Essential Oils and Cats - Everyday Essentials

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Woman petting her cat at home

Essential Oils and Cats

If you’ve got essential oils and you’ve got cats, we’re going to bet that you love them both! But perhaps your cat doesn’t feel the same way. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that your cats absolutely detest your EO affection and may be secretly plotting a way to mercilessly overthrow these tiny bottles reign in your home! It’s Game of Thrones—with cats.

So what’s the deal with EOs and cats?

Cat peaking up from a table

Jokes aside, this is an incredibly important topic to discuss if you have feline friends in your home. Cats and essential oils are a potentially toxic mix. Doing something as seemingly innocent as diffusing some Peppermint to freshen up the air can have you rushing your kitty straight to the veterinarian’s office.

This blog is not intended to be a scare tactic to pressure cat owners to toss their oils. However, it is meant to educate and advise responsible and mindful use of your aromatherapy products in a home occupied by your precious kitty tenants.

How do essential oils impact your cat’s health?

Woman petting her cat at home

Cats have unique bodies that can’t easily be compared to other mammals. Particularly, they lack a liver enzyme called glucuronyl transferase. Because of this, cats are not able to eliminate compounds through hepatic glucuronidation like most other mammals. So what does all that mean? In a very basic sense, it means that the lack of this important detoxification mechanism results in a slower elimination of certain compounds—if elimination is possible at all. Without the necessary enzymes to break down certain substances and effectively excrete them, it ultimately leads to the buildup of toxins in their bodies.

Cats are most sensitive to specific groups of essential oil constituents. This includes phenols and other compounds containing benzene rings, which we find in the essential oils of Wintergreen, Fennel, Peppermint, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, and Marjoram (to name a few!). They are also extremely sensitive to ketones, such as Rosemary, Spearmint, Dill, and Sage. And unlike many other mammals, cats are sensitive to monoterpene hydrocarbons (terpenes), such as pinene and limonene. This means that both citrus and coniferous essential oils should absolutely not be used around cats.

Not only do we risk poisoning cats with essential oils as the toxins build up in their body, but simply inhaling the strong aroma of essential oils can cause some cats to suffer from a watery nose or eyes, burning throat, nausea, and difficulty breathing.

Different methods of aromatherapy present different concerns for your cat.

Reed diffuser next to a window

As a cat owner, you must be cautious using essential oils in your home. Active and passive diffusion can lead to respiratory irritation and toxin buildup. Although the teeny tiny droplets coming from our diffuser may seem small and harmless, they pose a great health risk for cats. The delicate and thin skin of a cat rapidly absorbs EO molecules, which their liver will then attempt to metabolize. The molecules may also collect on the cat’s fur, leading to ingestion when your cat begins grooming him- or herself. Applying essential oils topically on a cat, whether diluted or neat, can lead to immediate health emergencies that your friend may not be able to fully recover from.

Looking for symptoms of toxicity…

Vet looking over a cat

The buildup of toxins in a cat’s body can show up immediately or years down the road. If you notice any physical or behavioral changes in your cat and suspect an EO may be the culprit, please visit your veterinarian. Since, unfortunately, cats can’t speak our language, we have to maintain a watchful eye over our feline friends.

Symptoms of toxicity include, but are not limited to:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting (not from hairballs)
  • Tremors
  • Ataxia (wobbliness)
  • Respiratory distress (labored breathing, fast breathing, wheezing, etc.)
  • Low body temperature
  • Liver failure

Consult your vet right away if you have any concerns. But keep in mind that even with supervised care and plenty of fluids cats are still unable to completely excrete toxins from their body. This can result in permanently elevated enzyme levels and varying degrees of liver function.

Safe tips for using your essential oils with cats at home.

Woman petting her cat

So does having a cat completely rule out your aromatherapy dreams? Absolutely not! As long as your dream doesn’t include using EOs on your cats, that is. Follow these simple tips to enjoy your oils while simultaneously keeping kitty safe!

