If your house is home to a cat, you’re not alone. There are, according to statistics, 88 million domesticated cats in the U.S., making felines the most popular pets in the country.1
And here’s something interesting: The bulk of a cat’s brain – a whopping 90 percent – is similar to the human brain. It’s the other 10 percent that requires concern if you’re using essential oils to help ease stress, anxiety or other concerns, which you should approach very judiciously.
Cats are super sensitive to smells. They have scent glands on their forehead, beneath their front paw, on their tail and on their chin and lips, which gives them the ability to capture the taste of scents that are part of their surrounding environments.
That’s why essential oils can be so beneficial for felines, who exhibit stress in a variety of different ways.
Essentials That Are Safe For Cats
Because there are so many different oils that are toxic to cats, it’s important to do your research. There are some, however, that can help improve the life of your cat, and should become part of your essential oil arsenal. Always use them in a diffuser, and rarely should you apply oils to your cat. Below, there are a few exceptions.
Lavender Essential Oil
This versatile oil benefits cats in the same way it benefits humans, helping to relieve anxiety and pain. It helps ease stress in shelter animals when diffused, making this essential a superstar.2 Lavender can also be diluted – the formula is one drop of essential oil per tablespoon of carrier oil – to help deter fleas.
Geranium Essential Oil
Geranium oil may help ease stress and act as a mood booster for down-in-the-dumps kitties.
Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense helps ease digestive issues, and can potentially boost blood flow to the brain, which can keep your cat feeling young and frisky, even if she’s a senior cat.
Cardamom Essential Oil
Cardamom can help boost appetite, which is great if you notice your cat hasn’t been eating. Unlike dogs, who can go a few days without food, felines need nutrition on a daily basis.
Helichrysum Essential Oil
This anti-inflammatory oil can reduce bleeding in the event of an accident – dilute before applying to the affected area – and can also encourage healing in injuries, making this a perfect oil to have on hand for the owner of a roaming tomcat.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint can ease sore muscles, making it a great oil for older cats who may have a bit of arthritis. Dilute before rubbing it into your cat’s sore joints. (Cat massage is also an excellent bonding technique, FYI).3
Clary Sage Essential Oil.
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It’s important to remember that while cats can have the same health problems as humans – pain, anxiety, skin issues, etc. – they do not process essentials in the same way, and as is the case with dogs, some oils can be very toxic to our feline family members.
Cats are missing the enzyme glucuronyl transferase, which is part of the metabolism process in the liver. The lack this enzyme makes things like chocolate, NSAIDS, some plants and some essential oils toxic for cats because they cannot metabolize them.5
Essential Oils for Cat Owners to Skip
If aromatherapy is part of your holistic healing process, you’ll want take note that oils that are high in phenols and eugenols (eugenol is the compound in clove essential oil that makes it so effective at healing oral pain, and gives it its role as a natural way reliever of dentistry pain and bacteria6) are especially toxic to cats.
There are several essential oil types that you should avoid with felines. Never apply them topically and avoid using them in a diffuser in a home that has a cat.
Essential Oils that are Rich in Eugenol
Clove oil, cinnamon, cassia, and nutmeg are all high in eugenol levels.
Essential Oils High in Other Phenols
In addition to oils with eugenol, a phenol, essential oils that also have high levels of phenols include eucalyptus, wintergreen, ylang-ylang, basil, thyme, tea tree, anise, oregano, parsley, and citronella oils.
Essential Oils High in Limonene
This compound is common in citrus oils such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, mandarin, sweet orange, wild orange, bergamot, and neroli. Celery seed oil is also high in limonene.
Essentials High in Ketones
You should avoid sage, marigold, red cedar, yarrow, dill, hyssop, thuja and Dayana oils.
Essential Oils with Alpha-Pinene
While alpha-pinene is known for health benefits including anti-aging, those benefits do not translate to cats, and pine, cypress, juniper, spruce, silver fir, and Myrtle are among those oils that shouldn’t be diffused around your cat.
Symptoms Your Cat Has Been Poisoned
Cats can be poisoned by oils that are diffused into the air, which are not only inhaled but also collected on the fur, which cats will ingest when they are cleaning themselves. As cats are notoriously fastidious about cleaning themselves, oils that are toxic can reach problematic levels quickly.
Some signs that your cat has been exposed to toxic levels of essential oils include:
- Difficulty walking
- Shaking or tremors
- Panting, fast breathing or other signs of respiratory distress
- Low heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Signs of liver failure
To use oils safely, dilute them significantly, using one drop of essential oil per tablespoon of carrier oil. And if you have any concerns, ask your vet. He or she will know which oils are safest for your feline fur baby.
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