When it comes to Aromatherapy and pets, things look very different than with humans. It is especially so when you’re a cat owner. Are you interested in diffusing essential oils around cats safely? Then there are certain important aspects you must know about.
For a safe use of Aromatherapy around your cat(s), keep reading to find out about:
- Proven benefits of owning a cat and a pet in general.
- The most important frequently asked questions about using essential oils around cats. With the necessary precautions, oils to avoid, oils that can be safe, tips and more.
- A few therapeutic blend recipes that you can diffuse around your cat.
FAQ about Diffusing Essential Oils around Cats
Generally speaking, there are more cat owners than dog owners. Cats are a lot easier to care for and don’t require as much attention as other pets. That makes them extremely popular among pet lovers.
It is already proven that owning a pet has many benefits on human health. Studies continue to be performed on all life aspects that benefit from the presence of a pet.
In a nutshell, pet owners have a better health than the rest of the people.
- There are reports that show how pet owners visit their doctors less, especially seniors.
- Children enjoy the benefits a pet can offer too. They become more resistant to allergies. Pets contribute to the social development and sense of responsibility of children. This major benefit however, is helpful to adults too.
- Besides the physical benefits, pets can help with the emotional side as well. People feel less lonely with an animal around. They have a purpose and feel less stressed, etc.
Owning a cat can do all that and more. Since it doesn’t need constant attention, you can leave her alone for hours (or days).
Today’s lifestyle is busier than ever and a cat is the best way of enjoying the perks that come with owning a pet. It also allows you to go on about your life without worrying too much.
That being said, where do essential oils enter this equation? Well, it’s all about the health and well-being of your adorable kitty. Natural oils are considered a great alternative to pharmaceuticals.
They’re usually very good on their own. But they can also work in combination with other prescribed medicines. That however, can be done only if they don’t interact with each other.
Essential oils and Aromatherapy work on both the physical and the emotional plan. They act on the central nervous system. They also mimic the action of hormones, triggering certain brain reactions.
These aromatic essences have a complex chemical composition. They have antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory effects. Some can also repel fleas, ticks and other bugs that like your furry friend.
Diffusion is a fast way of enjoying the beneficial effects of an essential oil. It gets absorbed into the body via the nose and works on the affected areas in a few minutes.
Almost 70% of the oil molecules get into the body, while the rest simply evaporate. The diffusion of essential oils into a room can:
- Protect from viral infections by killing viruses.
- Spread a lovely fragrance and change the atmosphere instantly.
- Help with relaxation and/or sleep.
- Purify and refresh the air.
People like to diffuse essential oils; that’s a fact. It is because they smell great and they also have health benefits. But essential oils can also be dangerous! They can be toxic and even deadly if inhaled in high dosages, even to humans.
Cats are more sensitive to their effects than dogs, for instance. Many people want to know whether essential oils are OK for cats or not. Some are OK, but most aren’t. So, I want to shed some light on this aspect of using and diffusing essential oils around cats.
I put up a series of frequently asked questions with their answers, of course. Read on to learn about the safe use of your favorite oils around your favorite pet.
1) What is the general consensus on using essential oils for cats?
Most aromatherapists don’t recommend the use of essential oils around cats at all. It is of course, better to err on the safe side. If you’re not 100% sure, then you should avoid diffusing essential oils.
But most are afraid to use them because of a toxicity theory. It refers to the fact that cats don’t have a specific liver enzyme.
This liver enzyme is called glucuronosyltransferase and it metabolizes volatile molecules. Thus, the theory that cats can’t process essential oils.
It is true only partially, because the lack of that enzyme makes a cat unable to process only certain molecules.
This enzyme is useful in metabolizing phenols especially. That’s where the misconception of cats not having any means of metabolizing essential oils comes from.
Thus, oils that are high in phenols should indeed be avoided or used only with medical approval.
Phenols are eliminated very slowly. They will take up to 3 days to be eliminated from your cat’s body. Wintergreen and Tea Tree essential oils are high in phenols, among others.
In humans for instance, the glucuronosyltransferase is very active. Nonetheless, a great deal of essential oil molecules doesn’t get metabolized that way. This means there are other ways for cats to eliminate these molecules too.
2) Do cats metabolize essential oils or not?
Yes, they do. Cats metabolize the rest of essential oils differently, even without glucuronosyltransferase.
Foreign “intruders” that enter the cat’s body will also leave it, one way or another. The body usually treats aromatic molecules as intruders and hurries on to eliminate them.
Yet, some chemical constituents like phenols, are harder to eliminate. This is usually dangerous as they can build up in your cat’s liver and cause toxicity. So, if the dosage is high and/ or the diffusion time is very long, your cat is at risk.
