Are Essential Oils Safe for Cats?

Cats are very sensitive creatures and, in essence, the answer is yes and no.

In fact, they are actually missing an important enzyme (glucuronyl transferase) that works in the liver to help break down and metabolize essential oils.

Because of this reason, many essential oils, especially if they are fully concentrated, can be very toxic to cats.

The Quality of the Oils is Paramount

Since cats cannot break them down appropriately, the components of the oils have the potential to build up in their bodies, causing more harm than good.

cat sleeping in a box surrounded by essential oils

Yet:

Specific brands and quality types of essential oils can be used for the well-being and happiness of our feline friends.

Nowadays…

They are everywhere, and they make our homes smell so good and can often have a secondary exposure effect for us humans.  

They can be used in many different ways:

Since we are finding more organic, holistic ways to remedy some of our ailments, it is only natural for us to want to share these with our furry friends and family members, as well.

However, we do need to exercise caution when thinking about using these on or around our cats, and even when we consider using diffusers in our homes. (remember though, its the QUALITY of the oils that make the difference here)

Here Dr. Becker and Dr. Shelton, Holistic DVM, discuss these specific oils that are potentially safe for pets:

Original posting here: Are Essential Oils The Answer?

 

You can get her updated book for 2018 over at Amazon: 
The Animal Desk Reference II: Essential Oils for Animals

It’s true…

Cats can sometimes react very negatively to essential oil use. 

Symptoms of essential oil poisoning in cats:

  • Nausea, displayed as drooling and vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Wobbliness/ataxia (walking like they are drunk)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased temperature
  • Liver failure

The vet below in this video explains that essential oils are poisonous: but does she know the quality?

 

It’s always good to see the debate and dynamics on both sides here: The conventional and holistic.

So, you are probably wondering…

Can I safely diffuse essential oils around my cat?

Even if you have no intention of specifically using essential oils on your cat or for the purpose of treating your kitty with them, diffusers in your home have the potential to cause harm.

Many cats are curious about diffusers and may try to drink the liquid or knock the diffuser over, getting the oils all over their fur.

Since cats are avid groomers, they will obsessively lick to clean the oils off of their fur.

They may then drool excessively and even vomit from ingesting so much of the oils.

Essential oils are absorbed both through mucous membranes and the skin, and this can still lead to the worrisome symptoms listed above.  

It is also good to know…

Cats with underlying health issues, like feline asthma or a sensitive respiratory tract, are at a higher risk of harmful side effects. It is best to avoid use of essential oil diffusers in these households.

If you use a diffuser and notice your cat coughing, sneezing, or not being as active as he or she usually is, there is a good chance that your cat may be sensitive to it and it is best to avoid using it.

As a side note…

People often don’t recognize when their cat is coughing, as they think the cat is just trying to vomit up a hairball.

gray cat coughing towards the grass

If your cat crouches low to the ground, extends his neck, makes a dry heaving sound, and nothing comes up, he is most likely coughing.

Which oils are toxic to my cat?

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the following essential oils definitely cause poisoning in cats:

  • Citrus oil
  • Pine oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Tea Tree oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Clove oil
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Ylang Ylang oil
  • Oil of Wintergreen
  • Oil of Sweet Birch

As it turns out…

Cinnamon, rosemary, lemongrass, clove, and wintergreen are all oils high in polyphenols, which we call “hot oils.”

These oils are very irritating and undesirable for cats.

It’s toxic and unpleasant to their sensitive olfaction.

sick ill pet cat with vomit on floor

For those reasons, I would strongly advise not using them.

It is important to note that any type of essential oil not in this list could cause your cat harm if he or she is exposed to it in too high concentration.

Concentrated essential oils should never be given to cats or applied onto their skin. Essential oil problems are most frequently seen when 100% products are applied directly to the pet.

Are Doterra Essential Oils For Cats Ok To Use?

Here is what Dr. Halle, from Healing Hands Pet Vet says:

Despite the high quality of DoTerra’s oils and the fact that many of them are perfectly safe for humans and human children to use undiluted, I would not recommend using them this way in pets. Maybe in a horse, but not in cats or dogs. Cats in particular have difficulty metabolizing some oils, for example, even with a high quality oil I would never choose to use tea tree oil on a cat. Some oils like lavender can be very safe once diluted, and others, like eucalyptus, can be safe if the right type of eucalyptus (eucalyptus radiata) is used and it is diluted well in a carrier oil.

