Cats rarely need a bath – these fastidious furballs are already their own best groomers. They are equipped with their own natural tools, their tongues and paws, to keep themselves clean under most circumstances.
Sometimes, however, a bath is necessary; for example, if they have soiled themselves or attracted some unwanted visitors on their coat.
If you have found your cat covered in gunk or infested by fleas and you have no immediate access to cat shampoos and treatments, then your best option may be to find a quick fix available at home.
In this regard, you have probably heard about the use of Dawn dish soap as cat cleansers or flea treatments. This detergent has become popular ever since it was used to clean animals affected by a large oil spill a few years back. It is known to be a gentle yet effective solution for killing fleas, as well as cleaning tough stains and mud off your cat’s fur.
While Dawn is generally safe and non-toxic to pets, there are certain precautions you need to consider before using this product to bathe your furry companion.
Some facts about feline skin
The skin is the largest organ of the body. Just like in humans, a cat’s skin plays an important role in protecting the body from infections, parasites, and other environmental elements that cause sickness and disease. The skin also helps regulate the cat’s body temperature and prevent the loss of moisture.
The skin is composed of several layers. The tough outer layer, called the epidermis, is made up of older cells and serves as the protective outer barrier of the skin. And, since it is exposed, it is also susceptible to injuries, diseases, and irritants.
Of course there are some huge differences between feline skin and human skin. Since we do not have fur, our epidermis is thicker than on cats. That is why some powerful detergents do not cause as much harm to our skin as they would to that of our feline companions. Additionally, soaps and shampoos designed for human skin might also be too harsh for your pet’s delicate skin.
So, what about Dawn dish soap, which has become so popular for killing fleas?
The popular liquid dishwashing soap, Dawn, is generally safe for cats and other animals – and yes, it is quite effective at killing fleas due to its surfactants and other active ingredients.
Using this dishwashing soap to temporarily manage your cat’s flea problem is perfectly fine. But using it as a long-term solution might cause skin irritation and other skin problems. Moreover, using Dawn on cats with pre-existing skin problems can cause further irritations and excessive dryness.
For these reasons, it is highly recommended to use an appropriate flea treatment that is specifically formulated for cats. If you need to use dish soap as temporary relief, do so with caution, but never view Dawn as an alternative to cat shampoo. Better yet, let your furry feline take care of her own grooming so you do not need to bathe her so frequently!
Does shampoo pH matter?
Many people are convinced that human shampoos are not ideal for cats due to their slight acidity. In reality, however, the pH of shampoo does not really dictate the harshness or gentleness of the product. In fact, some cat shampoos have a pH level between 6.0 – 6.5, which is almost equal to that of human shampoos. So what does this mean?
Basically, the pH of the shampoo you choose for your cat does not matter when it comes to gentleness on the skin. Instead, you need to consider the detergent and other active chemicals used in the product. At the end of the day, your vet’s product recommendation is still the safest option, rather than experimenting with human shampoos or dish soaps on your cat.
Why Dawn dish soap is effective against fleas
Dish soap has been used by gardeners for many years to repel bugs and other pests. Perhaps this is the reason people have started using Dawn dish soap as an instant solution for their pet’s flea problems. It could also be one of the best home remedies in the event that your cat suddenly gets fleas from nowhere and you do not have access to flea medications at that moment.
However, veterinarians have warned pet owners about using Dawn for flea management. As mentioned before, cats have a thinner epidermal layer on their skin, making them more vulnerable to irritants. So, while Dawn might be a good option if your pet is suddenly assaulted by fleas, you will need to find a better long-term solution to permanently eradicate the infestation. Using dish soap on your cat every time you find fleas will not be helpful in the long run!
What can you do instead? If your cat and other household pets have been bothered by fleas for a long time, you will need to consider aggressive solutions to permanently eradicate these pesky bugs.
- First, have all your pets treated with flea medications prescribed by your vet. Even if the other pets are not showing obvious signs of infestation, it is likely that they have caught some of the pests from the infected pet.
- Deep-clean the house. That includes vacuuming every spot where fleas are likely to hide, such as bare floors, mattresses, upholstery, small cracks, beds, and along the skirting boards.
- Launder your fabrics on a high heat, especially pet bedding and towels.
- Make sure that your garden or yard is well maintained. Fleas and other pests can thrive in shaded and moist areas outside your home.
- Seal any small openings in your house to prevent rodents and other small animals from entering your home, as they also carry fleas.
