by Titunes Kittens

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essential oil

Essential Oils in cats, the hidden risks

Lately, I have been listening to a lot of podcasts from holistic speakers talking about the benefits of essential oils for cats and pets in general. My main interest comes from how to help my cat Milka with her chronic feline bronchitis using natural alternative treatments in addition to her medication.

The use of essential oils in pets, especially in cats, is a very controversial subject in vet science, from those who promote the great benefits of them to the word “high toxicity” and “dangerous” from some veterinarians.

Most of the professionals related to animal science don’t recommend the use of essential oils or other kinds of volatile chemicals because of the presence of phenols, considered a cause of toxicity and risk of death in our small felines. The problem is profound, but first, we must understand that our cat’s little bodies are not very efficient in the elimination of certain toxins. The deficiency of an enzyme called “glucuronyl transferase” in the cat’s liver is the cause of why it is hard for our kitties to metabolize toxins and kick them out of their system. The correct term for this process is hepatic glucuronidation if you would like to search deeper about it.

In cats, the elimination half-live of substances can take more time than other animals, so this increases the risk of intoxication if you are not very careful about dosages and application times. Remember that drug administration must constantly be monitored by professionals, but essential oils must also be used with extreme precaution. Many essential oils contain “phenols” or “phenolic compounds” that can be very harmful in an inappropriate dosage.

Why there are some professionals, veterinarians or animal aromatherapist promoting them?

Well, I don’t think that it would be easy to find a veterinarian opens to use this kind of product, maybe a certified aromatherapist.

But I know for sure is that:

  • Cats or maybe each cat has a different limit of tolerance with a specific toxic substance. Those limits are at some level known in veterinary pharmacology, and there are tons of studies and information to support that, but not for the use of essential oils. The lack of knowledge and the confusion about which essential oil is good or bad for our kitties don’t offer to much help to clarify the owner’s feelings about these products.
  • Most of the veterinarians or aromatherapists in favor of the use of essential oils for pets are sellers or manufacturers of them. 
  • Essential oils are not regulated; the concentration and safety listed on the label may be unknow in pets.

My personal experience

I have never applied essential oils directly on my cats, first because my cats hate fragrances, oils, perfumes, and any diffusers. Second, because I always had doubts about them, I would say, cat mamma’s gut feelings.

One time I put some drops of one essential oil in a humidifier not very near my cats, and even with an open window, one of my cats started to cough like crazy.
When catsitting, I never recommend the use of this kind of product, a cat face with watery eyes should be a big warning.

On the other hand, my best experiences were using hydrosols and Bach Flowers for cats with anxiety, and separation issues, and treatments with rescue ones. These products don’t contain any toxic compounds, are 100% non-alcoholic water, and very inexpensive.

Hydrosol products are what is left after the essential oils are distilled from plants, and it still contains essential oil microparticles, but it represents only one percent of the oil. Besides, carboxylic acids can be found in their formula, which has excellent anti-inflammatory properties and antiseptic.

Please, be aware that if you buy catnip in spray, you must be sure that it is not an essential oil, despite being a plant frequently used with a cat, to be concentrated in oil could still not be safe.
Check in the label that is a hydrosol, if not just use the regular catnip herb.

You can read more about hydrosol for cats at Green Valley Aromatherapy; they actually sell essential oils, hydrosols amount other interesting products.

Regarding Bach flowers, my favorite brand is Original Bach Flowers, which works perfectly with rescued cats and those with anxiety or separation issues.

Photo by LT

Warnings and precautions

First of all, never apply an essential oil directly to your cat or in his/her mouth.
Cats with respiratory issues (asthma, airborne allergies, etc.) should never be exposed to essential oils or diffusers. Some essential oil diffusers emit micro-droplets or particles of oil in the air, then depending on how close your cat is, his fur may collect some of the oil and enter his body through grooming or be absorbed by the skin.
If you have cats, reconsider the use of them, or always offer free essence space in your home for your pet.
Reconsider other alternatives for animal healing, like hydrosols, bach’s flowers, reiki for animals.

Sings of intoxication that you should be aware

Inhalation of strong odors or fragrance may cause a watery nose or eyes on cats, burning sensation in the nose/throat, drooling, and vomiting. Difficult breathing, fast breathing, panting or coughing. If your cat is exposed, you must move the kitty immediately into the fresh air and contact your veterinarian if symptoms don’t improve.

essential oil


If your pet displays any signs of poisoning, you can call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. You also should contact your veterinarian. Keep our kitties safe!


  • Pet Poison Helpline
  • Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
  • Dr. Murl Bailey (professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine)