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Are Essential Oils Bad For My Cat?

Essential oils are bad for your cat. I repeat. Essential oils are bad for cats. If you've been on social media this week, you've probably seen the story of a cat in Michigan that was rushed to the emergency room due to toxicity from eucalyptus oil in a diffuser. This is a true story and something that we all have been exposing our cats to. In the past several years, essential oil diffusers have become quite popular. It's basically a small humidifer that emits vapor of whatever scent you throw in there. I bought one for myself last year and a pack of essential oils to go with it. Essential oils are basically concentrated oil from a plant - whether it's peppermint, lavender, or even citrus.  What you probably didn't know is that by using this aromatherapy diffuser, it's actually causing harm to your pets.

Essential Oils Harmful To Cats

Essential oils can be toxic to humans as well. I once made some lip balm with coconut oil and citrus oil and literally burned my lips off. (I am apparently allergic to it). Not only that, but if you were to get some concentrated oil on your skin, it could cause minor to major irritation. So if it's potentially dangerous to us, it must be for our animals who are much more sensitive to chemicals and products than we are. 

Several weeks ago, I was sick and put several drops of eucalyptus oil in my diffuser to help with my congestion. It worked for me, but what I didn't know was that it was affecting my cat's health. Cats may not show early symptoms of toxicity to essential oils early on. The effects may come on much more later down the road. A reason why this is is because cats lack a certain enzyme in their livers that help metabolize harmful toxins. Glucuronyl transferase (GT) helps break down the essential oil's harmful properties such as it's phenol and hydrocarbon bonds. When we inhale vapor that's been peppered with lavender for example, our GTs go to work and help us not develop a buildup in our bloodstream, organs and the liver. Cats on the other hand, can develop early on-set liver and kidney failure due to the exposure of essential oils.

So what are some of the signs if your cat is developing a build-up of toxicity? Cats are very sensitive to many things, so what you may see early-on is:

  • Sneezing;
  • Coughing;
  • Runny nose;
  • Runny eyes; 
  • Overgrooming; and
  • Itchy skin (just to name a few).

Overtime, the symptoms may be more severe such as:

  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Difficulty walking/gait;
  • Drooling;
  • Lethargy/weakness;
  • Muscle tremors;
  • Pawing at the mouth; and
  • Vomiting (not all inclusive).

If you suspect your cat has been exposed to essential oils (licking just a little or getting some on their very absorbent skin), call your veterinarian and Pet Poison Control at 1-800-213-6680. Also, I am not a licensed veterinarian or pet care professional so please only use the above information as a resource coming from a concerned cat mom!

I did a search for which harmful and safe essential oils out there and what I found is that pretty much there are no "safe" essential oils (if you do find one, let me know!). So here is a list of some of the common harmful essential oils out there:

  • Cinnamon;
  • Clove;
  • Thyme;
  • Oregano;
  • Savory;
  • Pine; 
  • Citrus;
  • Lavender;
  • Eucalyptus;
  • Peppermint;
  • Tea Tree; and
  • ALL ESSENTIAL OILS.

There were be many people out there that will advocate for the safe use of essential oils and how they can be beneficial to your cat's health. I totally get that, but I believe the best thing to do for our cats is to not expose them to things that potentially could be life threatening. In my opinion, it's not worth risking the health of my cat so that I can have a lovely smelling environment or a way to help with my congestion. 

What are your thoughts about using essential oils around your cats? Do you currently use them and if so, do you plan on discounting them? Comment below and let's talk about it!


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