As a proud pet parent, there’s hardly a commercially available cleaning product that hasn’t caught your eye. But with how busy you are, there are times when you forget to put a decent cat shampoo in your shopping basket. “Wouldn’t a cat shampoo alternative do the same thing, though?”
Truth be told, your life would be much simpler had you known that you could DIY pretty much anything you want. With the popularity of TikTok teaching you how to do the most mundane things, you’d think you’d be better at bathing your aquaphobic furball.
And, with the number of products you’re bombarded with on every social media platform (thank you, FBI agents!) you’d think you wouldn’t forget to buy something that could help you deal with the aftermath of your cat’s outdoor escapades.
Whether that’s something that promises to keep those paw prints on the floors at bay, or something that can clean even the grubbiest of fluffs, you always draw a blank. Keeping your apartment clean appears to be an ongoing battle when you’re a parent to a kitten that views shedding as a sport.
So, what do you do when said kitten decides to lounge on a pile of dirt while you’re busy catching up on the latest season of Bridgerton? Or when you figure out you didn’t actually click the “finish the order” button when trying to purchase the cat shampoo?
Turn to cat shampoo alternatives and pray for the best, of course! Don’t worry, there are a bunch of household staples you can use to your advantage. So, without further ado, we’re covering all you can count on when you need to clean your muddy munchkin.
Quick note: Why are human shampoos not an alternative to cat shampoos?
“But why wouldn’t I be able to use my own shampoo on my cat?”
We’re not saying that there aren’t any human shampoos that would work on your furry friend, too. But her skin’s PH levels are different from yours. And that means that your shampoo might cause her dryness, itchiness, and even inflammation.
As a matter of fact, some human shampoos aren’t even safe for humans because of the bad stuff that they contain. Sulfates, parabens, and fragrances can be incredibly irritating on the human scalp. You can only imagine what these ingredients would do to your furball’s skin and fur.
Of course, she shouldn’t experience lasting damage if you resort to bathing her with your own shampoo once. But anything more than that might lead to a cat that can’t stop scratching herself, rubbing herself against the furniture, and pawing at different parts of her body.
Not to mention that even some commercially available cat shampoos carry sulfates, parabens, and fragrances regardless of the damage they might cause.
No wonder pet parents consult with their vets on which cat shampoos and cat shampoo alternatives to use. So, here’s a word on which ingredients to keep an eye out for.
1. Bad ingredients
When looking for shampoo at your local PetSmart, throw a glance at the back of the packaging. Sure, you might think that the “pet-friendly” label offers you security. But even the shampoos marketed for cats can contain ingredients that cause irritations, inflammations, and rashes.
And, we’re not trying to freak you out. However, some human shampoos contain ingredients that can lead to allergic reactions, poisoning, and other serious health problems (even cancer).
Right off the bat, always avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (or other sulfates) because they weaken the outer layer of your cat’s skin. Then, Cocamidopropyl Betaine (added to thicken the shampoo) can cause an allergic reaction and weaken your cat’s immune system.
Parabens, while we’re on the topic, seem to be an essential ingredient in every cleaning product. But they can cause certain kinds of cancer and tumor growth in pets.
Last but not least, artificial colors and fragrances aren’t your friends. Needless to say, they might make the product appear more attractive. However, they’re a ticking time bomb – allergic reactions, weakened immune systems, organ damage, cancer, and neurotoxicity are some of the side effects.
And, to be completely honest, none of these should find their spot on the back of your shampoo bottles – not to mention your cat’s.
2. Good ingredients
When you’re looking for a cat shampoo alternative, a “natural ingredients” or “100% natural” label should sway you to purchase the product. Anything that’s made with oatmeal, aloe vera, coconut extract, and even vinegar can achieve that therapeutic and soothing effect on your cat’s coat.
And, there are a bunch of natural oils that are deemed safe for topical use on a feline – olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil, and lavender oil. Essential oils, on the other hand, can be extremely dangerous, which means you shouldn’t use them around your pet. Opt for regular oils and your munchkin should be fine!
10 safe cat shampoo alternatives
Whatever the reason you need a cat shampoo alternative might be, your focus should be on finding something that doesn’t have any of the abovementioned bad ingredients, yet still manages to clean your cat.
Bathing your cat has to be the most stressful (and dangerous) thing you need to do as a pet parent. Therefore, there’s nothing wrong with spending your Friday night researching different ways you can do that without losing an eye.
Sure, your fluffer’s problem with bathing might not be connected to the type of shampoo you use. But we’re pretty sure she’s going to be even more aggressive when she figures out she’s losing fluff on her ears because you couldn’t think of anything else to bather her with other than your shampoo.
However, that’s why we’re bringing you plenty of suggestions that might make the cleaning process a little more pleasant. We hope you’re one of those pet parents that can appreciate the scent of vinegar, though – because we aren’t.
1. Baby shampoo
Our four-legged friends are our babies, right? Why wouldn’t we be able to use baby shampoo on a furbaby we have at home, then? Kidding aside, baby shampoo does seem to be a lot more suitable for cats because of the safe, gentle formula.
And if you’re picking between the array of shampoos at your local CVS, make sure you go for the “no tears” and “no fragrances” one.
But when you’re stuck with whatever you have at home, make sure to use a minuscule amount of shampoo to not deplete your cat’s coat of its natural oils. Additionally, don’t use baby shampoo as a replacement for cat shampoo.
Baby shampoo might be a suitable cat shampoo alternative for the short term. However, you’re better off using something that’s marked safe for your feline friend. Not to mention that you may not even have baby shampoo at home (unless you have a human baby, too, of course).
