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Mange in cats

Black and brown cat
© Pixabay

Mange in cats is quite a serious, contagious health condition. Your cat might have feline mange if she is losing fur and has black or brown scabby spots around her ears.

By Dawn Parrish

Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:52

What is Mange in cats?

Although this is one of the more common health issues to affect canines, it’s not frequently seen in cats. Several varied species of mite cause this skin disease. In general, your cat has some mange mites that live routinely on the hair follicles and cat’s skin. However, other mites are considered to be parasites, which will cause severe skin infections if they breed. There are two main types of mange mites that are parasites.  Notoedres and Sarcoptes are common types that infest the skin of the cat. This often results in a very itchy skin condition that causes intense irritation. The mites are often discovered in the ear area.

Sarcoptic Mange mites are described by Michael W. Dryden, DVM, PhD, DACVM, of MSD Vet “Adult mites are 0.2–0.6 mm long and roughly circular in shape; their surface is covered with small triangular spines, and they have four pairs of short legs. Females are almost twice as large as males. The entire life cycle (17–21 days) is spent on the dog. Females burrow tunnels in the stratum corneum to lay eggs.”

Can cats get mange?

Mange mites on felines are very contagious and can easily pass from one cat to another. A cat will generally scratch at her skin as it is so irritating. This can break the surface of the skin which then probably result in a scab.

Causes of mange in cats

These mange parasite mites burrow into the cat’s skin under the surface. By sucking the blood they can cause an allergic reaction. While the mange mite is the collective name for all of these parasites, a cat may be irritated by one of these species:

  • Feline scabies – or Notoedric cat mange
  • Sarcoptic mange – humans can also be affected by this mange
  • Cheyletiella mange – produces a condition similar to dandruff
  • Otodectic mange – affecting mainly the ear
  • Demodectic mange – produces issues within the immune system
Check your cat for symptoms of mange mites ©Pixabay

Symptoms of Mange in Cats

First of all, it’s usually quite easy to spot if your cat has mange. She will have patchy-looking skin with scabs on the skin underneath and possible ridges on her head fur. Other symptoms of mange are weight loss and brown marks on the ears and the nose. Your cat may have a black discharge from her ear. This discharge can seem like coffee grounds. She will probably have patchy fur with scabs on her neck or head. Certainly she will itch and scratch her body, could lose her appetite and can also be dehydrated.

Diagnosis of mange in cats

A skin scraping can very easily identify the problem. This skin biopsy will be examined under a microscope. Her overall health will be checked to ensure she isn’t dehydrated or lost a lot of weight. If mites are discovered, the exact species will be determined and appropriate treatment prescribed.

Treatment of mange

Once diagnosed, don’t panic because mange mites can very easily be eradicated with medications. A course of treatment might include a cortisone cream for the itching and a topical shampoo to eradicate the mites. Oral medication could also be prescribed.  It can take up to six weeks to totally eradicate the mite problem. Because medicated shampoo is likely to contain pesticide chemicals and for this reason, should not be handled by pregnant women. Similarly, a pregnant cat shouldn’t be given this treatment.

Mange in cats in highly contagious ©Pixabay


Certainly, if mange in felines is spotted, diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, the prognosis is quite good. However, for any cat that doesn’t receive the correct treatment, cat mange can, in some circumstances, cause death. Remember that some allergies have similar symptoms to cat mange. If your cat is suffering from hair loss, get a medical appraisal to eliminate mange. You need to rule out other possibilities.

As mange in cats is caused by a parasite, it is imperative to ensure that the environment the cat lives in, is clean. Dispose of or wash all bedding. Vacuum carpets and the cat’s bed. Likewise, it’s a good idea to vacuum the sofa, rugs and any other upholstery. Continue with this ongoing cleaning regime while the cat is being treated for mites and also for a while afterwards.

Finally, even if your pet does develop a mite infestation, the only real risk is if you have other cats in the house. In a normal, healthy feline with a mange problem, house cleaning and normal grooming should see off the problem.