Scabies (Notoedric Mange) in Cats

Key Takeaways

Feline scabies, or mange, is a rare, but highly contagious condition caused by the parasitic mite Notoedres cati

• Cats with mange present with severe itchiness, most commonly around the head and neck, leading to self-trauma and crusting of the skin

• Cases of mange often have a history of direct contact with a cat known to be a carrier

• Investigation of mange involves physical examination and the identification of Notoedres cati on microscopy

• Treatment includes multiple medications to treat the mites and manage the skin disease

• Prognosis is excellent: most cases respond to treatment and symptoms usually resolve within four weeks

A Closer Look: What is Scabies in Cats?

Scabies is a colloquial term which describes symptoms resulting from any infection with the Sarcoptidae family of mites, including Sarcoptes scabiei which is commonly seen in dogs, but is rare in cats. 

The underlying trigger of the symptoms of mange is an allergic reaction to chemicals in the saliva of Notoedres cati. Severity of symptoms varies according to the strength of the individual immune response and the severity of infestation. Cats with weak immune systems may have more severe symptoms.

Risk Factors

Mange is a highly contagious condition in cats and requires prompt veterinary treatment, both for the affected cat’s health and to prevent spread to other cats. It is a rare disease and carries an excellent prognosis.

Notoedres cati can rarely cause skin conditions in humans. In general, Notoedres cati mites prefer living on cats, so human infestation is unusual. Most skin conditions in humans resolve once in-contact cats are treated for the mite.

Possible Causes

Feline scabies (or mange) is primarily caused by the mite, Notoedres cati. Cats acquire the mite through contact with another infected cat, or contact with surfaces that an infected cat has touched such as bedding or carpeting.

Main Symptoms

The main symptoms of mange are:

Itchiness - especially around the head, neck, and eyelids • Thickening or crusting of the skin

Swollen lymph nodes • Yellow discoloration of the skin lesions • Hair loss

Testing and Diagnosis

Investigation of mange involves:

• Physical examination

• Identification of Notoedres cati mites or eggs on microscopy from a skin scraping or tape preparation

Notoedres cati identification on microscopy is a definitive diagnosis, however, absence of mites does not rule out mange.

Steps to Recovery

Treatment focuses on:

• Medication to eliminate Notoedres cati mites

• Medication to treat itchiness and secondary bacterial skin infections 

Treating all cats in the household is recommended, as reinfection can occur if a treated cat contacts an untreated cat. 

Mange carries an excellent prognosis. Many medications successfully resolve infection with Notoedres cati. One study found that 100% of cats responded to treatment and skin lesions had resolved by 28 days following administration.


Notoedres cati is highly infectious. Prevention focuses on: 

• Avoiding contact with infected animals

• Treatment of in-contact cats in confirmed cases

Is Scabies Common in Cats?

Mange (scabies) is rare in cats.

Typical Treatment

• Anti-parasitic medications and washes • Anti-itch medications • Antibiotics

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