  • Diffuse in a well-ventilated room blocked off from your cat.
  • Never diffuse in an enclosed room with your cat trapped inside.
  • Store your EOs somewhere your cat cannot reach them to prevent accidental contact and/or ingestion.
  • If applying diluted oils to yourself topically, avoid your cat for at least an hour. Do not pet them or let them lick
  • Wash your hands after working with oils.
  • When using EOs in cleaning products, do not allow your cat to walk on those surfaces until the EOs have evaporated. Absorption through paws or ingestion during grooming will increase your cat’s chance of poisoning.
  • Inhalers, inhalers, inhalers! This might just be the perfect way to enjoy your oils without putting any cats in harm’s way!

Following these suggestions will help to responsibility minimize your cat’s exposure to essential oils and therefore decrease the likelihood of any toxins building up in his or her body.

Want to learn more about Pup & Pony? Well, you’re in luck! In this Plant Therapy Live video, recorded on April 12, 2019, Emilee Hughes (Certified Aromatherapist and the brains & beauty behind this new line!) and Retha Nesmith (Certified Aromatherapist and VP of Customer Experience) talk all about the blends, Paw Balm, and Paw Pal Diffuser, plus all kinds of customer questions! Watch below:

For questions regarding essential oils for dogs, please contact our Customer Service Team at [email protected]. Your inquiry will be directed to our Certified Aromatherapists who have undergone specialized animal aromatherapy training.

Learning lots from our animal series? We sure hope so! Make sure to head over to our Safe Essential Oils Recipe group on Facebook to share your experiences!

Information collected from the following sources:

Bell, K.L. (2002). Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols with Animals. Findhorn Press.

Morag, N. (2011).  Essential Oils for Animals: Your Complete Guide to Using Aromatherapy for Animal Health and Management. Off The Leash Press.

Animal Aromatherapy Foundation Course with Kelly Azzaro

Practical Aromatherapy for Dogs Certification

Veterinary Medical Aromatherapy with Dr. Nancy Brandt


104 thoughts on “Essential Oils and Cats”

    1. No, we do not recommend any essential oils be used around cats. They can be highly toxic to cats and it is not worth the risk.

    1. Yes, using passive diffusion instead of a diffuser will make difference as is it’s not actively pumping essential oils into the air. But we still recommend using extreme caution with essential oils around cats to make sure they stay healthy. Diffusing in a separate room is always a good option.

  • Thanks so much for this blog. I’m moving with my daughter who has two cats and have been trying to find correct information re diffusing oils with cats. Now what to do with all my diffusers and oil collection?!

    1. Don’t worry! You can still make use of your oils. You can always diffuse with the door closed when the cats don’t have access to the room and you keep the kitties out for at least an hour after you’ve diffused. We have more great tips on how to use oils around our kitties (or doggos and kiddos) in this blog post.

  • Thank you so much for this information. I have 3 cats and haven’t used my diffuser for awhile. Will be extremely careful and make sure they are not in the same room when using my diffuser. I have passed on this information to my friends who use essential oils and have cats.

  • Thank you for the information. I will be more careful around our kitty. Good to inform all members of the family, too.

  • I was sad to learn all this after I became an aromatherapist & have a kitty but I am super safe around him! Please keep letting people know about this as E.Oils are sold all over & never do I see a warning sign about them being poison to cat’s!

  • Thank you for this article.

    I have been diffusing oils around my indoor cat for 3 years. He is in and out of the room and I haven’t noticed any ill effects. But I will be more careful from now on. I had heard that they might be harmful to cats and didn’t know where to look for more information.

  • I’m so glad I came across this information! Thanks for posting it! I do have a question, can you diffuse an essential oil in a closed room when no cat is present and if so, how long should you wait until allowing the cat access to the room again? (In essense, I’m wondering how long the diffused oil takes to dissipate from the air). I’m also wondering if this process can be done with oils toxic to cats, such as peppermint and lemon? Thanks!

