Is Eating Soap Safe For Cats? 5 Facts Revealed

Your cat got dirty from investigating a potentially hazardous situation; he needs your help to clean up the mess he made. You wish you could just wash his hands with some soap and give him a quick rinse. Since it doesn’t hurt our hands, I suppose it’s fine. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Since we don’t lick ourselves clean like cats do, we don’t give much thought to the fact that some hand soaps contain chemicals designed to break down grease and dirt.

In an emergency, you can use hand soap on your cat, but cat-specific soap is preferable. What follows is more information about hand soaps and cats.

Possible causes

It’s difficult to know for sure why your cat does things like lick or eat the bar of soap you keep in the bathroom because we can’t exactly ask him.

Cats are notorious for thinking that anything, including plastic bags, photographs, and bar soap, is fair game for licking or nibbling. In an article first published on Manhattan Cat Specialists, Dr. Arnold Poltnick suggests that the materials used to make these products—specifically, animal byproducts—may be to blame.

Some commercial soaps contain tallow, an animal fat with a faint but detectable odor that may be appealing to cats.

In a similar vein, Britannica reports that gelatin is commonly used to bind photographic prints, which may explain why your cat finds them so irresistible.

Medical conditions such as pica, which can affect both humans and animals like cats, are also possible explanations for this behavior.

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Pica is defined as the urge to consume non-food items that have no nutritional value, as defined by the National Eating Disorders Association.

Many common household items are fair game for cats, including soap, plastic, cat litter, and silverware (though they usually only lick them).

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What is pica?

Pica can be caused by a lack of nutrients or an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

An under-stimulated predatory drive may be to blame for the increased prevalence of this disorder in indoor cats, according to a study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery in 2015.

Pica can be caused by neurological disorders or by physical issues like gastrointestinal problems, peritonitis, or even hookworm. However, a lack of essential nutrients in their diet is widely thought to be the root cause of pica.

If your cat is low on fiber or iron, he may try to compensate by eating more of the wrong things, so it’s important to discuss anemia with your vet in case he needs medication or dietary adjustments.

Signs of Harmful Soap Ingestion

Your cat may still ingest something harmful despite your best efforts to keep him clean with cat-specific products and out of harm’s way.

The chances of your cat accidentally ingesting hand soap are low, but you should still be aware of the potential danger. The Pet Poison Helpline lists the following as the most frequently observed effects of soap poisoning:

  • Drooling
  • Painful mouth burns
  • Sucking on paws and elbows
  • lack of hunger or appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Breathing problems

Please consult your veterinarian immediately if your cat exhibits any of the above symptoms.

cat vomit on the floor

How Should I Clean My Cat?

Cats are skilled groomers and selective about how they display their fur, so they rarely require bathing.

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If your cat gets particularly dirty or greasy, or if he gets into something that could be harmful to him if he licked it clean, you may need to lend a helping paw.

Always use a soap or shampoo formulated for felines. Unless your cat has skin issues, you should be able to find these at a pet store near you; otherwise, consult your vet for recommendations.

It’s an Emergency!

british shorthair cat being treated by a vet

In a pinch, you can use a small amount of Dawn dish soap in place of cat shampoo or soap. After you’re done, go ahead and give it a good wash.

Naturally, the best option is cat-specific shampoo. Your cat may experience discomfort and itching due to the drying effects of Dawn on their skin.

Cleaning an oily spill from your cat’s fur is easier with Dawn dish soap because of its grease-cutting properties.

However, Dawn dish soap has been tested and found to be safe for use on animals, so it could come in handy if you absolutely had to use it on your cat in an emergency.

Rinse and Repeat

wet cat in the bathtub having shower

After bathing your cat, you should always give it a thorough washing. Cats have a different pH level than humans, so our products can cause skin problems for them if they come in contact with them.

Using human products on your cat on a regular basis can cause unpleasant side effects like hair loss, bald patches, dry skin, and itching, flaking, and even skin infections.

How to prevent soap eating

Even though your cat taking the occasional lick or nibble from the soap bar might not seem like a big deal, limiting her access to soap or any other nutrient-deficient snack can prevent future health issues.

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Larger non-food items, such as shoelaces or plastic grocery bags, can cause intestinal blockages in cats that eat them.

A well-balanced diet or the addition of vitamins or supplements may solve the object-eating problem, so UC Davis advises consulting your veterinarian if you suspect a nutritional deficiency.

Keep your cat away from anything it seems intent on licking or eating until further notice. This is also useful if your cat has a compulsive disorder and has a habit of eating unusual things, like soap or other household cleaners.

Some cats will experiment out of boredom or stress; if you can rule out a deficiency in essential nutrients, try giving your cat some structured playtime to release pent-up energy. Stress is a common cause of emotional eating in felines.

Keep an eye on your feline friend and make note of when she eats odd items and what’s going on, either during or just before she starts eating or licking, in order to identify the source of your cat’s stress or anxiety and reduce those factors, which will give you the best chance at permanently eliminating pica.

Cats can be easily stressed by changes in their environment, such as a recent move or the introduction of a new family member, whether they be two or four legs.


So, while it’s true that ingesting too much hand soap could be fatal for cats, you can still use it if you’re in a pinch.

You should wash it off completely so that he doesn’t lick it off his fur or skin and it doesn’t endanger his health.

Stick to cat-friendly soaps whenever possible, and if you have any questions, consult your vet or resources online like Pet MD and Pet Poison Helpline.

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