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Can You Use Baby Shampoo on a Cat? Feline Shampoo Guide

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on July 1, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

grey cat bath shampoo bubbles

Can You Use Baby Shampoo on a Cat? Feline Shampoo Guide

Many cats don’t particularly enjoy being bathed, but sometimes it is necessary. Most cats never need shampooing, but if your cat has a skin condition that needs treating or has rolled in something that you need to clean off, you may need to bath them. But what if you don’t have any cat shampoo?

Is it okay to use baby shampoo on your cat, or is this something to avoid? Before we dig deeper into the details, baby shampoo can be used on cats, but only very occasionally.

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Why Is Cat Shampoo Better Than Baby Shampoo?

Baby shampoo might seem like a great idea for bathing your cat; if it’s gentle enough for babies, it must be okay for cats. Baby shampoo is indeed gentle, but it is designed to be gentle on babies’ skin, not cats. The pH of our skin is around 5.5, and baby shampoo is designed to match that level so it doesn’t cause irritation or dryness.

However, the pH of your cat’s skin is somewhere between 6.2 and 7.5, so it is more alkaline. Using shampoo with a more acidic pH than your cat’s skin can cause dryness and itchiness.

cat with rubber duck
Image Credit by: tookapic, Pixabay

What About Other Human Shampoos?

We wouldn’t recommend using any other human shampoos besides baby shampoo. Shampoos designed for adults are more likely to have fragrances, colors, sulfates, and parabens that can irritate your cat’s skin.

Other Alternatives to Baby Shampoo

If you desperately need to shampoo your cat but don’t have any cat shampoo, there are other alternatives around your house that you can use instead of baby shampoo.

You can make a soothing oatmeal shampoo for cats using the following:


  • 1 cup of finely ground organic oatmeal
  • 1 cup of Dawn dish soap (do not substitute for other brands)
  • 1 spoon of baking soda
  • 4 cups warm water


Mix all of these ingredients in a jar or other container with a lid. Once your cat is wet, apply the mixture all over their bodies and work it down to their skin. Rinse well.

The oatmeal helps soothe your cat’s skin, while the baking soda helps neutralize any odors. Plenty of commercial cat shampoos also use oatmeal due to its moisturizing and protective qualities.

persian cat taking a bath
Image Credit by: 135pixels, Shutterstock

These alternatives are only to be used in emergency situations, when your cat needs a bath but you have no cat shampoo available. While cats do not normally require baths, it is best to always keep a cat shampoo handy.

In an emergency, you could also consider using plain Dawn dish soap instead of baby shampoo. Don’t be tempted to use another brand, as it may not work as well. Marine animal rescue organizations frequently use Dawn dish soap to clean oil off wildlife, as it’s gentle on their skin yet effective at removing grease and odors.

The best pet shampoos are carefully formulated to clean your pet without causing irritation. Hepper's Colloidal Oatmeal Pet Shampoo does a great job of this by combining soothing ingredients like aloe vera and colloidal oatmeal. It is also pH-balanced and free of irritants like dyes, soaps, sulfates, and phthalates. You and your pet will both enjoy the fresh, clean scent, too! 

Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
  • Only Natural Pet Shampoo - Our vegan, plant-based formulation is made with safe and natural...
  • No Soap - A cat and dog wash free from soaps, glutens, dyes, DEA, sulfates and phthalates means it's...
  • Colloidal Oatmeal - Formula soothes and nourishes dry, irritated skin, providing itchy skin relief...

At Catster, 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!

divider 2 cats

Wrapping It Up

Baby shampoo is safe to use on your cat in an emergency. Remember that it is not formulated to suit the pH of your cat’s skin, so it may leave their skin feeling dry and itchy after their bath. A better alternative is using one of our recipes for a gentle homemade cat shampoo instead.

Of course, the best option is to make sure you have a bottle of cat shampoo in the cupboard for those occasional times when your cat really needs a bath. You can check out our recommendations for the best cat shampoos here.

Featured Image Credit: Reshetnikov_art, Shutterstock

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