Essential oils have several benefits for humans, but can they be a fantastic solution for pets? Unfortunately, while there is much research-backed information about using essential oils for humans, the same can’t be said for animals.
In this article, I will cover what you need to know about using essential oils specifically for cats.
Table of Contents
What Are Essential Oils?
To prevent essential oil poisoning and other adverse reactions, you need to know a bit about them and how they interact with the cat’s body.
Essential oil is derived from different parts of aromatic plants and can be processed from the seeds, roots, bark, stems, leaves, or flowers of these plants. Pure essential oils are extracted from these sources using methods that maintain the chemical composition of the oils without adding extra chemicals.
The result is a highly potent oil that smells great and benefits the user.
Pure essential oils contain different chemicals, and each has its benefit (for humans). However, the same chemicals can be deadly for cats; watch out for oils that contain phenols, terpenes, or ketones.
These chemicals may give you many health benefits but are harmful to your pets, even in small quantities. So on that note, as a rule of thumb, don’t use citrus essential oils on cats.
Essential Oils Safe for Cats
The smell is only one component to consider. However, the scent should not be a priority if you seek essential oils safe for cats. You can use essential oils to treat myriad ailments, and their benefits should be the primary concern when choosing suitable therapeutic-grade essential oils.
Ideally, you should use cat-safe essential oils. Still, if you have no other option but to use one containing chemicals like terpenes, ketones, or phenols, you should ensure that the room is well-ventilated and use the bare minimum. Please always consult with your veterinarian before using essential oils.
Some of the best options include the following:
This is an essential oil with exceptional cleansing properties. In addition, it can provide antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic benefits for animals.
It is safe for cats in many forms, so you can choose the best method your cat reacts to. Then, dilute it and use an appropriate carrier oil.
Helichrysum has antibacterial and antifungal properties and is very useful for maintaining the overall health of your feline friend.
This is especially useful if your cat has trouble sleeping at night because of an illness or injury, as helichrysum oil has sedative properties. So add a little to your oil diffuser, and let it work its magic!
All cats have a powerful sense of smell, but some are more sensitive to certain scents. So if your cat doesn’t stay in a room because of a strong fragrance, copaiba will be a lifesaver!
The fragrance is so mild you can barely smell this essential oil. Also, it has several healing properties, including anti-inflammatory agents, and will work wonders for your cat’s immune system.
Certain essential oils give an overall boost to your pet, and frankincense is one of them. Most commonly used for cats with terminal problems such as cancer or serious skeletal issues. It helps boost the immune system and has a powerful calming effect.
If your cat has recently suffered a traumatic experience or is generally stressed, anxious, or depressed, this is a safe choice!
If your cat is not outgoing or may be affected by a recent change, cedarwood must be in your essential oil diffuser. This grounding oil will help your pet feel safe and secure.
For those with lively cats who find inspiration at night to run wild around the house, cedarwood can help get it relaxed, in the mood for bed, and fall asleep quicker so you can get some shut-eye too.
You can diffuse essential oils containing lavender oil or use them alone. This oil acts as a soothing scent for humans and cats alike.
7. Roman Chamomile
Stress is one of the biggest causes of illnesses in cats. If you have a particularly overactive cat, using Roman chamomile will help calm its nerves. Overactive cats prone to stress also face urinary tract and GIT issues. However, it does need to be used in moderation to keep its toxic properties at bay.
What To Avoid
There are countless types and varieties of essential oils, so you must do your homework before shopping.
When choosing one, avoid products that contain additives or chemicals. Be sure you are getting the best product (in terms of purity) for your cat.
Still, there are many essential oils, or varieties/flavors of oils, that you want to avoid in any case. These include:
- Tea tree oil
- Peppermint essential oil
- Mint essential oils
- Citrus oils
These are some of the common types well-known for being unsuitable for cats. However, this doesn’t mean that a cat cannot have adverse reactions to essential oils that are otherwise considered safe—some may not even respond negatively to the ones deemed unsafe. Therefore, these things do vary from one cat to another.
If you are starting with essential oils for cats, it’s best to go slow and stick to the safer options and avoid riskier options such as tea tree oil. Do your research beforehand to ensure you can read the signs of an adverse reaction in a cat from essential oil exposure. And always consult your veterinarian before introducing essential oils to your cat.
Signs of a Reaction
Sometimes an essential oil is not suited to your pet. In some cases, the dosage may be wrong, or that particular oil use may not work for your cat.
When you try a new method or a new type of essential oil, ensure you closely observe your furry friend for a few hours to watch out for any adverse reactions.
Symptoms to watch out for are:
- Wheezing and difficulty breathing
- Runny nose
- Watery or squinted eyes
- Lethargic behavior
- Visible changes in skin color or texture
- Behavior changes
If any of these things occur, stop using them immediately. It’s best to call your vet for a checkup to be safe.
Invariably, contact your veterinarian ASAP to prevent the issue from escalating.
Essential Oils and Cats
Essential oils can be hazardous, even to humans, if misused or in inappropriate doses. However, there are several essential oils that, even when used in small quantities, can be harmful to cats. If you have used them for other pets, particularly dogs, this doesn’t mean they will work for your cat too.
- The sense of smell in cats is far more robust than humans and even dogs, and by quite a considerable margin.
- They have scent glands not only in their nose but also on their forehead, the tip of their tail, their chin, and even their two front paws. Therefore, they can detect abnormal smells and won’t be keen to have them around – unlike dogs with a much higher threshold for scents, as their sense of smell isn’t as potent.
- Since cats have far more sensitive scent glands, they pick up essential oil through the air or bodily contact. This leads us to another problem – liver toxicity.
- A cat’s liver is not designed to process many toxins that humans, dogs, and other animals can process. The enzymes required to be present in the liver to process things like ketones are absent in a cat. As a result, an excessive build-up of these chemicals in the body can lead to liver toxicity, which can prove fatal in extreme circumstances.
However, if essential oils for cats are used correctly, and in the correct quantity, they can be highly beneficial. Still, as cat owners, you should know how to tell if your pet is responding well to essential oils.
How To Use Them
You must know how to use essential oils safely to keep your cat healthy and get the most out of the product. There are quite a few ways they are used, but some of the most common include the following:
- Applying them to the body
Diffusing essential oils is considered the best way. It is safe for cats as it enters their bloodstream very slowly, and you have greater control over how much they have access to.
Ingesting and applying oils to the body, bearing in mind that whatever you apply to your cat’s skin or fur will probably be ingested when the cat is grooming – should only be done after discussing it with your vet.
Whether you diffuse, apply, or feed the essential oils, learn how to prepare and dilute the mixture to make them safe only after consulting your vet.
Many cat owners make the mistake of using the essential oil as it is, in undiluted form, or mixing their primary oil with other essential oils and think it is safe. In reality, no matter how you use the essential oil, it must be diluted.
This involves using other oils such as jojoba, almond, or other carrier oils safe for cat diffusion. You need to get very low concentrations of the essential oil. Ideally, it would be best to have a concentration of around 0.5%-2%, which means in 100 ml of carrier oil, you add between 1 ml – 2 ml of essential oils.
Essential oils can drastically improve your feline friend’s quality of life, but you must know what to use and how.
Get a hold of the local pet poison helpline and have that number handy. Then, do your research to ensure you buy the best and cleanest oils in the market, providing your pet with the right oil to treat their specific issues.
Start with a diffuser and introduce your cat to the essential oil. Initially, keep the concentration as low as possible – even using less than 1 ml is a good choice to start. You can always increase the concentration later once you can be sure your pet has no adverse reactions to the oil.