cat smelling lavender

Are Essential Oils Safe for Cats?

Here’s a much debated topic in the cat community: whether the use of essential oils is harmful or not for cats. To be honest, there’s no right or wrong in this because there are two concerns that voice out this issue: “safe usage” and “toxic”. If you’re using essential oils on your cat, there are quite a few things that you need to bear in mind to keep your cat safe and healthy.

If you’re looking into this issue, it’s obvious that you’re a conscious and responsible pet owner who wants nothing but the best for your little buddy. But sometimes these healthy practices might be a conflict of interest. Cats lack an enzyme known as glucuronyltransferase that breaks down phenol. You can find this organic compound (phenol) in drugs like aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen. Phenol is also found in many different types of essential oils and it’s not safe for use around pets.

Brush up on your knowledge about everything you need to know about using essential oils on cats below:

Where You Stand on Using Essential Oils on Your Cat

First and foremost, do take note of that the fact that essentials oils are not to be used directly on the fur of the cats. That is something that you and your vet should decide, discretely. In some cases, certain essential oils (liquified) are direct to be applied to cats to get rid of fleas, improve their joint pains and heal wounds. However, it’s still a personal choice that’s best left to be decided by the pet parents and the vet.

In tune, if your cat has accidentally ingested any type of essential oils, do not overlook this issue. Know that essential oils are extremely concentrated substances and contain the purest elements that are extracted from the plants and flowers. No wonder essential oils work wonderfully on the human body. But your cat’s body system cannot handle this high level of concentration in essential oils.

The Possibility of Essential Oil Toxicity in Cats

Many years ago, specific essential oils were thought to be safe for cats and could be used to treat ear mites, respiratory issues and to relieve cats from extreme levels of stress. In recent studies, essentials oils have proved to be toxic for cats. Whether it’s taken internally, rubbed on their skin or inhaled, results from studies showed that the liver is the organ that is affected the most by the use of essential oils. The effect can also lead to seizures or even death in cats.

Here are some of the oils are that certainly toxic to cats:

  • Tea tree oil (also called melaleuca oil)
  • Wintergreen oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Pine oil
  • Citrus oil (lemon oil too)
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Sweet birch oil
  • Ylang ylang oil
  • Oregano oil
  • Clove oil
  • Eucalyptus oil

The more concentrated the oil is, the more it is risky for your cat. Again, if any of the oils listed above is unknowingly used on your cat (internally or externally) seek out to the vet immediately.

Safer Essential Oils for Cats

Remember we mentioned the safe use of essential oils. There are exceptional rules to use safe essential oils on cats. Here are some of them, which are considered safer for cats:

  • Cedarwood Oil: This particular oil does not contain any phenol and is completely safe for cats. But do take a look at the label before you apply it on your kitty.
  • Lemongrass Oil: It’s most commonly molded in hydrosol, a 100% non-alcoholic perfume. It’s said that lemongrass oil is safe to use around cats but at a lower concentration level. However, it should not be, by any means, swallowed or directly applied to
  • Rosemary: Rosemary is mostly used as a flea repellent. To make effective use of it, boil a pot of water with a small branch of rosemary. Brew the water until it gets diluted and then allows your cat to sit in the mixture for about 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Sweet Basil: This is a widely used fragrance in several different culinary dishes that help in fighting strong odors with its natural anti-fungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties. This can be regarded as a safe to use and effective essential oil around your pet cat.
  • Clary Sage: It’s most of our favorite for its relaxing and soothing properties, plus the pleasant aroma that it has in just a few drops. In addition, the strong anti-fungal and antibacterial properties make it an ideal choice for pets.
  • Lavender oil: We’re sure you’ve heard of this and why not? This popular floral fragrance, collected from those beautiful purple flowers are an excellent choice to fight against pathogenic and environmental fungi and bacteria.

How Will I Understand That My Cat Is Suffering from Essential Oil Poisoning?

Your cat’s body is able to absorb oils faster that is directly applied to their fur. Plus, the essence of the oil spread in the air is inhaled as well as collected on the fur of your cat. This results in ingesting during their grooming and cleaning process. This toxicity can spread very quickly or even have a long-term effect on your cat.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Sneezing
  • Nausea
  • Decreased temperature
  • Tremors
  • Hair loss
  • Wobbliness or difficulty in walking/moving (ataxia)
  • Respiratory problems (panting, wheezing, coughing or fast breathing)

Normally, you should definitely take your cat to the pet clinic emergency center if you see any of these signs. Keep it in mind that these problems could be a result of essential oils too.

How Cats Should Be Exposed to Essential Oils?

It depends if they need to be exposed or not. It’s best to keep all your essential oils locked in a cat-proof cupboard, whereby your notorious fluffy friend cannot have access to it. In addition, don’t allow them to lick or groom themselves after you have applied any medication that contains essential oil. That you could do by making them wear an e-collar (Elizabethan collar).

