Cats are generally clean animals and they spend a lot of time grooming themselves but there are some situations when they need a bath.
Whether it’s to get rid of something messy on their fur or to help treat a specific skin issue, baths can be great. Giving your cat a bath can be beneficial to their health but only with the right tools and technique.
If you’re in a rush here is a table of the best shampoos for dandruff, kittens, dry shampoo and fleas:
To help you choose the best shampoo for your cat, we have reviewed various shampoos for a range of situations, whether your cat is young, has dry skin, has fleas or hates water.
Best Cat Shampoo for Dry Skin & Dandruff:
If your cat has problems with dry skin or dandruff then here are two great shampoos worth using.
1. Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Shampoo
In pole position for tackling your cat’s dry skin and dandruff is the Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe shampoo. This cat shampoo has been specifically formulated for dry skin and offers a natural solution that soothes and moisturizes.
As dry, flaky skin tends to be sensitive and itchy, this shampoo is soap-free to avoid causing further irritation. It is also free of parabens, gluten, synthetic dyes, sulphates, DEA and phthalates too. The high quality, carefully selected ingredients in this shampoo also mean your cat is very unlikely to have an allergic reaction as it is completely natural and pH-balanced.
This natural shampoo uses oatmeal and aloe to promote healing and soothe skin. Your cat will no longer feel itchy as the Earthbath shampoo avoids potentially irritating ingredients and is made with specially chosen natural ingredients that nourish your cat’s skin.
This shampoo is safe to use on cats older than 6 weeks and because it does not contain any harsh soaps it will not wash away any topical parasite treatment that has been recently applied.
Finally, this shampoo is 100% biodegradable, is cruelty-free and is suitable for use on dogs as well as cats so it is both environmentally friendly and convenient for pet owners. With positive reviews and recommendations, it is clear to see why this shampoo is so popular.
2. Particular Paws Oatmeal Shampoo
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Particular Paws Oatmeal Shampoo is suitable for use on both cats and dogs and is ideal for soothing itchy skin. If your cat is suffering from dry, flaky skin this gentle shampoo can help to put a stop to the discomfort and give your pet some relief as the damaged skin begins to heal.
This oatmeal shampoo uses natural ingredients including shea butter, aloe vera, chamomile and honey extract, it avoids harsh chemicals and any ingredients that could cause further irritations. As this shampoo is made using natural ingredients, it is 100% safe to use on your cat.
While being gentle on your cat’s skin, the Particular Paws shampoo is effective in removing any dirt and grime from your cat’s coat. Thanks to the chamomile extract, the shampoo has a pleasant smell and remains suitable for use on pets with sensitive skin.
This is a great choice for cats with dandruff or dry skin as it helps to provide relief, restore natural oils and promote healthy skin.
Also Read: 10 Effective Cat Dandruff Remedies
Best Kitten Shampoo:
Young cats have very sensitive skin and often get into mischief so frequently need a good clean, below are two shampoos that are safe for kittens.
1. Espree Kitten Shampoo
The best kitten shampoo goes to Espree for their hypoallergenic, tear-free kitten and puppy shampoo. This shampoo is ideal for use on the sensitive skin of younger pets as it is formulated to gently cleanse while cleaning any dirt or mess from their fur.
This shampoo is made using organic aloe vera, jojoba oil, coconut-based cleansers, Panthenol and A, D and E vitamins. That’s it! While many pet shampoos have long ingredients lists, Espree has kept things simple (and natural). There is nothing in this shampoo that will irritate or upset your kitten’s sensitive skin.
While being mild enough to use on kittens, this shampoo remains strong enough to clean fur leaving it soft and smelling great. As bathing cats can be challenging, this solution has been designed not to sting your cat’s eyes so if you do accidentally get some in their eyes it won’t hurt them.
This Espree Kitten Shampoo is easy to apply and wash away so bath time doesn’t have to be a fuss and you can also use this gentle shampoo on nursing and expectant mothers too.
2. TropiClean Hypoallergenic Kitten Shampoo
The TropiClean Hypoallergenic shampoo comes in a close second in the running for the best shampoo for kittens. This shampoo is made specifically for the youngsters in your furry family. It is suitable for use on puppies and kittens and has been created to be very mild and gentle on your pet’s skin.
Thanks to its mildness, it is also a great choice for cats with sensitive skin or allergies. TropiClean is soap-free, contains very few ingredients (purified water, coconut cleanser, avena sativa oatmeal, aloe extract and vitamin E) and is paraben-free. As this shampoo is gentle and soap-free, it won’t interfere with any spot-on flea or tick treatments either so you can give your cat a bath at any time.
This pH-balanced mix uses coconut and aloe to cleanse and moisturize your cats skin and fur. This mix can have a strong smell but it’s great if you like the scent of coconut!
The TropiClean shampoo is tear-free so bath time is safe and painless for even the wriggliest of kittens.
Best Dry Cat Shampoo:
If your cat hates getting wet then dry shampoo is a great option, below are two good choices.