Dawn is safe and non-toxic to cats
Some fur parents are concerned about whether Dawn dish soap is safe to be ingested by cats. Thankfully, Dawn is made with ingredients that are safe and non-toxic to animals. Even if your cat accidentally licks some of the soap, she would need to consume more than a couple of licks in order to see any dangerous side effects – and it is very unlikely for your cat to enjoy the taste of soap!
The bigger danger of using dish soap on your cat is skin dryness and irritation. Since it is not formulated for cats’ skin, the soap can quickly strip away the natural oils that keep your cat’s skin healthy and well-nourished. The skin will then become extremely dry, making it vulnerable to allergic irritants as well as yeast and bacterial infections. Your cat will also likely scratch the dry flakes off her skin, causing injuries and further irritation.
Benefits of using Dawn for cats
This popular dish soap is not only widely used as a cleaning agent in the kitchen. Due to its active ingredients, it is very effective at removing grime, stains, dirt, and grease from any surface. In fact, its active ingredients for removing mess is also what makes it effective at removing cats’ fleas.
Below, we have summarized some of the pros of using Dawn dish soap on pets.
1. It effectively kills fleas
Flea infestation can be your cat’s worst nightmare. These jumpy little pests can cause excessive scratching and skin irritation on your cat. Fleas also make your cat’s life miserable as they feed on your pet’s blood, making her feel generally unwell.
These pests can be quite challenging to remove with water and ordinary soap because their bodies have a protective exoskeleton that keeps them from drowning. Additionally, fleas can survive being submerged in water for 24 hours. This means you need to choose a product wisely if you want to eliminate them instantly.
Thankfully, Dawn dish soap contains a detergent that naturally kills fleas in an instant.
It contains surfactants that effectively drown these bugs – even their waxy coatings will not stand a chance against the soap’s active ingredients. It penetrates their bodies and compromises their breathing; the surfactants also reduce their ability to grip onto your cat’s fur, making it easier to remove and drown them.
2. It is mild and safe for cats
The original version of Dawn dish soap is known to be mild and safe for a cat’s skin. It is also unlikely for your feline to suffer any allergic reactions, since Dawn has a pH level between 7.0 and 8.0, which is closer to the pH range of most cat shampoos.
So, if you must bathe your cat using Dawn dish soap, make sure to use the original one without the strong fragrance. Any soap or shampoo with a strong fragrance is more likely to trigger skin allergies and irritations on your pet’s skin.
3. It removes tough stains on your cat’s fur
If your furry companion has accidentally got mud or grease on her fur, it can be frustrating and quite challenging to remove it using ordinary soaps, even if you wash her several times.
Dawn’s powerful, yet gentle, formula is efficient at removing tough stains and grease from any surface – even your cat’s coat. Whether your cat enjoys rolling in mud or accidentally gets other stains on her fur, Dawn is sure to come to the rescue.
Some cons of using Dawn dish soap
Despite the benefits of using Dawn dish soap on your pets, it does come with some drawbacks. These are summarized below.
1. It is only a temporary solution for fleas
Flea infestation is a serious problem and needs a long-term solution to keep them from coming back. Unfortunately, Dawn dish soap alone will not solve the problem. You need to consider deep-cleaning the entire house to ensure that all the fleas and their eggs are eradicated.
Moreover, using Dawn every time you see fleas on your cat’s fur will not solve the problem either. Repeated use of this soap on your cat’s delicate skin will eventually cause new skin issues to develop. Dawn is not formulated for cats, so if the fleas do keep coming back, more aggressive and appropriate flea treatments must be considered. Talk to your vet if your cat is repeatedly infested with fleas to find out the best options.
Which Dawn is safe for cats?
Dawn dish soap comes in different varieties. The original version is considered to be the safest for cats and other animals, due to its mildness and lack of strong fragrance. Most cats will not be able to tolerate detergents with strong fragrances, as these ingredients are known to cause skin irritations and allergic reactions.
So, if you need a temporary fix for your cat’s flea problem, make sure to use only the original, unscented version. Otherwise, it would be better to visit your veterinary clinic right away to get access to more appropriate treatments.
Wrapping it up
Is Dawn dish soap safe for cats? The answer can be yes or no. If you are looking for a temporary, quick fix for fleas and stubborn stains, then Dawn is definitely a good product to try on your cat. But it is a big no for long-term use, and there is a valid reason that many vets will not recommend this product for your pets.
Speak to your vet if your cat has a chronic flea infestation, or if she does not seem to be cleaning herself as well as she used to. Flea infestations and any underlying health issues should always be dealt with promptly and correctly.
Image: istockphoto.com / vovashevchuk