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Does Dawn Kill Fleas on Cats? Vet-Reviewed Effectiveness Explained

Written by: Jessica Kim

Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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Does Dawn Kill Fleas on Cats? Vet-Reviewed Effectiveness Explained


Dr. Athena Gaffud Photo


Dr. Athena Gaffud

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dawn is a dish soap that has several uses beyond washing dishes. One of the claims is that it can kill fleas on cats as a surfactant, but it’s not the most effective way of getting rid of them. This is because Dawn can kill adult fleas, but it’s not effective in keeping them away, and it’s not the best option for destroying flea eggs.

Even though Dawn may seem like a cheaper alternative to killing fleas, it’s not the best solution and is only reserved for very specific cases.  Before using Dawn Original on your cat, here’s what you need to know.

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Can I Use Dawn to Kill Fleas on My Cat?

Dawn dish soap has a formula that is capable of killing adult fleas. So, you could technically use it on cats if you’re facing an emergency and don’t have medicated flea shampoo on hand.

In some cases, cats benefit from bathing with a small amount of Dawn dish soap. However, this should only be done with a recommendation from your vet. What about tiny kittens? Your vet can prescribe a flea treatment spray that can be used on 2-day-old kittens, which will be more effective than a wash with Dawn.

Fleas don’t necessarily die from a chemical reaction from Dawn dish soap. Instead, the soap creates surface tension that prevents adult fleas from floating in the water. So, rather than being a toxic substance to fleas, they are killed by Dawn because they’re unable to rise to the water’s surface and end up drowning.

Disadvantages of Using Dawn on Cats

Bathing cats with Dawn soap has several disadvantages, which is why it should be used only in special circumstances. First, it’s important to remember that Dawn doesn’t indicate on its label that it’s safe to use on cats. So, it doesn’t have components that are particularly safe and beneficial to cats.

Dawn dish soap also contains methylisothiazolinone, which is an ingredient associated with skin allergies and other health concerns. It can also dry out a cat’s skin very easily because removes oil and grease from surfaces. So, your cat can end up with dry skin and fur, which can cause other health complications like skin irritation, inflammation, and hair loss.

Dawn does not target all life stages of fleas, so it isn’t effective in stopping the spread of a flea infestation. It may get rid of adult fleas on a cat’s skin and coat, but there’s no way of using it to prevent fleas from spreading throughout the house and onto other pets or people, and it won’t keep them from reinfesting your cat. So, you can’t rely on just Dawn dish soap alone to address a flea infestation.

bald spots behind cat's ear
Image Credit: Nataliia Dvukhimenna, Shutterstock

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Effective Ways to Get Rid of Fleas

Fleas can be very resilient and difficult to eradicate from your home. So, expect to double down and be vigilant with caring for your pets and cleaning your home to completely get rid of the fleas. First, you should consult your veterinarian to determine the best medication and supplies that are going to get rid of the fleas on your cat.

You can find a wide variety of shampoos, sprays, collars, and topical treatments formulated to destroy fleas. Your vet may also prescribe oral medication depending on the severity of the flea infestation. Due to the life cycle of fleas, you can expect it to take about a month for your cat to be free of fleas if they’re taking medication and 3 months to get rid of an infestation completely.

You’ll also need to clean your home frequently. Female fleas can lay about 40 eggs daily, which can roll off your cat’s skin and land on your furniture and carpets. So, it’s crucial to vacuum, wash, and clean your furniture, bedding, clothes, and upholstery regularly.

You can find several flea treatment products for the home. Many are powders that you’ll sprinkle on top of the surfaces. They usually contain a chemical that will either dehydrate or destroy the fleas on contact.

When you de-flea your house, keep your children and animals in safe locations so that they are not inhaling or ingesting the chemicals you use. If you have a particularly severe case of flea infestations, it’s best to contact a pest control company with a flea treatment plan that will get rid of fleas more aggressively.

vet holding burma cat
Image Credit: Elpisterra, Shutterstock



Flea infestations are frustrating, and they’ll require more than just using Dawn dish soap to get rid of them. Dawn can be used in special circumstances, but talk to your vet first. Other than that, it’s best to work with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan to get rid of fleas as quickly and effectively as possible.

Featured Image Credit: ViDI Studio, Shutterstock

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