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Can Cats Eat Lavender? What You Need to Know!

Humans enjoy the lovely scent of lavender in soaps, lotions, essential oils, and other products. Lavender is a well-known herb for its stress-relieving and healing properties. It can have such a huge impact on us that you might wonder if it’s safe for your feline friends.

According to the ASPCA, lavender is toxic for cats to ingest. However, certain forms of lavender present varying levels of danger, such as essential oils and potpourris. Let’s explore what the different forms of lavender can do to your kitty so you can protect them accordingly.

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Why is Lavender Dangerous for Cats?

Lavender is toxic to cats as a live plant, dried plant, and essential oil. While all forms of the plants are dangerous, the oil is the worst form since it absorbs directly into the body.

a domestic cat staring at a lavender bush
Image Credit: Kolganova Daria, Shutterstock

When your cat encounters the oil, the harmful components soak through the pores and into the bloodstream—causing toxicity. If your cats ingest it, the results are the same.

So, while the lavender plant may cause minor, short-term side effects—like nausea or diarrhea—the essential oil form of the plant can have much more severe consequences.

The problem with lavender is that it has linalool and linalyl acetate, which the human liver can break down, but cats cannot. When it gets into their system, it makes their liver work on overdrive to deal with the poisoning.

Lavender Essential Oil, Liquid Potpourri, & Dried Plants

The three main types of lavender you could have in your home are essential oils, liquid potpourri, and dried lavender.

  • Lavender Essential Oil — There is a comprehensive list of essential oils that are very toxic to cats—lavender being among them. But what makes the plant safe for cats and not the oil? The simple answer here is concentration.

The lavender plant breaks down and extracts the root elements of that plant, which give you oil. This highly concentrated liquid is highly lethal for cats when they are exposed to it.

  • Lavender Liquid Potpourri — Many homes have lovely smelling liquid potpourri as a fragrance. Not only lavender, but all types of liquid potpourri is toxic to cats. If you have a simmering bowl of potpourri, your cat could lick or contact it, resulting in sickness.

In this case, not just the lavender is a concern, but all the other chemicals included, too.

  • Dried Lavender — Dried lavender may seem more harmless than live lavender. While it may take a bit more to make your cat incredibly sick, it can still have a poor reaction. Luckily, most cats will show no interest in wanting to eat dried plants.

Symptoms of Lavender Poisoning

If you believe your cat came into contact with lavender oil or ingested the plant, they will most likely become rapidly symptomatic. It’s imperative to get the proper treatment early on to make the impact as minor as possible.

Symptoms of lavender toxicity in cats include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Discomfort
  • Lack of coordination
  • Skin irritation
  • Tremors

Contact your vet immediately if your cat displays any of these symptoms.

Can You Use Lavender in a Diffuser if You Have Cats?

An oil diffuser is a much different scenario than topical or oral essential oil applications. Different types of diffusers pose various concerns for pet health.

Air Diffuser and Lavender Oil
Image Credit: Daystar Photo, Shutterstock

Many diffusers on the market require a mixture ratio of water to oil, where the oil is highly diluted. There are some claims that this is perfectly safe and shouldn’t pose any real risks for your cat. But according to the Pet Poison Healthline, even this is dangerous for your cats.

While not all cats will react the same, symptoms of inhaling the diffuser fumes include:
  • Wheezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Nausea
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting

Also, even though you aren’t applying this directly to your cat, the bottle is still in your home. If your cat encounters small dribbles or licks the bottle, it can cause significant reactions for them. Always put these products up out of their reach when you aren’t using them.

A curious cat could wind up very sick. Use all essential oils in your home with caution. If you have qualms or questions about the safety of using your diffuser around your cats, contact your veterinarian for advice.

Treatment for Lavender Poisoning in Cats

Luckily, most cats will survive a brush encounter with lavender. However, the treatment needs to be aggressive and fast. This is especially true if they’ve contacted lavender in liquid form since you don’t know how much will be absorbed.

Remember to keep all herbal products away from your cat. Consult with veterinary professionals about these matters to keep your felines feeling fine.

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Final Thoughts

Even though our cats can’t enjoy or benefit from lavender, there are several other treats or treatments you can offer them. Educating yourself about the safety of herbs and plants is a fantastic way to keep your cat healthy. Now that you know lavender is a no-no, you can keep it from your cats to avoid any mishaps in the future.

Featured Image: Agnieszka Lizak, Shutterstock