Which is Purrfect for your Favorite Feline – Baby Shampoo or Cat Shampoo?

While cats are known for being good self groomers, there may come a time when a bath is simply necessary.

Since cats are not bathed often, the average cat owner does not usually have cat specific shampoo stocked in their home.

Sometimes this need may arise urgently, and cat owners may begin searching their home for an appropriate grooming product

So, when your favorite feline needs a bath, is it okay to use baby shampoo? Unfortunately, it is not.

Even if the bottle says “no more tears” your cat could be left crying if they are bathed with it. However, there are many safe options available for purchase.

Why are cats not allowed to use baby shampoo?

Veterinarians do not recommend cats using human soap products, not even gentle baby shampoo. According to FetchMyVet, Humans and cats have very different skin.

Even if a product is considered safe for a human baby, it is most likely still too harsh for a cat’s skin. 

Cats cannot use a shampoo that contains scents, sulfates, or other chemicals. A natural or organic cat shampoo is the best choice.

Be aware that cat shampoo is ph balanced for their unique skin needs; human shampoo does not support the same skin ph as cat shampoo.

Even gentle human baby shampoo can negatively impact a cat’s skin ph and cause dermatologic problems to develop. 

By selecting a shampoo made specifically for cats, you are reducing the chance of your cat coming into contact with harsh chemicals.

It is important for your cat’s health that products only made for cats be used when grooming them; since cats self groom, they will ingest whatever comes into contact with their fur. 

Why use a cat-specific product?

Now that it has been established that baby shampoo is not safe for cats to use, you will need to know what your cat may be washed with.

Should you decide to bathe your cat, a benefit of purchasing a product made with felines in mind is that there are many products available to suit your cat’s specific needs.

Similarly to how humans can hunt for shampoos to boost volume, fight dandruff, create shine or increase softness, cats have choices too: 

There are kitten shampoos available designed especially to gently cleanse the sensitive skin of baby cats.

You may want to select a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo if your cat is not bathed often or if your cat has allergies, as their skin will not be used to soap and may be overly sensitive to it. 

If your cat has problems with hairballs, there are cat shampoos formulated to assist with the prevention of hairballs.

Combined with regular brushing and a hairball prevention formula of food, you will likely see a reduction in hairballs. Your veterinarian can help you find the best solution for your cat.

In the event, your cat has not been using a monthly flea and tick preventative and you discover that your cat is covered in fleas, a bath with a flea shampoo will help gain control of the infestation.

If your cat has been using a monthly preventative, consult with your veterinarian before performing a flea bath, as the flea shampoo may not be healthy to use simultaneously with the monthly preventative.

Soap is not essential; a water rinse can be all your cat needs

Many cat owners believe soap is a requirement to bathe their cat. In fact, soap is actually not necessary.

According to VetStreet, Since cats are naturally clean animals who make a point to groom themselves, simply rinsing your cat with water may be beneficial, especially for owners who suffer from allergies. 

How can I make a bath more pleasant for my cat?

Most cats do not find bubble baths or showers to be relaxing as humans do. If the need to bathe your cat arises, there are several things you can do to make the experience more pleasant: 

Prepare your bath area before you bring your cat to the tub or sink to be bathed; making the process more efficient goes a long way.

Only use cat shampoo. Using human shampoo can cause your cat to experience dermatologic problems.

Rinse your cat thoroughly without using the maximum amount of water pressure. If soap is left behind their skin can become irritated.

According to Northpointe Veterinary Hospital, Cats do not need to be bathed often; bathing too frequently can cause skin problems to develop.

If you frequently wash your cat and still notice an undesirable odor, your cat should be examined by a veterinarian.

Do not dry your cat with a hairdryer. The heat can cause their skin to become irritated and or dry, and the noise can be stressful for them.

Watch this video about how to bathe a cat by Dr. Karen Becker for in-depth instructions on how to bathe your cat.

You may also find this video helpful, which details how to train and acclimate your cat to being in the bath.

What if my cat still hates baths?

If your cat will not tolerate being in the water despite your best efforts, do not force your cat to be bathed. Your cat will become stressed out, and efforts put forth to build trust may be damaged.

Cats can also become aggressive and frantic to escape a bath, which could result in serious injuries to you and your cat.

Even if you cannot bathe your cat, you still have options to get rid of dander, residue, or funky smells. Waterless shampoos are available, or cleansing wipes


If your cat begins exhibiting unpleasant odors or has stopped grooming himself, a veterinary appointment is in order to make sure they stay happy and healthy.

While your cat cannot use baby shampoo, there is an assortment of quality cat shampoos available for purchase.

If you are not able to bathe your cat, consider using a waterless shampoo or cleansing wipes.

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