Essential oils and cats
Aromatherapy and essential oils are extremely popular at the moment, despite the fact this ancient practice has been around for centuries.
As far back in history as Ancient Egypt you will find nods to aromatherapy, yet it has taken this long for medical professionals to start taking essentials oils and their benefits seriously.
Whilst there is still a lot of scepticism about essential oils in general and what they can do for the human body, more and more professionals are starting to be more open about the possibility that this natural and holistic route could be hugely beneficial.
You will now find aromatherapy being offered in many health centres, especially for patients who are perhaps undergoing chemotherapy for certain types of cancer, or even for pregnant women.
Despite that, it’s important to use any type of holistic therapy with caution if you have any specific conditions or if you’re taking any type of medication.
A chat with your doctor will give you bespoke advice for your particular circumstances
Despite heath centres starting to offer aromatherapy, most people use essential oils in the comfort of their own home, either via diffusers, applied topically to the skin, or perhaps through massage with essential oils.
The problem? There are often not only human beings in a regular home, but animals too.
If you have a cat, it’s time to sit up and take notice if you like to use essential oils in your home.
There are certain essential oils which may cause your cat to become ill, and in some situations, may even prove to be fatal.
In order to avoid this terrible fate occurring in your home, it’s important to do your research and find out which oils to avoid in your home setting.
Which Oils Are Potentially Toxic to Cats?
There is very little solid evidence and research to pinpoint why certain essential oils don’t seem to mix too well with felines, but it’s certainly worth heeding advice if you want your pet to remain healthy and happy.
Studies have shown there to be serious problems with certain oils and cats in particular.
The main oils which are considered to be dangerous for cats are:
- Peppermint oil
- Wintergreen oil
- Any type of citrus oil, such as lemon oil
- Pine oil
- Tea tree oil
- Cinnamon oil
- Sweet birch oil
- Pennyroyal oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Ylang ylang oil
- Clove oil
The reason these particular oils are considered dangerous for cats is because they contain something called phenols.
It is the phenol content which is the problem not the essential oil itself.
For the most part, you can use other oils quite safely within your home, but it’s never a great idea to expose your cat in large amounts.
Phenols are contained in some essential oils, but not all.
These are naturally occurring within the oil and form an important part of why they work in the way they do.
However, cats are thought to lack specific enzymes which help them to process phenols, therefore causing the oil to be potentially toxic to their body.
In particular, if your cat has any liver problems, essential oils in general could prove dangerous.
The reason is because the liver is affected by different essential oils more than any other bodily organ, and when there is a slight impairment or problem, the liver is unable to deal with the oil’s enzymes in the usual way.
Obviously, the more oil your cat is exposed to, the higher the risk of problems.
This includes inhalation, any of the oil being accidentally touched by the cat, and especially if any oil is ingested.
If your cat accidentally ingests any essential oil, whether it contains phenols or not, you must take them to the vet as a matter of urgency.
It’s also important to point out that if your cat doesn’t show signs of any problem immediately, that doesn’t mean they’re not being affected in a slower manner.
Toxicity can build up over a short amount of time, therefore making the effects potentially worse.
Exposure can lead to serious liver damage, liver failure, seizures, or even death for cats.
The Symptoms of Essential Oil Poisoning in Cats
If your cat is around any type of essential oil accidentally, it’s important to take them to the vets, however it’s also important to understand the symptoms of poisoning, so you can be on the lookout for any potential issues.
The main symptoms include:
- Problems with walking, or seemingly generally quite wobbly. This is called ataxia
- Problems breathing, such as panting, wheezing, or breathing too fast
In the very worst case scenario, essential oil poisoning can be fatal to a cat.
So, if you want to be sure what essential oils are safe to diffuse around cats, you must do your research very carefully and keep your cat as far away from the oil as possible.
You should also remember than when diffusing essential oils, the oil can very easily spread into the air, over a wider area than you might expect.
How to Avoid Your Cat Being Affected by Essential Oils
If you do decide to continue using essential oils, because they bring you great benefit for certain health ailments, then it’s important to do your best to keep your cat clear of the oil itself.
Not all oils are toxic to cats, but you can never be too sure which your cat will react to badly.
The oils we listed above are certainly ones to avoid at all costs, but you should find out the phenol content of any other oil you’re thinking of using.
Not all oils are the same in concentration.
For instance, if you go for an organic oil, this will be far purer than an oil which has been treated or had anything else added in.
It also comes down to the extraction process, which is something you should find out about before you make your choice of oil.
