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What Can I Use To Wash My Cat?

by Lucy

Cats are quite possibly one of the cleanest species on the planet.

Self-grooming is a daily occurrence for the felines in our lives and you will notice that they will spend hours per day grooming themselves to ensure that they are spotlessly clean.

Our feline friend’s saliva contains a sort of natural detergent that helps to keep both their fur and skin clean and sterilized. Most cats require very little grooming from their humans and can take care of the likes of dirt, grease, debris, and matted fur on their own.

That isn’t to say however that we should never intervene.

Cats that tend to spend a significant amount of time outdoors can often become much dirtier and disheveled than those that like to stay indoors. Sometimes there is a case for us humans to intervene. A good example of this is when your kitty has spent time hiding underneath parked cars (something most cats enjoy).

A leaky engine can often result in your cat becoming covered in oil or gas. This is not ideal and can be highly toxic to your cat, particularly when they come back indoors and try to clean it off their fur. In instances like this, you must bathe your cat immediately!

So what can you use to wash your cat? Cat shampoos are best for washing your cat. They are specially formulated to match the oil production and pH balance of cats’ skin. Common alternatives like human shampoo and dish soap may get the dirt off but can also dry out and irritate cats’ skin, especially with frequent use.

With the right shampoo for kitty, they will be sparkling clean and smelling as fresh as daisy in no time! But we know it can be hard to get the right shampoo for your feline friend, so we’ll talk about other alternatives and whether other common shampoos and soaps are actually safe for your fur baby.

What Can I Use to Wash My Cat?

Bathing your cat is quite a straight forward process all in all. Baths can be somewhat challenging since our feline friends are not fond of water, especially a whole bath’s worth. Scrubbing the fur and skin thoroughly, ensuring all the dirt, grease and oil is removed will do the trick, but Fluffy may not be very happy about it.

However, over time and with patience on your part you will likely find the process becomes easier. Some cats even end up eventually enjoying the process as much as most dogs!

One of the most important things to consider is the type of soap products you will use on your kitty. Not all soap detergents are safe for our felines to use, which is why it’s best to use a specially-formulated shampoo for cats, or a cat shampoo.

Why is Cat Shampoo the Best Solution?

Cat shampoo has been specifically formulated for cats.

It is safe to use, gentle on their skin, and will not remove any natural oils or the skin surface. The pH balance has been set to just the right dosage to ensure the soap is soft and gentle for your kitty.

Other types of shampoo can often cause unnecessary (and potentially uncomfortable!) complications such as skin conditions which are best avoided.

There are many types of cat shampoos on the market to choose from and most pet stores will have at least one brand available to buy. The internet has a huge range on offer and with a little searching, you will be able to find a cat shampoo that is perfect for your kitty.

There are even tons of hypoallergenic cat shampoos, like this one from Burt’s Bees, which should really keep your kitty in clean, safe, and happy shape!

But we know sometimes it’s easier said than done, especially if options are limited or you’re hoping to avoid an extra expense just to wash one pet.

So let’s look in a little more depth at some other common shampoos and detergents and whether they’re safe enough for Kitty.

What Can I Wash My Cat With if I Don’t Have Cat Shampoo?

If you don’t have cat shampoo available when you need it then I’m pleased to say there are some good alternatives that you can use to get the job done safely and efficiently.

However, it is always a good idea to use these products as a quick fix rather than a long term solution since cat shampoo is without a doubt the only option you should be using regularly.

They may not hurt your feline friend once in a while, but in the long-term, these products just aren’t going to take as good care of your cat as a cat shampoo would.

Many of these items listed below can already be found in the cupboard at home anyway and are reasonably safe for use on your kitty. Let’s take a closer look at each and see how they work.

Can I Use Dish Soap On My Cat?

Most dish soap is reasonably safe to use on cats, at least for short-term or one-time use. They are generally mild detergents and not toxic for our feline friends.

The key consideration here is that it was not designed to be used for cats; cats with allergies or skin disorders may find dish soap too harsh for their skin.

One of the key functionalities of dish soap is to remove grease from our everyday items. This will mean that using dish soap on your kitty will remove all the grease from the fur as well as all the essential oils from the skin.

