Cats are excellent at grooming themselves, but when they get grease and stubborn dirt on their coats, sometimes a couple of licks are just not enough. The best option in that case is to use cat shampoo or soap formulated for their delicate skin. But what if you have run out of these products at home?
For many cat owners, their next-best bet is one commonly found in the kitchen – dish soap. This popular home remedy is not only effective at removing dirt, but is also safe for your four-legged friends.
However, while this cheap home remedy is a perfectly safe option for short-term use, using dish soaps in place of regular cat shampoo can also have several downsides. These facts are unveiled below, so read on!
Dish soap is safe for cats – here’s why
Generally, dish soaps are perfectly fine and safe to use in those emergency situations when you need a quick fix for your cat’s flea problem or stubborn stains on her fur. Unscented soaps like Dawn are non-toxic and safe for animals, so you do not need to worry if Fluffy licks some of the soap while you wash her.
A word of caution, though: you should not use dish soap if your cat has any pre-existing skin problems, as doing so can cause further skin irritation.
It is also worth noting that dish soaps are not actually designed for a cat’s skin. Surfactants and other active chemicals in the soap can cause skin dryness and allergies, especially when used long-term.
For these reasons, dish soaps must be only used sparingly and at times when you do not have access to cat shampoos or treatments. Most importantly, you should never substitute your cat’s regular shampoo with dish soap, or you risk causing skin problems.
Is dish soap effective at killing fleas?
If you have spent any time on the internet looking for a home remedy for your cat’s flea problem, you have probably seen several pet owner reviews of Dawn dish soap and why it is effective against fleas.
Dawn dish soap has long been used as a bug repellant and a quick fix for flea infestations.
Fleas have a hard external shell, called an exoskeleton, that protects their bodies from injuries. This covering also allows them to float and survive in water for many hours. But even these pesky bugs and their exoskeletons cannot stand a chance against dish soaps! Surfactants, one of the main substances found in Dawn dish soap, have the ability to compromise the fleas’ exoskeletons and effectively drown them in the water.
However, know that not all dish soaps out there are safe for cats. And, even if Dawn is known to be effective against fleas and non-toxic to animals, it is still not recommended for long-term use due to its adverse effects on animal skin.
Why dish soaps might hurt your cat
There are several valid reasons why most vets are against using dish soaps on pets. Here are some of them:
1. Dish soaps are highly alkaline
Cats have a different skin composition to that of humans. While human skin sits around 5.2 to 5.5, the pH level of cats’ skin is anywhere between 6.0 and 8.0, depending on their breed and diet. So, what does this mean for your cat’s skin?
These numbers reveal that a cat’s skin is within the neutral range, so any skin products that are too alkaline or too acidic can cause adverse side effects. Human skin, on the other hand, is slightly acidic, meaning that any soaps and shampoos formulated for you will likely harm your cat’s skin.
What about dish soaps?
Generally, dish soaps fall within a pH range of 7.0 to 11.0, meaning they are highly alkaline. This is one of the primary reasons they are so good at removing grease and stains. When used on your feline’s delicate skin, they will strip away the skin’s natural skin oils and leave it vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections.
2. Dish soaps can dry the skin
Did you know that dish soaps are commonly used to treat oil spills? That is because they contain chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulfate, a type of surfactant or soap-like compound formulated to eliminate oil and dirt. This is the same reason they are the perfect product for cleaning stains and grease off your cat’s fur.
The downside is that they will also eliminate the natural oils on your cat’s skin, causing excessive dryness. Without these natural oils to moisturize her skin, your pet can be left defenseless against bacteria and allergens, and her dry skin may also cause irritations, itchiness and tangled fur.
So, if you must use dish soap when your kitty gets herself into a sticky mess, use it sparingly, and never substitute cat-formulated shampoos with dish soaps when bathing your pet.
3. Dish soap can leave residues
Although dish soap can work magic in terms of removing tough stains and dirt, it can also leave residues on your feline’s coat. No matter how much you rinse them, some of the residues will likely remain. These detergent left-overs can cake on the skin and trigger irritation or allergies.
Another problem with residues is that cats will likely lick them off later. Although dish soaps like Dawn are considered non-toxic, ingesting certain active chemicals might cause gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and vomiting. If you notice these symptoms, contact your veterinarian right away for proper care and treatment.
