause of Notoedric mange or feline scabies. While this type of mange is quite uncommon, it is highly contagious. 

These mites are very tiny and have an appearance that is similar to the sarcoptic mange mites. The mites are transmitted when there is direct contact between cats. 

Ear Mites (Otodectic Mange)

Otodectic mange, or ear mites, are caused by Otodectes cynotis mites. These mites love the external ear and can cause inflammation in the ear canal, although there are times when these mites are found on the body. In severe cases, the cat’s external ear may be inflamed with pus. These mites can also cause cats to suffer from torn eardrums. 

Treatment will most likely include medication and instructions to properly clean the cat’s ears. It is also recommended that other animals that have come in contact with the infested cat be treated for ear mites.  

Walking Dandruff (Cheyletiellosis)

Walking dandruff, or Cheyletiellosis is caused by the Cheyletiella blakei mites. It is referred to as ‘walking dandruff’ because these mites are small and white, resembling dandruff moving on the cat’s skin and hair. 

The Cheyletiellosis mites live on the skin’s surface. They are very contagious and can spread easily to other cats and dogs. 

Feline Demodicosis

Feline demodicosis is caused by the Demodex mite. Demodex catis mites are quite common and are actually normal residents on your cat’s skin. Demodex gatoi are a smaller, rounder species that is usually found in younger cats. 

While these mites do not usually bother your cat, they can cause skin demodicosis in cats that have compromised immune systems. Diabetes, cancer and other immunodeficiency infections are diseases associated with whole-body demodicosis.


Trombiculosis is mange caused by mites from the Trombiculidae family. Cats can acquire the larval stage parasites from the ground or when they are outside. 

This type of mange occurs throughout the year in warm areas and during the summer and fall in areas with all the four seasons. The larvae attach itself to the cat to feed and leave when they are full. They look like tiny, orangey red oval dots on your cat’s skin on the head, feet and belly areas.  

Fur Mites (Lynxacariasis)

Fur mites, or Lynxacarus radovskyi, causes Lynxacariasis mange. This type of mange is quite common in certain areas including Australia, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, Brazil and Texas. While it is possible for humans to catch fur mites from cats, it is not unheard of. 

Mange in cat symptoms

General signs and symptoms of mange in cats include:

  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Restlessness
  • Inflammation
  • Bumps on the skin
  • Scabs on the skin

Signs and symptoms that are specific to the different mite species are as follows:

  • Ear mites - Reddish brown crust inside the ear, frequent head shaking, excessive scratching of the ear and head, scratches and wounds on the back of the ear and crusty, scaling skin. You may also notice the cat’s external ear drooping. 
  • Feline scabies & demodectic mange - Hair loss that starts on the face and neck areas that spread to the rest of the body. Skin thickens to a grayish yellow crust as the disease progresses. Severe cases may have sores and secondary skin infections due the excessive grooming and scratching. 
  • Walking dandruff - You will notice small white flakes that seem to be able to move on their own. Upon closer inspection you will realize that these are actually Cheyletiella mites that resemble dandruff flakes. You will also notice skin crusts and many small bumps on the cat’s skin. It’s worthy to note that some cats do not show any signs of infestation but can still pass the mites to other animals. 
  • Fur mites - In addition to the general symptoms, the mites also cause the hair coat to have a salt-and-pepper appearance. 

Can a cat die from mange? 

The short answer is yes, it is possible for cats to die from mange. Cats that suffer from chronic, recurring mange will develop seborrhea. Its skin will thicken with wrinkling and built up crust with sores that ooze and weep. 

Severe cases such as this may bring death if it is not diagnosed and treated. However, it is not common for cats to die of mange. 

Can dogs get mange from cats?

Yes. Although there are mites that are specific to different animal species, sarcoptic mange can cross from cats to dogs, especially if there is direct contact with an infected cat. These mites lay their eggs by burrowing into the upper layers of the animals’ skin. 

can dogs get mange from cats?
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Identifying the type of mites is important as this will help vets to prescribe accurate and effective treatments for mange in cats. While mange is a worrying and unsightly disease, it can easily be managed. If you suspect that your cat has mites, head straight to the vet for a proper diagnosis.