Are you like me and love essential oils as much as you love your cat? Seriously, I love it…it’s a thing. With the popularity of essential oils on the rise, many cat owners are questioning, “Is essential oil safe for cats?”
Well, if you know me, then you know I had to do my research and find the answer. I’m going to share all of my newfound essential oil wisdom with you. After all, the more everyone knows about essential oils the better.
Knowledge is what will keep you and your family healthy and safe while using essential oils. So, be sure to check out my other essential oil posts that are full of dosing, safety, and use tips.
Now, let’s get into using essential oil safe for cats.
Best Essential Oils for Cat Smells
Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you?
First of all, you need to know the reason you are looking up the essential oil safe for cats. Are you looking to use it on the cat or are you trying to mask cat odors?
You may read some very heated debates about finding an essential oil safe for cats, or rather an essential oil that is not safe for cats.
From my research, I’ve found that both sides are right, to a point.
And, just like in humans some essential oils are more caustic than others and it is always important to understand dilution rates.
So, first, let’s deal with that smelly cat.
If you have issues with cat litter smells (I totally recommend this robotic cat litter box by the way) you may want to diffuse an essential oil and are wondering which one is safe.
Here is the issue. Cats livers do not have the same enzymes as humans, or even dogs, and cannot process the phenol/carbolic acid (in large amounts) that is often found in essential oils.
Don’t stop reading there is still hope.
There are some essential oils safe for cats, which I’ll get into in a bit, but diffusing any essential oil may be safe for your fur friend if you follow a few guidelines.
Robert Tisserand, a nationally acclaimed, leading expert in the field of aromatherapy, says that essential oils are very diluted when diffused and should be safe for your pet.
With that being said other animal experts express extreme caution if you have any essential oils in your home with felines, so follow these safety measures.
- Do not run a diffuser in closed or small rooms with your pet.
- Allow for a scent-free space for your cat to escape to.
- Do not let your pet have access to the diffuser.
- If you drip pure essential oils on a table/counter clean it up right away so pets do not get it on their paws or fur and ingest it when self-cleaning.
- Keep oils AWAY FROM your cat’s
- If in doubt do not use essential oils that are thought to be toxic to felines.
Essential Oils Not Safe for Cats
Since cats don’t possess the enzymes to process the phenol in essential oils it is not recommended to use pure undiluted essential oils on your cat. There is one documented incident where a pet owner used 60ml of pure tea tree oil directly on 3 cats (20 ml each) to treat fleas and caused serious illness to all and eventually death to one cat.
20 ml is a lot of essential oil—even for a person. That is more than one full bottle and not recommended to be used on humans or pets this way!
Tisserand does not recommend ever doing this to any pet. But he did recount a story where his cat had an infected injury and after expelling the puss, he placed a drop of tea tree oil on it for two days straight.
He noted no negative effects on his cat.
The takeaway is that overexposing a cat to essential oils can be dangerous—especially essential oils with phenol. The following is a list, mostly from Dr. Janet Roark, DVM, of essential oils you will want to use with caution or avoid using on or around your cat.
16 Essential Oils to Avoid With Cats
- Citrus (various)
- Melaleuca (Tea Tree)
Symptoms of Severe Reaction to Essential Oils in Cats
If you do diffuse essential oils around your pets like Tisserand suggests you should be able to do safely, always use caution.
If you notice any of the following symptoms in your cat when you use essential oils, seek the help of a veterinarian.
- Low Heart Rate
- Difficulty Breathing
- Watery eyes
- Watery nose
With that all said, I diffuse all kinds of essential oil blends in our home and around our cats, and we have never had any negative reactions. In fact, our cats are very healthy and active.
Essential Oil Safe for Cats
Now, when it comes to known essential oil safe for cats the list grows smaller. Professionals are hesitant to condone the use of essential oils on cats, specifically for their weaker liver function.
But Dr. Janet Roark, DVM, a specialist in using essential oils with animals says many may be used safely and with confidence. Her emphasis is on dilution and warns that any essential oil used straight and in large amounts could be extremely harmful to pets and recommends using a .5%-2% dilution rate for cats.
One method to use essential oils on pets is to rub a small amount of the prediluted essential oil between your hands until it is no longer glossy-looking. Then rub your hands on the back of your pet where they are less likely to preen.
