There has been quite a debate raging in recent months over the use of essential oils on cats. Though many veterinarians have been using various essential oils in a variety of applications on cats and other animals for many years with no adverse effects, some cat owners have voiced concerns over what is deemed “safe usage” and what can be seen as “toxic.” When it comes to using essential oils on cats, there are several things to keep in mind to keep your kitty healthy and safe.
First of all, we don’t recommend applying essential oils directly to the skin or fur of any animal. That is something that should be left to the discretion of you and your veterinarian. Though there are many cases where certain essential oils (with dilution) have been applied directly to eliminate fleas, heal wounds, and improve joint pain in cats, it is a personal choice best left to the owner and the vet to determine.
Secondly, we do not condone oral ingestion of any essential oils for cats (or humans). Essential oils are highly concentrated and contain the purest part of the plant or flower that they are derived from. This is what makes essential oils so amazing for use on the human body. The high levels of concentration, however, can be too much for your cat’s system(s) to handle.
Finally, we know that many people have expressed their concerns on our blogs about cats and essential oils. We feel that we have a responsibility to provide honest and factual information regarding the use of essential oils on and around cats. With our voiced recommendations against oral ingestion and topical usage, we want to review the safety protocols when it comes to diffusing an essential oil near your cat.
Diffusing essential oils in a nebulizing diffuser is the most common way to receive the benefits of aromatherapy. For humans, inhaling essential oils through the breathing pathways can help bring relief for a host of illnesses, both mental and physical. These are just a few of the ailments that can be treated with aromatherapy using a nebulizing diffuser:
For this reason, people have been turning to essential oils for medicinal purposes for centuries. Essential oils contain all-natural compounds that occur in nature and are found in parts of plants, flowers, fruits, seeds, and bark. The oils are drawn out during a process that involves steam or cold compression to create the purest essential oils possible. When inhaled from a nebulizing diffuser, the natural chemicals in the oils can stimulate the brain to produce chemicals in your body that heal and soothe various pains and ailments.
Over time, as people noticed how effective essential oils were at improving health on human beings, some began to use essential oils on their animals to produce the same effect. As many oils have been shown to work wonders on dogs, cats, horses, and even birds, it is still a personal choice whether or not to use essential oils on animals. And again, this is something that should be discussed with your veterinarian.
Since essential oils come from the deepest part of a plant, it stands to reason that people would think that any essential oil that is derived from a plant that is known to be toxic would have an adverse effect on a cat. It is important to note, however, that some plants that are listed as toxic do not produce toxic essential oils. Plus, there are some essential oils that can be toxic if ingested, though the plant they come from is harmless.
Toxicity can come from certain compounds in certain essential oils. In fact, much of the essential oil controversy comes from certain compounds found in a few different essential oils. A cat’s liver can’t metabolize these compounds like a human’s liver can.
The liver of a cat absorbs, filters, and metabolizes nutrients much differently than a human, or even another type of animal, does. They lack an important chemical that’s responsible for the breakdown of substances that enter the body. Most other animals have no trouble with these compounds, and this is why essential oil safety with cats is so important.
Essential oils that include phenols and terpenes should not be used topically, even if diluted in a carrier oil. Safety precautions should be taken even when diffusing in a room where your cat spends a lot of time. Always leave a door open so that your cat can leave if they so choose.
Much of the fear that has come out against essential oil usage around cats comes from the plants that are deemed as toxic if your cat were to eat it. But there is a vast difference between a cat eating a large amount of a toxic plant, such as lemongrass, and being exposed to lemongrass essential oil that is being diffused in a room of the home. Lemongrass is actually one essential oil that cats do not like the scent of, and it has been used to deter cats away from certain areas. It has not been found to cause death, but rather digestive problems. If your cat was exposed to any odor she found unpleasant, she would undoubtedly exit the area.
The ASPCA website has been referred to time and time again as a source to discover what plants your toxic to cats. Some of the most common herbs and house plants that are toxic to cats, according to the ASPCA website, include:
(Notice that catnip makes this list? And yet cat owners give it to their pets’ everyday around the world.)
It might be surprising to find that the following plants are just a sample of what can be found on the non-toxic plant list on the ASPCA website:
Though some believe that peppermint essential oil can be very toxic to cats, peppermint is not listed on the ASPCA website as a toxic plant. The same can be said for cedarwood and rosemary. It all comes down to doing your research to discover what to avoid and what essential oils can be used safely in moderation.
The fact that we do not set forth any recommendations to use essential oils topically or orally on any animals is clear. The question that most people have concerns with is whether or not human cat owners can still reap their own benefits from diffusing essential oils with a cat in the house. The answer on that is both yes and no.