2. Dawn dish soap
Oh, you’ve probably seen TV shows aplenty showing rescue shelter workers using Dawn dish soap on different creatures trying to clean them from pollution and parasites.
As you might have guessed, Dawn dish soap does do a great task at stripping oils and dirt from an animal’s fur. And, your cat belongs to the same group. Now, we wouldn’t recommend you use Dawn to bathe your fluffer because she’s a little stinky.
Dawn would be an appropriate choice if she somehow managed to get different sorts of nasty, sticky residue on her body. And even then, don’t use Dawn straight out of the bottle to ensure you don’t cause irritation and inflammation.
Dawn can be used on your cat, but it should be diluted – mix ¼ cup of Dawn with ½ cup of vinegar and 2 cups of water. Lather the mixture over your cat’s coat before you rinse everything thoroughly.
3. Castile soap
Didn’t we say that olive oil was one of those things you can get away with applying on your cat’s coat? We weren’t lying to you, and that’s why Castile soap makes for a safe cat shampoo alternative. Castile soap is made with olive oil and it’s gentle, soothing, and hydrating.
Don’t forget to check that you have one made with 100% pure olive oil (without added ingredients). And, not that we have to repeat this, but always make sure you completely rinse off the soap before you muster the courage to blowdry your cat’s coat.
4. Hand soap
We’re putting hand soap together with other cat shampoo alternatives. But, it must be emphasized that not every hand soap contains the same ingredients. Before you lather your fluffer’s coat with a hand soap of choice, search the back of the bottle for any harmful ingredients.
If none, then hand soap can work wonders when looking for a quick solution to your “I’m out of cat shampoo” problem.
Some of the more nature-focused companies (such as Mrs. Meyers, Bean & Lily, Puracy, Eco Me, and Better Life) make hand soap without sulfates, parabens, and other irritants. On the other hand, most hand soap brands use essential oils that might be too harsh on your cat’s coat, or in some cases, even toxic.
Hand soap can come in handy (pun intended!) when you don’t have any other option. However, always dilute a teeny-tiny amount of hand soap in water before applying it sparingly to your cat’s fluff.
5. Baby wipes
When you don’t have anything other than baby wipes at your disposal, why not use them to wipe your furry friend clean? Some of the other cat shampoo alternatives might achieve better results. But, baby wipes and pet wipes are awesome to keep under your sleeve for emergencies.
We know you can’t pick and choose when you’re in a pickle. That said, opt for water-based baby wipes because they’re better for your furball. At the same time, pet wipes definitely make for a better choice considering that’s what they’re made for.
6. Baking soda
When you’re a pet parent to a dirty little doofus, keeping a secret stash of baking soda should become your superpower. Baking soda is one of those things you can use for pretty much everything – baking cakes, cleaning your kitchen appliances, and bathing your four-legged friend are only some of them.
And, on the off-chance you weren’t already logging onto your Amazon account, you can even use baking soda as a dry bath and a wet bath. For a dry bath, rub a little bit of baking soda over your cat’s coat and slowly brush everything out with a fine-tooth comb.
For a wet bath, combine a cup of ground oatmeal with ½ cup of baking soda and 4 cups of water. Apply on your cat’s coat, use your fingers to massage everything through, and rinse thoroughly.
Hear me out, cats might absolutely disdain the scent of vinegar, but… Who’s to say that a simple vinegar bath can’t save the day when you’ve run out of cat shampoo?
When you think about that, you’re bound to have a bottle of vinegar at home. And, you know the water/vinegar solution cleans pretty much everything.
Therefore, if you’re looking for a tried-and-true cat shampoo alternative, vinegar is the thing for you. Other than cleaning and refreshing your cat’s coat, vinegar can help with fleas and other parasites. Not to mention that it can also deal with your cat’s (potential) odor problems.
Simply combine a little bit of vinegar with a lot of warm water. Preferably, fill up the bathtub and add ½ cup of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar.
Cornstarch has to be one of the most common things people have at hand at all times! And, luckily for everyone involved, corn happens to be one of those things that cats can eat (or wear, apparently). So, to ensure you have an effective (and safe) dry cat shampoo alternative, you can always opt for cornstarch.
However, we can’t hop over the fact that cornstarch might not clean your cat’s coat as much as you would want to. Sure, cornstarch can absorb some of the excess oils, remove some of those stains, and detangle her fluff. But, you should only resort to cornstarch when you’re really, really desperate.
9. DIY wet shampoo
OK, let’s talk about cat shampoo alternatives that require a little bit of work (and time)! We already touched on the things you have lying around your kitchen (such as oatmeal and baking soda) that can help clean your curious creature. But how?
To make a super soothing and hydrating wet shampoo, combine 1 cup of ground oatmeal (you can blend it in a blender beforehand), ½ cup baking soda, and 4 cups warm water.
The mixture should be runny and allow you to pour a generous amount over your cat’s coat. Leave the mixture on your cat’s coat for at least five minutes (as much as she might hate it). Rinse thoroughly with warm water and voilá!
10. DIY dry shampoo
We can’t forget about those times when you can’t afford the pleasure of trying to catch your dripping-wet cat running around the apartment. If you’re on the lookout for a cat shampoo alternative that doesn’t require water, you might want to give this DIY dry shampoo a try.
Now, dry shampoos can’t replace a proper bath. But, they can prolong the time you have to run to the closest PetSmart.
To make the dry shampoo you need ½ cup of ground oatmeal, ½ cup of cornmeal, and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Rub the blend on your cat’s coat for five minutes (or more). Brush out the excess afterward and you’re done.