We love essential oils. We love cats. But you may have heard that the two don’t necessarily mix very well.
It’s true. Essential oils aren’t great for cats and you certainly shouldn’t use essential oils to treat cats (the way you sometimes can with dogs). You should also be careful about diffusing essential oils around cats, and make sure that they can’t get into them and drink them up!
That said, we have seen some people panic when they receive this news — some of our staff have had that panicked moment themselves! Rightfully so; we understand how much you love your kitties! But we have some great news. There is no need to panic, and you can continue enjoying essential oils and keep kitty safe.
Why Cats and Essential Oils Don’t Mix
First, let’s talk about the dangers of essential oils to cats. Any creature, including us humans, quickly absorbs essential oils through their skin and any mucus membranes, and (if they consume the oils) also in their digestive system. But unlike humans and even dogs, cats lack the enzyme needed to metabolize essential oils in their liver — which means their little bodies are not able to eliminate the oils from their body at all, and the oils can in turn build up in their bodies over time.
This can pose a risk right away depending on the concentration of the oil and how it entered kitty’s body (for instance, if your cat ingests undiluted essential oils), or it can cause problems over the long-term if they are inhaling diffused oils, since the oils will just continue to build up in their body.
What To Watch For
If you notice that your cat is drooling, vomiting or having trouble breathing, or has tremors, wobbliness, a low heart rate or low body temperature, take them to the vet. These are all symptoms of essential oil toxicity.
Oils that are especially toxic to cats include wintergreen, birch, any citrus oils, pine, ylang ylang, peppermint, cinnamon, pennyroyal, clove, eucalyptus and tea tree.
Essential Oil Safety for Cat Owners
By now you might be feeling that sense of despair we’ve all experienced when we learned that essential oils, which we LOVE, can hurt our kitties, whom we of course love even more. But don’t despair! A little bit of caution goes a long way in this case.
First and most importantly, never use essential oils topically on your cat — even diluted. Kitty won’t benefit and their body won’t be able to metabolize the oil at all.
Second, don’t use diluted essential oils in sprays or other products to attempt to treat a cat’s health issues. This can work in some cases with dogs but is not appropriate with cats.
Third, when diffusing essential oils, simply make sure that your cat is not confined in a small space with the diffuser. Kitty should always have a safe, scent-free space to escape to. Also ensure that they can’t tip the diffuser, thereby spilling the oily water and potentially stepping in it or ingesting it.
And lastly, don’t let essential oils come into contact with your cat when you are working with the oils. If you spill, wipe it up, and so on. But don’t worry about using cleaners that contain essential oils — one of the great things about essential oils is that they are very volatile and therefore evaporate quickly, not leaving a residue.
So in closing, you can absolutely continue to use essential oils and have a healthy, happy cat. Just take a few precautions when it comes to appropriate use. Meeee-ow!