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Is Baby Powder Safe for a Cat? What You Need to Know!

It has been very common practice for groomers and cat owners to dust baby powder on cats, which can leave the fur soft and has been known to help with detangling mats. You’re likely reading this because you’ve heard differing opinions on whether it’s safe to use on cats or not.

Talcum powder can be carcinogenic, and if inhaled, it can lead to respiratory problems or worse. However, this is primarily for talcum powder made with talc. We’ll get into what talc is, why it can harm your cat, and what you can use instead.

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What Is Talcum Powder?

Talc is the mineral used in talcum powder, which is naturally derived through mining. It’s made up of silicon, magnesium, oxygen, and hydrogen.

When it is turned into powder form, it’s absorbent, which is why it was so popular when used as baby powder. It did an excellent job at preventing diaper rash and became a household product for other uses like cosmetics.

The use of talcum powder on pets was popular with pet owners, especially cat owners, since giving a cat a bath isn’t the easiest chore. The powder helps to deodorize and wick moisture away, leaving the coat smelling nice and feeling soft.

Some even used talcum powder to help detangle mats and even as a kind of flea powder. Although, it’s not effective whatsoever for eradicating fleas!

hand using powder
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

What Makes Talc Dangerous?

Talc has been linked to cancer, primarily due to some forms of talk containing asbestos, which is known to cause certain forms of lung cancer when inhaled. If the talcum powder used contains asbestos, it’s considered to be a high risk for lung cancer.

However, even talcum powder without asbestos might be capable of causing tumors, but the studies conducted haven’t offered any definitive proof. Some animals exposed to asbestos-free talcum powder formed tumors, while others did not.

And studies with people found that if talcum powder was used on a woman’s genitals, she might be at risk for ovarian cancer. But again, the results of these studies are uncertain.

The biggest takeaway here, though, is whether it’s asbestos-free or not, it’s safest to stay clear of talcum powder made from talc.

Can You Use Baby Powder On Your Cat?

Of course, this is a big no! Because it’s in powder form, even if you were careful applying it, the powder can still quite easily enter your cat’s lungs. It’s possible for your cat to experience lung issues, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome.

The other problem is since cats groom themselves so often, they would also be at risk of swallowing the baby powder.

Cats that have inhaled or ingested talcum powder might exhibit the following signs:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Loss of appetite/weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Discharge from the eyes or mouth
  • Kidney or bladder issues

See your vet immediately if you notice your cat exhibiting any of these symptoms, particularly if baby powder was recently used.

cat cough
Image Credit: Ada K, Pixabay

Is Talcum Powder Still Used Today?

Most of us are likely familiar with the original talcum powder, which is Johnson’s Baby Powder. In 2020, Johnson & Johnson announced they would discontinue selling baby powder that contained talc. And while this talcum powder did not contain asbestos, they were deluged with lawsuits.

Today, talcum powder is comprised primarily of cornstarch, which is actually safe to use on cats.

And while talcum powder has been discontinued, it’s still possible that you can find it for sale online or in stores. If you want to avoid using talcum powder (which you should), always read the ingredients on the product before purchasing.

What Are the Alternatives to Baby Powder for Cats?

Depending on what you wanted to use the baby powder for, there are a number of products that are formulated specifically for cats that you can try.

If you need to detangle some mats in your cat’s fur, you could try a detangling spray and invest in some good tools designed to remove mats.

If you’re looking for something to remove fleas and other parasites from your cat, you could see your vet and try a topical treatment like Advantage II, as well as flea and tick shampoos.

And if your cat isn’t grooming as well as they should and their coat is a little greasy, you can aim for sprays that reduce dander. You can also use shampoos, but you might want to speak to your vet to ensure the excess dandruff and greasy fur aren’t from an underlying condition.

If you want to make your cat smell a little nicer (although cats tend to smell great without any help from us), you can try something like this deodorizing spray, which can give your cat the baby powder scent but without the baby powder.

And as we already mentioned earlier, cornstarch powder is also a safe alternative. You still need to be careful with it, as regardless of how safe it is, you don’t want your cat to inhale it.


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While baby powder might have been effective at removing mats and keeping a cat’s coat silky, it’s just a bad idea all around. Any chance of a cat inhaling or ingesting baby powder can lead to serious lung conditions and just isn’t worth it.

Cats spend an inordinate amount of time grooming themselves, so anything you put on their fur needs to be non-toxic and not capable of damaging their internal organs.

There are enough products available that were created for cats that can give you the same results but in a much safer way.

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Featured Image Credit: MIA Studio, Shutterstock