Essential Oils and Cats Don’t Always Mix! 

The popularity of health products that can be used in the home has exploded in the last decade.  Products such as essential oils and aromatherapy products are being used much more in households throughout the world.  While these products may be safe and useful in improving the health of people, they aren’t always safe for our pets. 

 Essential oils have become very popular in treating a variety of human conditions in the past few years, and are increasingly being included in household products.  Many people assume that if they are using essential oils, they must be safe for their pets as well. However, this is not necessarily the case, particularly in cats.  

Essential oil products are not regulated, so they are not subject to inspections that ensure the products are high quality, devoid of contaminants, and contain the products that they are stated to contain. Therefore, the quality of essential oils varies drastically from company to company, and the quality is an important factor in determining which products are safe to use in pets. 

Cats in particular are very susceptible to essential oil toxicity due to a difference in their liver function that does not allow proper metabolism of the oils.  Essential oil toxicity can lead to irreversible liver failure and even death in cats, even when oils are not directly applied to their bodies. It is very important to know the oils that are most likely to be toxic to cats and how to recognize the signs of intoxication.  

The essential oils most likely to cause toxicity in cats, as established by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center include:

  • Wintergreen oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Pine oil
  • Eucalyptus
  • Clove oil
  • Tea tree/Melaleuca oil
  • Citrus oil or those containing d-limonene
  • Ylang Ylang 
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Pennyroyal oil

The most common signs of essential oil intoxication in cats include drooling, vomiting, tremors, difficulty breathing or panting, low body temperature, and collapse.  If you observe any of these symptoms after diffusing essential oils in your home, applying a product to your cat, or after using a household cleaner or air freshener that may contain essential oils, seek veterinary care immediately.  While there is no specific treatment to counteract the oil exposure, supportive care and aggressive treatment can sometimes prevent potential liver failure and allow cats to fully recover.  

It is important to remember that cats do not have to have oils directly applied to them in order to become ill.  Diffusion of essential oils sprays droplets of the oil into the air that can stick to your cat’s fur. Your cat then ingests the oil when grooming. Cats can also become exposed while walking in areas that cleaners have been used or applied, and ingest the product after it gets on the fur.  

There may be instances in which essential oil therapy can be utilized in dogs and even cats, but this should be done under the supervision of your veterinarian, and only using high quality products with proven safety. 

If you have questions about essential oil therapy in your home, please contact University Veterinary Hospital so we may provide you with information about how to safely use these products around your pets.   

call us 318-797-5522.


Stay Safe! Dr. Amanda Beck