Have your cats ever gotten into nooks and crannies where they shouldn’t have been in the first place? Did they make a mess and get themselves all grimy and muddy in the process? While cats are big on self-cleaning, some messes just won’t come out with a couple of licks.
The first thing that comes to many cat owners’ minds is dish soap. Every kitchen has it, and it’s cheap. So, is dish soap safe for cats?
The quick answer is yes and no. Dish soap is safe if used sparingly or for emergency clean-ups. It’s powerful enough to remove sticky, stubborn messes on your cat. Yet, dish soap is alkaline. This means it can be harsh on your kitty’s skin if used regularly.
We all know how cats hate to be washed, but we still have a couple of cat shampoo bottles stashed away for emergencies. The problem is when you run out. Are there any safe alternatives?
Today, we’re breaking facts down and answering all your questions. First, we want to get to the bottom of whether dish soap is gentle enough to use on your cat. So, keep reading to find out more.
We know how worrying it can be when your cat gets into a sticky situation. First, they try to lick themselves clean, but it doesn’t work. Then, when you try to step in and lend a helping hand, they do their best to run away and hide.
If there’s a quick emergency and you don’t have any cat shampoo lying around, your next best option would be dish soap. It’ll be even safer on your cat if you use an unscented brand, like Dawn. It’s one of the few safe and non-toxic brands of dish soap on the market.
Many flea medications and collars can be too harsh on your cat’s skin. Many over-the-counter brands cause rashes, skin burns, and other long-term health complications. Plus, they’re life-threatening for young kittens.
These medicines have to be so potent because fleas have a coating of wax that protects their bodies. This layer prevents water from entering their respiratory systems, which makes them pretty much indestructible!
This is where dish soap comes in to save the day. Dish soap is safer than commercial flea medications but still manages to destroy adult fleas and their eggs.
The secret? Surfactants!
Surfactants are a group of molecules that work to decrease water tension. This prevents fleas from floating to the surface to breathe. So, they sink and drown.[Source]
Not only that, but the chemical framework allows the molecules to permeate this wax layer. As a result, water enters the fleas’ respiratory system, and they drown.
This is why vets recommend unscented dish soap brands over various types of flea medications. It’s also a reliable option for young kittens to get rid of fleas and inhibit breeding.
Washing your kitty with dish soap can be a great way to get rid of tough grime and stains they can’t clean on their own. It’s pretty safe as long as it’s used only for emergencies or every once in a while.
It’s important to remember that using dish soap repeatedly can cause serious health problems for your cat. Check out some of them below.
Cats have different skin compositions than ours. Why is this important?
For starters, the skin is the largest organ for our feline friends and us. It’s so massive that it can weigh as much as almost 25% of the pet’s entire body weight in some species.
It’s designed this way for a reason: to act as a protective barrier. For the skin to keep cats protected against parasites and bacteria, it has to remain at a certain pH level.
Our skin’s pH lies in the range of 5.2 to 5.5. Cats, on the other hand, are more on the sensitive side.
Their skin’s pH levels can start at about 6.0 and can go as high up as 8.0. These variations are mainly due to their diet as well as their breed type.
Regardless, what these numbers mean is that their skin is on the neutral side. Therefore, they don’t do well with products that are either too acidic or too alkaline.
On the pH scale, you’ll typically find dish soap way above 7.0 pH. It’s closer to a 10.0 or 11.0, which means it’s highly alkaline. This is a good thing because this is how it gets rid of all the grease, oils, and other gunk.
However, using too much dish soap over a long period will endanger your cat’s health. It strips away their natural oils and weakens their immune systems. This leaves them vulnerable in the face of bacteria and infections.
Also, avoid using it on your cat if it has an active skin irritation or infection. Instead, wait until treatment is complete and your vet gives the all-clear.
Unscented dish soap brands will work as a temporary fix. The problem with any type of dish soap is that it leaves a residue on your cat’s fur.
But I rinse my kitty completely and wash off all the soap. So how can there still be any left on the coat?
The truth is that there will always be some residue on their coat no matter what you do.
Then, your cat will find a quiet corner and lick its fur, ingesting harmful chemicals in the process. If you suspect your pet has ingested dish soap, keep an eye on them for a couple of hours. If you notice they’re experiencing diarrhea or vomiting, contact your vet at once.
Certain dish soap brands have become famous because of their ability to treat oil spills. This makes them a great choice for cleaning your cat.
However, you shouldn’t rely on them as a common washing option. Why? Well, for the same reason that makes them perfect for clearing oil spills.
They contain some chemicals, such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). SLS and a long list of other harsh chemicals are the main ingredients that work to effectively get rid of oil and grease.
Yet, they also dry up the skin by removing your feline’s natural oils. These oils protect and nourish their coats and skin. Without them, your pet will be left defenseless against infections, bacteria, and allergens.
Plus, it’ll dry out their coat, which will cause it to get tangled and easily knotted. Consequently, your cat may not be able to clean itself as well as it should.
Now that we’ve discussed that dish soap is safe in moderation, let’s talk about how much you should use on your cat.
To give your kitty a quick bath to remove mud or other sticky substances, you’ll only need a couple of drops of dish soap. With almost all brands, a little goes a long way, especially with cats. You want as little soap residue as possible left on their fur.
Also, don’t fill the tub and stick your kitty inside. Cats abhor water, so the less they see of it, the better.
Your best option is to fill a basin with warm water and add one or two drops of dish soap. Give it a quick stir.
Then, dip it into the soapy water and brush your kitty’s coat using a brush or comb. Repeat as necessary, focusing mainly on the parts that really need it.
Finally, make sure you rinse off the dish soap as best as you can. Pat your kitty dry with a soft towel. You can also use a hairdryer at low heat to speed up the drying time.
If your cat has fleas, you can follow the same steps as above. The only difference is you’ll need a flea comb. Start by dipping the comb in warm, soapy water. Next, run the comb through your cat’s fur.
Each time you comb through, dip the comb in the soapy water. This will ensure that the dish soap reaches your cat’s hair. Plus, it’ll remove any fleas that get caught on the comb.
You may need to repeat this process a couple of more times. This will depend on whether the fleas have had time to breed.[Source]
Alternatively, you can also consider using a Flea and Tick Collar.
The safest option is to use shampoos or soaps made for felines. So, what would you do if you needed to use dish soap for a quick wash?
As you’ve seen in our ‘Is dish soap safe for cats?’ rundown, dish soap is a safe short-term option. You can use it to get your kitty out of sticky messes or as a quick fix for getting rid of fleas.
Bear in mind that even though it’s effective and easy to use, it’ll completely dry out their skin. So, try not to use it too often. Also, opt for the unscented, original brands. They’re less likely to trigger allergies or cause skin irritations for your cat.