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Do Essential Oils Work for Calming Cats? Know Before You Use Them!

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	Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As cat owners, we know that sometimes our feline buddies can get a little wild (especially late at night) or even anxious and scared. It can be difficult to know what to do in these situations if we want to help calm them down. If you’ve looked online for a solution, you’ve likely come across a wealth of suggestions—some safe to try, some not. Using essential oils might have been one of those suggestions you came across.

Do essential oils work for calming cats? The answer is absolutely not. Why? Because essential oils are dangerous for pets, but more so for cats. Below you’ll find what you need to know about cats and how they react to essential oils so you’re better informed on how to keep your pet safe.

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What Are Essential Oils?

You’re likely at least a bit familiar with essential oils; you’ve maybe even used them a time or two. But, if not, what exactly are essential oils? Basically, they’re the part of a plant that contributes to how that plant smells and tastes. These oils are extracted from plants via cold pressing or distillation, thus making essential oils.

There are several ways these oils can be used, too. You can put them in a diffuser to make your home smell better, use them as a homemade insecticide, homeopathic and medicinal remedies, and more. But most often, these oils are used as aromatherapy.

essential oil
Image Credit: Madeleine Steinbach, Shutterstock

Essential Oils & Cats

Essential oils sound pretty harmless, right? So why are they so bad for our cats? Because felines lack the liver enzymes needed to metabolize essential oils and because essential oils can be absorbed by our kitty friends both through the skin and orally. These missing enzymes mean that essential oils are toxic to cats and can cause liver damage, liver failure, and even death. More ways of absorption mean more ways our cats can become ill.

And certain essential oils are worse than others when it comes to toxicity. Essential oils known to cause poisoning in felines include:

  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Tea tree
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang

Pretty frightening, right?

tea tree essential oil
Image Credit: ronstik, Shutterstock

Are Diffusers Safe to Use Around Cats?

Essential oils can be absorbed by our cats via the skin or orally, so are diffusers safe to use? Will simply smelling a scent harm your pet? It could. If you’re using what’s known as a passive diffuser (think reed diffuser, motorized diffusers, or heat diffusers), it could put forth a fragrance strong enough to cause respiratory irritation in your pet. If this occurs, you could see symptoms such as vomiting, drooling, watery eyes, or difficulty breathing. The remedy would be to immediately get your cat some fresh air, and if symptoms don’t clear up, get your pet to the vet.

There are also what are known as active diffusers (i.e., nebulizing diffusers or ultrasonic diffusers), which are even more likely to harm your cat. Why? These types of diffusers actually emit particles of the essential oil into the air, and though those particles may be small, they can get onto your cat’s respiratory system, fur and be absorbed through the skin or ingested when your pet begins to groom. If this happens, you could see vomiting, drooling, wobbliness, tremors, low heart rate, and eventually possible liver failure.

So, to be safe, it’s best not to use diffusers in your home.

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Final Thoughts

As you can see, essential oils are not the best way to go about calming your cat. Instead of calming them, you’re more likely to poison them and make them extremely ill. We know it’s tempting to use essential oils as aromatherapy or in other ways around the home, but it’s very much not recommended that you do so. Even using a diffuser around your pet could have disastrous consequences. If you’re trying to keep your cat calm, we suggest skipping essential oils and finding another solution.

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Featured Image Credit: Madeleine Steinbach, Shutterstock