Lavender essential oil and Frankincense essential oil are both supposed to be safe to use in their undiluted form. But regardless of how you use essential oils, Dr. Janet Roark, DVM says you must use therapeutic grade essential oils, and I would ALWAYS try and err on the side of over-diluted as opposed to under-diluted. You can always increase the concentration, but you want to keep your pet safe and start by diluting.
This also means you shouldn’t use essential oils found commonly in stores without proper research on the brand. Many of these oils have been discovered to possess synthetic and altered materials by third-party laboratories.
The following are some of the essential oils safe for cats revealed in my research. Just remember to use the dilution chart above in carrier oils such as fractionated coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil. If you have any doubt please consult your pet’s veterinarian.
8 Essential Oils Safe for Cats
- Lavender Essential Oil
- Frankincense Essential Oil
- Myrrh Essential Oil
- Helichrysum Essential Oil
- Copaiba Essential Oil
- Geranium Essential Oil
- Cedarwood Essential Oil
- Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
I saw this amazing article by Melissa Shelton DVM on the misconceptions of essential oils I included above on the “unsafe oils” list. She even refers to Tisserand in the article.
She claims several of the above oils are in fact safe in proper dilution rates and used occasionally.
When looking for an essential oil safe for cats, she says the following oils seem to have no concrete negative evidence in animal medical research except with gross misuse.
With this in mind, ALWAYS err on the side of dilution. What I like about the following list is that many of these are great in flea prevention and treatment (which can be used around the home, instead of on the cat if preferred).
- Citrus Essential Oils (various, like wild orange, bergamot, lemon, lemongrass)
- Eucalyptus Essential Oil
- Peppermint Essential Oil
- Tea Tree Essential Oil
Essential Oils for Fleas on Cats
Besides the smell, fleas are another possible pesky side effect of having a fur baby. Thankfully there are a few natural ways you can help treat for fleas, both in the home and on your cat.
Lavender has actually shown to be a powerful, fast-acting agent against fleas. Some studies suggest that creating a formula of diluted lavender can be just as effective at killing fleas as commercial chemical sprays.
Other effective oils are Chamomile, Geranium, Lemongrass, and Cedarwood, provided they are diluted properly.
To use these essential oils for fleas on your cat, make sure to dilute well with a carrier oil, like fractionated coconut oil or sweet almond oil. Use three tablespoons of carrier oil, and add a few drops of the essential oil for fleas that you’d like to use. The goal is to dilute 80-90%. Rub the solution into your own hands first. Then apply to the most affected areas on your pet.
You could also create a spray in a glass spray bottle. Mix 4 drops of essential oil for fleas to one cup of water. Shake well before each use and spray on your cat’s fur, avoiding his face. Alternatively, you could use a comb dipped in the solution or apply it to your cat’s collar to help repel and keep fleas at bay.
The Whole Ball of Yarn
So, let’s wrap this up. Basically, what I have found is that a lot of the claims “on the internet” are based on extremely old research or data related to dips and pesticides. Or the information relates to the overdosing and misuse of essential oils.
But think about it. Essential oils are crazy popular, and there are tons of essential oil lovers using them every day. 68% of households have pets, and if essential oils were as toxic as these wild claims you would hear of animals growing ill constantly.
With the high dilution in a diffuser or using the proper dilutions rates for animals, fur moms can feel pretty confident in using essential oils safely. Just always keep in mind the signs of toxicity and act if you notice them.
Start out with highly diluted oils first to see if you get the results you want. After all, you can always increase later, but it’s difficult to take the essential oils away once applied.
When it comes to using essential oils to freshen my home versus synthetic air fresheners and candles, I genuinely believe essential oils are the safest option for my family and cats.
Check out some of my favorite diffuser essential oil recipes to get ideas to make your home smell great. And as we start to think about going back to school (can you believe it) you may enjoy these essential oil ideas for your children.
Karen Armstrong says
All (most anyway) EOs are toxic to cats, It is not worth the risk to use EO’s around them. If you must diffuse make sure that they are in another room and that the place is well ventilate. Cats are particularly sensitive to all citrus EOs, so avoid them altogether.