3) How safe are essential oils for cats?
Some essential oils are safe for cats, while others aren’t. A cat’s body has trouble metabolizing phenols. But it can metabolize alcohols, acids and the compounds in the class of amines.
Toxicity is a matter of dose, meaning constant exposure to aromatic molecules and high amounts. The occasional diffusion is generally safe, even with the most dangerous oils. I do not recommend risking it, though.
It’s important to research the chemical profile of an essential oil you’d like to diffuse around a cat.
4) What about diffusing essential oils around cats? How safe is it?
Cats have a very developed sense of smell. They have 70 million receptors and 20 cm² of olfactory mucus.
Humans for instance, have only 5 million receptors and only 4 cm² of olfactory mucus. Just for trivia, a dog has a lot more than both (100 – 200 million receptors).
If you diffuse essential oils in excess around a cat, it can develop a strange behavior. The cat has an organ called Jacobson’s organ. This one allows the air to pass through before detecting pheromones.
When the Jacobson’s organ is saturated with active molecules, the cat can become aggressive or sluggish. If the wrong molecules are inhaled, they can build up in the cat’s liver and cause health problems. Those dangerous molecules are called phenols.
Ketones are also among the toxic molecules (neurotoxic). Menthone is one of the ketones and it can be found in Peppermint oil. Thus, diffusing Peppermint essential oil around cats can be very dangerous. In humans, Peppermint inhalation can induce seizures.
If you’re new at using essential oils or you’re not sure, it’s best to ask for the advice of a veterinarian. Supposing he knows about the chemistry of essential oils, he will be able to tell you which oil to use. He will also tell you the right dosage.
5) What is the safest way to diffuse oils if you have a cat?
An efficient diffusion for humans is 20 – 30 minutes, every 2 hours in a well-ventilated room. Air saturation can lead to headaches and nausea, among others.
Cats are more sensitive and receptive to smells. That’s why cats can have serious problems if exposed to long-term diffusions.
Generally speaking, you can diffuse essential oils around cats under certain conditions:
- The diffusion itself has to be kept to a minimum (10 – 15 minutes) per session.
- A proper diffusion for people and animals is every 2 hours or longer.
- The room must always be kept well-ventilated. A window should be kept ajar while diffusing.
- The door must also be kept open, so the cat can go out if it feels like it.
- The amount of oil used should also be moderate.
As a test, you can also put a drop of a good essential oil on a cotton pad and place it near the litter. The cat will investigate and tell you exactly how it feels about it.
If it turns around and leaves or avoids getting near the litter, it is that specific oil. It should obviously be removed and avoid its diffusion in the future.
6) What’s the best essential oil dosage to diffuse around cats?
A specialized veterinarian can give your cat a safe dosage of essential oils. It is important for the one who treats the cat to know the chemistry of essential oils. This dosage is often decided by several criteria:
- The cat’s weight.
- The sensitivities and allergic reactions of a cat.
- The immune system of a cat.
Some cats are stronger and more resistant than others. A sickly and more prone-to-disease cat for instance, should take half the dosage of a more resistant cat.
One or two drops of essential oil are enough to diffuse around cats. Please keep in mind that cats lick their fur. A certain part of the oil molecules from the diffusion will settle on their furs too.
That’s why it’s important for the oil to be 100% pure and chemically good for cats. The diffusion must also be made in a well-ventilated room. That is to avoid too much oil droplets to settle on its fur or saturate the air.
7) What are the risks of a cat inhaling too much toxic essential oil?
Essential oils are volatile, meaning they evaporate. What allows them to do so, is their tiny aromatic molecules that evaporate into the air you and your cat inhale.
Through the nose, they reach the blood and the nervous system. Then, they cause certain beneficial reactions.
If the oils contain high amounts of phenols or ketones, they can harm the cat. These molecules will accumulate in their livers, because they can’t be removed fast enough. On a long term (years), this could cause the death of the pet.
Changes of a cat’s behavior are more frequently met. This is most of the times due to long diffusions. I’m referring to the diffusion of essential oils for hours, every day. That can lead to the saturation of Jacobson’s organ, which causes extreme behavior.
8) What about topical applications on cats?
When it comes to skin applications, the oil should be used as with a baby. Generally, a drop of EO is mixed with 2 teaspoons of carrier (vegetable) oil. Again, this needs to be done right and I recommend the advice of a vet.
However, some of the best alternatives to using essential oils on cats are hydrosols. They are water-based by-products that result from essential oils distillation.
Their chemical composition contains only traces of essential oil molecules. They’re mostly packed with vitamins and beneficial molecules that didn’t make it into the oil itself. They are usually very well tolerated by all living bodies.
Hydrosols or floral waters have a milder effect and smell for humans. For cats however, they could smell just strong enough.