Which oils are safe to use for my cat?

Due to the risk for toxicity, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid all essential oils in cats.

However, if you really want to use essential oils for your cat, only use therapeutic grade oils and under the supervision of a holistic veterinarian with experience in homeopathy and aromatherapy.

Start with one oil at at time.

Keep a place available for your cat that wants to leave.

Holistic Veterinarian, Melissa Becker, advises,

“There are many grades of essential oils. There are some pretty awful ones at floral and craft shops, mediocre ones at health food stores, and sometimes completely misrepresented products online! There are many essential oils you could purchase that would be like diffusing straight up perfume! Poor quality can be harmful – great quality can be helpful and promote long life!”

Therapeutic grade oil means they are consistently researching products for medical-grade quality, and their oils are tested multiple times in independent labs.

However, even if the oil is 100% pure and natural, you still need to dilute it up to 80 or 90%.

This is the best way to ensure you’re using essential oils safely for cats.

It is the high concentration of those toxic substances that causes the problem: otherwise very small quantities are largely harmless.

The first interview with Dr. Shelton back in 2012: Forget Everything Bad You’ve Been Told about Essential Oils for Pets

 

Here are 7 oils you and your cat can try…

  1. Lavender: May help allergies, burns, ulcers, insomnia, anxiety, car sickness, stress, fearful to loud noises, to name a few. It is emotionally used to help calm insecurities, fear, tension, and blockages. For cats, use water diffusion, dilute 1 drop per 100 drops of water.
  2. Cardamom: Diuretic, anti-bacterial, normalizes appetite, colic, coughs, heartburn and nausea.
  3. Fennel: Assists the adrenal cortex, helps break up toxins and fluid in tissue. Balances pituitary, thyroid and pineal glands.
  4. Helichrysum: Anti-bacterial, reduces bleeding in accidents, skin regenerator, helps repair nerves. Also useful in cardiac disease. This liver stimulating oil is a detoxifier that also has antibiotic and anti-fungal properties.
  5. Frankincense: Has helped some cases of cancer. Works on the immune system. Has reduced tumors and external ulcers. Increases blood supply to the brain (although it can worsen hypertension so use caution). This oil has so many qualities that are all beneficial to your cat. It is antiseptic, disinfectant, anti-inflammatory and helps with digestive problems like constipation.
  6. Spearmint: Helps to reduce weight. Good for colic, diarrhea, nausea. When diluted and used short term, this oil is helpful for many gastrointestinal issues in cats.
  7. Geranium oil: You may use this oil to balance your cat’s hormones and boost its emotions. It reduces stress and depression while at the same time enhancing blood circulation

Essential oils can promote healingthey are the essence of a holistic approach to healing.

The three important factors to keep in mind when using on or near cats are:

  • using therapeutic grade oils,
  • proper dilution, and
  • safe selection of oils for diffusing only.

References:

http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/blog/essential-oils-cats/

https://www.aspca.org/news/latest-home-trend-harmful-your-pets-what-you-need-know

https://www.aspcapro.org/resource/trending-now-are-essential-oils-dangerous-pets

http://essentialoilvet.com/safety/

Further Reading:

Essential Oils for Natural Pet Care: A Veterinarian’s Desk Reference for the Top Health Concerns of Cats, Dogs, and Horses by Melissa Shelton, DVM

Written By:

Dr. Leslie Brooks, of “Indy Home Vet”, is originally from Nashville, TN.

She has lived with her husband and two cats in Indianapolis for four years. She graduated from The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 and completed an intensive one-year veterinary internship following graduation at a veterinary speciality center in Fishers, IN. During the internship, she worked closely with specialists in Internal Medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Neurology, Surgery, & in Emergency Medicine. Since her internship, she has worked as a small animal practitioner in a local clinic. Transitioning to doing mobile care has been a goal of Dr. Brooks for quite some time. She loves doing house-calls and enjoys being able to visit patients in their everyday environment in order to provide thorough, patient-centered care.

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