What If You Wash a Kitten With Dog Shampoo?

Only use shampoos safe for use in kittens to wash them.
i kitten image by Annika from Fotolia.com

While it might not seem like a big deal to wash a kitten with a shampoo designed for dogs, depending on the ingredients, this could actually hurt your little furbaby. Shampoos for dogs are formulated with chemicals determined to be safe for canines, not felines, especially sensitive young ones.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are liquids derived from plants and are found in many dog shampoos, especially natural ones. While essential oils are safe to use with both people and dogs, they aren't for cats. The body of a cat of any age lacks the enzyme necessary to properly metabolize essential oils, according to the "Handbook of Essential Oils: Science, Technology and Applications." These oils, even if diluted, can build up in your little kitty's system to toxic levels. Your kitten is especially vulnerable because of his small size and delicate skin, through which the oils are absorbed.


Not all insecticides are created equal when it comes to canines and felines. Certain flea-fighters are safe for use in dogs but potentially toxic when used on cats. If you are using a flea shampoo designed for dogs, it could contain permethrin, an insecticide that is toxic to cats, according to PetPlace. Even if the shampoo lists ingredients that are typically safe for use in cats, such as pyrethrin, it may contain them in higher amounts than are considered acceptable for use with cats. Such differences can potentially be fatal to your sensitive little kitten.

Other Harmful Ingredients

There are other ingredients that are safe for dogs but can be harmful to your little kitty. Selenium sulfite and coal tar are used in shampoos to treat seborrhea in dog shampoos, but these are both ingredients toxic to cats if applied to their skin, according to VetInfo. Even if the ingredients in the particular dog shampoo you have on hand won't harm your little guy, they could dry out his skin at the very least, leading to dandruff.

The Label

Some shampoos are actually designed for use in both cats and dogs of all ages, so they should be safe to use on your little furry buddy with no issues. Read the label and look to see if it lists anywhere that the shampoo is "safe for use on cats." If it doesn't list this, or simply says that it is "safe for use on dogs," don't use it.


When bathing kittens, stick to a shampoo designed for cats. Consult with your vet if you have any questions or concerns about what kind of shampoo to use on your kitty. Check the age range on the shampoo, especially for those containing flea-fighting ingredients, to see if they are safe for use in kittens the age of your little one, recommends the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some of these chemicals are too potent to be used on very young kittens. If you can't find a shampoo appropriate for use in kittens, a simple, unfragranced, castile soap should do the trick, without harming your furry buddy.

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