Essential Oils and Cats: A Potentially Toxic Mix

Aromatherapy, potpourri and the use of any essential oils have been popular for a long time. Many people love to change up their home’s scent with the seasons: lavender in the spring, roses in the summer and pumpkin in the fall. But when it comes to cats, household fragrances can be dangerous.

Scents and Cats
Years ago, some essential oils were considered to be safe for felines and were recommended for uses as treating ear mite infestations, upper respiratory issues and for stress relief.

In last few years, however, compelling evidence has pointed out that essential oils can be toxic to cats, whether taken internally, applied to the skin or simply inhaled.

The organ which is most affected is the liver. Cats’ livers are quite different as humans’ livers, and they lack the ability to properly metabolize the numerous compounds in essential oils.

Toxicity in felines can occur very fast, through an internal or external application, or over a longer period of time, if repeated or continuous inhalation of essential oils can lead to serious liver damage and/or even death.

Essential Oils Potentially Toxic to Cats
The use of essential oils on felines is typically discouraged. In some circumstances, some can be used to treat certain ailments under a veterinarian’s supervision if they are diluted; otherwise, they should be avoided. (Note that this list is not all-inclusive.)

  • Lemon Oil
  • Lavender Oil
  • Melaleuca Oil
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Cinnamon Bark Oil
  • Wintergreen Oil
  • Thyme Oil
  • Birch Oil
  • Other oils containing phenol

If any of these are ingested or applied to the skin, essential oils can damage the skin and even induce seizures. If your cat ingests any oils by accidentally, get him to the veterinarian immediately.

Sense of Smell
In addition to scents’ toxic effects, some scents can be irritating for your pets in other ways. Cats and dogs have much stronger senses than we humans do, and their noses are much more sensitive than ours. What can smell wonderful for us can be overwhelming to your feline. If you do use home fragrances, it’s important to have a place that is scent-free so your pet can go in that area when it gets too overpowering.

A Word About Hydrosols
Hydrosols are often touted as a more natural, safer alternative to essential oils. Hydrosols are also known as “flower waters.” They are less saturated than essential oils. They are the water that remains after steam-distilling flowers or herbs, such as lavender, in water.

While hydrosols are safer for use on human skin, since they do not have to be diluted, they still are dangerous for cats and other pets. The water can hold on to residual matter from the plants that can be toxic if ingested or even inhaled. Some pets can tolerate hydrosols, but others are more sensitive. Limit your pet’s access to them and their scents to minimize the risk of any health issues.

While aromatherapy can help in managing your stress or other conditions, but they can be toxic to pets. Take precautions to protect your pets and keep them away from any harmful essential oils.

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