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8 Safe & Effective Cat Shampoo Alternatives

Vet approved

	Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ, Veterinarian

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

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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.

The 8 Alternatives to Cat Shampoo & Cat Bathing Guide

1. Baby shampoo

baby shampoo
Image Credit: Vitalinka, Shutterstock
Pros

Unlike shampoo for adults, baby shampoo has a much gentler formula, which makes it suitable for use on your cat’s delicate skin. Look for a “no tears” label and avoid fragrances. You can use a small amount of baby shampoo to bathe your cat as you would normally. But, only use in case of emergency, as you want to avoid using baby shampoo regularly on your cat.

Cons

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

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2. Dawn dish soap

Pros

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.

Cons

Dawn is okay to use on your cat, but it’s best to mix ¼ cup of Dawn with ½ cup of apple cider 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.

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3. Castile soap

pump green glass bottle with liquid castile soap
Image Credit: LuminoOne, Shutterstock
Pros

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.

Cons

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.

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4. Baking soda

Baking Soda
Image Credit: evita-ochel, Pixabay
Pros

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. If you don’t know how to wash a cat, simply sprinkle the baking soda over your cat’s coat, making sure to avoid their face. Rub it into the base of the coat with your fingers and massage it well. Let it set for a few minutes before brushing out, then remove as much as possible using a dry towel.

Cons

If your dark cat is left looking a little lighter, don’t worry, it can happen, but will go away. But you want to make sure to remove as much baking soda as possible to avoid your cat ingesting large amounts of it by licking it up. Some cats may be allergic to it so keep a close eye on your kitty if you do use this method, and be sure to contact a vet if you notice your cat is itchy, has red or swollen skin, is vomiting, has diarrhea, or looks lethargic.

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5. Baby wipes and Pet wipes

wiping cat with baby wipes
Image Credit: KAMONRAT, Shutterstock
Pros

Many of us have baby wipes at home. But baby wipes can contain a variety of ingredients, we recommend using only Water wipes; these ones are safe to use on cats. Another good alternative is the use of Pet Wipes, specifically formulated with pet-safe ingredients. 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.

Cons

If using wipes, use only the recommended type to make sure they don’t contain fragrances that could irritate your cat’s delicate skin.

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6. Oatmeal DIY shampoo

Homemade oatmeal shampoo_Shutterstock_kazmulka
Image Credit: kazmulka, Shutterstock
Pros

This simple recipe creates an effective 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 5 minutes before rinsing clean with plenty of warm water.

Cons

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:

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7. Cornstarch

Pros

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!

Cons

Cornstarch won’t remove sticky or oily residue.

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8. DIY dry shampoo

DIY dry shampoo
Image Credit: iva, Shutterstock
Pros

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 5 minutes before brushing out.

Cons

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

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Wrapping it up

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 if you know how to wash a cat 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!

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Featured Image: Lindsay Wilson, Pexels

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