The specifics boil down to one thing: Pure therapeutic grade essential oils. Anything that is not purely derived can cause illness even in humans thanks to a poor synthetic composition or chemical additives. Never use a cheaply processed, untrusted brand of essential oil even for your own aromatherapy.
Once again, it’s important to keep in mind that diffusing essential oils is vastly different than applying them to your cat’s skin. While it would be wonderful to provide a list of essential oils that you should avoid using around a cat, diffusing is a different ballgame. There are oils that should be avoided topically, but even that depends on the dosage and amount of exposure. We don’t’ believe there are any essential oils that will cause a fatality from one sniff from a diffuser, and very few, if any, that will cause fatality with just one drop.
When looking to avoid essential oils for internal and topical application, take care with:
These essential oils have been deemed safe even if applied topically by various sources (Healing our Home, North American Essential Oil And Aromatherapy Experts) so it stands to reason that there should be no worries when diffusing into the air around a cat:
What The Essential Oil, Aromatherapy, And Cat Experts Have To Say
The North American Essential Oil And Aromatherapy Experts uses an expert team of people who have been trained in areas of scientific research, health sciences, and product licensing and regulation to provide the best recommendations possible when it comes to the safety of essential oils. When it comes to the question of “Is essential oil safe for cats?” their answer “Isn’t a simple one.” They do agree, however, that “diffusing essential oils around cats is one of the safest ways to use essential oils.” They also discourage oral and topical application.
Robert Tisserand is an international speaker, educator, and scientific essential oil researcher who has a passion for both aromatherapy and essential oil(s) knowledge. Working with essential oils for over 40 years, he believes that essential oil safety is paramount. He believes that everyone should use safety protocols when using essential oils; even humans. One should never use large quantities of any essential oil on a cat, but one can “diffuse essential oils around your cats safely, as long as you diffuse small amounts for limited periods of time.”
Meow Lifestyle concerns itself with all things healthy in regards to your precious pet kitty cat. After researching and pouring through the information available about essential oils and cats, they have given some safety tips and advice. Most of this advice comes down to eliminating the opportunity for your cat to inadvertently get into your essential oils. They suggest keeping essential oils in a place where the cat cannot reach them and ingest them, or absorb high amounts of them on their skin. Diffusing is ok, but they suggest avoiding diffusing the “toxic” essential oils around your cat.
Veterinarian Dr. Melissa Shelton - has been regarded with many questions about essential oils and cats. Dr. Shelton has created a full line of essential oils that are made specifically for use on animals for ailments from arthritis to stress. Even after all of her research and usage, she was still cautious about using her essential oils diffuser around her cats at home.
She noticed that one of her cats was drawn to the diffuser, even laying right next to it daily. Dr. Shelton decided to begin monitoring her cat’s blood and urine for abnormalities. After many months of testing, she found no adverse effects and became more comfortable with diffusing essential oils around the rest of her cats.
Dr. Shelton believes that a lot of the information about the use of essential oils around cats is a result of misinformation and essential oil misuse. One needs to know the right oils to use before exposing their pet to any new substance, and education is everything. She has either met or spoken to “thousands of people who use essential oils successfully, and only a few that have had major problems with them.”
Veterinarian Dr. Janet Roark – has used essential oils for personal benefits since 2005. After discovering how much they impacted her health and wellbeing, she began to incorporate them into her practice. She has read and researched essential oil usage extensively and dedicates her life to safe and effective use of essential oils.
She has a list of guidelines when it comes to the safest ways to use essential oils on or around your pet, including your cat. Lower concentrations, dilution, and therapeutic grade essential oils are of the utmost importance when it comes to safety. Some cats are more sensitive than others, and observing their behavior is the best indicator of how they are reacting to the oil.
Having said all of this, there is plenty of support out there when it comes to using essential oils directly on pets.
They all agree that not every animal should be blindly exposed to any essential oil one can buy from the local corner market. They advocate for the right essential oils used at the right time in right (small) amounts.
Discussing your worries with your own veterinarian can help answer your questions and ease your concerns. Never rely on any information as fact, good or bad. The internet provides a wonderful opportunity for the world to learn and discover things people never thought possible. Educating yourself on the difference between what’s true, and what’s exaggerated, can make the difference between health and harm in many areas. Just because one person believes something and tells everyone about it doesn’t make it so.
When it comes to essential oils and your cat, all of the experts agree on these important factors:
And finally: Do your research on every aspect of your pet’s health. Chances are, the same people who strike fear in the hearts of others about essential oils on cats haven’t given a second thought to the brand of food that their cat eats every single day. There are foods on the market that contain chemicals that are known cancer-causing carcinogens, grains that can cause allergies and illness, and meat by-products that can come from any part of the animal and are unfit for human consumption.
Knowledge is power and by arming yourself with knowledge, you’ll have the power to keep yourself, your home, and your pets safe and happy for a lifetime.