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Home > Cats > Is Hand Soap Toxic To Cats? Risks, Signs, & FAQ

Is Hand Soap Toxic To Cats? Risks, Signs, & FAQ

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

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There are a lot of rumors about what is and is not toxic to pets, especially cats. You might be thinking that it is okay to use hand soap on your cat to clean off dirty spots. Just a quick wash with some nearby hand soap should be okay. Right? Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Hand soap, like many typical household cleaners, contains detergents that can be harmful to cats. Those soaps might be okay to use on your hands, but they should generally not be used on your cat.


Avoid Using Household Cleaners Around Your Cats

Detergents are found in a variety of home cleaners. They are powerful chemicals designed to do specific jobs. Dish soap, laundry soap, and hand soap all contain chemicals that are designed to break down dirt and grime. The things that give these products their cleaning power are the same things that are potentially harmful to your cat. That includes typical hand soap.

One of the reasons you should not use hand soap on your feline friends is that they lick themselves clean. Humans never lick hand soap off of their hands, so we do not think that it is harmful. But it can be. Cats will try and lick themselves clean and are usually fastidious in their grooming. If you need to use a soap to get rid of grease or oil on your cat, then ideally you should use a cat shampoo. If you don’t have access to one, then bar hand soap can be used as long as you rinse it off thoroughly.

person putting hand soap on their hands
Image Credit: Jason Jarrach, Unsplash

What Are the Signs of Harmful Soap Ingestion?

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, signs of harmful soap ingestion include excessive drooling, loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, signs of an irritated mouth, or visible burns on the mouth. If your cat is experiencing any of these signs after getting into hand soap, you should consult your veterinarian right away.

Even if you did not try to wash your cat with hand soap, they can still occasionally get into soap on their own. Spilled cleaners are also a potential hazard for cats. If you spill any hand soap or other detergents, keep your cats away from the spill and clean it up immediately.

If you suspect that your cat got into harmful detergent or if you used hand soap on your cat, do not panic. The effects are not fatal, but they should be closely monitored for symptoms. Pet Poison Helpline suggests monitoring your cat for at least 2 hours for symptoms. If symptoms do present, you should schedule a visit to your vet. If your cat has any soap on them, you should wash it off with plain water.

Sick cat
Image Credit: Kachalkina Veronika, Shutterstock

What Soaps Should I Use On My Cat?

Cats rarely need to be bathed by humans. In fact, you should only wash your cats if your vet tells you to or they got covered in something that is not safe for them to groom off. Cats are very good about keeping themselves clean and are typically very picky about their coats. In most cases dish soap and water would be recommended for cleaning off oily substances if you don’t have cat shampoo to hand.

If you do need to bathe your cat, it is best to use shampoos and cleaners designed specifically for use on felines. If your cat has a skin problem your vet can suggest what shampoo they think is best for your cat. Otherwise they should sell some kind of cat shampoo at your local pet supply store.

In a pinch, Dawn dish soap has been cleared for use on animals, including cats. But it is still not advisable to use dish soap on your pets unless you absolutely must.

If you have any questions, always consult your veterinarian before making decisions on your own. You can also utilize online resources like PetMD and Pet Poison Helpline for further guidance.



Yes, hand soap could be toxic to cats if they ingest it. If you must wash your cat with soap then make sure to rinse it off well. Cats will lick the potent detergent off their skin and potentially cause health issues if not rinsed properly. The only soap you should use on your cat are special shampoos designed for use on household pets. Cats and people are very different. Products that people use on a regular basis are not necessarily safe for pets, even if they seem harmless on the face of it.

Featured Image Credit: Sincerely Media, Unsplash

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