Their use can avoid overpowering the cat’s sense of smell. Auto-medication with hydrosols however, should be done only with the advice of a specialized veterinarian.
9) Is Lavender essential oil safe for cats?
Lavender (L. angustifolia) is among the most popular essential oils in Aromatherapy. Almost everybody has a bottle in their home, and it’s only natural to want to diffuse it often. But how safe is Lavender oil for cats?
While outside, your cat brushes against many plants and flowers. Most of them contain essential oils. That means they inhale these oils and carry them on their furs, in very small concentrations.
When they lick they also ingest these tiny molecules. This thing usually builds up their immune system, if nothing else.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found any studies that show the effect of Lavender oil on cats. Dogs behave more calmly after inhaling Lavender, but cats are different. Lavender’s main constituents belong to the alcohol class. Alcohols can be metabolized by cats.
However, it appears that linalool, one of Lavender’s main ingredients, may increase the risk of toxicity in a sensitive cat. This would take large amounts though, like when you use an insecticidal.
Diffusing small amounts of Lavender around cats could be helpful. The smell of Lavender, if inhaled occasionally, is not known to be harmful to cats.
On the contrary, Lavender could be one of the best calming scents for cats too. I still advise on a small experiment first, with a drop on a cotton pad, placed near the cat or its litter. And of course, ask a vet to make extra sure.
When it comes to the popular Lavender oil and cats, I’ve seen many vets that did use it around cats. Blood works of the animals did not show any negative effects.
I would still suggest asking your vet about diffusing Lavender essential oil around your own cats.
10) Is Peppermint essential oil safe for cats?
Mentha piperita is probably the second most popular essential oil. In small doses, it is usually safe for healthy adults. Nonetheless, in humans it can induce seizures.
It can also cause respiratory arrest in children under the age of 3. In other words, Peppermint can be very poisonous to cats.
I would not recommend diffusing Peppermint oil around cats, or any other Mint essential oil on a cat. It’s not safe. The cat has a higher body temperature and the peppermint drops it. This may lead to fever among others.
11) What about the use of Catnip oil for cats?
Catnip essential oil contains a high percentage of nepetalactone. This substance is metabolized and excreted in the urine, so the cat should not be at risk.
If you want to use Catnip oil for cats, you should do so in a very low dosage, for short periods of time. It will still cause those “high” symptoms that usually last between 10 – 15 minutes. It’s been proven that this substance doesn’t create addiction either.
12) Which essential oils are bad for cats?
Like I said, some essential oils are really not recommended around cats. Some of them are not recommended even to humans. When you’re thinking of diffusing essential oils around cats, please consider this list too.
This is a list of essential oils with phenols and not only, but it is limited. You should do some more research when choosing a specific essence, to make sure whether they contain phenols or not.
- Rue essential oil.
- Cotton Lavender (Santolina) essential oil.
- Tagetes (Mexican marigold) essential oil.
- Southern cone marigold essential oil.
- Mexican tea (Chenopodium ambrosioides) essential oil.
- Nutmeg essential oil.
- Melaleuca oils (Tea Tree, Cajeput, Niaouli, etc).
- Valerian essential oil.
- Thyme essential oil.
- Mountain savory essential oil.
- Oregano essential oil.
- Ajowan essential oil.
- Sage essential oil.
- Thuja essential oil.
- Wormwood essential oil.
- Hyssop essential oil.
- Rosemary essential oil.
- Eucalyptus essential oil.
- Tansy essential oil.
- Yarrow essential oil.
- Camphor essential oil.
- Spruce essential oil.
- Spike Lavender essential oil.
Monoterpene ketones are neurotoxic substances. They can be found in almost all of the above mentioned oils. Avoid their use or diffusion around cats.
In high amounts, geraniol and eugenol can stimulate the uterus. Make sure you avoid all toning essential oils and their hydrosols around pregnant cats.
If you’re not sure about an oil, either seek medical advice or don’t diffuse at all. As a side note, sesquiterpenic ketones are not neurotoxic!
Still wondering what essential oils are safe to diffuse around cats? Below you’ll find a list of safe essential oils for cats that can be diffused (in low amounts).
List of safe essential oils for cats:
- True Lavender.
- Lemon Eucalyptus.
- Bay leaf St. Thomas.
- Ceylon Cinnamon leaf.
Almost all citrus essential oils and other mild oils can be added to this non-exhaustive list. Some of the most calming essential oils for cats are Lavender and Sweet Orange. With one mention though. Citrus extracts contain high amounts of d-limonene. This substance has some insecticidal effects.
One study found that very high amounts of d-limonene can be toxic to cats. Still, small and occasional doses (a few drops only) does not produce any side effects. Parasitipedia states that moderate amounts are also safe for cats and dogs.
