8 Safe & Effective Alternatives to Cat Shampoo

Last Updated on: October 23, 2020

Most cats are good at keeping themselves clean, but sometimes, your furry friend might need a little help, especially if they’ve investigated something particularly dirty or got oil in their coat.

Of course, the best and safest option is a shampoo that’s been specifically designed for cats. Sometimes, we don’t have what we need at home, and that’s fine. The good news is that you’ve probably got something at home that you can use as a stand-in.

We’ve put together a list of household items that you can use in place of regular cat shampoo. Whether you prefer a simple straight shampoo replacement or are looking for a DIY recipe for either standard or dry shampoo, we’ve got plenty of options!

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A Quick Note On Human Shampoo

Because your cat’s skin is a different pH to ours, using human shampoo can cause dryness and itching. So you might clean their fur but end up with a cat that can’t stop scratching itself.

Instead, we recommend one of the alternatives below.

1. Baby shampoo

baby shampoo
Image Credit: Vitalinka, Shutterstock

Unlike shampoo for adults, baby shampoo has a much gentler formula, which makes it suitable for use on your cat’s delicate skin. You can use a small amount of baby shampoo to bathe your cat as you would with their regular shampoo.


If you don’t have a baby or young kid, you’re not likely to have this in the house.

2. Dawn dish soap

Dawn dishwashing soap
Image Credit: aprilzosia, Flickr

Most of us have seen that Dawn dish soap is used at rescue centers to effectively strip oil from wildlife affected by pollution. That means it’s also going to do a great job of cleaning your cat’s coat if they’ve ended up covered in sticky or oily residue.


Dawn is okay to use on your cat, but it’s best to mix ¼ cup of Dawn with ½ cup of white vinegar and 2 cups of water to make a blend that can be lathered over your cat’s coat before rinsing well. We don’t recommend using other brands of dish soap, as their safety hasn’t been established.

3. Castile soap

Image Credit: molinolin, Flickr

Made using olive oil, Castile soap is a safe and effective stand-in cat shampoo. It’s gentle and naturally hydrating, so it can be a good choice for cats with dry skin.


Make sure the Castile soap is 100% pure without added ingredients. Rinse your cat’s coat extremely well to remove all traces of the soap to make sure their skin doesn’t get irritated by residue.

4. Baking soda

Baking Soda
Image Credit: evita-ochel, Pixabay

If you don’t want to have to get your cat wet and their fur simply needs freshening up, baking soda can do a great job of deodorizing odors and stripping away some of the dirt. Simply sprinkle the baking soda over your cat’s coat, making sure to avoid their face. Rub into the base of the coat with your fingers, and massage in well before brushing out.


This might leave your dark cat looking a little lighter, but at least they’ll be clean and smell good!

5. Baby wipes

Baby Wipes
Image Credit: Abi Porter, Flickr

Many of us have baby wipes or makeup removal wipes at home. Either of these can be used to spot clean your cat and remove small stains or areas where your cat has managed to work something yucky into their coat.


If using makeup removal wipes, make sure they don’t contain fragrances that could irritate your cat’s delicate skin.

6. Oatmeal DIY shampoo

Homemade oatmeal shampoo_Shutterstock_kazmulka
Image Credit: kazmulka, Shutterstock

This simple recipe creates an affective and gentle oatmeal shampoo that can help soothe irritated skin. Simply mix 1 cup of ground oatmeal with ½ cup of baking soda and 4 cups of water. Pour this mixture over your cat’s fur before using your fingers to massage it through their fur and down to their skin. Leave for up to five minutes before rinsing clean with plenty of warm water.


This uses a fair bit of baking soda, which you may need to buy if you’re not a regular baker.

For more DIY inspiration check out these cool projects:

7. Cornstarch

Cornstarch mixed with water
Image Credit: Picasa author kalaya, Wikimedia Commons

If you use cornstarch regularly in cooking, then you have the perfect dry cat shampoo alternative! This can be sprinkled over your cat’s coat before using your fingers to work it through their fur. Brush it out, and your cat will look and smell cleaner!


Cornstarch won’t remove sticky or oily residue.

8. DIY dry shampoo

DIY dry shampoo
Image Credit: iva, Shutterstock

If your cat desperately needs a clean, but you can’t bear the thought of bathing them, then this DIY dry shampoo recipe is the answer! Mix ½ cup of finely ground oatmeal with ½ cup of cornmeal and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sprinkle this mixture all over your cat, being careful to avoid their face. Rub the mixture in, and leave for five minutes before brushing out.


This won’t remove stubborn stains or oily and sticky residue.

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Wrapping it up

White cat with rubber ducks
Image Credit: Peng Louis, Pexels

If you have the choice, then using a commercial brand of cat shampoo is always going to be your best bet. But that’s not something you’re always going to have on hand. Most cats don’t need to have a bath often, anyway, as they do a great job of keeping themselves clean most of the time.

But for an emergency cleaning session, rest assured that any of the alternatives we’ve listed above will do a great job of freshening up your feline friend.

If you’ve used any of these shampoo alternatives on your cat or have a tried-and-tested DIY shampoo recipe of your own, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Featured Image: Lindsay Wilson, Pexels