Are waterless shampoos effective to use on cats?

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Although there are many “waterless’ shampoo products on the market for cats that essentially promise frustrated pet owners an easier grooming experience, the real truth is that in most cases these products tend to make the situation worse. This may not be so much an indictment of the concept as a failure on the part of owners to follow instructions, although any time you put a product on a cat you run the risk of irritating its skin or causing gastrointestinal distress.

Cats want to smell like cats. In particular, cats want to smell like themselves. This is why a cat will bathe himself for 30 minutes after a petting session. They’re not being insulting. They liked the petting just fine, but that doesn’t mean they want to go around the rest of the day smelling human. The feline world is one of scents. In fact, scent is so important to a cat’s perception of his environment that he is outfitted with a structure in the mouth called Jacobson’s Organ that lets the animal essentially taste a smell.

Additionally, waterless shampoos can lead to matting, especially if too much of the product is used. Mats are tangles formed from the longer outer hairs of the coat, which become densely interwoven with the soft, downy undercoat. Wet hair is more prone to matting, and hair that is coated with a product even more so.

In the majority of instances, unless the animal’s coat is really soiled, cats can be bathed in slightly warm clear water. Never put shampoo of any kind, waterless or otherwise, on a cat’s head. You will always run the risk of irritating or seriously harming the animal’s delicate eyes and ears.

If the cat is really a mess for whatever reason, it’s best to consult a professional groomer, or your veterinarian. In real grooming “emergencies,” like the need to shave mats out of a cat’s coat, the animal will have to have light anesthesia, which should never be administered in any setting but a vet clinic.

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