I bet you’ve wondered whether Lemon essential oil is safe for cats or not. The answer is yes, it’s quite safe when it’s used in small amounts, occasionally. Its main constituents are part of the alcohol class. Alcohol molecules can be metabolized by cats. It contains d-limonene though, which, in certain situations, it makes its use a bit trickier.
Of course, maybe your cat is allergic to it, in which case, it’s not safe. You should test each new essence for allergic reactions, no matter the brand.
Is Eucalyptus oil safe for cats to inhale? Only some chemotypes like Lemon Eucalyptus (E. citriodora) are relatively safe. The others are high in phenols and makes them toxic to cats. That is because it’s high in alcohol molecules too. Lemongrass should also be safe for cats, as it contains alcohol molecules.
Clove contains eugenol. This substance is a phenol, like most sources say, which makes the oil unsafe for healthy cats. It can be used only if the vet recommends a certain amount of it for your kitty. But like I said, eugenol should be avoided at all costs around pregnant cats. It can induce labor.
All aromatic oils have to be used in very small doses, of course. Watch your cat closely when diffusing an aromatic oil for the first time. Also, make sure the diffusions are short and well-distanced from each other.
13) What are the general precautions for diffusing essential oils around cats?
Besides the ones you’ve already read about, there are a few other good things to do to keep your cat safe and healthy:
- Always use the best quality essential oils. They must be 100% pure, undiluted with any carrier. Buy only from sources you know and trust. You can also ask the seller for the GC-MS report of an oil before buying. That’ll tell you about the oil’s chemical profile.
- Avoid diffusing essential oils for long periods of time.
- Keep your doors open so the cat can get out if it doesn’t like the smell.
- The same safety principles apply to the corresponding hydrosols of essential oils.
- If your cat suffers from asthma, avoid diffusing essential oils around it.
- Don’t make a cat swallow or lick essential oils or hydrosols without consulting the vet first.
- Don’t diffuse oils while a cat is nursing. That could stop it from producing milk.
- Avoid touching the cat’s eyes, nose and ears with essential oils. Those are sensitive areas and essential oils could burn the skin.
14) What are the symptoms of essential oil poisoning in cats?
You now know that not all essential oils are safe to diffuse around cats. When and if they’ve had too much of it, you will see signs. Essential oil poisoning can happen if the rules of safe diffusion are not taken into account. A cat may feel:
- Drowsy or dizzy (uncoordinated movements).
- It could vomit.
- It could also be affected by diarrhea.
- If a cat starts producing excessive saliva, mucus or tears, that should be a clear sign of essential oils poisoning.
- Strange behavior.
- Muscle weakness that would translate into a lethargic state.
Diffusing some essential oils can be harmful to cats. If you notice any of the symptoms of essential oil poisoning mentioned above, you should go to the vet immediately.
That being said, let’s see a few blend recipes that are safe to use around your cat.
Gentle Aromatherapy Blend Ideas for Cats
Essential oils can be diffused in many ways. You can use a diffuser/humidifier, a nebulizer, a cotton pad or even a candle oil burner. You must keep them on only for 10 – 15 minutes and repeat every 2 hours or longer, should you want to.
For a large room, you could add up to 6 drops of essential oils. For a small room, 2 – 3 drops should be enough.
Recipe to Change the Litter Smell
- Cinnamon essential oil: 1 drop
- Clove essential oil: 1 drop
- Lemongrass essential oil: 1 drop
- Cotton pad
Place the cotton pad near the litter to kill bacteria and change the smell around it. The oils should however, be to your cat’s liking. Feel free to try this blend or one with different oils. Make sure they are safe for the cat. Also, maintain the doors open while diffusing.
Relaxing Diffuser Recipe for Cats
- Neroli (Orange Blossom) hydrosol: ¾
- Palmarosa essential oil: 2 drops
Fill the diffuser’s recipient ¾ with the floral water instead of plain water. Add the EO drops and keep it on for 10 – 15 minutes. Repeat every 2 hours or longer. Keep the door open for the cat to leave when it pleases it. Keep a window ajar too, to avoid air saturation.
Your cat deserves the best care and attention you can spare. You can both be happier and more relaxed with Aromatherapy, just as long as precautions are taken.
They might smell nice and seem harmless, but essential oils can be toxic and harmful. The wrong oil builds up into the liver of the cat and on a long term, that may cause many health problems.
I strongly recommend talking to a vet about your intention of diffusing essential oils around cats. Also, look at the chemical composition of an essential oil to make sure it’s safe to diffuse.
What is your opinion on this subject? Is it something you’ve done or consider doing? How does your cat like these aromatic oils?