Essential oils are all the rage right now and for good reason! Essential oils do a great job of healing, making things smell good, and even cleaning. However, they’re not as handy and helpful to cats and can actually prove to be quite fatal. Essential oils and cats don’t mix well. A human’s liver produces special enzymes to process the concentrated oils. Essential oils are highly concentrated, and this is where the largest issue lies. Cats don’t produce the correct liver enzymes to break down the concentration of essential oils. This means that essential oils, even in the smallest amounts, will build up in their system and poison them.
Unfortunately, diffusers often end up being the number one cause of essential oil toxicity in cats. Many people think that it can’t be harmful if it’s being diluted in water and evaporated into the air. However, it takes very small amounts of essential oils to poison a cat. This means that even though it doesn’t seem as bad if a diffuser is used, it only makes it a smaller process of your cat being poisoned. The effects aren’t noticeable immediately, your cat will just slowly get sick and often times, by the time the issue is found, it’s too late.
Direct Skin Contact
No matter how the essential oils are administered or introduced to your cat, they are toxic. This means if they’re inhaled, directly applied to the skin, ingested, etc. All of it is equally toxic to your cat; some just may be quicker acting than others at making your cat sick.
Oils That Aren’t Safe for Cats
Most essential oils aren’t safe for your cat. However, there are some that are definitely worse than others and end up being more toxic. There are some safe oils for your cats and I’ll discuss those shortly. The oils you should definitely avoid are cassia, cinnamon, lemon, citrus, clove, spruce, birch, peppermint, etc. Honestly, any piney type scents, hot scents, mint scents, or citrus scents should be a no go when it comes to your cats. Dogs can handle a bit more oils than cats can. However, it’s important to note that pets in general are not able to handle oils very well.
You may notice some recipes around the web using certain essential oils that are usually deemed unsafe for pets, in a pet-related recipe. For example, they may say it’s safe to dilute lemon in vinegar or water and spray it on your cat or dog for ticks and fleas. I would not advise this. As mentioned, the adverse effects may not happen right away but can build up in the system and happen over time.
Oils That Are Somewhat Safe for Cats
Some oils that seem to be ok in small portions are cedarwood, lavender, rosemary, and clary sage. It’s never advised that you put any oils directly on the skin of your pet. These oils are usually ok to diffuse but, each cat can be different. This means it’s important to always watch how your cat is reacting to the oils.
Symptoms and Behaviors to Watch Out For
There are some oil mixtures sold out there that are marketed specifically to pets. I personally don’t use essential oils including liquid potpourris, etc. around my cats as I don’t like to chance it, it’s not worth it to me. However, the few oils listed above are usually ok but, as mentioned, each cat is different and could still react to the safe oils listed. Therefore, it’s smart to keep an eye on your pet and look for the following symptoms or behaviors.
- Has your cat started to avoid the area where you put the diffuser? If so, this could be a sign it’s not making them feel so great.
- Rapid breathing
- Strange behavior in general
- Vomiting more than usual (I know it’s common for cats to be kind of pukey over everything)
- Swelling or redness near the eyes, mouth, and nose
- Rubbing the face, a lot
All in all, essential oils just aren’t worth it to me to chance my cat’s health. I have even had issues with those plugins you can get for your house to smell good. Thankfully, I caught the signs in time in order to get rid of the plugins before anything worst happened. In general, it’s up to you on whether you try to use essential oil with your pets.