Is your cat in need of a bath? Since cats spend hours grooming themselves and dislike water, we rarely have to think about bathing them so you might not have cat shampoo on hand. If you have dogs and cats in your household, you might be considering using your dog’s shampoo on your cat. But, can you use dog shampoo on cats?
In this article, we will answer all of your cat bathing questions and, most importantly, whether you can safely use dog shampoo on your cat or not.
The Importance of Healthy Skin to a Cat
Every cat owner knows that cats love to groom themselves, but did you know that our furry friends sometimes need a little human help? In fact, brushing your cat regularly helps get rid of dead hair while protecting against mites and parasites.
The state of a cat’s skin and hair is often a good indicator of their health. How so? A thick, lustrous coat means a healthy feline, while matted, flat fur can indicate underlying health problems.
Do Cats Need Baths?
Does your cat need a bath? Since they’re curious creatures, cats can sometimes need a little human help getting clean. Did you wake up to a beautiful cat and come home to a muddy or skunk-sprayed cat? Unfortunately, it happens. Thankfully, it’s fixable!
Normally, though, it’s only necessary to bathe a cat in water if they’re so dirty or smelly that they can’t groom themselves. That’s because baths can dry out your cat’s skin and fur. The two exceptions to this rule are extra long-haired cats and hairless cats, who need regular baths as part of their grooming routine.
What should you do if your cat seems dirtier or smells worse than usual? If your curious cat is in desperate need of a bath and a fresh scent, you’ll want to know how to give your cat a bath and what type of shampoo you should use. It’s safest to use a shampoo made for cats. Why?
Cat shampoo is specially formulated for a cat’s skin pH levels and doesn’t have ingredients that are dangerous to cats. While this seems like a no-brainer, what’s good for a dog isn’t necessarily great for a cat. Dog shampoos can kill cats.
Answered: Can You Use Dog Shampoo On Cats?
You should never use dog shampoo on your cat because the chemicals in the shampoo may harm or even kill your cat. Dog shampoo is for dogs, and cat shampoo is for cats. Play it safe, and always use a cat-specific shampoo. Your furry friend will thank you!
Why can the chemicals in a dog shampoo hurt your cat? It’s because dog and puppy shampoo can contain insecticides, selenium sulfide, tea tree oils, essential oils, and coal tar. These five ingredients are safe for dogs and puppies but can be lethal to cats and kittens!
Why does dog shampoo contain insecticides? You’re probably familiar with the phrase ‘flea-ridden dog’, right? No one wants to have a dog that’s infested with fleas or other insects, so insecticides are a common ingredient in their shampoos. The most common insecticides that you’ll find in these shampoos are pyrethrin and permethrin.
Besides containing harmful insecticides, dog shampoo maintains the proper pH balance for dogs, but not cats. Since cats have a different skin pH level than dogs, a dog shampoo will harm your cat’s skin and hair by stripping them of their natural skin oils. Without these oils, cats are prone to infections, insects, and skin problems.
Other sites will say that you can use dog shampoo if you’re just doing a one-time use with a non-antiparasitic shampoo. This is dangerous advice! Even if the shampoo doesn’t have an insecticide in it, the chances are that it does have selenium sulfide, tea tree oils, essential oils, or coal tar. None of those ingredients are safe for cats! Rather than risking your cat’s health, use cat shampoo instead.
Why is Dog Shampoo Dangerous to My Cat?
Why should you never use dog shampoo on cats? The short answer is that dog shampoo and conditioner can be deadly to cats.
Read on to learn how the different ingredients on the label of dog shampoo can hurt or kill your cat. It’s essential to remember what the five dangerous ingredients in dog shampoo are: insecticides, selenium sulfide, tea tree oils, essential oils, and coal tar. Always check the ingredient label!
Permethrin and Pyrethrin Insecticides
Permethrin is a pyrethrin-containing chemical that is often found in dog shampoos. It’s added to their shampoos because it’s very effective at killing flea and ticks. While it controls fleas, ticks, and other parasites on dogs, it’s not safe for cats. When cats are exposed to permethrin, it can be life-threatening and deadly.
What exactly is permethrin? It’s a highly effective insecticide that is used in common household insect control products. Historically, it was derived from the Chrysanthemum flower, crushed into a powder, and used to control body lice. Back then, they were much more concerned about body lice on humans, not dogs!
