Cats are curious by nature, and sometimes this results in them getting a little too close to a pond, muddy puddle, or some other potentially messy situation.
Without the need to bathe cats on a regular basis (they groom and clean themselves for the most part), I can’t blame you for not having cat shampoo to hand.
However, faced with a kitty that’s saturated from head to toe and unable to clean themselves, you might be wondering – can I use baby shampoo on my cat?
The answer is actually, yes. In most cases, you can use baby shampoo to bathe a cat. It’s not ideal though, as I’ll explain. I only recommend using baby shampoo when you have no other option to clean them up.
Do You Need to Bathe Your Cat? How Often Should You Bathe Them?
Generally speaking, cats do not need regular baths. They are perfectly capable of bathing themselves – and do this by using their rough tongue.
If you’re a cat owner you’ll be very familiar with your cat’s grooming rituals.
Cats can spend hours running their tongues through their fur to rid their coats of dirt and spread oils around.
It’s pretty gross to us. But cats are very different to us and evolved being adept at surviving in the wild.
There are no warm baths with shampoos in the wild!
There are some instances when a bath may be necessary though. As I mentioned above, sometimes cats can get into a spot of bother.
If their coats are covered or saturated with dirt, it’s going to be too big a task for them to clean.
Long-haired cats, in particular, are susceptible to matting, getting clumps of dirt stuck in their fur, and struggling to keep on top of their grooming.
Then there are show cats. It’s not something I’ve been involved in, but exotic and show breeds need to look in their tip-top best for a show.
Owners will bath, groom, and pamper them to make sure they’re looking their best. But the motivation behind this is totally different and they certainly won’t be using baby shampoo!
Using Baby Shampoo as a Cat Shampoo Substitute
I will say right off the top that baby shampoo isn’t ideal, and it’s not as good as a specially formulated cat shampoo.
It is the best option when it comes to using human shampoos though. Baby shampoos are formulated to be super-soft on a baby’s skin and designed not to irritate their eyes.
However, it’s formulated for humans, not cats. We have different pH requirements, and cats have natural oils that protect their coats.
Our skin pH is 5.2 to 6.2 and shampoos designed for us range from 4.5 to 8.0. While a cat’s skin pH level is 6.2 to 7.2 and their products range from 5.0 to 8.5 to cater to their higher range.
Using products with the wrong pH level can cause irritation, dry out the skin, weaken hair, and remove natural oils.
So, while it may be the only way you can get all the dirt out of your cat’s coat, it may cause some damage to their fur.
My best advice; use as little as you can get away with and invest in some cat shampoo (like the one below available on Amazon) in case of future emergencies!
Can I Use Baby Shampoo to Wash a Kitten?
You can also use baby shampoo on a kitten, yes. The same rules apply as above though, use as little as possible and only in an emergency.
Is Johnson Baby Shampoo Best for Kittens/Cats
There are a number of brands that sell baby shampoos. Johnson and Johnson might be the most well-known, and they have the “No More Tears” registered trademark, so it’s often the one that comes to mind.
Without testing different shampoos I can’t honestly say which is best. Especially when it comes to using it on a cat, which isn’t even the intended use for the shampoo.
They certainly make a lot of claims about their shampoo being one of the most baby-friendly and soft on the market. If you have this brand at home, give it a try.
Can I Use Any Shampoo on My Cat?
No, absolutely not. First of all, I would not recommend using regular shampoos designed for adults.
These contain much stronger cleaning agents than baby shampoos and can cause some serious skin irritation if used on a cat.
I’d advise you to use plain water instead of regular shampoo. If you can’t shift the dirt in your cat’s coat and you have nothing else available, it may have to wait until the morning when you can run to the store.
The same applies to shampoos that have been specially formulated for other animals. Dogs and other pets have very different pH levels, their coats are different, and they require different shampoos.
Can I Use Dawn Dish Soap for Fleas on Cats?
This is an interesting one. I’ve heard cat owners talking about using Dawn Dish Soap to rid their pets of fleas for years.
Some use it and swear by it. Personally, I don’t understand why they use Dawn over a specially formulated product. I wouldn’t use it.
I can neither confirm nor deny if Dawn Dish Soap is ok for cats, or if in fact, it helps to get rid of fleas.
To-date, I haven’t tried it, and I wouldn’t use it over the regular Spot-On flea treatments I use.
The Real Issue Will Be Bathing Your Cat
If you’ve never given your cat a bath and you’re faced with a grubby cat that needs to go into the tub, you’re in for a challenge.
Trying to be positive about it, you might have a cat that enjoys water and is thankful that you’re stepping in and helping them out.
I’ve never come across a cat that liked a bath though. Sorry.
Chances are, your cat is going to scratch, scramble, and do everything they can to escape the tub.
It can be stressful for a cat being forced to bath, so you need to make it as quick as possible.
I recommend being prepared with the following:
- Having someone else helping you, four hands are better than two.
- You wear a good pair of gloves to protect you from some of the scratches.
- Use a nice soft towel to dry them afterward, a blower will be too noisy and strong.
- Make sure you rinse all of the shampoo off, taking care to make sure none is left on their skin.
- Use lukewarm water.
Make it as quick as possible, and reward them with a nice meal after (food is always the way back into your cat’s good books).
All I can add to that is – good luck!
Related – Here’s why cats love bathrooms (Just not if they’re having a bath).
If you find yourself caught in a pinch with a mucky cat and no cat shampoo – you can use baby shampoo as an alternative if water alone isn’t going to clean them up.
Just make sure it’s a one-off and you follow the steps I outlined above. As long as you’re careful, gentle, and considerate, I’m sure you’ll end up with a sparkling clean cat that forgives you after a few treats.
Image credits – Header photo by Dan Wayman, cat grooming photo by Milada Vigerova, and cat under towel photo by Giovanna Karla on Unsplash
A study of pet and human pH shampoos – PetGroomer.com