Smooth Operators: The Best Cat Conditioners for Fur and Skin

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If you are one of the fortunate cat parents whose kitty enjoys or at least tolerates baths, you’ve probably found a great cat shampoo. But have you checked out a cat conditioner? A cat conditioner leaves your cat’s fur pleasantly silky and helps restore moisture to their skin (frequent shampooing, among other things, can dry it out).

Should You Use a Cat Conditioner?

I realized that in many years of owning cats, I’ve never needed to use a cat conditioner. So I checked with Janet Wormitt of The Cat’s Pajamas Feline Grooming Studio in Nepean, Ontario, to find out who does use them, and why.

“Cats are naturally greasy for weather-proofing and most do not get bathed often enough to ever warrant using conditioner,” she says. “The only time conditioner is required is if you are bathing your cat twice a week or more frequently. In other words, only show cats that are actively campaigning may require a light conditioner every other bath, or a cat groomed every six weeks or less with a specialty coat color of a damaged nature, such as shaded silvers.”

While some conditioners are designed to beautify your pet’s fur, others are formulated with ingredients to soothe itching from fleas, infections, or dermatitis. But, while the conditioners soothe, they are not a solution for the underlying problems causing the itching. In those cases, check with your vet for the right treatment. Most vets have particular shampoos and products they have found to be both effective and safe, plus they are familiar with your cat’s specific health issues. They can tell you if a conditioner should be part of their grooming routine.

Cat Conditioners and Health Issues

If you are buying a conditioner or shampoo for your kitty, it’s important to choose one that is specially formulated for cats’ skin and fur. Just because a bottle says “pet conditioner” does not mean it’s safe for your cat.

Pet conditioners are sometimes be formulated with essential oils or other compounds that might be safe for dogs but are not necessarily safe for cats. Be sure to read the list of ingredients (on the product web page or label) carefully. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association warns that essential oils such as eucalyptus, lavender, citrus, rose, sandalwood, tea tree, ylang-ylang, and several types of mint can be toxic to cats.

And if you’re tempted to use your own shampoo or rinse on your cat—don’t. Human cosmetics contain soaps and other ingredients that can be harmful to cats or irritating to their delicate skin.

The Best Cat Conditioners

We’ve chosen 10 of the best cat conditioners, focusing on those that will be gentle on your cat’s skin and fur. While most are designed for dogs and cats, we start our list with two shampoo/conditioner combos formulated specifically for kitties.

Pawtitas shampoo/conditioner

This gentle shampoo and conditioner combo is specially formulated for cats. That means you won’t encounter the strong perfumes and scents included in pet products designed for both dogs and cats. It includes moisturizing shea butter, soothing oatmeal, and other natural ingredients. Massage into fur, then rinse thoroughly with water.

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Espree shampoo/conditioner bottle

Espree is another kitty-only shampoo and conditioner in one, with soothing aloe vera for sensitive skin. Massage into your cat’s coat, then rinse thoroughly with water. Espree also makes a stand-alone aloe-based conditioner that works for both dogs and cats.

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HyLyt cat conditioner

HyLyt Creme Rinse is a soap-free formula enhanced with essential fatty acids and containing emollients, humectants, and other moisturizing elements. It promises to condition and hydrate your cat’s skin. You can use it as an after-bath treatment to help reduce static electricity, tangles, and snarls in your cat’s coat.

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Frisco conditioner

This conditioner uses aloe vera juice, oat protein, silk proteins, jojoba oil, and vitamins B and E to give your cat a smooth, healthy coat. The formula contains no parabens or dyes.

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Tropiclean cat conditioner

This conditioner with kiwi and cocoa butter aroma is formulated to soften and detangle your cat’s fur. Massage it onto your cat’s fur, leave for up to five minutes, and then rinse off thoroughly with water.

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bottle of Vetoquinol cat cream rinse

This conditioning cream rinse is designed for dogs and cats with dry, itchy skin. The formula includes Pramoxine Hydrochloride and what the brand calls Skin Respiratory Factor (SRF) in a colloidal oatmeal base to soothe itching.

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Richard's Organics cat conditioner

This conditioner contains olive oil, shea butter, and green tea extract, all combining to soothe your cat’s skin. It’s formulated to be used with Richard’s Organics shampoos.

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Frisco combination shampoo/conditioner

Here’s another convenient two-in-one shampoo and conditioner with coconut oil and aloe. This one is recommended for cats who suffer from itchy skin, and customer reviews often praise the clean, neutral scent.

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Earthbath for cats

This gentle conditioning formula contains oatmeal, aloe vera, and food-grade almond and vanilla for a mild, clean scent. Use it full-strength or diluted. It detangles and won’t wash off topical flea medications.

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Virbac cream rinse

This cream rinse is designed to soothe itching and moisturize skin. Massage the lather into your cat’s skin and leave on for five to 10 minutes, then rinse with water. Recommended for use with Virbac’s Epi-Soothe shampoo, which is for cats with allergic dermatitis.

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Additional Tips

You’ve found your cat’s favorite shampoo and conditioner—but is it time for a real spa session? Take a look at Rover’s cat and dog grooming services, which come right to your home.

Further Reading

Featured image via Digital Photo and Design

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