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Can You Use Baby Shampoo on a Cat? What You Need to Know!

Many cats don’t particularly enjoy being bathed, but sometimes it’s necessary.

Most cats never need shampooing, but if your cat has a skin condition that needs treating, or has simply rolled in something that you need to clean off, you may need to give them a bath. But what if you don’t have any cat shampoo?

Is it okay to use baby shampoo on your cat, or is this something to avoid?

Before we dig deeper into the details, yes, baby shampoo can be used on cats, but only very occasionally.

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Why is cat shampoo better than baby shampoo?

Baby shampoo might seem like a great idea for bathing your cat; after all, if it’s gentle enough for babies, then it must be okay for cats too, right?

Baby shampoo is gentle, but it’s designed to be gentle on babies’ skin, not cats. The pH of our skin is around 5.5, and baby shampoo is designed to match that level so it doesn’t cause irritation or dryness.

The pH of your cat’s skin, on the other hand, is more like 7.5, so it’s more alkaline. Using a shampoo like baby shampoo, with a more acidic pH than your cat’s skin, can cause dryness, itchiness, and for your cat to potentially feel less comfortable than they did before you gave them that bath!

cat with rubber duck
Image Credit: tookapic, Pixabay

What about other human shampoos?

We wouldn’t recommend using any other human shampoos besides baby shampoo. Shampoos designed for adults are more likely to have fragrances, colors, sulfates, and parabens that can irritate your cat’s skin.

Other alternatives to baby shampoo

If you desperately need to shampoo your cat but don’t have any cat shampoo, there might be some gentler alternatives around your house that you can use instead of baby shampoo.

You can make a soothing oatmeal shampoo for cats using:


  • 1 cup of finely ground organic oatmeal
  • 1 cup of Dawn dish soap (do not substitute for other brands)
  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • 4 cups warm water


Mix all of these ingredients in a jar or other container with a lid. Once your cat is wet, apply this mixture all over their bodies and work it down to their skin. Rinse well.

The oatmeal helps soothe your cat’s skin, while the baking soda helps neutralize any odors. Plenty of commercial cat shampoos also use oatmeal due to its moisturizing and protective qualities.

Another DIY cat shampoo recipe includes:


  • 1/3 cup glycerin
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup Dawn dish soap
  • 3 cups warm water


Blend all the ingredients, then apply to your cat’s fur, working it well in before rinsing. Vinegar can dry out your cat’s skin if you use this recipe too frequently, so keep an eye on them and discontinue use if it looks like their skin is becoming itchy or you can see flakes.

persian cat taking a bath
Image Credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

You could also consider using plain Dawn dish soap instead of baby shampoo. Don’t be tempted to use another brand, as it may not work as well. Dawn dish soap is frequently used by marine rescue organizations to clean oil off wildlife, as it’s gentle on their skin yet effective at removing grease and odors.

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Wrapping it up

Baby shampoo is safe to use on your cat in an emergency. Remember that it’s not formulated to suit the pH of your cat’s skin, so it may leave their skin feeling dry and itchy after they’ve had their bath.

A better alternative is using one of our recipes for a gentle homemade cat shampoo instead.

Of course, the best option is making sure you have a bottle of cat shampoo in the cupboard for those occasional times when your cat really needs a bath. You can check out our recommendations for the best cat shampoos here.

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Featured Image Credit: KDdesignphoto, Shutterstock