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Home > Cats > Can You Use Dog Shampoo on Cats? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Can You Use Dog Shampoo on Cats? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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You need to bathe your cat, and all you can find is the dog shampoo. They’re both furry companions, so how different can the formulas be?

The truth is that using the wrong shampoo might have more serious implications than expected. Some dog shampoos are perfectly safe, while others can have catastrophic consequences. The short answer is you should generally avoid using dog shampoo on cats.

Since there’s so much information out there, we developed this guide to give you all the details you need in one place, from what you need to look for in the ingredients to what to do in a pinch.


Can You Use Dog Shampoo on Cats?

While it’s best to avoid using dog shampoos on cats, the truth is that it depends on the specific shampoo. Some shampoos work for both dogs and cats, while others will work for dogs and are toxic for cats. Specifically, some ingredients are safe for dogs and toxic for cats, and other shampoos work for higher pH levels than cats.

Still, if it’s all you have, can you use dog shampoo on your cat? As long as it has no toxic ingredients, you should be fine for a one-time application. However, we always recommend getting the right product if you can.

persian cat bathing
Image By: 135pixels, Shutterstock

Toxic Ingredients

Just because it’s a natural ingredient doesn’t mean it’s safe to use on your cat. Permethrin is a classic example. It comes from the chrysanthemum flower, and it’s an excellent deterrent for parasites like fleas and ticks. However, cats lack the liver enzymes needed to break down the chemicals in permethrin. Exposure will lead to toxicity and can result in neurological problems. Do not use dog flea products or shampoo on cats.

Other ingredients that are common in dog shampoos but can be toxic to cats include essential oils. While they’re not great for dogs or cats, dogs have a higher tolerance, and that’s why some companies add small amounts for their odor-control properties.

However, while the small amount might be low enough for your dog, there’s a good chance that it’s too high for your cat.

It's easy to get overwhelmed when you're looking for the perfect pet shampoo. The Hepper Pet Shampoo products are a great place to start because of their all-natural, pet-safe formula that is pH balanced for your pet's skin. Made with soothing ingredients like oatmeal and aloe vera, these shampoos are also free of phthalates, sulfates, dyes, and soaps. Both options will leave your pet clean, moisturized, and smelling like a day at the spa!

Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the right option for your pet’s next bath!

Hepper oatmeal shampoo Hepper dry shampoo
Hepper Colloidal Oatmeal Pet Shampoo Hepper Waterless No Rinse Pet Shampoo
Natural Ingredients
Natural Ingredients:
Natural Ingredients:
Made in USA
Made in USA:
Made in USA:
Safe for cats & dogs
Safe for cats & dogs:
Safe for cats & dogs:
Soothes dry skin
Soothes dry skin:
Soothes dry skin:
Waterless, no rinsing required
Waterless, no rinsing required:
Waterless, no rinsing required:

At Pet Keen, we've admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

pH Levels

The other factor that you need to consider when determining whether you can use dog shampoo on your cat is the natural pH levels of their skin. Dogs naturally have a pH level between 6.0 and 8.5, while cats stay between 6.0 and 6.8.

This means cat skin is slightly more acidic than dog skin, and many shampoo companies take that into account when developing their products. Using the wrong shampoo on your cat can throw off their pH balance, which can lead to skin irritation and other skin problems.


Is Dog Shampoo Effective for Cleaning Cats?

While dog shampoos might not be the best choice for your cat, they still have the properties necessary to clean them. Whether it’s dog fur or cat fur, dog shampoo can do a great job of getting pets clean.

This is why some pet shampoos work for cats and dogs and can do a great job for both. It’s all about the other ingredients that it has and what pH range it caters to.

Sphynx bath
Image By: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

What Cat Shampoo Should You Use?

While there’s tons of advice out there on what cat shampoo you should or shouldn’t use, as long as you’re going with a cat-specific shampoo, the most important piece of advice is to follow the directions on use on the specific product and rinse it off well.

According to the ASPCA, using a hypoallergenic cat shampoo reduces the risk of your cat having an allergic reaction to the shampoo, and it’s gentler on their skin.

How Often Should You Bathe Your Cat?

Cats are well-known for their outstanding self-grooming habits, so they don’t need a bath as frequently as you might think. In fact, you should only bathe them when they need it.

If they have a funky odor, look particularly grimy, or are having a problem with parasites, it’s time for a bath. Otherwise, it’s perfectly fine to leave them be and let them groom themselves!


Final Thoughts

If you’re questioning whether your dog shampoo is safe for cats, it’s best to leave it on the shelf or in the cupboard and get something specifically for your cat. Unless it says that it’s fine for cats, there’s a good chance that it’s not!

Cats don’t need a ton of baths, anyway, so it’s well worth the investment to get them the right stuff and keep their skin and coat in great shape.

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Featured Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

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