1. Vet’s Best Waterless Cat Bath
The best dry cat shampoo on the market is the Vet’s Best Waterless Cat Bath. This is a practical solution for cats who hate water and is designed to soothe skin while also moisturizing and cleaning.
The Vet’s Best leave in shampoo uses natural ingredients that won’t irritate your cat’s skin and there’s no need to rinse the shampoo away. The solution foams making it easy to apply and the fragrance is calming for your cat. The dry shampoo is practical to use, you simply massage the foam into your cat’s fur and leave it in. It will help to detangle and moisturize your cats coat. Once you’ve let your cats fur dry, gently brush their fur or wipe their fur with a cloth to remove any dirt and loose hair. Your cat will be clean and soft without even realizing they have had a bath!
This dry shampoo is safe to use on cats older than 12 weeks and it will not affect spot-on flea treatments. It’s ideal for use on cats that don’t like water and means a stress-free, fuss-free bath can be completed in just a few minutes.
2. Burt’s Bees for Cats Waterless Shampoo
The Burt’s Bees waterless shampoo for cats is a safe, pH-balanced spray on. The mix contains natural, high-quality ingredients such as honey and apple that have been selected to gently nourish and clean your cat.
This waterless shampoo is free of colourants, fragrances and sulphates so will not irritate your cats skin. There is a light, natural smell to the shampoo but it doesn’t linger for long which is a good thing for cat’s as they don’t like to walk around smelling like a fragrance instead of their natural scent.
This shampoo is a spray on so some cats may need to get used to the hiss noise or feeling of the spray but generally cats don’t mind it too much. They are far more tolerant of a spray on than they are of a water bath. You simply spray on the shampoo, rub it in and then towel dry your cat.
You can use this waterless shampoo in combination with topical tick and flea products too as they won’t be washed away. This spray-on can be used on cats of all ages and it is gentle enough to use daily if necessary.
Best Cat Shampoo for Fleas:
If your cat has flea problems then these shampoos will help get rid of them fast.
1. All Natural Flea Shampoo
The All Natural Flea Shampoo by The Healthy Dog Co is suitable for use on cats, dogs and even other pets such as rabbits. It is a natural, safe and chemical free shampoo that uses non-toxic ingredients to deal with fleas and insects. This is good as some flea shampoos rely on harsh chemicals to kill and repel fleas.
This All Natural shampoo is designed to get rid of fleas, ticks, mites and lice so tackles all insect/ parasite issues at once. As well as being a defence against parasites, the shampoo also soothes itchy, sore skin (a common side effect of flea bites). The lemongrass and coconut in the ingredients offer itch relief and skin healing properties making this great to use on cats who seem to be constantly scratching and uncomfortable.
This shampoo can be used on cats of all sizes, including kittens. It is a good all-rounder as it quickly and effectively deals with the fleas while also cleaning your cat’s coat and leaving them smelling fresh and looking glossy.
2. Adams Plus Flea Shampoo
Adams Plus flea shampoo is designed to eliminate fleas in all of their forms (from eggs to adults). As this shampoo tackles fleas at all stages it helps to reduce the risk of re-infestation and plays a role in putting a stop to the flea cycle. It is also effective against ticks and is suitable for use on both cats and dogs.
It is advised that you leave the shampoo on your cat’s fur for at least five minutes after lathering but this will be difficult to achieve as many cats do not enjoy baths and want the experience to be over as quickly as possible. The good news is that the effects of this shampoo are long-term, lasting for 28 days, so it is recommended to use as part of a monthly routine to keep fleas and ticks away.
Adams Plus Flea Shampoo can be used on cats and kittens over 12 weeks old and as well as tackling fleas it helps to treat dandruff too so your cat will be clean, soft and glossy after a bath. While this flea shampoo is great, some users have reported that this is not a good choice for elderly cats as its ingredients can be too harsh.
Do Cats Need to Be Shampooed?
This is a question that is frequently asked but the answers often vary. Some people don’t think it is necessary to bathe and shampoo a cat as they tend to be good at grooming themselves, while they are usually great self-groomers there are times when it is necessary and beneficial to give your cat a bath.
Your cat may need to be shampooed if they:
- have rubbed against a substance that is sticky or dangerous/ toxic
- are older or overweight and cannot groom themselves properly
- have health conditions such as allergies or skin conditions (in this case a vet may recommend a medicated shampoo)
- have fleas or ticks
- they have long hair that requires maintenance to avoid tangles and matting
There are many situations that may call for your cat to be shampooed. Unfortunately, many cats do not enjoy the experience and find the process stressful so it is important to take care, be prepared and bathe your cat properly. Fortunately, there are also alternatives to bathing your cat in water (e.g. dry shampoo, wipes, groomers).
Before you decide to give your cat a bath, make sure it is necessary. Many cats will groom themselves and therefore don’t usually require a bath. Some situations may simply require an extra brushing/combing session rather than a bath. Hairless cats require more maintenance and will usually need baths as they tend to produce excess oils.