Fast forward to the present, and synthetic permethrin is manufactured in industrial quantities worldwide for use in pest control products, including canine flea control products.
While Permethrin has an interesting history, let’s move back to how it can affect cats.
Signs of permethrin poisoning in cats include diarrhea, vomiting, excessive drooling, labored breathing, and tremors. It doesn’t take much, either. Just a bit on your cat’s skin is poisonous!
In case you’re not convinced, 10.5% of cats that are exposed to permethrin die. If your cat shows signs of Permethrin poisoning, it’s important to go to the vet immediately!
Remember how we said that just a tiny bit of permethrin on your cat’s skin could be poisonous? If you have a dog and use a permethrin-containing shampoo on them, you need to keep your cat away from your dog after a bath! Veterinarians recommend keeping your cat away from your dog for 72 hours. Also, don’t let your cat get into contact with your dog’s bedding since they can transfer the Permethrin to it.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an excellent moisturizer, treats dry skin, soothes dermatitis, provides itch relief, kills Demodex mites, heals skin yeast infections, and clears ringworm. Since those are all ailments in dogs, it’s no surprise that tea tree oil is a typical ingredient in dog shampoo.
Although it would be great if cats could get the same relief that tea tree oil offers dogs, one of its active ingredients is Terpinen-4-ol which is a terpene. Products containing terpenes are toxic for cats. If a cat is exposed to a small amount of tree oil, it can cause drooling, increased salivation, rashes, skin irritation, vomiting, muscle weakness, balance problems, and tremors.
Essential oils are added to dog shampoo for much the same reasons that tea tree oil is. They’re natural moisturizers that promote healing and skin relief.
Unfortunately, essential oils – just like tea tree oil – can be harmful to cats as they’re susceptible to them. While essential oils can help a dog with skin irritations and bug bites, they’ll only hurt a cat. Cats and kittens lack enzymes to break down essential and natural oils. That can result in toxic levels of essential oils that will hurt your cat.
Don’t use products that contain essential oils on your cat. It’s dangerous!
Coal tar is often used in dog bathing products to provide skin relief. It’s particularly effective when used for eczema and seborrhea control. When used to treat these conditions, it reduces flaking, dandruff, and skin scaling.
While coal tar is excellent at relieving the symptoms of eczema and seborrhea in dogs, the tar prevents cats from grooming themselves. Tar and cat hair don’t mix!
The final ingredient to avoid is selenium sulfide, which is used to control seborrhea in dogs. While it’s effective at treating dandruff in dogs, it will irritate and dry out your cat’s skin.
What Are the Best Cat Shampoos?
Best All-Around Cat Shampoo
The best all-around shampoo for cats is Burt’s Bees for Cats Hypoallergenic Cat Shampoo. It is a high-quality cat shampoo at an attractive price point ($7.99 or less). It cuts through grime, eliminates odors, revitalizes your cat’s skin, restores its shine, moisturizes, and leaves them smelling great. The ingredients in this shampoo are all-natural and include shea butter for skin moisturizing and honey to restore their shine.
Cat Dandruff Shampoo
If your cat has dry skin, you should consider trying a cat-friendly conditioning dandruff shampoo. Petway has a compelling product called “Cat Dandruff Shampoo for Deep Cleansing & Degreasing with Fruit & Vegetable Extracts” which best cat shampoo for dandruff. If your cat has dry skin, this will help soothe them.
Cat Allergy Shampoo
Are you allergic to your cat and looking for an effective cat allergy shampoo? Cat dander is a common allergy that can leave you wishing that truly dander-free cats existed (spoiler: they don’t yet, unfortunately).
Allerpet cat dander removal is a combination of shampoo and dander removing mitt that will eliminate or significantly reduce your cat allergies. Give it a try!
Other cat allergy shampoos include
- Purina Rinse-Free Allergen-Reducing Cat Shampoo Spray
- Tropiclean Waterless Dander Reducing Cat Shampoo
Ringworm shampoo for cats
If your cat is suffering from ringworm, you will want to use a medicated shampoo. Over-the-counter products, such as Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Antiseptic and Antifungal Spray/Shampoo for Cats, are effective remedies. If symptoms persist, though, you will need to take your cat to the vet.
