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Can I Use Essential Oils on My Cat ?

There are many things us cat parents wonder about. “You think Yoda can eat that?” “Do you think he would prefer fish-flavored water?” “What if we brush his teeth with toothpaste?” Those are just a few examples of what Paul and I ask ourselves as Yoda’s parents. All of these questions fall under the same category of “Can I give my cat….Fill in the blank.” Today we’re going to delve into the discussion on another similar question: Can I use essential oils on my cat?

Some vets perceive using essential oils around cats as very dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. Then there are of course other vets who approve and even recommend using essential oils around cats. So which is it?! Fluffy Kitty will discuss the issue from both points of view.

You may be thinking, why essential oils? Well, I asked myself the same question. I personally love using natural products; so much so that I even have a whole other blog dedicated to castor oil and all of its natural friends, like essential oils.

Millions of people around the world use essential oils on a daily basis, but are essential oils safe to use on our feline friends?

In this article, we will discuss:

  • All About Essential Oils
  • The Risks
  • Table of Toxic Essential Oils
  • The Benefits?
  • Safe Practices
  • Final Thoughts

All About EO’s

Let’s start by talking about what you need to know about essential oils.

Essential oils are a widely known and used multi-purpose, natural remedy. Essential oils are essentially (heh, get it?) fatty, aromatic compounds that are extracted from a diverse variety of plants. They are extremely concentrated and potent liquids that pack a punch! Most people use essential oils as a natural remedy for health purposes or as a natural product in their beauty-care routine.

But improper use or dosage of EO’s can be dangerous even for humans, so this is especially the case for our kitties. However, the discussion surrounding the toxicity of essential oils on cats is often based on a long history of hysteria and lack of research or knowledge. Holistic veterinarians, such as the leading expert on essential oils for animals, Dr. Melissa Shelton, recommend and advocate the use of essential oils in treating or calming animals.

Can I Use Essential Oils on My Cat ? Fluffy Kitty

Just like humans, cats (and dogs alike) have different sensitivities. This means that using products, even natural products, is always risky. The effects depend on the person, or in this case, the animal. Just like the type of food you give your cat, it’s important that the EO’s quality is extremely high and reputable. 

The overall summary/discussion about essential oils is that it CAN be safe to diffuse around cats, or to use topically, but only if it is premium quality, like therapeutic grade oils. In order for the use of essential oils to be safe, however, it is pertinent to start slowly and continue cautiously. Proper or improper dilution, for example, could be the difference between life and death for your cat.

The Risks of Using Essential Oils on Your Cat

Cats lack the liver enzyme (glucuronyl tranferase) which is necessary in order to break down chemical or synthetic components that are often in essential oils. Since essential oils are naturally concentrated, this can result in a toxic buildup overtime that can be fatal for your cat.

Phenols (or carbolic acids) and monoterpene hydrocarbons are present in essential oils. They can actually be quite potent to humans and is why on the safety labels, a very high diluted solution is recommended. Humans can tolerate these oils if properly diluted, but they can pose as a serious threat to your cat, no matter the dilution percentage.

Examples of essential oils with high amounts of phenols include:

  • Cinnamon
  • Thyme
  • Clove
  • Oregano
  • Savory

Cats can die within hours of exposure to improper use of essential oils. They may experience sudden liver failure, nervous system failure, paralysis, vomiting, drooling, confusion, hypothermia, among other serious illnesses.

Examples of essential oils with high amounts of monoterpene hydrocarbons include:

  • Lemon/lime
  • Orange
  • Tea Tree
  • Fir
  • Grapefruit
  • Peppermint
  • Lavender
  • among others

See table below for a bigger list (though non-exhaustive) of dangerous essential oils for your cat.

Can I Use Essential Oils on My Cat ? Fluffy Kitty

Essential oils that are safer to use around your cat include: Cedarwood, Lemongrass, and Chamomile. Here is a useful opinion/advice on whether or not essential oils are safe for cats.

