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Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe for Cats? Bath Tips & Soap Alternatives

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	Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

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

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You’ve doubtlessly heard that cats usually bathe themselves, but they can’t take care of everything. If they get mucked up with mud, for example, they’ll need a real bath and not just their tongues.

The problem with cats being seen as clean creatures is that not many people know how to safely bathe them. Dawn brand dish soap is commonly used by pet owners across the U.S., and while it has its issues, Dawn is safe for cats.

Let’s check out how to use Dawn, as well as what other options you can explore to keep your cat clean.

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Do Cats Need Baths?

For the most part, cats don’t require baths like dogs and other pets. Cats groom themselves very thoroughly with their tongue and can maintain their coat indefinitely unless they get covered with something like dirt or mud.

wet cat in the bathtub having shower
Image by: Vladeep, Shutterstock

Can You Wash a Cat With Dawn Dish Soap?

Yes, you can wash a cat with Dawn dish soap, and it will probably work fine. You need to, however, realize that Dawn is dish soap and not pet soap. Dawn is unusually good at repelling fleas, ticks, and other pests, which is why it’s beloved among pet owners and gardeners everywhere. However, the best way to prevent fleas and ticks is monthly prevention from your vet.

While Dawn won’t cause allergies or other adverse reactions in most cats, some cats have severe skin infections or sensitivities to scents like those used in Dawn. If your cat has special health needs, your vet should have told you this at a checkup at some point. If your cat has a skin condition or other condition that requires special soap, you should be aware of it at this point. In those situations, obviously, never use Dawn.

Dawn isn’t formulated with cat skin in mind. Soap will strip natural oils the skin needs to remain healthy and clean. If you’ve ever washed your hands with dish soap, you know that your skin gets unusually dry.

Let’s face it: you should be using a shampoo designed for your cat. Sometimes that’s not always possible for various reasons, though, and in those situations using Dawn should be fine. Dawn isn’t formulated to leave oils on the skin after washing, so it’s not a good soap to use long-term.

Some side effects may include dry or itchy skin afterward, which is why the ASPCA recommends using a pet shampoo instead of Dawn.

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Are There Better Dish Soap Alternatives for Cats?

Yes! Ideally, if you need to wash your cat you should be using a pet shampoo designed for cats. Shampoos designed and sold specifically for cats will be gentler on your cat’s skin, instead of stripping its oils like Dawn and other dish soaps do. Below, we’ll list some reputable, high-quality cat shampoos you can use instead of Dawn.


How to Keep Your Cat Clean

Cats have a mind of their own and tend to go where they please, so it can be a little stressful to worry about them staying clean. Thankfully, there are some handy tips so you can help your furry friend stay sleek and tidy.

Image Credit: Zulkarnieiev Denis, Shutterstock
How To Help Your Cat Stay Clean:
  • Regularly brush your cat with a pet brush to remove loose hair, tangles, and mats.
  • After washing, dry carefully with a towel or hair-dryer on its low setting.
  • Regularly vacuum your home to minimize dirt, dust, hair, and other particulates that can collect on your cat’s fur.
  • Consider using a waterless shampoo to avoid having to wrestle a hissing, scratching cat in the bathtub or sink.
  • Regularly change your cat’s litter.
  • Periodically change your air filters to further reduce floating particulates.

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Cats usually don’t need regular bathing; however, there may be circumstances when the cat must have a bath. While Dawn dish soap is safe for cats and many pet owners find it useful, you’re better off using cat shampoo specially formulated for a cat’s skin. Otherwise, you could be solving one problem (dirty fur) and creating another (dry skin).

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