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Home > Cats > Can You Use Human Shampoo on Cats? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQs

Can You Use Human Shampoo on Cats? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQs

cat in the bathtub

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Tabitha Henson

Veterinarian, DVM

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

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As a rule, cats don’t really need baths—they clean themselves. If your vet has recommended bathing, though, or there’s something gross in your cat’s fur, you may have to make an exception. Because it’s so rarely necessary, it’s normal for cat parents not to have any cat shampoo on hand when there’s some funky fur to tackle but please—never use human shampoo on your cat.

A human’s skin isn’t the same as a cat’s, and human shampoo can be too harsh on a cat’s skin. It can result in dryness, flakiness, and irritation if used to bathe your cat. In this post, we’ll share some of the different ways to bathe your cat safely.


What Can I Use to Bathe My Cat?

Okay, so now we know that human shampoo isn’t suitable for cats, what can we use instead? There are several ways to give your cat a helping hand on the rare occasion that they need a bath. Let’s take a look at some alternatives to human shampoo.

Cat Shampoo

Girl washes cat in the bath
Image Credit: Olleg, Shutterstock

If you’re a cat parent, it may be a good idea to equip yourself with some specially formulated cat shampoo just in case. Cat shampoos are PH balanced to suit your cat’s skin. They’re also made up of ingredients—sometimes naturally derived ingredients—that won’t irritate your cat’s skin. You can even find waterless cat shampoos that are less likely to stress your cat out.

If you have a kitten, go for a shampoo specially designed for kittens. Kitten skin is more sensitive than that of an adult cat so they’ll need something a bit milder than standard cat shampoo.

Baby Shampoo

Bubble bath a small gray stray cat
Image Credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

If it’s really urgent and you don’t have any cat shampoo to hand, go with a baby shampoo like Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. Baby shampoos are much milder than regular shampoos and are less likely to lead to dryness. It’s always best to go with cat shampoo, though, and using baby shampoo should only be a last resort.

Pet Bathing Wipes

woman using cleaning wipes on pet cat
Image Credit By: NONGASIMO, Shutterstock

If your arms are looking like they’ve been dragged through a hedge repeatedly after bath time, it may be better to simply avoid it altogether. Pet bathing wipes are a great alternative to using water and shampoo. They often contain ingredients like aloe vera and are infused with enzymes that deodorize. Some are even infused with catnip!


Final Thoughts

Though human shampoo is off the cards because of the potential skin issues it could cause, there are plenty of skin-kind, simple ways to bathe safely. If your cat isn’t in the habit of rolling in gross stuff regularly, you should be able to avoid bathing altogether because cats are great at grooming and cleaning themselves. It’s always a good idea to keep something on standby, though, like cat shampoo or pet wipes for emergencies.

Featured Image Credit: Irina Borodovskaya, Shutterstock

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