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Cats and Essential Oils: Are They Safe Together?

Is it safe to use essential oils around cats?

There's been a big increase in the number of people who are using essential oils in their homes, both for fragrance and to treat minor health issues. There have been some instances where cats in these homes were harmed by those essential oils. Learn the facts about cats and essential oils so you can keep your cat safe while using these products in your home.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids made out of a portion of a plant. People use them in several different ways, including:

  • By making them airborne through the use of a diffuser and breathing them in
  • Topically, either full strength or diluted in coconut, almond, olive, or some other type of oil
  • Within other products at a diluted level
  • By taking them internally

There hasn't been enough research on many types of essential oils to verify their efficacy in treating ailments. However, there have been some small studies on certain essential oils that have shown promise in various areas, like frankincense for some types of cancer and lavender and other oils for stress. The research on essential oils and cats is even more lacking, and in fact, they could develop problems from their use.

Cats Are Highly Sensitive to Many Substances

Cats lack the enzymes in their livers to break down many different substances. That is why they are prone to being poisoned by such common human medications as aspirin and ibuprofen. Also, they are exquisitely sensitive to some products that are safe to use on dogs, such as the permethrins used in many canine flea products.

This sensitivity, along with the concentrated nature of essential oils, is what makes using essential oils on or around cats potentially dangerous. Not only that, but care must also be taken when using any products around cats that contain fragrances or essential oils. That includes scented candles, liquid potpourri, diffused air fresheners, and spray freshening products.

How to Use Essential Oils Around Cats More Safely

Here are some things to keep in mind when using essential oils in a home where cats live:

  • Never use any essential oil directly on a cat
  • If you use a product containing diluted essential oil, be sure that it is labeled for use in cats
  • If you're using a diffuser containing essential oils around cats, either remove the cat from the area or be sure there is plenty of space for him to get away himself
  • Remember that droplets from a diffuser containing essential oils can land on a cat's fur, and licking them out during grooming means the cat is ingesting the essential oils

It's best to remove your cat completely from the area in which you are diffusing both while you are diffusing and for a short period of time afterward.

  • When using a diffuser, do so for short periods of time to avoid having too many oil droplets in the air
  • Be sure your cat can't get to the diffuser or its cord, potentially spilling it on herself and resulting in skin damage

Signs Your Cat Might Be Having a Problem with Your Essential Oil Usage

Cats that are having trouble with essential oil usage in the house may show some or all of the following signs of illness:

  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Drooling
  • Tremors
  • Weakness
  • Hair loss or lesions that look like burns on the skin (this is most common when an essential oil is used directly on the cat)

If you are unsure whether a particular essential oil is causing a problem with your cat, discontinue use immediately and contact your veterinarian.

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