Antifungal shampoo for cats
If your cat is suffering from a fungal infection, you will need to use a specially formulated medicated shampoo. Besides the Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Antiseptic and Antifungal spray shampoo listed above, you can try Alpha Paw’s Antibacterial & Antifungal Shampoo Cats. Both work well at clearing fungal infections from your cat’s skin.
If your cat’s symptoms continue, though, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
Cat Bath Time! Giving a Cat a Bath
The prospect of giving your cat a bath can be anxiety-inducing. It doesn’t have to be!
While cats have a strong aversion to water, early and frequent socialization with bathwater can make the process much easier for both you and the cat. Even if your cat is older or you don’t plan on making bath time a regular occurrence, we have helpful tips to make the process go smoother.
How to Give Your Cat a Bath
It’s true that cats rarely enjoy bath time. While your cat might enjoy drinking from a sink, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a love of soaking in the tub. How can you give your cat a bath and emerge scratch-free?
What is the Best Way to Give Your Cat a Bath?
- (Optional Step) Try to cut your cat’s nails or, at the very least, use a nail file on them. If you’ve never tried this before, it’s something should adding to your cat grooming routine.
- Bath time should be when your cat is the calmest. For some cats, this may be in the morning when they’re telling you how much they missed you while you slept and they played. For other cats
- Enlist the help of a friend or partner, if possible.
- Bring your cat’s favorite treats to the bathtub or sink.
- Arrange your cat shampoo, treats, and towel in easy reach of the tub or sink.
- Get out a hairdryer if you have one, but keep it away from the tub to avoid a water/electricity mishap.
- Turn the bathwater on at a low flow before your cat is in the bathroom. This will ensure that your cat won’t be surprised by running water and they will be less worried.
- Begin by brushing your cat to remove loose hair. This will make the bathing process more manageable.
- Fill the sink with a few inches of water. You don’t need to do this if using a bathtub.
- Put your cat in the tub or sink.
- Using your hands, direct water to the dirty areas of your cat. If you’re only cleaning one place, there’s no reason to soak them completely!
- Lather your cat with cat shampoo.
- Rinse the shampoo off thoroughly.
- Dry your cat off with a towel, and then use the hairdryer to get them as dry as possible.
When Should I Hire a Professional Groomer to Bathe My Cat?
If you dread the thought of bathing your cat, you should consider using a professional cat groomer. Don’t feel bad; no one relishes the prospect of cat scratches, bites, and general distress. When your cat is scared, there’s no telling how it might react!
Professional groomers are experienced cat bath charmers, or at least I’d like to think so. In any case, they’re much better at convincing cats than us amateurs. What would be a traumatic experience for you and your cat can become something a little less so when you hire a professional. If you choose a mobile groomer, you won’t even have to convince your cat to get into their travel kennel. The groomer takes care of it all!
Besides knowing what they’re doing, cat groomers are well-trained, fast, and provide additional services. Did you know that you should clean your cat’s ears from time to time? A cat groomer does. Want your cat’s nails cut? They can handle that.
If your cat groomer did a great job, you should consider leaving them a tip since they will have earned it!
How often should I bathe my cat?
Cats should only be bathed if they are especially dirty, exposed to chemicals, sprayed by a skunk, or have fecal matter on their fur. Hopefully for you that doesn’t happen often!
There are two exceptions to this rule: Cats with exceptionally long hair and cats with no hair, such as the Sphynx.
Particularly long-haired cats should receive a bath every eight weeks, combined with a thorough brushing.
You need to bathe your hairless cat every week. Yes, that’s every single week. Don’t slack here because baths are important for their overall health since they have no hair to absorb their skin’s oils.
Can you give a kitten a bath?
Yes, you can bathe your kitten, but only if they’re filthy. As kittens are especially sensitive creatures, be sure to use a gentle cat shampoo and thoroughly dry them off after their bath. A happy kitten is dry and warm, while an uncomfortable kitten is wet and cold.
Why do cats hate water?
A typical cat stereotype is that they have a strong aversion to water. While it’s not entirely true, since some breeds do like water and most breeds enjoy playing with dripping water, it is mostly true. Why is that?