Some of the most commonly used essential oils, such as lavender oil, aren’t on the list of oils which are unsafe to use around cats, but that doesn’t mean that your cat won’t develop problems.
Always check the label and ensure that the oil is pure and hasn’t been blended.
Blended oils are oils which are mixed together to create bespoke scents.
For example, lavender may be mixed with lemon oil to create a distinct scent and to help alleviate different health concerns.
The lavender may be fine for your cat in that case, but the lemon oil content is not, as it contains a high amount of phenols, which your cat cannot handle.
Again, always check labels and if you are thinking of blending essential oils, be sure that you’re not accidentally adding in a small amount of an oil which your cat is not going to react to well.
When researching what essential oils are safe to use around cats, you might become a little annoyed that you can’t benefit from a specific oil, which is known to help a certain ailment you want to target.
The fact an oil has phenols within it doesn’t mean you can’t use it at all, but it means you need to be ultra-careful, and certainly avoid using a diffuser.
Remember, diffusers allow the oil’s particles to be emitted into the air, and we know that air travels quite quickly!
It’s not difficult for your cat to inhale the particles and become sick, so it’s possibly best to avoid inhalation methods and stick with topical application instead.
For that reason, if you’re going to use any of the oils which are dangerous for cats, make sure that you avoid the following methods of use:
- Pot pourri products, especially liquid varieties
These can all allow the particles to become airborne and therefore make their way towards your cat.
They may then gather on the cat’s fur, and when the cat grooms itself, they’re basically ingesting the oil’s particles.
Put simply, if you can smell the oil, it’s in the air and that makes it a risk to your cat.
You could, in theory, simply keep your cat out of a room where a diffuser is being used and make sure that the door is kept closed, but you have to open and close the door in order to enter and leave, and that poses a risk for your cat too.
If you’re going to go down the topical application route, e.g. applying oils to your skin, never let your cat lick your skin after you’ve used the oil.
Make sure you wash your hands very well and basically steer clear of your cat for a while after using the oil.
You should also avoid jewellery which is diffused with aromatherapy oil too.
Does All of This Mean You Can’t Use Essential Oils if You Have a Cat?
No! It simply means you need be more careful and that you need to avoid the list of oil which are known to be toxic to cats.
There are countless essential oils out there and studies have shown them have some very beneficial advantages for various different ailments and health conditions.
The fact you have a furry friend doesn’t mean you can’t use essential oils at all, it simply means you need to listen to advice, do your research, and be more careful than someone who doesn’t own any type of pet at all.
If you go out for an aromatherapy massage, perhaps in a spa, make sure that you shower well afterwards, before returning home.
This means that when you come home and your cat is pleased to see you, perhaps trotting over to you and licking your skin, they’re not going to be accidentally ingesting any small particles left over from the oil during your massage.
To be on the safe side, it’s worth understanding that cats and essential oils aren’t the greatest mix, but that doesn’t mean that you have to cut aromatherapy out of your life completely.
Essential oils have many benefits for health and wellbeing, including:
- Helping with relaxation, especially with insomnia and general sleep problems
- Helps to reduce anxiety and aid with mild depression
- Can help to alleviate stress
- May help with certain digestive issues
- May help to alleviate the symptoms of chemotherapy
- Many oils have antibacterial properties and studies have shown these to be quite beneficial for fighting infection and general bacteria
Studies and research are still ongoing into the specific benefits, but it’s also worth understanding that different oils have different benefits.
For instance, lavender oil is known to help with many different ailments, but specifically for relaxation and relieving anxiety.
Peppermint oil is known to help with digestive issues; the list goes on.
It’s important to do your research into different oils and what they can help with, whilst also ensuring that you’re choosing an oil which is generally safer around your cat than others.
Of course, it goes without saying that you should never use essential oils neat on the skin, and in many cases, certain essential oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil even for inhalation.
Just because essential oils are natural doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely strong and potent, and if you use them neat, you could cause yourself more harm than good.
Diluting an essential oil with a carrier oil means you get the benefits of both oils.
Two of the most common types of carrier oil are olive oil and coconut oil; both of these are extremely easy to find and have their own list of health benefits.
What essential oils are safe to diffuse around cats? Certainly not the ones which contain high amounts of phenols, that much we can conclude.
Definitive evidence over whether any type of essential oil is completely safe around cats is sadly lacking, and if you love your cat (which we assume you do), it is best to avoid using any type of oil in their close proximity.