When to use dish soaps
Like what we have mentioned, dish soaps must be used in moderation and for emergency cleanups only. For regular bathing, make sure to use only shampoos that are specifically formulated for feline skin.
Here are some common situations in which dish soap may come in handy:
1. To remove stubborn stains and grease
Cats are known to be fastidious groomers. Even so, our furry companions may occasionally need our help at times when their in-built grooming tools are not sufficient for the task at hand.
If you find your kitty covered in grease or stains for whatever reason, your best option may be to clean her up using available household products, such as dish soap. Keep in mind that a few drops of the detergent is all you need to remove the sticky substances from her fur.
Simply fill in a basin with warm water and mix in a few drops of the liquid soap. Then, in the soap water, gently wash your cat’s coat, especially on the dirty areas. Use a brush or comb to help remove stubborn dirt and grime.
Lastly, make sure to rinse your cat’s fur very well to remove all of the soap. Pat her dry with a soft towel and, if you dare, use a hairdryer set at the lowest setting to dry the fur faster.
2. As a temporary fix for fleas
Fleas are among the most common parasites that affect cats. Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, these pesky little bugs may hop into your feline’s coat as uninvited guests. If your cat likes being outdoors, she will likely come in contact with fleas from other animals. Even indoor cats can get fleas when these parasites hitch a ride on you, on other pets, or on a mouse that invades your home.
If you find your cat suddenly scratching and licking herself obsessively, it is quite likely that she is being attacked by fleas, and your fastest solution might be to bathe her with dish soap as a temporary fix.
To remove most of the fleas, use a flea comb dipped in the soapy water. Repeat the process several times until you feel confident that most of the fleas are gone. Keep in mind, though, that this method only works if you catch the infestation fairly early. If the fleas have already been living on your pet for some time, you will need a more aggressive approach to eradicate both the adult fleas and eggs.
How much dish soap should you use?
If you are using dish soap as a temporary solution to your cat’s flea problem, mix a few drops into a large basin of water. If you choose not to give your cat a complete bath, you can comb her fur using a flea comb dipped in the soapy water. Every time you catch a flea, dip the comb into the water to drown the pest; then repeat the process.
If you need the dish soap to remove tough stains and grease, just take a pea-sized droplet to make a lather. Gently remove the dirt and wash the fur as best you can so that no suds are left. Since washing cats with dish soap can have adverse effects on their skin, make sure not to overdo this, and do not leave the soap on the fur for too long.
Which dish soap is safe for cats?
When it comes to killing fleas, most dish soap brands have the ability to break through a flea’s protective covering. However, not all dish soaps on the market may be safe for cats, and this has to do with the active ingredients found in these detergents.
Most dish soaps also come with strong fragrance that can cause skin irritations and allergies in animals. The strong scents can also be unsettling for them, due to their highly sensitive sense of smell.
Surprisingly, Dawn dish soap is known to be mild on cats and other animals. Aside from being non-toxic and safe for cats, Dawn is also effective at killing fleas due to the surfactants it contains. Even young kittens infested with fleas can be washed with Dawn, especially since regular flea treatments can be too harsh for them until a certain age.
However, Dawn is not recommended for long-term use due to its known adverse effects on cat’s skin. Repeated use of the soap can strip the natural oils from your feline’s skin, leaving her vulnerable to skin problems and bacterial infections. Rashes, matted fur, hair loss, skin irritations, and allergies are just some of the known problems that might arise with prolonged use of Dawn.
If you are looking for a soap to wash your furry companion more regularly, it is best to use pet shampoos recommended by your vet. Brands like PetO’Cera Cat Shampoo are excellent at keeping your cat’s skin and coat healthy. Most cat parents love it because it is made with non-toxic ingredients to effectively clean the coat, remove body odors, and prevent skin dryness and itchiness.
Certain dish soaps are a safe short-term alternative if you do not have any cat shampoo to hand. Use the soap sparingly to get rid of fleas or stubborn stains from your cat’s fur, but note that it should never be used as regular bathing soap as it can provoke skin irritations and allergies in the long run.
Image: istockphoto.com / Svetlana Sultanaeva