When a cat gets wet, it takes a long time to dry and affects its movement. Translated into human terms: Do you like wearing heavy, soaked clothes all day long? A wet coat can make it difficult for them to catch their prey and slows them down when they’re trying to escape from threats.
While that explains why cats don’t like getting wet, it doesn’t explain their sometimes extreme reactions to being put into a bathtub. Imagine you are having a lovely day suntanning by the pool, and all of a sudden, your friend pushes you into the water. You would be shocked, right? It’s even more of a shock for a cat since they would never go into a pool or bath in the first place!
Can you use shampoos made for humans on your cat?
Human shampoo can be too harsh for cats since our skin pHs are different. A shampoo that’s great for you might cause inflammation and irritation when used on your cat. You should also avoid glycerin, lavender, peppermint, and jojoba for best results, which are found in some human shampoos.
The best human shampoo to use on your furry friend in a pinch is a tear-free baby shampoo since it’s gentle on the skin.
Can I use Head and Shoulders on my cat?
No, you should not use Head and Shoulders on your cat because it contains zinc pyrithione and zinc carbonate.
Zinc is an important mineral for maintaining a healthy cat but in trace amounts that they already receive in their cat food. If your cat is exposed to large enough quantities of zinc, it can cause zinc toxicity which in turn can be lethal for your cat.
According to PetMD, the symptoms of zinc toxicity in cats are a lack of appetite, vomiting, upset stomach, fatigue, depression, blood and urine chemical imbalances, jaundice, and yellow poop. It’s best to avoid exposing your cat to any zinc-containing products and instead stick with species specific shampoos. Use cat shampoos for cats and human shampoos for humans.
Can I use Burt’s Bees Natural dog shampoo on my cat?
These products are specially formulated to meet the needs of dogs, not cats. While Burt’s Bees claim that their natural pet care products are not harmful to cats, they also say that you should use one of their shampoos from their cat care line. Play it safe and stick to their cat shampoos.
Is Lavender safe for cats?
No, lavender is not safe for cats. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), lavender is toxic to cats and dogs. Signs of lavender poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and a lack of appetite. If you suspect that your cat is suffering from lavender poisoning, consult your local veterinarian.
Can I use dish soap on my cat?
Has your cat made a mess, and you need a quick fix? You might be thinking, ‘Can I bathe my cat with dish soap?”.
Dish soap and dish detergent are not recommended for bathing cats. That’s because dishwashing soaps are formulated to cut through grease and oils. They have to be good at cutting grease, or you’d have a hard time washing your dishes! While that’s great for dishes, it’s not great for cats.
If you clean your cat with dishwashing soap, it will quickly strip your cat’s skin of the natural oils that help to nourish and protect it. Drying out your pet’s skin will lead to irritation and discomfort.
The one exception to this rule is Dawn dish soap. It’s a safe option for a one-time use as part of a unique cat washing blend. Mix ½ cup of Dawn, ¼ cup of white vinegar, and 2 cups of water to make a shampooing blend that you can wash your cat with.
Keep in mind that dish soap from other brands has not been tested for safety, and their use is not recommended.
Is hand soap toxic to cats?
Are you considering cleaning your cat with hand soap? First, you’ll want to know if hand soap is toxic to cats.
While some hand soaps are safe for cats, others contain chemicals that are toxic for cats. This is true even of the natural soaps that advertise only ‘natural’ ingredients.
If you want to use hand soap, you first need to check two things.
- Is it an unscented product? You should only use an unscented product because scents can contain essential oils which are toxic to cats.
- Does it contain Permethrins, Pyrethrins, tea tree oils, essential oils, coal tar, selenium sulfide, glycerin, lavender, peppermint, and jojoba?
If it does not contain any of these ingredients, you can probably use it on your cat just this once. However, you should buy cat shampoo to be safe.
Is there dry shampoo for cats?
If your pet doesn’t like taking a bath or has a hard time getting in the tub, consider using a waterless shampoo. These products remove the bath from the equation. No more water and no more rinsing. They’re a popular alternative to wrestling your cat in the bath.
In fact, dry shampoo foams are most frequently used on cats that are either too old or too young to take a bath. These foaming shampoos require no water to rinse off, which your cat will appreciate.
