Are we slowly poisoning our cats? After a recent trip to a pet supply store, I couldn’t help but wonder. Lurking in the list of ingredients on nearly every bottle of cat shampoo is an ingredient that is poisonous to cats. Now, this isn’t some chemical with a long-drawn-out name few of us can even pronounce, and it’s not just found in larger corporate brands — it also appears in many smaller, eco-friendly brands as well. I’ll give you a hint: It’s a four-letter word, and while it isn’t a swear word, it should be when it comes to cats and cat shampoo.
It seems harmless enough. After all, aloe is a plant that has many reported natural healing properties. But aloe isn’t so pet-friendly. Cats who consume aloe can suffer from a wide range of medical problems including "vomiting, depression, diarrhea, anorexia, tremors, and changes in urine color," according to the ASPCA Poison Control Center. Sounds kind of miserable, doesn’t it? (Note that Nature’s Miracle has stated that the aloe dosage in its products will not harm cats.)
So why is aloe in so many cat shampoos, particularly when manufacturers know that soaps and shampoos have a tendency to leave residue on the fur and skin of cats, and that cats are exposed to this residue every time they groom themselves following a bath? The simple answer is that aloe serves as a skin moisturizer and adds suppleness and sheen to fur.
After visiting three pet stores, two of which were big box chains and one of which was a local retailer that bills itself as a company specializing in holistic pet products, I discovered that aloe was listed as an ingredient in 10 out of 13 brands.
Okay, so I’ve been taught to think critically about things. Maybe the issue was in just my local pet stores, and after spending several hours online, I was in fact able to locate numerous eco-friendly cat shampoos. The problem was that while most of these shampoos were eco-friendly and in many cases aloe-free, they weren’t all that cat-friendly. Many contained other ingredients known to be poisonous to cats, such as avocado, chamomile, and palm oil. Those that didn’t were bad for the environment.
Are cat owners doomed to choose between the health and well-being of our cats and that of the planet? I closed my laptop in frustration. Then it dawned on me. Several years ago I had heard about a local place, the Nova Studio, which taught soapmaking classes. If I couldn’t find an eco-friendly, aloe-free cat shampoo, then perhaps I could make one! Unfortunately, the next class wasn’t offered until late September.
So what should I do about giving my cat a bath right now? I have a disabled cat named Moki, and his disability requires me to give him a bath quite often. (You can read more about Moki and his disability in JaneA Kelley’s Catster article “Acupuncture Gets Cat Moving Again.”)
I gave the search engines another go, and that’s when I found an eco-friendly, aloe-free, cat-safe shampoo, Bark Organic Honey and Milk Soap. You can buy it from Eco-Dogs. The ingredients are simple enough: glycerin, organic coconut oil, organic olive oil, USDA farm-fresh organic honey, and USDA organic goat’s milk. It’s safe for use on both cats and dogs, in addition to being eco-friendly. Score!
So I bought a bar. I’ll report back on how it works.
Do you know of an eco-friendly, aloe-free, cat-safe shampoo? If so, let us know in the comments!