Cats spend plenty of time cleaning themselves, but occasionally they may get dirty enough to need a bath, in which case it’s important to select a suitable shampoo for cats or kittens. Most human shampoos are too harsh for cats, as are some shampoos that are designed with our feline friends in mind.
Luckily, our vet advisor, Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, has selected these cat shampoos to give you peace of mind. Her top pick is Dechra DermAllay Oatmeal Shampoo, which she chose for its gentle, soothing properties. Read how she chose the top 5.
If you’ve recently rehomed a cat, you might be looking for advice on how to aid your cat in settling into their new home.
Our Vet’s Top 5 Shampoos for Cats and Kittens
|Editor’s Picks||Brand||Rating||Gentle formula||Medicated||Size|
|Best Overall||Dechra DermAllay Oatmeal Shampoo for Cats and Dogs||12 fl. oz.|
|Best Budget Buy||Johnson’s Baby Shampoo||27 fl. oz.|
|Best Waterless||Burt’s Bees Cat Waterless Shampoo Spray||10 fl. oz.|
|Best Antifungal/Antibacterial||Dechra MiconaHex + Triz Shampoo||8 fl. oz.|
|Best for Sensitive Skin||Burt’s Bees for Cats Hypoallergenic Cat Shampoo||10 fl. oz.|
*Ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5 and based on reviews, feedback, and opinions of actual customers
In This Article
Who Should Buy Shampoo for Cats and Kittens
- People whose cats have rolled in something they can’t clean off themselves – If your cat has rolled around in the dirt, or something worse, and has got themselves mucky in spots they can’t reach themselves, they’ll need a bath to get them clean.1
- Cat parents of senior or disabled kitties who can’t groom themselves properly – Cats who can’t groom themselves properly due to old age, illness, or disability will need occasional bathing.2
- Owners of show cats – While clean, healthy cats don’t need bathing as a rule, owners of show cats may bathe their feline friends before a competition.
- Individuals who have cats with skin conditions – If your vet has recommended a medicated shampoo due to a skin condition, you’ll need to bathe your cat with it.3
Who Should Not Buy Shampoo for Cats and Kittens
- Owners of cats who can clean themselves adequately – Except in circumstances such as those listed above, cats don’t tend to need bathing. Having a bath can be a stressful experience for cats, so you should avoid it unless absolutely necessary.4
- People who think their cats smell – Almost all pets produce some kind of odor and cats are no exception. You can’t expect your cats to smell like roses and shouldn’t bathe them just because they offend your nostrils. That said, your cat shouldn’t smell excessively. If they do, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue so take them to get checkout out by a vet.5
Research Tips (from a Veterinarian)
When choosing the best shampoo for your cat, it is important to keep in mind not only your cat’s skin issues but also their temperament and acceptance of baths. It is also a good idea to enlist the help of others with experience with cats, such as your veterinarian, groomer, or an experienced cat breeder. Online reviews of each particular product can be very helpful as well.
- Avoid any ingredients toxic to cats – Cats lick their entire bodies when they groom, and no matter how well you rinse them, some product will be left behind in the fur. Cats are extremely sensitive to pyrethrin and permethrin which are related insecticides found in many OTC pet shampoos. These should never be used on a cat and only with extreme caution in dogs. If your cat has been exposed to pyrethrin or permethrin you should seek care from a veterinarian immediately.6
- Steer clear from harsh ingredients – Ideally, choose cat shampoos that don’t contain any parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and strong fragrances.
- For water-adverse cats, consider waterless shampoo – It might not have the cleaning power needed to get rid of excessive dirt, if your cat has rolled in feces, for instance, but it’s fine when cats just need a little help with their grooming.
How Much Do They Cost?
Between $3 and $25
Shampoos for cats and kittens cost anywhere from $3 to $25. Most cat shampoos cost under $10, but medicated shampoos can cost as much as $25.
Our Methodology: Why Trust Pet News Today
As a veterinarian, I’m often asked about the best shampoos for cats and kittens. I chose these specific cat shampoos through my personal experience with the products, as well as recommendations from my veterinary clients over the years. If your cat has a specific skin issue, make sure you choose an appropriate shampoo to treat it, while cats with sensitive skin will need a gentle shampoo. Avoid bathing your cat altogether if they don’t need it or use a waterless shampoo, which will be less distressing. – Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, DVM
The Best Shampoo for Cats and Kittens: Full Reviews
Dechra DermAllay Oatmeal Shampoo is a gentle and soothing shampoo that’s a great option for any dog or cat. The product is soap-free and therefore gentle for your cat’s coat. It is mild and non-drying so it is safe for regular use.