As there is usually a medical issue associated with a cat requiring a bath, it’s advised that you speak to your veterinarian beforehand to address the underlying issues. With all of this in mind, there are absolutely situations that require a bath – be that as a once off or as part of a regular routine.
If your cat does need a bath, it is really important not to use human shampoos as they are unsuitable for cats and will likely damage, dry out or irritate your cats skin. There are many types of cat shampoo available so you are bound to find one that will work for your cat and your situation.
Types of Cat Shampoo:
- All-Round Shampoo
This is a general shampoo that will leave your cat clean and smelling good but is not designed to tackle any specific issues.
- Shampoo for Dry Skin
This is shampoo that is designed to heal and moisturize dry, flaky skin.
- Kitten Shampoo
Kitten shampoo is developed to be gentle on the sensitive skin of a kitten.
- Waterless Shampoo
Waterless shampoo is ideal for cats that hate water but need to be bathed. Waterless shampoo is a leave in spray or foam that can be applied while stroking your cat. It usually requires you to brush your cat after the product has dried and that’s it! No water required.
- Flea Shampoo
This shampoo is designed for getting control of a flea problem, these shampoos will often kill and repel fleas.
- Hypoallergenic Shampoo
As some cat shampoos can contain ingredients that will flare up skin issues and allergies in sensitive cats, there are hypoallergenic shampoos available that are gentle. Your cat is unlikely to have a negative reaction to the milder hypoallergenic options.
How to Choose a Shampoo for Your Cat
With so many shampoos available, it can be difficult to know which one is suitable for your cat. It’s important to buy a shampoo that has been designed specifically for use on cats, don’t use human shampoo or dog shampoo. Even the mildest human shampoo may contain ingredients that are toxic to cats and will likely dry out your cat’s skin and cause irritations.
Now that the focus is on cat specific shampoos it’s time to consider whether you want a general shampoo or a targeted one for example:
- If your cat has dry skin you may choose a shampoo that is soothing and moisturizing.
- If your cat has fleas you’ll likely want a flea shampoo to help deal with the issue.
- If your cat hates water, consider a leave-in or waterless shampoo.
Before choosing the first shampoo that catches your eye, take a look at the ingredients. Unfortunately, there are some artificial and synthetic ingredients that can be absorbed into your cat’s skin and cause damage to your cat’s organs and tissues.
It is wise to avoid products containing the following:
Try to choose shampoos that have no (or minimal amounts) of artificial additives. Now we know what to avoid, what do we want from a cat shampoo?
1. Soothing ingredients
Ingredients such as aloe vera and oatmeal are great for helping heal dry and itchy skin.
2. Won’t affect spot-on tick/ flea treatment
Some shampoos will wash off any topical treatment you have applied to your cat so keep an eye out for ones that will not.
Also read: The Best Flea Treatment for Cats UK
3. The right formula for your cat and the situation
Choose a shampoo that suits your cats condition and situation. There are many types of cat shampoo available so pick one based on the needs of your cat.
How to Shampoo a Cat
The chances are your cat doesn’t particularly like bath time. Before you pick your cat up and run the bath it is really important to make sure you have everything you need on hand. Read our handy guide on how to bathe a cat to help make the experience as smooth and stress-free as possible.
When you shampoo your cat, you will want to gently place your cat into the bath and slowly begin to wet them down (avoid your cats head and start by wetting them at the legs). Then, take a small amount of cat shampoo and gently massage it into your cat’s fur.
This action should be similar to when you pet your cat, make sure you work in the direction of the fur growth. Once the shampoo has been massaged into your cat’s neck, body, legs and tail you can begin to rinse the shampoo away.
Be careful not to get any shampoo on your cat’s face, eyes, ears, nose or mouth. Gently rinse your cat with clean warm water until there is no more shampoo on them. Now you can dry them with a towel and reward your cat with a treat.
Cat Shampoo Alternatives
The best way to clean your cat is going to be by bathing them using cat shampoo but if that is not an option, there are a few alternatives.
If your cat refuses to let you wash them in a bath you could take a look at waterless cat shampoo or cat wipes as these are a quick and easy way to help get them clean without requiring water.
If you need to wash your cat in a hurry and you don’t have cat shampoo it may be tempting to reach for your human shampoo or maybe a dog-specific shampoo but don’t!
These shampoos will likely contain ingredients that are toxic to cats and using them can cause your cat to become unwell. As well as this, cats have a very different pH level to humans so using human shampoos on their skin will cause problems and discomfort.
If you are in desperate need for a substitute for cat shampoo, you could use a homemade cat shampoo by mixing 1 cup of gentle dish soap, 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and 4 cups of water. Mix the ingredients well before use on your cat.
The ideal shampoo for your cat will be one that is made with gentle, soothing ingredients. More often than not, cat’s do not require frequent bathing and cat shampoos come in many types to help you address specific situations or problems.
If you are unsure which shampoo is most suited to your cat, talk to your vet about which type of shampoo they recommend.