Can You use Human Shampoo on Cats?

By Jenny Nolan / August 9, 2016

When it comes to your beloved cats, choosing the right grooming products is extremely important.

After all, much like us, they can experience allergies and adverse reactions to the chemical content of certain hygiene products. Also, you should be particularly careful what you clean your cat with as after you have bathed them they will once again go back to self-grooming.

This often involves licking to rid themselves of any excess dirt or debris. If the shampoo product you use to bath them with contains any harsh chemicals these can make your cat sick or lead to other issues in the future.

There is just so much choice when it comes to choosing the right products for your pet, and some pets owner may even ask why they need a specialist cat shampoo in the first.

This often leads to the question: Can you use human shampoo on cats?

Without drawing this article out any longer than it has to be it is quite a complicated issue. Many leading experts agree while others simply don’t.

Cat Shampoo vs. Human Shampoo – What’s the Difference?

As a new cat owner, you might not think that there is any difference between the two at all. However, there certainly is.

For the most part, shampoos are species based—they cater specifically to the needs of those they are designed to be used by.

If you have them both close, do a quick check right now and grab your shampoo bottle and that of your cat’s.

Just reading through the label, you’ll notice the nuances between the two. Even the ingredients would be different.

This is because most pet shampoos tend to be gentler and contain more ingredients that are meant to deodorize and keep fleas away.

Another thing you have to think about is the difference between the pH of our skin and that of our cats.

Human skin tends to be more acidic thus requiring something to match that.

Having your cat use your shampoo can cause allergies or dry out their skin, which can lead to various issues.

Their skin, much like ours, acts as a natural barrier against infections and compromising this vital organ can be detrimental to their health. So think about this before using human shampoo on cats.

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cat in a sink


Is Baby Shampoo Safe for Cats?

Now, you might think that since baby shampoos are formulated to be gentler, they would work for your cats too. The truth is that this can be done—as long as you make sure that you choose the right baby shampoo.

There are still ones out there that contain specific ingredients, such as fragrances, which can cause adverse reactions in your pet.

So why do baby shampoos work? Simple. These shampoos have been formulated to be milder and contain far fewer chemicals than the ones adults use on a daily basis.

As babies tend to have sensitive skin, the formulation matches well with your cat’s needs.

However, this does not mean that you can forego all the precautions when using it to bathe your pet.

For example, despite being gentler, it would still be wise to dilute the baby shampoo with some water before using it.

Much like us humans, cats also have varying levels of sensitivity when it comes to grooming products so be observant when making any sort of change to their routine.

Also, do avoid getting the shampoo or even the soapy water in their eyes, ears, and mouth.

The only downside to using baby shampoo on your cats is the fact that these may not be as deodorizing as cat-specific shampoos.

Remember that while a baby shampoo can be used as a one off alternative, it is still recommended that you use a dedicated cat shampoo instead.

This is particularly true if you frequently groom your cat.

Can You Use Human Shampoo on Cats – The Organic Variety

This one’s a little tricky as there are still organic ingredients which your cat may be allergic to.

Also, even if it’s organic, the formulation is still best suited for human use and not for your pet. It might clean their fur nicely, but frequent use might do more damage than good.

Using an all natural human shampoo is an option, however, should you ever run out of shampoo for your cat and haven’t the time to get them a new bottle just yet.

Do make sure you look through the ingredients first and make sure that it doesn’t contain anything which might make your cat ill.

For example, these are some of the known organic ingredients which can be toxic to your pet: Aloe, Chamomile, Palm Oil and Avocado Oil.

Aloe, especially, is one of the most commonly used ingredients for many organic products. However many cat owners do not know that it can cause vomiting as well as diarrhea in your pet.

So if you’re opting for something organic, even for shampoos made specifically for cats, read through the ingredients before buying.

So to answer the question can you use human shampoo on cats?The general verdict is NO.

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There are cat-specific shampoos for a reason, and that is because these are specially formulated to be well suited for their skin pH and needs.

Deodorizing, anti-flea ingredients and the right level of mildness are the top three concerns here.

None of which you can find in regular human shampoos.

Just because something does the job for you, doesn’t mean it will work the same way for your cat so treat them well and get them their own supplies.

We still recommend consulting your vet before making any changes to the products you groom your cat with.

Looking for more cat-related guides? Read More: 

About the author

    Jenny Nolan

    Hey, I'm Jenny and along with Mom Sue the main contributor here at Cleaner Paws. As a mother-daughter partnership, we absolutely adore animals and together have over 40 plus years of pet grooming experience!

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