Cheyletiellosis, also called walking dandruff, is a highly contagious skin disease of cats caused by Cheyletiella mites. These mites can also infect dogs and rabbits. These large mites cause excessive flaking of the skin, or dandruff, and their movement on the top layer of skin gives the disease its distinctive name. Cats in direct contact with other cats, such as in shows, shelters and boarding or grooming facilities, are more at risk..
Cats infected with the Cheyletiella mite will be covered in the characteristic white dandruff, and are often intensely itchy. This itchiness may also cause cats to exhibit unusual behavioral changes, such as excessive grooming. These mites can frequently cause extreme irritation of the skin, resulting in redness, sores and hair loss, but some cats do not seem to react to the mite by scratching. Other cats may also be carriers of this disease and can be free of visible symptoms.
Limit your cat’s contact with other cats, and carefully clean all brushes and grooming equipment between cats. The mite can live in the environment for short periods of time, so bedding might also be a source of infection.
Yes, humans can become infected with this mite species even though people are not the natural host of Cheyletiella mites. Identification of the mite on an infected person will confirm the diagnosis. Mites can cause skin irritation and rashes, but the infestation tends to only last for a few weeks.