This time, Shannon Cutts explains why you might need to bathe your kitten, and which is the best kitten shampoo to get started with.
With the exception of a handful of water-loving cat breeds, it is the rare kitten who enjoys being bathed with kitten shampoo!
However, kittens, like adult cats, do need to be washed and bathed from time to time for their own health and safety.
Reasons for bathing your kitten may include flea control, allergen control, removal of trapped debris or waste matter and simple overall cleanliness!
Of course, you will definitely want to use kitten safe shampoo when you do start to bathe your kitten.
This article will help you find products for general bathing, including water and waterless options, plus some suggestions for a kitten safe flea shampoo to have on hand if the need arises.
All of these products were carefully and independently selected by the Happy Cat Site team. If you decide to make a purchase from one of the links marked by an asterisk, we may earn a small commission on that sale. This is at no extra cost to you.
Do I need kitten shampoo?
This is such a great question, and it is probably right up there with the top five most frequently asked questions for brand-new kitten owners!
So many people think that cats and kittens don’t need baths because they groom themselves so frequently.
Yet consider this: in the wild, big cats who live in areas where water is readily available are regularly observed heading in for a dip, especially on very hot days!
Jaguars, tigers and fishing cats (who get their name honestly) are particularly fond of water, perhaps both for its cooling ability and for the tasty fish that live there.
But there is another perk they get from bathing as well – the water can wash away all of that cat scent, which allows feline predators to stealthily creep up on their prey without detection!
In a pet situation, young kittens in particular may need some help keeping themselves clean.
This is especially true if you are caring for a motherless kitten since the mom would typically help with grooming duties until weaning begins.
So you have to be “mom” in all ways to your kitten, including helping with bathing and grooming!
The recipe for happy bathtimes
The key to success with bathing your kitten is to make bathing a familiar, thus “safe,” activity.
This process actually starts not with bathing, but with simple gentle handling.
As your kitten gets used to being handled, you can begin to introduce specific activities that require handling, such as bathing!
However, you can still expect your kitten to display a bit of fearful resistance during the first bath or two.
This is a natural response from a young animal with a fine-tuned “fight or flight” survival instinct.
With consistent, gentle handling and lots of reassurance, you can help your kitten overcome bath-time fear.
Another key to bath-time success is to choose the right kitten shampoo to make sure your kitten doesn’t have an adverse reaction to the shampoo itself!
Often this means choosing “tearless,” all-natural, sensitive skin, hypoallergenic, pH balanced or other similar formulas that are free from chemicals and harsh cleaning agents.
So now read on to learn more about the best kitten shampoo options!
What is the best kitten shampoo?
These brands come highly rated by kitten owners.
But it is always smart to ask your veterinarian for recommendations as well.
Especially if you feel unsure about making the choice of a kitten shampoo completely on your own!
Nature’s Specialties Plum Silky Pet Shampoo
This soft, nourishing shampoo* is safe for kittens and especially good for hairless kitten breeds because it has silk proteins that nourish the skin.
Four Paws Magic Coat Cat & Kitten Tearless Shampoo
This tearless formula* is safe for kittens and adult cats.
It contains keratin and lanolin, both naturally-occurring skin softeners and soothers.
This company also offers a waterless dry kitten shampoo*.
John Paul Pet Tearless Shampoo by Paul Mitchell
This kitten-safe shampoo* is formulated with a kitten’s sensitive skin in mind.
It includes aloe vera, oatmeal and almond oil as skin soothers.
Natural kitten shampoo
It is vital to make sure that the kitten shampoo you choose is specifically labeled for use with kittens.
This is because kittens have very sensitive skin and also have less hair than do adult cats.
These natural kitten shampoo brands are kitten-safe and very gentle, with a pH balance that is suitable for a kitten’s sensitive skin and hair.
Espree Natural Kitten Shampoo
One of the principle ingredients is aloe vera which is a natural skin soother.
Odie and Cody Natural Hypoallergenic Organic Pet Shampoo for Kittens
This popular and highly rated vet-recommended, organic multi-pet shampoo* is safe for kittens and adult cats and is free from all chemicals and artificial ingredients.
