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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

38 Models Considered
28 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
194 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best waterless cat shampoos

Bathing a cat is a surefire way to create lifelong memories. Unfortunately, though, 90% of the time, the experience ends up being unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. Not surprisingly, most cat owners don't relish the thought of bathing their feline friends, and many simply abandon the notion altogether. After all, one of the biggest advantages of owning a cat is that they're uniquely equipped with all the necessary tools to keep themselves clean.

But even the most fastidious groomers might need some assistance every now and then. With a waterless cat shampoo, keeping your feline fresh — and your skin intact — is easier than you might think.

Unlike traditional formulations, waterless cat shampoos don't require you to submerge or shower your kitty, making bath time less traumatic for everyone. Most are also packed with nourishing ingredients that moisturize skin and combat itchiness and flaking.

If you're interested in waterless cat shampoo but need a hand sifting through the various types, ingredients, and application methods, you've come to the right place.

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Cats rarely require regular bathing with shampoo and water. In fact, overdoing it may even strip your feline's coat of natural oils, potentially causing skin to dry out and become itchy. If you love the way your cat smells and feels right after a bath, a waterless cat shampoo can deliver more or less the same effect without harming your cat's delicate skin.

Key considerations


Waterless cat shampoos, sometimes referred to as "dry" cat shampoos, come in three basic forms: foams, sprays, and powders. Let's take a closer look.

  • Foams: Foam shampoos typically have a thick consistency that's relatively easy to handle. Because foaming cat shampoos lack the immediate wetness factor of liquid spray-on varieties, most cats tolerate them remarkably well. Foaming cat shampoos need to be worked into the fur in order to reach the skin, so keep this in mind if your feline happens to be particularly feisty or flighty.
  • Sprays: When it comes to achieving maximum coverage in record time, spray-on waterless cat shampoos are hard to beat. However, sprays also tend to emit a little "hiss" with each squirt, which may alarm some cats. If you have a docile cat and you're hoping to make quick work of bath time, a spray-on shampoo might be for you.
  • Powders: If you're looking for a truly dry waterless cat shampoo, powders are the only way to go. Powder shampoos are easy to apply and can be particularly helpful for long, oily coats. On the downside, they can leave your cat looking a bit off-color, but it's generally nothing a thorough brushing can't fix.


Finding something that's gentle on the skin is especially important when it comes to waterless shampoos since your cat will pretty much be "wearing" the ingredients until they have a traditional bath or groom it off. To keep skin from losing moisture, it's best to avoid shampoos containing alcohol, soaps, detergents, and fragrance. On the other hand, ingredients like oatmeal, avocado oil, aloe vera, and vitamin E can help soothe and nourish skin while keeping your cat's coat soft and shiny at the same time. Waterless shampoos made with gentle, natural ingredients such as these won't interfere with topical tick and flea treatments and often leave behind a pleasant scent.

Your cat's age

Introducing your kitten to traditional bathing practices early in life is the best way to prevent an aversion to water later on. However, if for whatever reason you're unable to bathe your kitten, but you still want to keep him fresh and clean, it's vital that you choose an age-appropriate shampoo. While some waterless cat shampoos are suitable for felines of all ages, others might only be recommended for kittens over 12 weeks old. Always check the label before sudsing up.

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Expert Tip
Spray-on waterless cat shampoos can be somewhat messy. Placing your cat on a towel or in the bathtub can help you stay dry while you go to work on your kitty's coat.


Moisturizing ability

A surprising number of cat owners turn to waterless cat shampoos as a means to remedy itchy, flaky skin. Luckily, most waterless shampoos are formulated to do just that. If you need something to moisturize and soothe dry skin, be on the lookout for ingredients like oatmeal, aloe vera, coconut oil, and vitamin E.


While it's best to avoid artificial fragrances, natural scents can significantly up your kitty's freshness factor without causing any undesirable effects. Many waterless cat shampoos have a mild, natural scent and some are even enhanced with essential oils for extra odor-busting performance. However, it's important to note that cats can be sensitive to odors, so you might want to give heavily scented shampoos a pass.

Ergonomic packaging

Packaging won't have an impact on efficacy, but it can make a big difference when it comes to ease of use. Trying to grip a chunky bottle in one hand while you hold your cat with the other can prove to be a challenge. Although generous bottle size certainly is desirable, the added width and weight might make things tricky if you have smaller hands. Don't overlook nozzles and spray triggers either. For a fuss-free experience, it's vital that these components operate smoothly.

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Expert Tip
Waterless cat shampoos made with nourishing natural ingredients can be used to treat skin conditions like dandruff, dryness, and even insect bites.


If your cat struggles with dry skin, flaking, or itching, using these products alongside a moisturizing waterless cat shampoo can help.