Abolish any aromatherapy diffusers, room sprays, candles and other sources of airborne essential oil that your cat can inhale and later lick off the remaining from their fur. Even the fragrance of the oil can affect your kitty.

More importantly, newborn kitties, elderly cats or the ones that suffer from respiratory issues are excellent candidates of being affected by essential oil diffusers. Consider not to wear aromatherapy jewelry either when your kitty is around.

What About Hydrosols?

Before we proceed, hydrosols are commended as a safer and more natural alternative to essential oils for cats. They are also known as “flower-waters”. Precisely, the water that’s left off after steam-distilling the herbs or flowers in water are less saturated than essential oils, which we refer to as hydrosols.

Although it’s considered to be safe for cats, it’s still better not to be exposed around cats. The remaining water from the plants is what makes it dangerous for them if inhaled or swallowed. But some cats can still tolerate hydrosols, while others are sensitive. Keep an eye on your pet cat to limit their access to them in order to minimize any health issues.

Always Use High-Quality Essential Oil for Your Cat

Now that you already know that whatever type of essential oil you decide on using, you have to be very careful about its usefulness. You should also keep in mind NOT to use low-quality essential oils for pets. Look for 100% pure and high-quality essential oil, the ingredients of which are pure and unadulterated. Other low-quality essential oils are likely to contain pesticides and chemicalized ingredients, which would overweigh the disadvantages than its benefits. Therefore, it’s important to dig into the topic and conduct an in-depth research to find out about the standards and purity that the essential oil holds.

Safety Tips for Using Essential Oil Around Cats

  • First of all, consult your vet before using any type of essential oils near your pet.
  • Be EXTRA cautious when your cat is near and around the diffuser of the essential oil. Again, cats do not have the liver enzymes (glucanosyltransferase) for which it’s difficult for them to metabolize essential oil, increasing their risk of toxicity.
  • Do NOT apply essential oil directly onto their fur. Chances are that your pet will suffer a negative skin reaction that will lead to chemical burns, redness, irritation and other skin diseases. On top of that, they’ll lick and groom themselves that will result in ingesting the essential oil leading to toxicity.
  • Cats should always have their own comfort zone in your home. A place that has a good ventilation system, where they can go and get some fresh air. If you tend to use essential oil at night in your bedroom, ensure that there is still a chance for your cat to go outside if the air becomes unbearable for them. Make sure not to trap them into breathing essential oils for a good 7 – 8 hours.
  • There’s no question about how good the quality of the essential oil should be. Check that the “therapeutic grade” doesn’t consist of any other chemicals or additives that might be harmful to your kitty. And of course, it MUST be diluted when put into a diffuser for use.
  • Keep the essential oil diffusers out of your cat’s reach. Your curious pet might accidentally knock over and come directly in contact with the oil, the consequences of which are unimaginable. So, it’s best to keep these concentrated essential oils out of your cat’s access.

It is widely believed that essential oils are an effective way to repel fleas and ticks in cats’ fur. However, do get an advice from your vet regarding this because no scientific study or research supports the use of essential oil as a means of effective treatment against fleas or other parasites.

Related Post: Best Flea Comb for Cats


A randomly picked essential oil will pose to be injurious to your cat’s health. The ones mentioned above are safe to be used on cats but still needs to be diffused and diluted properly. Try not to overuse them and keep your pet out of danger.

On the other hand, essential oils are said to be a safer alternative for cats than any artificial fragrances or air fresheners, when used in an appropriate amount. Also, know that what you find to be pleasant could also be overwhelming for your kitty. Works well to use scent-free essential oils around cats to retreat them.

So, Why Isn’t Essential Oil Listed as One of the Most Dangerous Substances for Cats?

The fact that essential oil is dangerous for cats is still unclear. Perhaps, there hasn’t been enough incidents about essential oils in cats and we don’t hear many stories about this happening. Plus, there hasn’t been enough discussion about the potential dangers of essential oils much often.

As per marketing companies, using essential oils on cats have a wide variety of side effects and reactions. To emphasize this again, always remember even the essential oil selling companies refer back to consulting a vet for further information on the use of essential oil for cats.

white cat

Bottom Line

And finally, there’s nothing better than doing your own research on every aspect of your cat’s health. Chances are, cat parents who panic about others giving their cats essential oil have never even thought about the brand of food that their pet cat eat every day. As we’ve mentioned before, not all essential oils are injurious, but some are. And be careful of the level of concentration that you put in the diffuser that you decide to expose in and around your cat. Once you have checked these basics factors, you are good to go! When sensibly used, essential oils won’t cause any issues in house cats.

Knowledge is power and arming yourself with this kind of power will keep your cat, kids, home and you happy and safe for a life.

Have you tried using any essential oils for your cat? Yes? We’d love to hear about your experience!


  1. Alia Hoyt, Oil Diffusers Make Your House Smell Great, But Are They Safe?, HowStuffWorks
  2. Renee Schmid, DVM, Essential Oil and Liquid Potpourri Poisoning in Cats, VCA Hospitals

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Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.