With long-term use, this will likely cause dryness and skin irritation. That’s just as uncomfortable for cats as it is for humans, so for this reason, we feel dish soap is best avoided.

If you’re in a pinch, Dawn dish soap is a brand that many are aware has been widely used on wildlife and kittens for years. This is why so many owners believe that dish soap is a great tool for cleaning their cat.

However, it does pose the same issues as mentioned above with prolonged use. If your kitty got caught in an oil leak, though, it’s probably fine to use a little of this dish soap.

Can I Use Human Shampoo On My Cat?

Using human shampoo is not an ideal solution for cleaning your cat.

On the one hand, most shampoos of the human variety are not toxic to cats. However, the formulas have been created specifically for human skin types that differ greatly from our feline friends’ skin.

Human skin is way more acidic than feline skin and therefore the pH balance in human shampoo is completely off for cats. Human shampoo can be too harsh for your kitty’s skin since it was designed for those of us with much moister skin.

This can lead to dryness, irritation, and itching, making your cat feel quite uncomfortable.

By using human shampoo we are drying out the cat’s skin and essentially stripping the oils and top layers. The natural oils and top layers of the skin act as a barrier against infection and therefore disrupting these defenses.

Human shampoo is a bad choice for cats. It is always best to buy shampoo that has been specifically formulated for feline use to ensure the pH balance is correct and does not dry out the skin or strip the natural oils.

Can I Use Dog Shampoo On My Cat?

Dog shampoo is much more widely available than cat shampoo. One of the reasons for this is the volume of sales. There are many more dogs that need a bath than cats. After all, cats tend to keep up on their own grooming!

Dogs tend to quite like baths and are prone to getting very mucky and dirty after walks. You will see far more dogs being bathed than you will cats and therefore the market is overrun with dog shampoos at some very competitive prices.

This may encourage you to want to pick up some dog shampoo for your cat since it is often cheaper and easier to get hold of.

Unfortunately, it is not a wise idea to use dog shampoo for your kitty. Shampoo for dogs (just like human shampoo) has been specifically designed for dogs in mind. A dog’s pH balance is around 7.5, while a cat’s is much lower at around 6.6.

Dog shampoo can often be far too harsh for a cat’s skin and can cause irritations and dryness.

Cat Shampoo Alternatives, Good or Bad? [Chart]

There are a few other soaps and shampoos people like to use for their cats, but the concerns are pretty much always the same – even if you can use an alternative safely, it is usually best not to, or at least not frequently.

Although most of the following will work in a pinch, it is a much better idea to just find and use a high quality cat shampoo for your feline friend. That will for sure keep them clean and their skin fresh and comfortable.

SubstituteGood or Bad? Why?
Baby ShampooBaby shampoo can be a decent alternative to cat shampoo. Unlike adult shampoos, it is much gentler on the skin and will be much less likely to cause your kitty irritations. Use in the same way as you would regular shampoo, but try to use a small amount as possible to avoid product overload.
Dawn Dish Soap
This is a bit of a controversial one since. Dawn dish soap has been used on animals in general for years. It can be seen regularly used in rescue centers on wildlife and helps to strip petroleum oil off of animals caught in oil spills, but this doesn’t mean it’s a great solution for everyday grime.

In short, we will say that this is a much better option than human shampoo, but cat-specific shampoo is always the best option. We recommend it as a last choice only.
Castile SoapCastile soap is a great alternative to use. It is formulated with olive oil that will be gentle on your cat’s skin and highly hydrating. This will not dry out your cat’s skin which is the usual problem encountered.
Baking SodaBaking soda can be a great dry shampoo option if you are looking to remove grease and odors from your cat’s fur, but not looking for them to get wet. Gently rub the baking soda between the fur with your fingers for a quick tidy up.
DIY Oatmeal ShampooHomemade oatmeal shampoo is an ideal alternative option for use with bathing your cat. It is gentle on the skin and really simple to make.

To do this: Mix 1 cup of ground oatmeal, half a cup of baking soda, and 4 cups of water. Pour the mixture over your cat’s fur and massage in well with your fingers. Leave for 5-10 mins and rinse off.

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