Cat brush: BV Pet Brush

Most waterless cat shampoos need to be "brushed out" after applying, but regular brushing can also help distribute natural oils throughout your cat's coat and the surface of the skin. The right cat brush can make the experience more enjoyable for both of you. The BV pet brush is suitable for cats and dogs, and there are two sides to choose from: a softer bristle side and a pin side with slightly more aggressive action.

Coat supplements: American Journey Wild Alaskan Salmon Supplement

Adding a coat supplement to your cat's diet will help moisturize skin from the inside out. It offers many other benefits, too, like a shinier coat and improved joint health. This supplement can be given to dogs, too.

Water fountain: PetSafe Drinkwell Platinum

Dehydration can lead to parched, flaky skin. Many cats are notoriously fussy about drinking and will only sip the freshest water. A pet water fountain like this affordable one from PetSafe will help keep your feline's H20 clean, crisp, and appealing.

Waterless cat shampoo prices


Waterless cat shampoos aren't called for everyday, and a little tends to go a long way. Smaller bottles of around 4 ounces typically cost anywhere from $5 to $10 and deliver at least a few weeks of freshness without breaking the bank.


If you have multiple cats, it's a good idea to opt for larger quantities of between 8 to 10 ounces. Quality waterless cat shampoos in these quantities are usually priced between $10 and $15.


Premium, all-natural ingredients and generous bottle sizes can set you back anywhere from $15 to $25 for approximately 17 to 20 ounces.

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Expert Tip
Premium, all-natural ingredients and generous bottle sizes can set you back anywhere from $15 to $25 for approximately 17 to 20 ounces.


  • Choose a time when your cat is relaxed. While most felines don't kick up much of a fuss when having a waterless bath, every cat is different. Waiting until your cat is relaxed and perhaps even a bit sleepy will ensure bathtime runs as smoothly as possible.
  • Have all the necessary tools on hand. Most waterless cat shampoos have a multi-step application process and even the slightest pause to search for a brush or a towel is all a cat needs to give you the slip. Keeping a towel and brush within easy reach can help keep things on track.
  • Work the shampoo toward your cat's skin. To get the most out of every session, be sure to work your waterless shampoo into your cat's fur with your fingers, gently massaging until it reaches the skin.
  • Don't forget about folds and creases. Nooks and crannies need attention too, especially if you have an ailing or aging cat who has difficulty reaching certain areas. Remember to give the underarms, ears, and toes a little love as well.

Other products we considered

If you're looking for a multitasking waterless cat shampoo that's suitable for all your four-legged family members, Wahl Oatmeal & Coconut Lime Verbena Waterless Pet Shampoo is a great choice. Plant derived, pH balanced, and deeply nourishing, this option freshens, conditions, and moisturizes both cats and dogs.

Ideal for sensitive or irritated skin, Vet Recommended Waterless Cat Shampoo has a hypoallergenic formulation that's made from naturally nourishing ingredients.

Designed for dogs but safe for cats, Lillian Ruff Waterless Dog and Cat Shampoo has a stronger scent than most waterless cat shampoos thanks to the addition of lavender and coconut oils, and it may even help keep ticks and fleas at bay. With that in mind, you might want to skip this one if your cat has a particularly sensitive nose.

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Waterless cat shampoos can be a lifesaver during stressful times like traveling, illness, or injury when felines may not be capable of thoroughly grooming themselves.


Q. Can I use waterless cat shampoos on my dog as well?
In most cases, yes. Cats are generally fussier than dogs, and you'll often find that waterless cat shampoos are milder than those formulated specifically for dogs. However, when it comes to dogs, waterless shampoos simply cannot replace regular bathing and are best kept for freshening your pooch up in between sudsing and rinsing. On the other side of the coin, many waterless dog shampoos are suitable for cats, too, but they also tend to be more heavily fragranced, so keep this in mind if your feline is sensitive to scents. If you're concerned about potential reactions, a quick scan of the ingredient label should tell you whether or not a particular shampoo is suitable for your pet.

Q. Do I need to wet my cat before or after using waterless shampoo?
No. That's the beauty of using waterless cat shampoo. While application methods can vary somewhat, most simply require that you apply the shampoo, work it in, and brush it through your kitty's coat.

Q. Are waterless shampoos really enough to keep my cat clean?
Since cats usually do a stellar job of grooming themselves, a waterless cat shampoo should be more than enough to keep them looking and feeling clean. The exception to the rule is heavy soiling. If your cat is unlucky enough to have a run-in with a large volume of mud, a sticky mess, or a chemical solution, a good, old fashioned lather and rinse with traditional cat shampoo will likely be necessary.

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