We keep getting questions from clients about essential oils in cats, and we have done a few Facebook posts about them, but it’s time to put ‘pen’ to paper!
Essential oils come in various formats and types, from the ones you diffuse in your home, to the ones you may use on yourself. The difference with cats is that they lack a liver enzyme that dogs and we have and that makes it hard for them to process exposure to essential oil metabolites and clear the toxic properties from their system.
Ones that have been known to cause poisoning in cats are tea tree oil, pine, clove, cinnamon, citrus, eucalyptus, wintergreen, and peppermint. The purer an oil source is, the more potent the toxicity to cats. Symptoms can range from short-term (drooling, vomiting, respiratory distress) to long-term (liver failure). It has become so common, we now ask about essential oil exposure in cats that we see with changes in their liver enzymes on blood work.
How can you keep your cat safe and still enjoy essential oils? Be aware of what you are using. If you are diffusing an essential oil in a room make sure your cat is able to leave the room to a place that has ‘fresh’ air. Do NOT put any essential oil on your cat. While lavender is touted for its relaxing benefits, there have been case reports of cats having an adverse reaction to it, so keep that in mind when thinking about buying lavender stress collars. Do NOT use an active essential oil diffuser which actually sprays micro-particles of essential oils into the air. Listen to your cat – if he/she heads for the hills every time you use a certain scent, it’s likely bothering them. Their sense of smell is twice as strong as ours, so understand they may not like essential oils as much as you do. If your pet is having any concerning symptoms, let your vet know if there has been any essential oil exposure.
For further information check out: The Pet Poison Helpline
Written by Dr. Tasha Kean, DVM