Though great for any pet, I especially like this shampoo for cats that have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies. The shampoo contains soothing oatmeal as well as natural moisturizers. The subtle green apple fragrance is pleasant yet not overwhelming or irritating.
- Contains colloidal oatmeal to soothe itchy or dry skin
- Hydrating formula with essential fatty acids that bond moisture to cats’ skin
- Lathers and rinses easily
- Some cats with sensitive skin may not react well to this formula
- Not everyone likes the fragrance
Though not specifically formulated for cats, a great choice for any cat that also won’t break the bank is Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. This is an effective shampoo that cleanses well, but it is also gentle and free of irritating and dangerous chemicals.
What’s great about using Johnson’s Baby Shampoo for pets is that it is tear-free. While every effort should always be made to keep shampoo out of pets’ eyes, they can be squirmy in the bath and accidents happen. This isn’t such an issue with this product as it won’t burn the eyes.
- Tear-free formula
- Affordable and easily available
- Free from parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and dyes
- Not optimized for the pH balance of pets’ skin so best for occasional use
- The quality of the pump could be improved
Burt’s Bees Cat Waterless Shampoo is a great product for cats that are hesitant about traditional baths with water. The sprayer is quiet and does not drench the cat. You can start slowly with small spritzes as you acclimate your cat to the process of waterless cleansing, which most cats will tolerate.
While not a true shampoo, the spray is mild and soothing to the skin while also being effective at drying and removing grease and oils from the cat’s fur. It has a mild apple aroma and is made from 99.7% natural ingredients.
- Suitable for adult cats and kittens
- From from fragrances, sulfates, colorants, and harsh chemicals
- Cleanses and deodorizes the coat and nourishes the skin
- Doesn’t tackle serious dirt
- Some don’t like the smell, but this is personal preference
Dechra MiconaHex + Triz Shampoo is suitable for cats with skin maladies that become secondarily infected with bacteria or fungus. This shampoo contains miconazole as an antifungal and chlorhexidine as an antibacterial. The addition of TrizEDTA enhances the antimicrobial properties of the active ingredients to improve efficacy.
While it isn’t gentle compared to non-medicated options, this shampoo is also very moisturizing which helps to soothe a cat’s irritated skin.
- Ceramides help to moisturize & repair skin
- Free from added fragrances
- Made in the USA
- On the pricey end of the spectrum
- Not for cats who don’t have infected skin
Burt’s Bees for Cats Hypoallergenic Cat Shampoo is made using 99.7% natural ingredients and is suitable for all cats, but it is especially great for kitties with sensitive skin. The formula is moisturizing and gentle which is ideal for cats who’ve suffered from skin complaints or irritation in the past.
The smell is great, and it also does a good job cleansing, all while soothing and moisturizing the cat’s skin. It’s pH balanced and is suitable for adult cats, as well as kittens.
- The added shea butter moisturizes the coat and skin
- Honey promotes shine
- Hypoallergenic formula is suitable for cats with topical allergies
- Doesn’t lather well
- Lid is prone to leakage
Frequently Asked Questions
Pet News Daily uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
- Central California SPCA. Is Bathing a Cat Really Necessary (or Just a Myth in Caring for Pets)? Published April 22, 2019. Accessed January 6, 2022.
- Sandia Animal Clinic. When Cats Stop Grooming Themselves. Sandiaanimalclinic.com. Published November 1, 2019. Accessed January 6, 2022.
- Cornell Feline Health Center. Feline Skin Diseases. Vet.cornell.edu. Updated December 2014. Accessed January 6, 2022.
- FirstVet. How to Bathe Your Cat at Home. Firstvet.com. Accessed January 6, 2022.
- Davis L. Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat: Common Causes of Feline Odors. Sunvetanimalwellness.com. Published September 10, 2019. Accessed January 6, 2022.
- Schmid R, Brutlag A, Handley H. Pyrethrin/Pyrethroid Poisoning in Cats. Vcahospitals.com. Accessed January 6, 2022.
- Animal Humane Society. Give your kitten a bath with these simple tips. Animalhumanesociety.org. Accessed January 6, 2022./efn_note]/FAQ_question]
Can I use human shampoo on a cat?
As a rule, it’s best to avoid using human shampoo on cats. That said, gentle baby shampoo that’s free from dyes and additives like parabens and phthalates is generally safe for use on cats. Even so, it’s designed for humans, who have a different skin pH from cats, so it’s best for occasional use only to avoid drying out the skin.7O’Brien C. Can You Use Dog Shampoo on Cats? Hillspet.com. Published November 5, 2021. Accessed January 6, 2022.