Can I Use Dog Shampoo on My Cat?

Cat being bathed in pink tub

Q. Is there any reason I can’t use dog shampoo on my cat?

A. From a medical perspective, cats are different from dogs, including the way they react to flea-control products. If you use a dog shampoo that contains ingredients for combating fleas, you may put your cat at risk. This is true even of natural ingredients meant to repel fleas, so ask your veterinarian to recommend a feline-friendly shampoo. In general, you should consult your vet before using any dog product on your cat.

Many readers may wonder why someone should bathe a cat at all, since most felines groom themselves. I can think of a couple of reasons it's a good idea to get your cat used to water: You may sometimes need to wash off something your cat got into, which you don't want him to ingest when he licks his coat. Weekly rinsing also reduces the sneezing, wheezing and itchy eyes associated with allergies to cats. You don't have to bother with soap for allergies, though: Just rinsing a cat weekly reduces the dander that triggers allergy attacks. (This method is not effective for individuals with life-threatening allergies, who should consult a physician for advice on dealing with severe reactions.)

That said, you may have a difficult time convincing an adult cat to tolerate bathing. However, it's easier with kittens — if you proceed gently, with praise and treats, you're more likely to end up with a cat who puts up with regular rinsing.

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