    1. Yes, you can diffuse essential oils in an enclosed room with no cats present. Generally, we recommend allowing the essential oils 30-60 minutes to dissipate before allowing your cat to re-enter.

  • This is definitely a great article. I have 2 kitties here at home along with my little minions who are 2.5 and 1 years old. I have to be careful with them as well as my furr children. I don’t diffuse often but when I do it is usually in a room where my furr children aren’t near. They hide out in my bedroom with the door closed and use the diffuser for about a half hour in my living room and that’s it and I usually have the window open. I have one cat who likes all the things that kitties are not supposed to have…she loves the smell of garlic, bleach, onions, among other things. She is strange. People definitely need to be educated on how to use EOS correctly, especially around the 2 legged and 4 legged children. I am glad I am a PT customer. I have learned so much from the live videos and blogs.

  • Thank-you for this information! It breaks my heart to think I may have been poisoning my kitties and I wish I had known sooner. 🙁 I will not diffuse any more and have recently purchased personal inhalers. Now I just need to figure out how to use them!

  • I’ve been using a diffuser, in my bedroom, with lavender oil, immune aid and germ fighter for a few years now and my kitties sleep with me. (the door and windows are open) Is this combo ok for them? I used to use a scent ball with lavender oil,to help me sleep. Is that a healthier option or no oils around kitties at all?

    1. We do not recommend using essential oils around cats because it could cause safety concerns. If needed, please reach out to [email protected] and one of our certified animal aromatherapists would be happy to provide more information.

  • thank you so much for sharing this…it’s so helpful. I’ve read so much conflicting information about essential oils and cats, and what is safe or not safe. i trust the knowledge you guys share and it’s a relief to have a reliable source for keeping my kitties safe :]

  • I will say it just like everybody else, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS INFO. I also almost bought the oil for my cats until i saw the notice that it was not cat safe, however i did not fully realize the connection between oils in general and how they affect cats. I have just recently been getting into oils and learning about the different ones. Fortunately i do very little diffusing and use them mainly topically. I will now in the future keep them in mind when i do decide to diffuse. Thank you again for your honesty, my cats will now remain safe because of it!!!!!!!

  • Thank you so much this post!! I have 2 cats (one of which has asthma, but not due to essential oil use) and a guinea pig. I knew animals were more sensitive to oils, but I didn’t realize which ones were worse for them. I really appreciate this info!

  • Years ago I went to a “essential oil” party (didn’t know until I got there that it was MLM). My concern was my cat’s constipation problem and she recommended a blend for it. Went home and researched the oils in it and sure enough the oils were toxic to cats! Unbelievable!!! These “distributors” are not educated enough to be selling anything. Their main goal is to sell products. I appreciate PT and their honesty. Thank you…

  • Thank you for being honest about essential oil use with cats, even though it may make people buy less of your products. That shows real integrity.

  • Thanks so much for writing about this. One thing I really love about Plant Therapy is the honesty; it’s not just about selling, it’s about educating for best use and I really appreciate that. I only use my oils for diffusing, but after learning about how EOs and cats don’t mix, my husband (a real cat dad) asked that I take everything to work instead of using it at home. We decided it wasn’t worth the risk, and I had already confirmed with my coworkers that no one cared or had any allergies. The only thing I still diffuse at home is peppermint, and only when I have a sinus or migraine headache (and the cat is locked out of the room). Better safe than sorry when it comes to the cat. I am glad that I am diffusing from a more educated standpoint now, thanks to Plant Therapy.

  • Thank you for this easy to read article! I get so many questions on why cats are different than dogs and this explains it perfectly. I shared on my Facebook page. I’ll probably share again in a few weeks.

  • Thank you for this informational post! When you introduced pup and pony, I was hoping that some blends could be used for cats but now I know better! Thank you!

  • Thanks, for sharing. I’ve known about the dangers but have found so much conflicting information. To make sure I’m understanding this righ, there are no essential oils safe for diffusing around cats? Is, this correct?

