July 14, 2021

Though cats are known for their frequent self-grooming, every cat needs a bath from time to time. When done properly, bathes can be beneficial to your cat's health and cat owners'. But wash with the wrong shampoo option, and you could leave your kitty with skin irritation, an eye infection, or other serious health consequences.

As you'll learn below, it's imperative to use a shampoo that's specially designed for a cat's skin and fur. Unfortunately, bath products made for humans, dogs, and other animals often contain irritating, or even worse, toxic ingredients. So in this buying guide to cat shampoo, we're highlighting the importance of using cat shampoo to clean your kitty and offering recommendations for the best cat shampoos to use on your furry friend.

Types of Cat shampoo

Traditional Shampoo

Traditional cat shampoo is a regular kind of shampoo that features gentle formula and sensitive skin formula to keep your cat clean. However, since cats are notorious for hating water, so bathing your kitty in a traditional bathtub setting may not necessarily be the best way to go. But this will depend on your cat.


Cats don't typically need any conditioner. However, it does keep their fur extra smooth, soft, and manageable. If you have cats with difficult to manage fur, shampoo conditioners are a better choice.


Waterless shampoo is the best type of shampoo for cats. By using a waterless application method, you can avoid the stress and scratched arms altogether. Many cat shampoos are foams that effectively clean and deodorize by being rubbed on dry fur and brushed out instead of needing to be rinsed.


Another popular alternative is cat shampoo wipes, which are great for spot cleaning your cat's ears, face, and paws. Just like other types of shampoo, wipes can moisturize and deeply condition your cat's dry skin and coat.

How to Bathe a Cat

Bath time doesn't have to be a traumatic experience for your cat. By creating a calm environment, washing gently, and using lukewarm water, you can avoid upsetting your four-legged friend and give them a pleasant experience. Most pet owners find it easiest to bathe their cat when a second person is helping. While the helper holds the cat to calm it and keep it still, the owner shampoos and rinses. To ensure the bathing process goes as smoothly as possible, you'll want to keep a handful of cat treats nearby.

If you're bathing your cat at home, it may be easier to bathe your cat in the sink if your tub doesn't have a handheld showerhead.

To help make bath time less stressful for your pet, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends following these easy steps:

  1. First, you'll want to play with your cat to help tire them out. Before bath time, give their coat a quick brushing and trim their nails to prevent them from scratching your skin.
  2. Next, you'll want to prepare the bath area. Grab a pitcher, washcloth, some food or treats, and a warm, fluffy towel for when you're done.
  3. Gently tuck a small piece of cotton into your cat's ears to prevent anything from getting in them during the bath. You should always do your best to avoid getting soap or water in your cat's eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.
  4. Once you've got the water to a nice lukewarm temperature, gently wet your cat. Work quickly and use as few sprays as possible. Have the second person help hold the cat still and keep them happy with treats and praise.
  5. Massage a small amount of shampoo into their fur, using a ratio of 1 part shampoo to 5 parts water. Start at the cat's head and work your way towards the tail, avoiding their face. Be sure to clean their belly and the bottom of their paws too.
  6. Once their fur is all sudsed up, rinse the shampoo out thoroughly to ensure no dirt or soap residue is left on their skin and coat.
  7. Wipe the cat's face with a damp washcloth, using extra caution around the eyes.
  8. Wrap your cat in a warm blanket and praise them with a few treats before you begin brushing.
  9. Brush your kitty gently with a wide-tooth comb to help loosen any tangles. Some cats also enjoy being warmed with a blow dryer on the lowest setting.

The Best Shampoos And Conditioners to Use On a Cat?

TropiClean Waterless Shampoo for Pets

Best Waterless Cat Shampoo

TropiClean Waterless Shampoo for Pets

This easy-to-use Waterless Shampoo for Pets from Tropiclean makes bathing your cat easier than ever. Just massage in the lightweight foam and brush it out— no water needed! Its soap-free formula is packed with high-powered natural ingredients like white plum, cucumber, and oatmeal that help to nourish dry skin and detangle fur. The tropical berry and coconut scent leaves your furry friend smelling fresh and ready to snuggle.

Breeytail PetO'Cera Hypoallergenic Cat Shampoo

If your cat suffers from dandruff, dry skin, itchiness, or redness, try this moisturizing PetO'Cera Hypoallergenic Cat Shampoo from Breezytail. The gentle, tearless formula features a blend of eleven botanical extracts that calms irritation and soothes sensitive skin while leaving your cat's fur clean and fluffy. Since it's made using only safe, natural ingredients, it won't harm cats if licked or swallowed while grooming.

Vet's Best Flea & Tick Shampoo for Cats

When it comes to flea treatments, most cat shampoos use synthetic ingredients and harsh chemicals that can cause irritation, dryness, and itchiness. But Vet's Best Flea and Tick Shampoo for Cats is different. The strong yet gentle formula kills fleas, larvae, and ticks on contact without harsh chemicals. Instead, it cleans, deodorizes, and resolves flea problems using a blend of natural essential oils like cottonseed and clove.

Burt's Bees for Cats Natural Dander Reducing Wipes

One of the best natural brands on the market, Bur's Bees, now offers a pet line for your fur babies. Burt's Bees Natural Dander Reducing Wipes are ideal for spot cleaning dirty paws, muddy bellies, and litter box messes. Thanks to all-natural ingredients like aloe vera and oatmeal, they fight dander and reduce dryness and flakes. Plus, the cat shampoo wipes moisturize, condition, and balance the pH of your cat's skin as they clean. The vet-recommended formula is free from fragrances, sulfates, colorants, and harsh chemicals, making it safe for all cats and kittens.

Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Vera Pet Grooming Bundle

If you're a household with both cats and dogs, there's no need to purchase a cabinet full of specialty products. While this Oatmeal and Aloe Vera Pet Shampoo and Conditioner pack from Earthbath is great for bathing cats, it can also be used on dogs. Its gentle formula features a combination of oatmeal and aloe, two natural ingredients known for their moisturizing and soothing properties, with a refreshing vanilla and almond scent. To ensure the shampoo is safe for use on all pets, Earthbath made the shampoo without parabens, synthetic dyes, sulfates, phthalates, or gluten.

Pro Pet Works All Natural Oatmeal Pet Shampoo And Conditioner

If you are seeking all-natural products for your pet, then Pro Pet Works pet shampoo is exactly what you need. The nourishing shampoo is formulated with aloe vera gel, almond oil, oatmeal, vitamin A, D, and E. It is perfect for a pet with sensitive, itchy, and dry skin, gets rid of the wet dog smell, helps detangle, and safe for daily use. This shampoo is recommended by vets and specially formulated for pets with allergies to food, grass, and flea bites. This all-natural shampoo is formulated without paraben, sulfate, alcohol, and it is soap-free.

Douxo Chlorhexidine PS Shampoo for Dogs & Cats

Best shampoo for skin conditions

Douxo Chlorhexidine PS Shampoo for Dogs & Cats

This Douxo Chlorhexidine PS Shampoo for Dogs & Cats is an antiseptic lathering solution for managing superficial and severe skin conditions. This shampoo featuring special moisturizing ingredients such as chlorhexidine, climbazole, and phytosphingosine. Design for treating itchy skin and prolong itching that can lead to injury, infection, and even scarring.

Pet MD Benzoyl Peroxide Dog & Cat Shampoo

Best for bacterial infection

Pet MD Benzoyl Peroxide Dog & Cat Shampoo

If your feline friend is battling with unpleasant itching, check out Pet MD Benzoyl Peroxide Dog & Cat Shampoo. This shampoo is designed to remove grease from fur and cleanse the skin. Features ingredients benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid to help remove scaly skin that can lead to excessive itching. This is a soap-free formula that is gentle on the skin but powerful again bacteria-skilling on contact.


Do Cats Need Baths?

Unlike humans or dogs, most cats don't need to be bathed often. Instead, cats naturally use their tongue and teeth to remove dirt, sand, dead skin cells, bacteria, and loose fur. According to the ASPCA, the average cat spends around five hours a day grooming itself.

The National Cat Groomers of America recommends bathing cats every 4 to 6 weeks to keep their coats looking their best. Cats and kittens with long hair will likely need to be groomed and bathed regularly using cat shampoos to prevent their coats from becoming matted or pelted and to manage shedding and hairballs. Unless your cat suffers from skin infections, a skin condition, or other medical issues, they won't need to be bathed very often, if at all.

Not only do baths make for great bonding time, but they can also be incredibly beneficial to the health of both you and your cat. Shampooing helps remove dandruff, dander (dead skin cells), pet hair, and allergens that can irritate your cat's skin and cause your allergies to flare up. Specialty shampoos can help with shedding, hairballs, dermatitis, yeast infections, ringworm, and other fungal infections. Additionally, your veterinarian may recommend using a flea and tick cat shampoo.

What To Use If I Don't Have Cat Shampoo

If you need to wash your cat immediately but don't have a bottle of cat shampoo on hand, there are still a few ways you can get the job done. Instead of dog shampoo or human shampoo, try a mild, unscented baby shampoo or castile soap and rinse your cat thoroughly. At no point should you wash your cat with human shampoo as it can be very harmful to your cat's coat and skin. Be extra careful when washing your cat's face to avoid getting shampoo in sensitive areas like their eyes, nose, and ears.

What Can I Use To Shampoo My Cat?

When it comes to cleaning your cat, there are several reasons it's crucial to use a shampoo that is specially formulated to be used on cats and kittens. You should always double-check the information on the bottle to ensure the shampoo or conditioner is safe for your pet.

Because your cat uses its tongues to groom itself, it can easily ingest toxic ingredients that can make them sick. In addition to chemicals and synthetic ingredients, even some natural ingredients can be harmful to the health of your furry friends. For example, essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, citrus, rose, sandalwood, tea tree, ylang-ylang, and mint can be harmful to cats.

Additionally, harsh soaps can easily strip the natural oils from your cat's skin, leading to dryness, redness, dandruff, and irritation. You should never wash your cat using shampoo designed for humans, dogs, rabbits, or other small animals. It's especially important to use a cat-specific product when treating fleas and skin conditions. Dog flea and tick shampoos, in particular, often contain ingredients that are hazardous to your cat's health.

How To Choose The Right Shampoo?

If you are planning on giving your cat baths, finding the right shampoo is crucial. While above, we listed great products for your cat, there are a few factors you need to consider before finding the right one for your cat. If you are unsure which one to purchase, consult with your vet first. Here are some tips to help you to find the right shampoo:

  • Purchase shampoo that is designed for cats
  • Go for a shampoo with simple ingredients that are organic and natural. Be sure the product is actually all-natural or organic.
  • Don't buy cat shampoos that contain artificial dyes, parabens, sulfates, or petrochemicals.
  • Look for flea shampoo if your cats have fleas.
  • Consider special shampoo products for a cat with skin and coat issues.
  • Try medicated shampoo for skin irritation and allergic reactions.
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