Does waterless shampoo for cats work? Yes, they are effective and they can be much easier to convince your cat to go along with. If your cat is in desperate need of a bath, consider using dry shampoo first! We recommend Burt’s Bees Cat Waterless Shampoo Spray which is well rated and costs $3.99 or less. It improves shine, moisturizes, cleans, and deodorizes.
What about grooming wipes?
Grooming wipes are great if you just need to give your cat a quick, drama-free wash. There are two types of these wipes: hypoallergenic or fragrance-free, and cats tolerate both well.
Unwanted visitors? Flea treatment for cats
If your cat has some unwanted flea friends, you will want to know what the best flea shampoo for cats is and we have the answer! If your cat is scratching, biting, itching, licking, or grooming themselves more than they usually do, you might be concerned that they have fleas. Other symptoms of fleas include excessive shedding, hair loss, and black spots on their skin that look like dirt but aren’t.
To check for fleas on your cat, start with a thorough check of the top areas of their coat. These are areas that fleas love to hide in, including the neck, face, ears, and around their tails. If you find fleas, you’ll need to buy a flea shampoo specifically made for cats.
Flea shampoos are safe if they are made for cats. Never, ever use a flea shampoo for dogs on your cat. It can be a deadly mistake! Vet’s Best Flea & Tick Shampoo for Cats is the best flea shampoo treatment for cats. It kills fleas, flea larvae, and ticks on contact without harsh chemicals. It’s a plant-based product that uses 100% cat-friendly oils, which means it’s 100% cat safe.
How do you give your cat a flea bath?
If your cat has fleas, it’s time for a flea bath with Vet’s Best Flea & Tick Shampoo for Cats or your own favorite flea-killing shampoo for cats. It’s essential to always read the instruction on the bottle before giving your cat a flea bath since you only want to wrestle your cat in the bath once!
Follow these steps to give your cat a flea bath:
- Massage the shampoo onto the skin.
- Leave the shampoo on the cat for 3-5 minutes.
- Rinse the cat and towel dry it.
- Comb through the cat’s fur with a flea comb.
- Apply a topical flea treatment or flea collar, specifically made for cats, to a flea reoccurrence.
Have oatmeal in the cupboard? Soothing oatmeal bath for cats
If your cat is suffering from dry skin, consider giving it an oatmeal bath, just like a human would. Aveeno sells an oatmeal bath product, or you can make your own.
If you want to make your own calming oatmeal blend, mix 1 cup of ground, uncooked outmeal with 1/2 cup of banking soda and 1 quart of warm water. It’s a good DIY alternative to conditioning cat shampoos.
Want to make your own DIY cat shampoo?
Do you prefer to make your own cat shampoo at home with common household ingredients? Common DIY options are lemon spray, apple cider vinegar, water, cedar chips, and Aloe vera juice.
If you’re considering going the DIY route, keep in mind that you’ll have better results with a cat-specific shampoo available at your local pet store or online. Cat shampoos aren’t expensive.
At what age can I bathe my kitten?
You can safely bathe your kitten once they are 8 weeks old.
Kittens under 8 weeks old cannot regulate their body temperatures, so a bath can lead to hypothermia if done incorrectly. Make sure to heat up the room, use warm water for the bath, and then thoroughly dry them off after bath time is over.
What happens if you put dog Frontline on a cat?
Frontline for dogs can be lethal to cats. This is because Permethrin, which is the active ingredient in dog Frontline, is poisonous to cats. Don’t ever put it on your cat!
If you do accidentally put dog Frontline on your cat, you need to immediately bathe your cat with soap, rinse them off thoroughly, and then take them to an emergency vet. Use dish soap, not pet shampoo, as this will do the best job removing the poison from your cat’s coat.
If your cat is already showing symptoms of Frontline poisoning, such as foaming at the mouth or vomiting, skip the bath and head directly to the vet.
Even in an emergency, it’s best to avoid using dog shampoo on cats since it’s dangerous and potentially deadly. That’s because dog shampoo can contain ingredients that are harmful to cats, such as permethrin, pyrethrin, tea tree oil, essential oils, coal tar, and selenium sulfide.
Cat shampoo is kind to sensitive cat skin and provides additional benefits such as skin hydration and wound healing. There are dozens of brands available; all formulated to clean your cat safely. A cat shampoo will leave your cat with a soft coat that smells nice without irritating their skin or using harmful ingredients.