Essential oils and cats are sometimes not the best combo. In fact, while some essential oils are great for dogs, they’ve been shown to be highly toxic to cats in some circumstances. Here are some safe ways for you to still enjoy using essential oils at home without harming your furry friends.
I love to use essential oils in my home, but of course I also love our adorable pets. We have a dog named Chuckers, as well as two tuxedo cats named Sam and Oreo. With so many people using essential oils in their homes these days, there has been growing concern about what happens when you mix essential oils and cats. Of course, essential oils can be highly toxic to our feline friends and millions of people have cats as pets so this is definitely something that you should know a little bit about if you’re an essential oil loving pet owner like myself.
Essential Oils and Cats: Know The Facts
It’s been reported that cats don’t have the enzyme in their liver that allows them to break down essential oils. In fact, cats are able to break down essential oils, they just do it at a much slower pace than humans or other animals, so the oils can build up in their system to a level of toxicity a lot more easily. This is actually true for the way cats metabolize many things, not just essential oils because cats have fewer of the enzymes needed to metabolize many different things. It’s part of their natural physiology. There are actually doctors of veterinary medicine who specialize in the use of essential oils with pets, even cats, so it is possible for cats to be around essential oils safely. These vets find that when someone claims that their cat has been poisoned by essential oils, it’s often because of gross overuse, along with topical application and even internal ingestion. Essential oils only become toxic to cats in their purest form and when they are over-exposed.
Essential Oils vs. The Plants They Come From
It’s important to note as well that because essential oils are only toxic in their purest form, you don’t need to worry about some of the plant versions of the essential oils that you’ve heard about cats having bad reactions too. So having eucalyptus branches in your home as decor shouldn’t be a big problem, but having an open bottle of eucalyptus oil sitting on the counter where your cat can lick it can be very dangerous. Likewise, a few little pieces of rosemary on your cat’s food (if your cats like a little taste of your leftovers) won’t be a big deal, but you wouldn’t want to pour a few drops of rosemary oil on top because the oil is much, much more potent.
Essential Oils and Cats: How to Use Essential Oils Safely in Your Home When You Have Cats
Store Oils Properly
Essential oils are clearly pretty strong stuff, even though they’re natural substances. You want to keep your oils safely stored away just like you would do with medicines in a medicine cabinet. If you don’t have room in a cupboard, an essential oil storage box with a lid that latches tightly is a great solution.
Use Oils Carefully
Avoid using essential oils in ways that may entice cats to ingest them. You want to avoid leaving essential oils in dishes around your home as a room-scenting solution for sure. You’ll often find suggestions for mixing essential oils with baking soda and leaving them out, or for soaking cotton balls in essential oils and setting them out on a plate. While those are great, simple solutions, they definitely aren’t a good idea for cat owners. You’ll also want to stay away from using homemade cleaning products containing essential oils on surfaces that your cats might lick frequently. It sounds crazy, but we used to have a cat who used to love to lick a brick that we used as a doorstop. Cats are funny. 🙂 Know your cat’s habits and take those into consideration here.
Choose to Diffuse
Some people have expressed concern over the use of diffusers around cats because they cause the cats to breath in the essential oils. Veterinarians actually say that diffusing is one of the safer options for using essential oils because the oils are mixed in with water vapor. I like to err on the side of caution so when I use my diffuser I make sure that it’s when my cats are in another room and the oils won’t be diffusing directly onto them. For example, in the mornings when I’m working, the cats are usually upstairs in the kids’ bedrooms, so I’ll run my diffuser in the living room where I am. Unless it’s a sunny morning, then Sam usually comes down at around 10am to see if there will be any reflections from our phones bouncing around the living room for him to play with. 🙂 If you really need to diffuse essential oils to treat a cold or something like that and your cats are right there with you, consider just filling your sink with hot water, dropping a few drops of the oils into it, and inhaling the vapors that way.
Apply Oils Topically
Another great way to use essential oils, while really controlling where they go is to just apply them topically to yourself. Rollerballs are great because they keep the oils contained and diluted, and allow you to target exactly where you are applying the essential oils. Again, apply the essential oils topically at a time when you’re not about to snuggle up with your cat and allow them the oils soak in a bit before you pick your cat up and give them a big hug. If your cats sleep in a different room from you, applying essential oils before bedtime, like so many people do, is a great solution.
Essential Oils and Cats: The Good News
Veterinarians say that in a lot of cases, essential oil poisoning is survivable for cats. If you suspect your cat has come in contact with a large amount of pure essential oils, don’t hesitate to take them to your vet to have them checked out. Cats usually just need to get some extra fluids in their little systems to help them work through the extra essential oils.
If you’re interested in finding out how to treat your cat’s ailments naturally with essential oils, look for a holistic veterinarian who specializes in using medical grade essential oils for the natural care of animals. Since cats are so sensitive to essential oils, this is definitely not a DIY project you should be undertaking without the help of a trained professional. I’m not a veterinary professional myself, just a concerned pet owner who thought she’d share what she’s learned. If you would like to learn more about essential oils and cats, please speak with your regular veterinarian.
I’m so happy to know that essential oils can be safely used at home by pet owners. For the most part, the usual ways that most essential oil users make use of the oils in their homes are perfectly safe! So no need to panic if you’ve been hearing some scary things about essential oils and cats. 🙂
..The only thing scary around here is Oreo’s lion impression! Ha!
Are you an essential oil loving pet owner too?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.