    1. That’s correct! There are some oils that pose a higher risk than others, but we don’t recommend diffusing any oils around cats.

  • I am so glad you posted this article. We diffuse frequently & unfortunately our cat is usually around, although in another part of the large room. So, hopefully we haven’t hurt him too much. We never realized this about E O & cats. Thanks you so much!

  • Thank You Plant Therapy for another great and informative article. I have been sharing it with my oily friends that have fur babies.

  • Thank you so much for this post. I only learned recently which oils might be harming my cats when I diffuse them and I am so glad that the ones that are harmful, I never diffuse and only use in roll ons or creams. Thank you again! Super helpful information.

  • I sure wish this information would have been available a couple years ago, my kitty would still be alive. I had no idea of the danger I was exposing my cat to with diffusing my mlm oils in my small office daily after work. He was right under the steady stream. I didn’t know why he was getting sick, and being an inside cat, it was sad. I had no idea it was me and the oils. This information will hopefully save other cat owners.

    1. Laura, we are so sorry to hear about the loss of your precious cat. We all know just how important our furry friends are in our lives and how big of a hole they leave when they’re gone. And like you, we hope that this information can help keep everyone’s pets living long, healthy lives.

  • Thank you so much for posting this! There are so many companies that sweep this information under the rug. Not to mention all the misinformation on the internet and in books as to what oils are toxic. I have 3 cats myself and I only diffuse oils in my car. I use inhalers and well as topical blends, but I always make sure to wash my hands and not be around or pet my cat for quite awhile after applying topically. This subject has made me crazy for years. I am so glad to find a truly caring & responsible company!

  • Thank you for posting about cats and essential oils. When i first looked at essential oils, I was confused on what was safe for my pets. I only apply mixtures directly to me and steam in the shower. For the most part my cats are not interested in the oils. However, one cat loves the healing balm and i have to be extra aware when I use it as he will try to eat it. After it is applied to my husband’s feet, socks follow otherwise he will lick my husband’s feet. My dog loves when a Plant Therapy package arrives. She gets just as excited as I do when I open the package. if I open a bottle to smell, she gets upset if she can’t smell it. Due to her strong smelling ability, she smells the bottle at a distance not directly under her nose. If I use essential oils at night, my cats voluntarily leave me alone during the night.

  • This blog will be very useful for me to refer to as I continue my journey with essential oils and my feline friends

  • Thank you PT! Finally, an article from a source I really trust. There are five fur-babies in our family and I have been hesitant to diffuse as much as I would really like to. It turns out that was probably a good thing. I recently purchased a bag of the plastic inhalers to make personal allergy fighters for my husband and kids. Looks like I will be using up the rest of them!

  • Great summary! Thank you for the information. It will be nice to incorporate this information for use. Up until now, I felt safest using hydrosols around my cat because he has not demonstrated an aversion, but rather great interest.

  • Thank you! Incredible article. There is so much conflicting information out there on this topic and I think this article addresses major concerns well.

  • Thanks for the info about EO and cats! Always great articles of everything there is to EO and our homes.

  • Thank you for writing this post. It is definitely very informative and a great reference for me to share with my cat-loving friends who are looking to use EOs at home.

  • Thank you for all this information. This helped me to clear up a few questions I had been wondering about. I will definitely be passing this article on to my oily friends with cats.

  • THANK YOU PT!!! I have two kitties and I honestly didn’t think some of these oils you named affected them. I will definitely be more careful!

  • Thank you for all the research and information you have gathered on this subject. I enjoy reading all the blog posts, and learning something new every time

  • Wow! Thank for all of this useful information. I recently started using EO and I love them. I also have 3 cats and only thought citrus oils were bad. I learned a lot from this!

  • I have done a lot of research on this especially since I ha e two cats. If I diffuse I always do it in an open room and leave plenty of space for my cat to decide if he even likes the smell. Most of the time he doesn’t and avoids the room until I’m done. Some essential oils are ok like Lavender but they must be diluted and never directly applied. Thank you for bringing attention to this.

