With the widespread use of essential oils these days in so many fields even in the cat care domain, it is mandatory for you, as a cat owner, to know that essential oils and cats can sometimes be a dangerous couple.
First off, what are essential oils? Well, essential oils are volatile, organic oils extracted from organic components such as plants, through the process of distillation or cold pressing. The resulting oil keeps the chemical properties of the source from which it is extracted. And we can use them in so many different ways, such as insecticides, antibacterial, flavorings and so on.
Before jumping to the point and start to answer questions such as: What essential oils are safe for cats? Or what essential oils are bad for cats? It is important to mention that there’s a huge lack of scientific studies on this topic, so all of the information about cats and essential oils is based on people’s opinions rather than facts. For example, some people state that essential oils are safe for cats because the rate of related hospitalized cases didn’t increase even though there’s been a rise in essential oils use lately. Some others state the opposite, and studies have proven neither one of them. Thus, most of the evidence stated about the use of essential oils on cats are either based on reported cases of toxicity based on chemical properties.
Can breathing essential oils be harmful?
Even though science didn’t prove it yet but we need to be very careful when exposing cats to essential oils either orally or across the skin. Cats’ metabolism, in particular, is very vulnerable when it comes to processing essential oils.
When absorbed, these substances are processed in the cat’s liver; however, this last lacks the necessary enzyme – P450 cytochrome metabolic pathway -responsible for eliminating certain toxins such as drugs, medications or even essential oils. Also, cats are known to be allergic to phenols and phenolic compounds, which are found in some essential oils.
Add to the plate that cats ‘small size isn’t in their favor; as they’re susceptible to poisoning by smaller amounts of toxins. And let’s not forget that they’re always grooming themselves, which means that skin contact involves oral contact. Also, the highly sensitive respiratory system can easily be compromised when exposed to even small amounts of volatile oils.
Are essential oil diffusers safe for cats?
When disusing essential oils and cats, we can’t ignore the famous inhalers and their impact on our kitty’s health. In aromatherapy, the application of essential oils has invaded everything; from candles to liquid potpourri products, to room sprays, to passive diffusers, or applying it to the skin like fragrance.
There’re so many kinds of diffusers that work by evaporating the oil, which produces a nice smell in the air: Stem diffusers, heat diffusers, non-motorized, and motorized diffusers.
Will my diffuser hurt my cat?
The diffusers might give you a nice sensation, but you need to be careful when taking your cat with you in this nice aromatic experience. It is technically harmless to your cat compared to skin application or dietary use. However, the over-exposure to the inhaler can be dangerous. Your kitty needs to leave the space every once in a while to get some fresh air, otherwise, he or she can develop some serious health issues. Overall, if you would like to have diffusers at home, do not hesitate to consult your vet about it.
Which essential oils are toxic to cats?
Many cat owners wonder “Is peppermint oil safe for cats to smell?” or “Is lavender oil toxic to cats?“ And start looking for lists of essential oils that are toxic to protect their baby kitty. However, making a list of toxic or safe oils is still relative; as it depends on rate, amount, frequency of exposure and reaction to many substances. Since there haven’t been enough studies on the topic, many of the lists out there are based on how chemicals are supposed to react with each other, referring to very rare reported toxicity cases. Thus, those lists are not accurate.
Though further researches are required in this field, here’s a tentative list of essential oils for Cats to Avoid–that hasn’t been tested by any government agencies, which is the case for all the other listings- based on the listing of plant toxicities provided by the ASPCA Poison Control Site:
- Cinnamon Bark
- Laurus Nobilis
- Melaleuca Quinquenervia
- Mountain Savor
- ylang Ylang oil
- Bergamot (Citrus bergamia; Citrus Aurantium)
- Bitter almond (Peumus boldus)
- Calamus essential oil (Acorus calamus)
- Clary Sage
- Clove (Syzgium aromaticum)
- Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.)
- European Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
- Geranium oil (Pelargonium sp.)
- Horseradish (Amoracia rusticana)
- Japanese yew (Taxus spp.)
- Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)
- Lemon oil (Citrus Lemonia) citronella
- Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
- Lime oils (Citrus aurantifolia)
- Orange oils (Citrus sinensis)
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum)
- Pennyroyal; American false pennyroyal (Haedeoma pulegioides)
- Pine, spruce, juniper oils
- Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- Wintergreen, peppermint, spearmint, mint (Mentha sp.)
- Sweet birch oil
(This list doesn’t come in any particular order of toxicity.)
Signs of cat toxicity:
Whether you apply essential oils for cat fleas or for any other reason; you should expect that this might have serious consequences on your cat’s health. Ad this might manifest in many levels:
- Mental ( dullness or lethargy)
- Neurologic (weakness, trouble moving or walking, seizures)
- Digestive (vomiting and drooling)
- Physical (your pet might paw at their face, red spots on the skin, low body temperature, slow heart rate, liver failure)
- Respiratory (coughing, trouble breathing)
Or even death! (Yes, DEATH, for those who still ask “Do essential oil diffusers kill cats?” it is this serious!)
Of course, these signs differ from case to case depending on the type of oil, the dose is taken, the health state, and the application route (inhaled, directly on the skin or dietary). If all of these are harmful to my baby, then are essential oils safe for cats at all? And if yes, what essential oils are safe to diffuse around cats?
Essential oils that are safe for cats:
When it comes to personal care, it’s best that you get your product from a well-trusted company, whether it’s an essential oil for your kitty or yourself, you need to make sure that you get the best, avoiding all the undesirable side effects. Even if an essential oil states that it’s pure, natural and 100% organic you still need to be careful, as unlike medications, the essential oils aren’t regulated by the FDA.
Brands we strongly recommend using are such “Young Living” and “Doterra”. These are high-quality oils that are safe to use for yourself and your kitty. So what Doterra oils are safe for cats? And is frankincense safe for cats?
Check out the list below, it’s a list of essential oils that are safe for cats:
- Cedarwood oil
- Lemongrass oil: It should not be ingested by cats or directly applied to the skin.
Essential oils are certainly better than artificial fragrances. However, what might be a great sensational aromatic experience might be an overwhelming one for your kitty. Thus, always make sure to keep a scent-free room where Fluffy might need to retreat.
What to do when your kitty is exposed to the essential oil?
TAKE YOUR PET TO THE VET!
If you suspect any exposure to essential oils, take your kitty and the packaging of the suspected product to your vet STAT! Do not try first aid procedures, as some of them can do your kitty more harm.
In case your kitty gets essential oil on her paw, make sure you wash it off immediately with flat soap and water, rinse it very well and them CALL YOUR VET for a consult!
If your kitty gets exposed to essential oils or if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, please call your vet STAT! Any delay or any attempt from you to save your kitty can sometimes worsen the situation even more.
Some essential oils can be used as repellents, try avoiding them and use the right repellents for your kitty’s case, after consulting your vet of course.
Essential oils and cats react differently than we do with these substances. It is wise to consult the vet before any application of any kind using these products, and in general, avoid applying them on your kitty’s skin or expose to a considerable amount of any inhalers, and certainly keep your asthmatic or allergic kitty away from them.