Side note: We’ve tried to research for a longer list of “safe” essential oils, because lots of cat parents would like to diffuse oils for themselves, but want to protect their cat(s). Unfortunately, we cannot 100% guarantee the safety in using any of these oils because of varying factors (such as dilution, usage, etc.) and is why we recommend using extreme caution when endeavoring to use essential oils on your cat. Lots of the research we found contradicted itself, so we’ve spent the necessary time to pick out the oils that people agree are safe and are unsafe. If you see an error in this table or list, please do let us know!! 

Toxic Essential Oils

Lemon Orange Lime Grapefruit
Bergamot Mandarin Tangerine Eucalyptus
Fir Cypress Sassafras Spruce
Tea Tree Birch Bitter Almond Citronella
Geranium Camphor Cassia Lavender
Garlic Pennyroyal Mustard Tansy
Wintergreen Peppermint Juniper Rue

The Reported Benefits of EO’s

Sorry if I’ve scared you off from using essential oils around your cat! Do not worry too much if you’ve exposed your cat to essential oils in the past and there was no reaction. If your cat did not show signs of harm, then it’s probably a-okay, but it is wise to stop using from now on.

Though there is a longer list of dangers and risks that come with using essential oils on your cat, there are some benefits.

Essential oils are known for their calming properties. If you have a cat that has anxiety or easily stresses (for car rides, for example) it could be helpful to spray (with a heavily diluted mix) the cat’s bedding, or lightly wipe down the carrier.

Can I Use Essential Oils on My Cat ? Fluffy Kitty

Experts and holistic vets have reported using essential oils for years in the medicinal practices. Though they see the benefits of using essential oils, most recognize the dangers. This is why they recommend using hydrosols, which is the water soluble leftover after the oil’s extraction from plants.

Hydrosols are not toxic to cats like essential oils are. They are safe, and can be readily used around your purrecious feline.

For more great information, watch the very informational video/interview between Dr. Karen Becker, a wellness veterinarian and Dr. Melissa Shelton a holistic veterinarian, to talk about essential oils and how they can help our pet’s body and minds.

Safe Practices If You Use Essential Oils

Above all, the decision to use essential oils is yours. It’s imperative to weigh the potential risks against the benefits. In addition, always practice the following basic guidelines:

Never diffuse next to the litter box

The litter box may be stinky, and we understand this desire to cover up the bad smells. However, there are other ways of reducing or eliminating litter box odors:

  • Switch to an all-natural, biodegradable cat litter.
  • Upgrade to a better diet. More wholesome ingredients in your cat’s food = less stinky out the back end.

We’ve done both of these with Yoda. The pebble-like, clay-based commercial litters made the house have that “litter box” smell. Once we switched to plain, all-natural wood chips, even Yoda’s pee doesn’t smell. It’s just natural, environmentally safe, and less expensive.

A more natural diet helps your cat’s digestive tract stay healthy. Poop is less corrosive to the nose and has a more natural texture that breaks easily.

Never rub your cat directly with essential oil

There’s been many cases of owners rushing their cats to the hospital because of an innocent mistake. In one instance, they put a drop of oil and spread it over their cat’s fur, which resulted in shock and partial paralysis. If you use essential oils on your skin, just be careful that your kitty does not give you any kisses!

Can I Use Essential Oils on My Cat ? Fluffy Kitty

Always be cautious!

Whether you clean the floor with oils, store them in your bathroom, put them on your skin, or else, just always be prudent when you have your cat around. Improper use of essential oils could lead to your cat ingesting or inhaling potent amounts of toxic oils that they simply cannot metabolize.

Always consult a veterinarian before using essential oils, and reach out to experts or contacts who have greater knowledge about using essential oils on or around cats.

Final Thoughts: Can I Use Essential Oils on My Cat ?

We hope we have given you the information you need to make the best decision for you and your cat. Our advice should not replace your vet’s advice or suggestions. We hope you can either head our warnings or take plenty of caution when considering using essential oils on your cat.

We feel that it is very important to be aware of the potential risks (and benefits) of holistic practices for our feline friends.

Remember that though many essential oils are toxic, hydrosols (the water-based solubles) are safe to use around cats and have a pleasant aromatic smell without being toxic.

Please do let us know if you have any helpful information that would be useful for our community to know about essential oils and cats. Send us your thoughts, comments, and questions!