  • Thank you so much Plant Therapy for all the information you provide us with! I set your blog as an shortcut on my home screen so that I can access it easily because it really is like an essential oil book, and one that I can trust. When I started my essential oil research, pet safety was one of the things I spent many days researching. The reason for that is because there is so much contradicting information out there…not just on websites, but even in books that are specifically written for animals and oil use and also in highly recommended essential oils books that include animal use within their pages. The lists I had going were being added to and erased over and over with each page turn and website search. I trust you guys more than anyone so as soon as you posted your pet safety blogs, I went back to my lists and made changes according to what you guys said. Luckily most of the oils I had already had listed as safe got to stay on my list, but I had some on my safe list that weren’t safe and thanks to you guys my cats won’t be in danger. I also wanted to say thank you for pointing out that the symptoms of toxicity might not show up right away, but can over time. That is something I never came across in researching and I think it’s so important to know that. Having that information will help people be aware that if they do use an unsafe oil and their cat doesn’t show signs of toxicity it doesn’t mean they aren’t affected by it. That knowledge can save many furry little lives. You guys think of everything always!

  • Thank you for this detailed information. I’ve been wondering about this for awhile. Thank you for helping me keep my pets and family safe.

  • Thank you for all of the wonderful information. I came from an MLM company that suggest neat use on cats for stress, fleas/ticks, worms, anything and everything. I hadn’t done any of that yet and am glad I didn’t. It’s scary how much damage I could have done to them. I’ve adjusted how I diffuse at home.

    1. Oh no! I am so glad you chose not to use undiluted EOS on your cats! Sometimes we hear MLM suggestions that are truly horrific, and I think this is one of those cases. We hope we answered all your questions with this blog, but if not, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our certified animal aromatherapists at [email protected] for any more information 🙂

  • I have been waiting for this. I love the detailed information. I have a cat and I want her to be as safe as possible. Thank you Plant Therapy.

  • Thank you for this information. I am thinking about getting a cat but I have been conflicted because I diffuse regularly.

  • Thank you for this useful information. I enjoy the blogs and learning new information about essential oils.

  • So thankful for Plant Therapy and all the education you provide your customers. I recently gifted a set of Plant Therapy essential oils and a diffuser to my brother and sister-in-law and was able to share this blog post with them, as they have a cat.

  • Thank you PT for all the hard work you have put in to continuing to research this topic. It’s such a tough one and there is so much confusion surrounding the safety of EOs and cats. It’s comforting to know that you guys truly care about animals, especially when it comes to what could potentially be very dangerous for them. I love my oils but I’m so glad I discovered the potential dangers before jumping in and diffusing. I would have felt absolutely horrible if I had made my babies sick. They’re my world and their safety and comfort in more important to me than anything. I’d love to be able to diffuse sometimes but for now, my inhalers, necklace and rollers work perfectly well for me and it keeps my babies safe and happy!

  • I did some research on my own when I was looking into starting to use essential oils, so I knew that I had to be careful with the oils. I was disappointed at first because I thought I couldn’t use them at all. The education out there about animal safety is so misleading with some saying it is fine to use essential oils on or near animals and others saying it is not safe at all. I appreciate this article because you have told us why it is dangerous for cats. I am particularly upset that other (unsafe) essential oil companies tell you it is ok just so you spend more money. It is soo aggravating. Thank you for being so truthful!!

  • Glad to have this info. It is an important reminder to remember our pets not only with diffusing but when we come in contact with them when we have them on our own skin. Thanks for posting

  • Is there a length of time i should wait after diffusing before allowing my cat back into the room?

  • I never knew this until recently. I lived in a small 1 bedroom with my two cats and would diffuse all the time .I never knew EOs were bad for them. I feel so bad because my cat had symptoms I had no idea why. I thought she got into some cleaning stuff because she would vomit all day one time. She is okay now but I am very very careful now with my EOs. Inhalers only.

