Are Essential Oils Toxic for Cats?Yes, according to recent research, all essential oils are toxic for cats because they lack certain enzymes required for metabolizing the various compounds in them, especially phenols, which are present in the vast majority of essential oils, as they give out their specific scents.A while back, essential oils were actually used to treat certain illnesses such as respiratory issues (mint and eucalyptus oils) or ear mites (used as a repellent), as well as for stress relief. However, the newest research has determined that even topical use of essential oils can be dangerous for cats.Since the most important problem is metabolizing the compounds in essential oils, the most exposed organ is the liver. Most essential oil-related problems lead to liver damage, which can be extremely severe in cases of massive exposure.
Are all essential oils toxic for cats?Unfortunately, yes, they are. Essential oils are extremely concentrated substances, which means that even a very small amount is enough to cause notable effects. Aside from that, all of them have compounds which are toxic to cats. Almost all of them have phenols, which cats are unable to metabolize, but each oil includes various other toxic substances. Naturally, some essential oils are more toxic than others.
Which essential oils are the most toxic for cats?Here is a list of the essential oils that are most toxic for cats. You should avoid having these around the house or if you do choose to keep them, they should be kept in a place where the cat does not have access to.
- Peppermint oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Pennyroyal oil
- Pine oil
- Cinnamon oil
- Citrus oil (including lemon oil)
- Tea tree oil (melaleuca oil)
- Sweet birch oil
- Ylang ylang oil
What are the symptoms of essential oil toxicity?Essential oil toxicity gives out general symptoms, which makes it very difficult to diagnose. Here are the most common effects of essential oil exposure:
- Vomiting - take a picture of the vomit to show it to your veterinarian. If possible, take a sample as well. The smell will most likely point out that your cat was exposed to essential oils.
- Difficulty walking, wobbliness
- Respiratory distress - rapid breathing, coughing, wheezing, panting
How to Keep Essential Oils Safe from CatsIf you have a passion for aromatherapy, then having to get rid of your essential oils entirely may not be something you want to do. If you've decided to keep them in the house, then you have to be extremely careful with storing them.You have to make sure that your cat can't get to the oil bottles, so keeping them in a box with secure closing is your only option. Don't underestimate your cats when it comes to snooping. If you place the bottles in drawers, it is not enough. You never know when their exploring takes them to that drawer and it could be potentially dangerous.
Cats With Liver Disease Should Not Be Exposed to Essential OilsIf your cat suffers from liver disease, then you should get rid of the essential oil in your home entirely. Even if you take precautions when using them for aromatherapy or massages, there are volatile compounds in them that your cat will inhale. While this is limited exposure, it will still put a strain on the cat's liver, so it is highly recommended that you avoid this.
Essential Oil Diffusers - A Cat HazardYou might think that the ideal solution to keep your cat away from essential oils is getting a diffusing device, which will keep the oils safely stored inside. However, these devices can malfunction and the effects can be extremely severe.One of our readers told us the heartbreaking story of her Ragdoll cat who died because of a plug-in air freshener that leaked. It can be that easy for cats to get exposed to a toxic amount of essential oils. You can read the full story here.As you can see, essential oils can be quite dangerous for a household with cats. The owners should take special precautions with storing them to keep the cats safe and avoid any contact that the cat might have with them. If these are not a must in the house, letting go of them might be the ideal choice.
Read our interview with Dr. Sarah Brandon about essential oils and cats.