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Does Dawn Kill Fleas on Cats? Vet-Reviewed Effectiveness Explained

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	Dr. Athena Gaffud Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Athena Gaffud

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

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Dawn is a dish soap that has many different kinds of uses that go beyond washing dishes. One of the claims is that it can be used to kill fleas on cats as a surfactant, but it’s definitely not the most effective way of getting rid of these pests for good. This is because Dawn can kill adult fleas, but it’s not effective in keeping them away, and it’s not the best option for destroying flea eggs.

Even though Dawn may seem like a cheaper alternative to killing fleas, it’s not the best solution and is often reserved for use for very specific cases, consult your veterinarian. Here’s what you need to know before using Dawn Original on your cat.

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Can I Use Dawn to Kill Fleas on My Cat?

Dawn dish soap has a formula that is capable of killing adult fleas. So, you could technically use it on cats if you’re facing an emergency situation and don’t have medicated flea shampoo on hand.

In some cases cats will benefit from getting a bath with a small amount of Dawn dish soap. This should only be done on the recommendation of your vet.

What about tiny kittens? There is a flea treatment spray that can be used from 2 days old that your vet can prescribe and will be more effective than a wash with Dawn.

Fleas don’t necessarily die from a chemical reaction from Dawn dish soap. Instead, the soap creates surface tension that prevents adult fleas from floating in the water. So, rather than being a toxic substance to fleas, fleas are killed by Dawn because they’re not able to rise to the water’s surface and end up drowning.

Disadvantages of Using Dawn on Cats

There are several disadvantages to bathing cats with Dawn soap, which is why it should be used in special circumstances only. First, it’s important to remember that Dawn doesn’t indicate anything on its label that it’s safe to use on cats. So, it doesn’t have any components that are particularly safe and beneficial to cats.

Dawn dish soap also contains methylisothiazolinone, which is an ingredient associated with skin allergies and other health concerns.

Dawn can also dry out a cat’s skin very easily because it works to strip oil and grease from surfaces. So, your cat can end up with completely dry skin and coat, which can then lead to other health complications like skin irritation, inflammation, and hair loss.

Dawn does not target all life stages of fleas, so it isn’t effective in stopping the spread of a flea infestation. It may help get rid of adult fleas on a cat’s skin and coat, but there’s no way of using it to prevent fleas from spreading throughout the house and onto other pets or people, and it won’t keep them from reinfesting your cat. So, you can’t rely on just Dawn dish soap alone to address a flea infestation.

bald spots behind cat's ear
Image Credit: Nataliia Dvukhimenna, Shutterstock

Effective Ways to Get Rid of Fleas

Fleas can be very resilient and difficult to eradicate from your home. So, expect to double down and be vigilant with caring for your pets and cleaning your home to completely get rid of fleas.

The first thing that you want to do is consult your veterinarian to determine the best medication and supplies that are going to help get rid of the fleas on your cat. You can find a wide variety of shampoos, sprays, collars, and topical treatments formulated to destroy fleas. Your vet may also prescribe oral medication depending on the severity of the flea infestation. Due to the life cycle of fleas, you can expect it to take about a month for your cat to be free of fleas if they’re taking medication and 3 months to get rid of an infestation completely.

You’ll also want to work to de-flea your home. Female fleas can lay about 40 eggs daily, which can end up rolling off your cat’s skin and landing on your furniture and carpets. So, it’s important to stay on top of vacuuming and washing and cleaning your furniture, bedding, clothes, and upholstery.

You can find several different flea treatment products for the home. Many of these products come in the form of a powder that you’ll sprinkle on top of the surfaces. These powders usually have some sort of chemical that will either dehydrate or destroy fleas on contact.

When you de-flea your house, make sure to keep children and animals in safe locations so that they are not inhaling or ingesting any chemicals that you use. If you have a particularly severe case of flea infestations, it’s best to contact a pest control company with a flea treatment plan that will get rid of fleas more aggressively.

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Image Credit: Elpisterra, Shutterstock



Flea infestations are more often than not extremely frustrating, and they’ll require more than just using Dawn dish soap to get rid of them. Dawn can be used in special circumstances, but talk to your vet first. Other than that, it’s best to work with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that will work to get rid of fleas as quickly and as effectively as possible.

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Featured Image Credit: ViDI Studio, Shutterstock