  • I’ve been so curious about this. I have several friends/family members who have asked me about EO’s but they have cats so I’ve been very cautious on what I tell them. Now I can provide them additional information. Thank you so much PT!!!

  • Thank you for this information! I’ve been curious about it. As I live research, thank you for siteing the research so I could do more.

  • Thank you so much for this helpful blog!
    I rescued my boy when he was a tiny kitten, and he’s had a rough start to life; so I’m super glad to know that I can now be even more careful with my EO‘s and diffusion around him.
    I came across another EO company that sells oils specifically for animals, that I was considering purchasing from. But some of the oils used in their blends are on this no no list, and since I trust PT so much, I’ll be sticking to these guidelines!
    Thank you for another great article!

    1. Deaven, we do not suggest Catnip EO for cats because it is such a highly concentrated product and can cause safety concerns. Please reach out to our team at [email protected] and they can direct you to our certified animal aromatherapists to provide you with more information 🙂

  • Thank you so much for this info! Especially the signs of toxicity. Our cat seems to know the oils are bad because she won’t come near them.

  • I am so thankful to Plant Therapy for taking our consumer concerns seriously, and for being so diligent in adding **certified animal aromatherapists** to your staff! I have five indoor cats and have not diffused in my home after learning about the dangers as I was concerned about their well being. I will now feel more comfortable diffusing in certain areas of our home, and will use more of my inhalers and diffuser jewelry in areas where the kitties tend to hang out.

  • Thank you for the great article as a mixed house with a cat and a dog I was wondering what my dos and don’ts were.

  • Thanks for this article! Is there any possibility of having a “Cat Safe” line of EO’s? Just a thought…

  • I have a cat & I had only read a couple of things about them being sensitive. This was a very good topic.

  • Thank you for this information! I’m grateful that PT takes essential oil safety seriously, not only for humans, but also our non-human family members.

  • I love my cats and my oils. When I diffuse at home, I make sure that the cats ALWAYS have other areas of the house to go that I am not diffusing in. I try to avoid oils that I knew where unpleasant to them, but I will for sure be more careful now knowing that some can be toxic.

  • I think it would be especially helpful to get a list of essential oils that are very toxic to cats. I don’t diffuse essential oils at all in the living room for my cats well-being, but there are a lot of products that contain EOs, even if I don’t put them in (for example, lotions, bath products, etc.). I guess majority of oils are toxic since cats are sensitive to such common components like limonene, but my cats getting a whiff of lavender is much safer than a whiff of citrus for an example, and that should help us decide which EO to use in the bath, etc. The lists on the web are currently all over the places and contradictory, even!

  • Guys! Thank you so much for sharing this important information with us! My cat is mostly outdoors, but I’ll keep all this in mind when she comes in. Thank you!

  • I have always had great respect for plant therapy and have learned a great deal but I am concerned that you are perpetuating the issues of cats a oils. If used properly, and of quality tested on use in cats, they can enjoy oils. I use oils from animaleo which are specifically developed for use in animals including cats.

    1. Karen, you may want to bring this concern up with our certified animal aromatherapists to learn more about our current stance about essential oil usage with cats 🙂 You can contact them at [email protected].

  • Great information!! Now that I’m aware of the dangers I’ve quit diffusing and instead have switched to making lip balms, soaps, etc so I can still enjoy my EO’s while keeping our 2 cats safe. Thank you PT for always going the extra mile for your customers!!

  • I have 3 cats so this blog is very helpful to me. I knew about diffusing in an open space but didn’t think about my cats coming in contact with oils used for cleaning surfaces. Very helpful blog. Thanks PT for all you do!

  • Thank you for this. I don’t used my diffuser anymore caues my cats sleeps in my room now. I’m careful around him. Thank you again.

  • I have a cat and I had no idea they were so sensitive to essential oils. So glad I found this article so I can keep her safe.

    1. Thank you for this info. I thought I knew what I was doing but missed some key points. Thanks Plant Therapy.

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