Kitten dry shampoo
If you have a feral rescued kitten or a very nervous kitten on your hands, sometimes kitten dry shampoo can buy you a little time to get your kitten used to handling before you introduce water!
Kitten dry shampoo allows you to “bathe” your kitten without having to introduce water at all – you don’t even have to rinse waterless shampoo out of your kitten’s fur.
Burt’s Bees Waterless Shampoo for Cats and Kittens
This kitten dry shampoo* is pH balanced for feline skin and fortified with apple and honey extracts for skin soothing and a pleasant scent.
It is free of all chemicals and harsh cleaners.
New Waterless Shampoo for Pets by Bodhi Dog
This waterless shampoo* is suitable for dogs and cats of all ages as well as other pets.
You can choose from two natural scents.
It is free from detergent, alcohol, skin irritants and chemicals and is designed to be hypoallergenic.
Bio-Groom Waterless Cats and Dog Bath Shampoo
This waterless cat shampoo* is suitable for kittens and cats of all ages.
It is a tearless shampoo with a pH balance suitable for feline skin and contains no alcohol or harsh cleaning agents.
Flea shampoo for kittens
Finding the best flea shampoo for kittens really depends on the age of your kitten.
If your kitten is four weeks or older and weighs at least two pounds, it should be safe to use flea shampoo for kittens (but ask your veterinarian FIRST to be sure!).
If your kitten is younger than four weeks old or weighs less than two pounds, you may or may not be able to use one of these flea shampoos quite yet (read the next section here for an alternative approach).
Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor for Dogs and Cats
This kitten-safe flea and tick shampoo for kittens* kills fleas in all stages of life and works for 28 days before needing to be reapplied.
It contains aloe vera, lanolin, oatmeal and coconut oil for extra skin soothing.
NOTE: This can ONLY be used on kittens ages 12 weeks and older.
Vet’s Best Flea & Tick Waterless Bath for Cats and Kittens
This waterless bath* is suitable for bath-afraid kittens who need immediate flea treatment.
NOTE: This can ONLY be used on kittens ages 12 weeks and older.
Wondercide Flea and Tick and Mosquito Control Spray for Cats
This flea, tick, and mosquito spray* can be used on cats of all ages and can also be used to spray bedding and seating.
Choose from four all-natural scents.
This spray is suitably pH balanced for feline skin.
Can you use baby shampoo on kittens?
This is another area where many first-time kitten owners can get legitimately confused!
After all, if the shampoo is safe enough for a human baby, it should be safe for a kitten, right?
But what newbie kitten owners often don’t realize is human skin is more acidic than cat skin and also has more moisture (this is because humans sweat through their skin, while cats sweat through their paws).
For this reason, it is never completely safe to use baby shampoo on kittens because you will always risk skin irritation or worse!
Flea infestation is the most common reason kitten owners sometimes turn to human baby shampoo.
Always ask your veterinarian for guidance when treating a very young (four weeks or younger) kitten for fleas.
For kittens four weeks and older, it may be possible to treat the fleas with a topical preparation.
What is the best kitten shampoo?
We hope you have found this information about the best kitten shampoo useful as you and your kitten start your life together!
And hen it’s time to move on from kitten formulations to adult cat shampoos, have a look at our article on the best cat shampoos for adult cats.
Do you have a favorite kitten shampoo?
Is there a product you swear by?
Or do you have some great advice to make bath time fun for kittens and easy for their owners?
Please drop us a comment to share your thoughts!
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.
McCubbin, S., DVM, “FAQ: Cats,” Humane Society of Miami, 2018.
Mathias, J., DVM, “Kitten Basics,” Tipp City Veterinary Hospital, 2018.
Waggener, N., DVM, “The Truth About Cats and Water,” South Boston Animal Hospital, 2017.
Huntingdon, S., “In the wild, cleanliness is a survival skill,” CS Monitor, 2002.
Steinhardt, M., “The world’s 7 big cats and where to see them in the wild,” The Matador Network Sustainability, 2018.
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