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8 Safe & Effective Cat Shampoo Alternatives – Vet Approved Options

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 filthy.

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

We’ve compiled a list of household items 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 have 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

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 it in case of emergency, as you want to avoid using baby shampoo regularly on your cat.


Not to be used regularly.

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2. Dawn dish soap

Image Credit: aprilzosia, Pixabay

Most of us have seen that Dawn dish soap is used at rescue centers to strip oil from wildlife affected by pollution. That means it will also 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 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

Castile soap is made with olive oil and 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 well to remove all traces of the soap to ensure their skin doesn’t get irritated by residue.

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4. Baking soda

Baking Soda
Image Credit: evita-ochel, Pixabay

If you don’t want to get your cat wet and their fur simply needs freshening up, baking soda can do a great job of deodorizing odors. 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.


If your dark cat is left looking a little lighter, don’t worry, it can happen but will go away. But you want 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 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

Many of us have baby wipes at home. However, baby wipes can contain various ingredients, and we recommend using only Water wipes; they are safe for cats. Another good alternative is Pet Wipes, which are formulated with pet-safe ingredients. They can be used to spot-clean your cat and remove minor stains or areas where your cat has managed to work something foul into their coat.


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

Cleaning your cat's sensitive areas can be tricky, but high-quality wet wipes can make it much easier. Try a natural, hypoallergenic option like Hepper's Wash Wipes, made with moisturizing ingredients and specifically designed to gently clean your cat's skin and fur. These wipes are as convenient as they are effective!

At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

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6. Oatmeal DIY shampoo

Homemade oatmeal shampoo_Shutterstock_kazmulka
Image Credit: kazmulka, Shutterstock

This simple recipe creates an effective and gentle oatmeal shampoo to 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.


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

Dry shampoo is convenient, effective, and easy to use, but only if you pick the right product! Hepper's No-Rinse Pet Shampoo is made with soothing natural ingredients like cucumber and aloe vera. It smells great, cleans well, and won't cause irritation. You'll love the fresh, clean scent and your pet will enjoy the moisturizing, pH-balanced formula. 

hepper dry shampoo

At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

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7. Cornstarch


You have the perfect dry cat shampoo alternative if you use cornstarch regularly in cooking! It 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.

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8. DIY dry shampoo

DIY dry shampoo
Image Credit: iva, Shutterstock

If your cat desperately needs a clean, but you can’t bear bathing them, 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, while being careful to avoid their face. Rub the mixture in, and leave for 5 minutes before brushing out.


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

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Wrapping it up

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

See also:

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Featured Image Credit: Lindsay Wilson, Pexels