Can You Use Dog Shampoo on Cats?

gray cat and black and white dog
By Pet Expert Team
Updated: 6/4/20242-4 minutes
Cat owner squeezes shampoo into hand as wet cat looks up from bathtub

If you’ve ever found yourself in a position where you need to bathe your cat, you may have questioned what kind of cat shampoo to use. You may have even asked yourself, Can you use dog shampoo on cats? While using one shampoo to do double duty on both dogs and cats sounds convenient, it’s not worth risking. Cats’ bodies are different from dogs’ bodies, and what’s formulated in a dog shampoo isn’t going to make the best shampoo for cats. 

Continue reading to learn more about the differences in dog versus cat shampoo and find out which cat safe shampoo alternatives are right for your cat. 

Is Dog Shampoo Safe for Cats?

Plain and simple, no, it is not safe to use dog shampoo on cats. The ingredients in dog shampoo are specially formulated for dogs’ skin needs. Using those same ingredients on a cat’s skin and coat can be harmful for the following reasons.

1. Cats’ Skin Has Different pH Levels

One of the key differences in dogs’ skin versus cats’ skin is pH levels. Cats’ skin has a higher pH than dogs’. Their pH levels can range from 7.0 to 9.0, whereas dogs’ skin pH has a range of 5.5 to 7.2. When pet shampoo manufacturers formulate shampoos, they tailor the ingredients to factors like pH levels. So what’s formulated for dogs is a stark contrast to what’s formulated for cats.

2. Dog Shampoo Can Strip Away Natural Oils

Using a dog shampoo on a cat’s skin can cause harm. Your cat has natural oils within its skin that protect it. These oils prevent dryness and itchiness. When a dog shampoo is applied, it can strip away these oils and lead to skin irritation

3. Certain Dog Shampoo Ingredients Are Toxic to Cats

Can I use dog flea shampoo on a cat? If this question has crossed your mind, the immediate answer is NO. Dog flea shampoo poses a real danger to cats because they can contain an ingredient called permethrin. These flea shampoos are easy to find over-the-counter and deemed safe. However, when cats are continuously exposed to permethrin, they can overdose on them. It’s best to keep any kind of dog flea shampoo away from your cat. 

For these reasons, the safest shampoo for cats is one that’s pH balanced for cats.

Can You Use Human Shampoo on Cats?

The answer to this question echoes the information above about using dog shampoo on cats. You should not use human shampoo on cats because of the difference in formulation. Human skin has a higher acidity than both dog and cat skin which means human shampoo is also formulated differently with ingredients that could damage your cat’s delicate skin.

What’s the Best Shampoo for Your Cat?

We should first note that bathing a cat regularly isn’t necessary. Cats have their own means of keeping themselves clean. But for instances where your cat needs assistance cleaning itself or has gotten into something filthy, it makes sense to intervene with a cat bath. In these situations, the best cat shampoo for the job is one that is specifically formulated and pH-balanced for their skin and coat. 

If you’ve noticed your cat has dry, itchy or sensitive skin, stick with a cat-specific shampoo. But if you suspect something serious has happened or that your cat needs relief from this skin sensitivity, it’s best to take them to the vet for an evaluation. Your vet may recommend a special type of bath, cat shampoo alternatives or even a change in diet depending on the outcome of the evaluation. 

Cat Shampoo Alternatives (When You’re Out)

Now that you have answers to, Can I use dog shampoo on my cat?, you may be thinking about other cat shampoo alternatives. You are likely to find a wide range of cleansing methods for cats on the internet, but it’s important to weigh all potential solutions and be aware of possible risks associated with many homemade cat shampoos or DIY recipes.

The Q&A-style chart below lists common questions about cat shampoo alternatives with answers to guide your decision-making.

Can you use baby shampoo on cats?While baby shampoos make strong claims about being gentle for babies and their delicate skin, they should not be used on cats. Baby shampoo is formulated for humans who have a higher pH balance in their skin. Using them on cats could pose the risk of dryness and irritation.
Can you use baby wipes on cats?Baby wipes might seem like a great cat shampoo alternative because they avoid getting a cat completely wet. However, baby wipes are not formulated for cats’ skin. Even though they claim to be gentle, they are still intended for humans – not cats.
Can you use dish soap on cats?Dish soap often claims to be gentle on skin, but again, these claims are referring to human skin. That said, dish soaps are designed with chemicals to cut through grease and grime. They should not be used on cats.
Can you use homemade dog shampoo on cats?Mixing your own homemade cat shampoo can give you confidence in knowing exactly what goes into the formula. The problem is that homemade recipes found online aren’t proven to be effective and could cause harm to your cat’s skin. If a DIY solution is important to you, consult your veterinarian and partner with them to find the right solution.

Is dog shampoo safe for cats? It’s safe to say – stick with cat-specific shampoos. And if you venture out to other alternatives, bear in mind that cats’ skin is different from dogs’ and humans’ skin. The best possible choice is to choose a cat shampoo that’s pH balanced and tailored to the unique skin and coat needs of your cat.

There is no doubt that your cat’s skin and health deserve care and attention. Choosing the right cat shampoo is just one way to look after them. If you have concerns about your cat’s skin health beyond selecting the right shampoo, always reach out to your vet for advice.

For more expert tips on grooming your cat, explore our other cat routine care articles.

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