While most cats rarely need a bath, there could be the odd occasion that your cat does need to get clean. Maybe your cat came home after rolling around on the neighbor’s driveway that happened to be coated in oil. Or perhaps they’ve had an allergic reaction to something, and you want to give them an emergency rinse.
If your cat is usually good at keeping themselves clean, you might not have any cat shampoo on hand. Can you use human shampoo in a pinch? As a general answer, no, it is not safe. Let’s find out why!
Before we look at the details, know that regular human shampoo isn’t recommended for cats.
Why Is Human Shampoo Bad for Cats?
It could be logical to think that if a shampoo is gentle enough for you and your kids to use, it should be safe for cats.
But that’s not the case.
We humans have a skin pH of around 5.5. Our shampoos are designed to have a pH of around this level, so they don’t irritate our scalps or cause uncomfortable dryness.
The pH of your cat’s skin is more alkaline than yours (though still considered acidic), at around 6.4–6.6 (depending on the skin region). Using a human shampoo with a lower, more acidic pH may cause your cat’s skin to feel dry, itchy, and altogether uncomfortable and irritated.
Human shampoos can also contain foaming agents, sulfates, parabens, colors, and fragrances, all of which can irritate your cat’s skin even further.
Using Human Shampoo Can Cause Long-Term Issues
You might think that it’s okay to risk using human shampoo on your cat in an emergency, but you may end up causing long-term issues for your cat. Using human shampoo can cause dryness by stripping away the natural oils on your cat’s skin. These oils perform a vital function: protecting your cat from infections.
You may find that your cat develops a skin infection, most likely fungal or bacterial, if you use human shampoo. You’ll then need to speak to your vet about getting a special prescription shampoo to resolve the infection and replenish those natural oils.
If you desperately need to give your cat a bath, the good news is that there are more suitable options.
Top 3 Safe and Effective Alternatives to Human Shampoo
Now you know that human shampoo isn’t a great idea, but you still need to give your cat a bath and you don’t have any cat shampoo. Are there any safe alternatives that will get your cat clean without making them more uncomfortable? Yes!
1. Invest in a Cat Shampoo
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!
- 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!
2. Shampoo-Free Alternatives
Although there are common household ingredients that can be used to clean your cat, these are mainly recommended for when you’re in a pinch and are not substitutes for shampoos as effective cleaning agents:
3. DIY Soothing Oatmeal Shampoo
Raid your pantry, and put together a simple and soothing oatmeal shampoo that can be used as a substitute for cat shampoo.
Simply mix all these ingredients before applying the mixture to your cat when they’re already wet. Use your fingers to work the mixture down into your cat’s coat, then rinse well. Ensure that your cat doesn’t lick this shampoo, though, as it isn’t safe for consumption. This homemade recipe shouldn’t be used on irritated skin, open wounds, or other lesions until after getting approval from your veterinarian.
Wrapping It Up
Human shampoo isn’t suitable for use on your cat, even in an emergency. The pH is designed to suit our skin, not the pH of your cat’s skin. Depending on your cat’s sensitivity, human shampoo may make them feel uncomfortable and itchy within one use. Other cats may take longer to show a reaction, but it’s not worth the risk.
Human shampoo can strip the protective oils from your cat’s coat, increasing the risk of them developing a skin infection. If your cat desperately needs a bath, there are alternatives, including DIY shampoo, that you can use instead of human shampoo.
Many cat shampoos come with a long shelf life, so you may want to buy a small bottle the next time that you’re shopping online and put it in the cupboard for those just-in-case moments. Your cat will thank you for it!
Featured Image Credit: Christina Oleshkevich, Shutterstock