Cat Article: Essential Oils and Feline Safety

According to several of the articles, not only are cats extremely sensitive to the strength and odor of essential oils, but they lack in the ability to metabolize the oils leading to toxicity over time.

While researching products for our site I came across some very troubling articles on the danger of using essential oils on cats. According to several of the articles, not only are cats extremely sensitive to the strength and odor of essential oils, but they also lack the ability to metabolize the oils. In order to substantiate these claims, I contacted several experts, the first being, Caroline Ingraham, President of the International Society of Animal Aromatic Practitioners. She is recognized worldwide as the leading expert on using aromatics with animals. She also pioneered the development of animal aromatics as an established field. According to Ms. Ingraham:

Cats usually only self select essential oils for inhalation because they appear not to have the pathways to break the oils down. Therefore essential oils are not usually applied topically or taken orally. A cat will let you know if a substance is toxic and does not match its needs or if the application would be harmful, by resisting or turning away from the aroma/remedy. It is not unusual for a cat to run and hide from an unwanted aroma, as their sense of smell is very much more acute than ours and unwanted aromas are too potent for nasal absorption into their delicate bodily systems. If a cat self-selects a remedy by coming up to the bottle and choosing a sniff or two, it appears that the remedy will be metabolized as a medicine and not a poison.

In Ms. Ingraham’s experience, feline favorites for inhalation are: Valerian, Vetiver, Rose Otto, Neroli, Linden Blossom, Yarrow (blue)
Spearmint, Sandalwood, and Peppermint. Seaweed and Rosehip co2 are often licked as is Chickweed macerated oil.
For external use to combat fleas and or treat wounds, powdered green clay is appropriate.

Also in agreement is Kristen Leigh Bell, Certified Aromatherapist, Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy:

Cats do not efficiently metabolize essential oils and their use can lead to symptoms of toxicity. Although one or more applications of an essential oil product or blend may not cause immediate harm, the effects of essential oils can be cumulative and manifest themselves at a later date in the form of toxicity for which owners and vets often can find no attributable cause. These cases of “mystery poisoning” can keep a cat under the watchful care of a vet for several days. In other cases, the effects of essential oils can be seen almost immediately. I have run into several instances where cat owners have found their cats in a state of shock a short while after just one or two drops of diluted essential oil on their paw or belly, or after diffusing them in a closed room where the cat had no access to a fresh air source. Symptoms of toxicity include vomiting, dizziness, clumsiness, lack of appetite, lack of energy and shock. In addition, cats have very thin, delicate skin. Essential oils are absorbed rapidly into their skin and enter the bloodstream, overwhelming their systems.

It is important to remember that you must also consider cats’ sensitivities when using essential oils with other household pets and personal use. If you use a diffuser in your home you should make sure that there is a room (or two) with adequate ventilation and air circulation so that your cat(s) does not become overwhelmed with the vapors and aroma. It is also important to be aware of the number of essential oils used in a diffuser. Over time we can become accustomed to familiar aromas and may tend to increase their use or strength to adjust to our tolerance level. I used to work as an office manager/bookkeeper in a flower shop. When I first began working there, each morning I would get this great rush of delicious floral smells when entering. After only a few weeks I could barely notice it anymore. A year later I would have to be reminded by walk-in customers who would be “blown away” by the aromas. I’m sure those of us who have worked in any business with strong smells such as a coffee shop, an Italian or Indian restaurant or candy store can attest to this occurrence.

Before using essential oils or products that contain them on your cat please consult or a professional Animal Aromatherapist by contacting the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy at
You can also check the 9 best animal charities you should know about.


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