The issue concerning the safety of essential oils for cats is a very controversial one, to say the least. Some pet owners absolutely love essential oils for themselves and their cats. Some have even used essential oils to improve the quality of life for their cats. 

On the other hand, you have cat owners that swear essential oils even in the least doses are not only bad but also dangerous for cats. 

Doing research on the subject will leave you equally or even more confused as you will encounter both sides of the argument. Naturally, if you are new to essential oils you must still be wondering, can I use essential oils with and/or on my cat?

Even though it would be great to have a simple definite answer to this question, there isn't one. Like many issues concerning health and well-being, the answer differs from cat to cat. 

Your experience with essential oils will vary depending on your cat’s breed, age, size, and health condition. If you are interested in the best and safest ways to use essential oils on your cat, read on. 

What are Essential Oils?

Essential Oils

Before we talk about the safety and benefits of essential oils, we must first understand what qualifies as an essential oil. 

Essential oils are oils extracted from plants then concentrated and purified for different uses. Not all plant oils are essential oils. Essential oils tend to come from certain plants and have a rich distinct fragrance or essence, hence the title essential oils. 

Pure essential oils are not the only sources of essential oils in a home. Many cleaning and beauty products contain essential oils and such products need to be handled with just as much care as pure essential oils. 

What are the Benefits of Essential Oils for Cats?

Essential Oils for Cats

The research on the subject of essential oils both in humans and pets is not concrete enough for us to definitively state that a cat will benefit from essential oils in a certain way. However, the experiences of other cat owners can not be ignored. 

Several cat owners swear by essential oils as a way to improve a cat's life. After trying essential oils for your cat, you may join this group as well. Some of the benefits of essential oils reported include:

  • Flea repellent. The struggle against fleas on a cat can be a tough one. There are several products on the market to deal with this issue but some cat owners are simply not comfortable exposing their cats to harsh chemicals. If you also prefer to minimize the number of chemicals in your cat’s life, essential oils such as rosemary and cedarwood may just work for you. 

  • Improve mood. There’s no denying how relaxing a mist of air filled with essence can be. Essential oils can have a similar effect on your cat. If used properly essential oils may have a positive effect on your cat’s mood by reducing anxiety and depression. 

  • Anti-inflammatory. Essential oils possess anti-inflammatory properties. This can be helpful if your cat suffers from inflammatory diseases or conditions like arthritis. It may also benefit simple inflammatory conditions like bruising 

  • Digestion. Some cat owners have used essential oils to relieve digestive symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. 

What Essential Oils are Safe for Cats?

If you are looking to start using essential oils on or around your cat, there are a few that are generally considered safe for you to try. Some of the most popular essential oils among cat lovers include:

  • Rosemary oil 

  • Jasmine oil

  • Cedarwood oil

  • Lemongrass oil

  • Clary sage oil

  • Frankincense oil

  • Lavender oil

  • Chamomile oil

Other essential oils you can use for yourself around your cat include:

  • Basil

  • Peppermint

  • Oregano

  • Clove

  • Marjoram

  • Cinnamon

  • Cypress

  • Wintergreen

  • Thyme

What Essential Oils are Unsafe for Cats?

Certain essential oils do not belong anywhere near a cat. Such essential oils should not be used on or around cats. 

Many of these oils contain compounds that cats cannot metabolize. The liver of cats does not possess the enzymes required to break down and excrete these oils. This causes these compounds to accumulate in the body particularly the liver resulting in poisoning in cats. Such compounds include terpenes, ketones, and phenols. Try to avoid essential oils with high concentrations of these compounds.  

If not used carefully, the essential oils most likely to cause toxicity in your cat include:

  • Bergamot

  • Bitter almond

  • Cinnamon

  • Sweet birch oil 

  • Eucalyptus oil 

  • Citrus

  • Clove

  • Eucalyptus

  • Geranium

  • Juniper

  • Lavender

  • Mint (including wintergreen, spearmint, and peppermint)

  • Myrrh

  • Pine

  • Rose

  • Rosemary

  • Sandalwood

  • Sassafras

  • Tarragon

  • Tea tree

  • Thyme

  • Wormwood

  • Ylang-ylang

Is Potpourri Safe for Cats?

Potpourri gives the most relaxing scent to your home. Sadly, potpourri and potpourri products are not as relaxing for pets. It can in fact cause serious damage to pets. Liquid potpourri is especially harmful to pets as it can be mistaken for a drink by a cat. When a pet comes into contact with potpourri, it can cause vomiting, fever, drooling, difficulty breathing, and lack of appetite. 

Keep potpourri pots out of reach at all times to prevent poisoning. 

How to Use Essential Oils on Cats

The key to avoiding adverse reactions in cats is proper administration. Proper administration also ensures that cats get the best from the application of the oil. There are two main ways of applying essential oils to cats, topically and through a diffuser. 


Administering Essential Oils to Cats

To apply something topically means to apply something onto the skin. However, it is not advisable to apply essential oils in their concentrated form directly onto a cat’s skin. Instead, it is recommended that you dilute the oil and then apply it. 

