Making ‘Scents’ of Essential Oils and Cats

The alluring fragrance that essential oils emit in our homes cannot be disputed, however they aren’t as compelling or harmless to our feline friends. Not only do cats have a far keener sense of smell than humans, but essential oils from which these heavenly fragrances come from, are potentially detrimental to them so we must introduce essential oils into our homes responsibly.

Symptoms of Toxic Poisoning:
Feline livers struggle to metabolise certain components found in most essential oils as they do not have the necessary detoxifying enzymes in which to do so. This causes toxicity levels in the bloodstream to rise, ultimately leading to poisoning or death. Toxins can accumulate over an extended period, so symptoms of poisoning may not be apparent immediately.

The following are associated symptoms of toxic poisoning:

  • disorientation
  • partially paralysed
  • vomiting
  • drooling
  • convulsions

Methods of Toxic Poisoning
Although inhalation isn’t ideal, toxicity is most rife when essential oils are ingested. This happens when a cat grooms itself and subsequently licks essential oils that may have accidentally spilled onto their fur. Inhalation of essential oils can aggravate ailments such as asthma or other respiratory illnesses that your cat may suffer from.

Essential Oils Considered Poisonous to Cats:

  • Bergamot (bitter orange) (Citrus aurantium spp. bergamia)
  • Birch (Betula spp.)
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
  • Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
  • Fir (Abies spp.)
  • Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
  • Lavender (Lavandula)
  • Lemon (Citrus limonum)
  • Lime (Citrus aurantifolia)
  • Melaleuca (Melaleucaalternifolia), also known as Tea Tree
  • Mandarin Orange (Citrus reticulata)
  • Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia)
  • Orange (sweet) (Citrus silences)
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  • Peppermint (Mentha Piperita)
  • Pine (Pinus spp.)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Tangerine (Citrus reticulate)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
  • Any other oils comprising phenol

* spp. is the abbreviation for “species”.

Please note that just because an oil is excluded from this list, does not mean that it’s considered safe for felines. Have your fur baby’s best interests at heart by making certain that you are purchasing an essential oil that will not affect them negatively.

Toxicology reports have discovered that cats are far more vulnerable than other mammals to two constituents in essential oils called pinene and limonene. These components are found in pine and citrus essential oils and make up ingredients in natural pine and citrus cleaning products as well as natural repellents for ticks and fleas.

Pawtionary (Cautionary) Measures:

  • Ensure that essential oils don’t rub off your skin and onto your cat.
  • Regardless of certain product instructions, never apply essential oils directly onto your cat. They may attempt to lick it off when grooming and ingestion is the most dangerous route for toxins to plague the feline body.
  • Ensure any materials cleaned with essential oils are stored out of reach from your cat.
  • Store all your oils away from your cat’s reach. Essential oil bottle lids can leak and this could wreak havoc to your cat’s health if ingested by them.
  • Where possible, dilute your essential oils so that if your cat does ingest them, the consequences will be far less dire than if consumed in higher concentrations.
  • As soon as you notice a leaking diffusor, safely dispose of it in a place that’s out of your cat’s nosy reach.
  • Always keep the local poison control centre’s contact number at hand in case of emergencies.        

Safer Alternatives to Using Essential Oils:

  • Oil burners aren’t the best substitute because the risk factors associated with them are too high. Cats can either knock them over causing a fire, burning themselves or ingesting the spattered oil.
  • Aerosol diffusors and those containing hydrosols instead of essential oils are considered safer alternatives as the scent is released in the form of a mist which is more diluted and challenging for inquisitive furry felines to access.

If you choose to use essential oils in your home for any reason, do so with the utmost caution as these seemingly harmless oils could be detrimental to your four-legged baby.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

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Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.