You can mix the essential oil into your cat’s bathwater. This type of application is mostly used for those looking to get rid of fleas and other insects or parasites on the cat’s skin. It also works as a preventative measure against fleas. 

Washing your cat in water infused with essential oils for 2 to 5 minutes can also have a positive effect on your cat’s skin and fur. It is particularly helpful for cats that may suffer from inflammation of the skin.  

This method of applying essential oils may not work so well for cats that do not enjoy bath time. Luckily the other method of administering essential oils doesn't require taking a bath. 


Administering Essential Oils to Cats by diffuser

Diffusers are great for dispensing essential oils in the atmosphere. A diffuser is a device that converts the oil into a mist and disperses the mist into its surroundings. 

When getting a diffuser, it is best to get a slow one. A diffuser being slow simply means that it lets out the essential oil at a slower rate. A slow diffuser reduces the chances of essential oil poisoning for your pet.

Ensure to buy a high-quality diffuser to reduce the likelihood of an error in functioning. 

Types of diffusers

1. Nebulizing diffuser

The nebulizing diffuser breaks down the oil into small particles and releases it as a fine mist. The diffuser doesn't use heat therefore it doesn’t change the composition of the oil. The oil is released all at once instead of in stages. For this reason, this diffuser would not be suitable for use around cats. 

2. Ultrasonic diffuser 

The ultrasonic diffuser combines the oil with water and expels it as a fine mist. Since there’s no heat, this diffuser also does not change the oil composition. The diffuser uses very little oil and only releases a little at a go. 

The ultrasonic diffuser is an excellent choice for a diffuser suitable for use around cats. 

3. Heat diffuser

Like it says in the name, this diffuser uses heat to evaporate the oil and then release it into the atmosphere. Heat diffusers are not ideal for pets because the heat changes the composition of the oil. Depending on what is in an oil, heat may change its composition forming more toxic compounds. 

4. Evaporative diffuser 

This type of diffuser uses airflow to spread the scent of the oil into the atmosphere. The air filled with the scent is expelled at intervals making it ideal for use around pets. 

5. Reed diffusers

These are simple diffusers where a small reed is dipped in a bottle with the oil. The oil ascends the reed and is released into the atmosphere continuously. Reed diffusers are excellent for pets because the amount released is so little. It is very unlikely to cause poisoning in pets since none of the oil lands on any surface. 

No matter how safe a type of diffuser may be, extra care has to be taken to prevent poisoning. All types of diffusers should be kept out of reach of pets at all times. 

How do You Know if Your Cat Has Been Poisoned by an Essential Oil? 

If you know you are using chemicals at home that could potentially harm your cats, it is very crucial to know the signs that may indicate poisoning. Immediate attention is key to survival and recovery when dealing with poisons. 

Some of the signs and symptoms that may occur in cats after being poisoned include:

  • Vomiting 

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Drooling

  • Redness of the gums

  • Dizziness or drowsiness

  • Fatigue or body weakness

  • Muscle tremors 

What Should You do if You Suspect Poisoning?

If you think your cat has been poisoned, contact the pet poison helpline immediately. If possible, reach out to your vet as well and consult him/her on any possible first aid. 

As poison control arrives, make note of the following information:

  • The type of oil that caused the poisoning. Different oils have different effects on the body so knowing which specific one can help in giving the most appropriate treatment.

  • The weight of the cat. Smaller cats are affected more by poisons than heavier cats. 

  • The amount of oil the cat took in. A cat that simply touched the oil will require different therapy from one that drunk a whole bottle. 

  • The cat’s age. Age may also be relevant especially if she is a kitten or if she is an older cat. 

How To Keep Your Pet Safe When Using Essential Oils

  • Ask your cat's vet. The first and best way to ensure the maximum safety of your pet when using essential oil is to consult your vet before starting. Since all cats are different, your cat’s vet will know what is best for your specific cat.

  • Make sure to dilute the oils. Do not give concentrated forms of any essential oil to your pet under any circumstances.

  • If you have used essential oil on yourself or your clothing, avoid contact with your pet until you have washed up.

  • Keep them out of reach. Store all the containers out of reach of your pets. 

  • Be mindful. Remember, cats are good at jumping onto surfaces so surfaces that seem high to you may still be in reach. 

Our Final Thoughts

When used correctly, essential oils can be used around and on cats. They can even provide some health benefits. Proper use involves using the oil in diluted concentrations and storing it safely afterward.

The effects of essential oils on cats differ from cat to cat so it is very important to seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I diffuse essential oils around my cat?

Yes, some oils are safe to use around cats. Some of these include rosemary, jasmine, cedarwood, and lemongrass. 

Can essential oils kill a cat?

Yes, if used poorly, your cat can die from exposure to essential oils especially if they are concentrated. 

Is Lavender toxic to cats?

Yes, lavender is very toxic to cats if applied in its concentrated form. If you are to use lavender, dilute it in a bath or use a diffuser. Consult your vet before using lavender oil on your cat. 

Is it safe to diffuse peppermint oil around cats?

Yes, you can diffuse peppermint around cats. Ensure you keep the diffuser out of reach of all pets to reduce the chances of poisoning.