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What Essential Oils Are Safe to Diffuse Around Cats?

Diffusing essential oils in your house can make your home smell amazing and can even help you relax after a stressful day. However, if you have a cat (or cats), you need to be very careful with your essential oils as they can prove to be quite toxic for your pets.

So, clearly, you want your cat to be safe. But if you’ve made it to this article, you would also enjoy using your diffuser, and you’re wondering what kind of essential oils are actually safe around your moggy. We’ll walk you through what oils are safest, as well as the signs you need to look out for if your cat is suffering any ill effects. We all want your cats to be safe and in good health.


What Exactly Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are extracts that have been taken from plants through pressing or steaming, but not every plant produces essential oil. The oils can be taken from flowers, leaves, bark, rinds, roots, and herbs and are concentrated oils that preserve the plant’s natural flavor and scent.

Essential oils are typically combined with a carrier oil (oil used as a base such as jojoba or almond oil) and are commonly used in aromatherapy. They are never ingested but are usually applied to the skin or inhaled and are thought to provide benefits for physical as well as mental health.

essential oils
Image Credit: Pixabay

Why Cats & Essential Oils Don’t Mix

Cats actually lack a particular enzyme (cytochrome P450) in their livers that metabolizes and eliminates certain medications, drugs, and some essential oils. Additionally, cats are also quite sensitive to phenol, which is a compound found in many essential oils. Therefore, if an essential oil has a high concentration (100% is pretty high), the greater the toxicity for the cat.

What Are the Most Dangerous Essential Oils?

There are quite a number of essential oils that are known to be toxic and, therefore, could potentially poison a cat.

These include:

Dangerous Oils

  • Tea tree oil
  • Clove oil
  • Ylang ylang oil
  • Pine oil
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Peppermint oil

Dangerous Oils

  • Wintergreen oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Sweet birch oil
  • Basil oil
  • Citrus oil (specifically, d-limonene)

Tea tree oil, in particular, can be very harmful to your cat. These oils are used for a variety of reasons. They are used in personal care products, herbal remedies, insecticides, as a potpourri (in liquid form), and in distillers.

peppermint oil
Image Credit: Pixabay

Symptoms of Essential Oil Poisoning

The signs and symptoms of essential oil poisoning will depend on how much and what kind of oil the cat was exposed to.

The symptoms and signs may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Low heart rate
  • Troubles breathing
  • Wobbly and staggering
  • Tremors
  • Drooling
  • Liver failure
  • Low body temperature

If you know your cat was around essential oils and displays these symptoms, take her to the vet immediately.

Safe Essential Oils

Unfortunately, there aren’t many essential oils that are deemed safe around your cat. Still, these include:

  • Frankincense oil
  • Valerian oil
  • Copaiba oil
  • Helichrysum oil
  • Cedarwood oil

While these essential oils are not harmful the way the other oils are, you should still use them with caution. Never apply them directly to your cat’s skin or let her ingest any.

essential oils with diffuser
Image Credit: Pixabay

Choosing the Right Kind of Essential Oils

The best and safest essential oils are pure and do not have any added extra ingredients or chemicals.

If an essential oil has been distilled through a chemical process, it will contaminate it, which will reduce its scent and efficiency. Always check for the ingredients on the bottle (or on the online listing) to ensure it’s 100% pure without any added ingredients.

In addition to this, the bottle your essential oil comes in should be an amber glass bottle, which helps protect the oil from the light. Sunlight will make the oil go rancid much quicker, so avoid essential oils sold in clear and plastic bottles as not only will they go bad, but sunlight can also change or contaminate the oil and its scent.

Look for legitimate and trusted companies to ensure they’re ethical and that you know you’ll be getting a top-notch product. You’ll also want to avoid any manufacturers that boast of questionable health claims. You know the saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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Using a Diffuser

Okay, you’ve got the high-quality oil that is generally safe around cats. Now let’s get to diffusing it. Diffused pure essential oils are much safer to use around your cat but be sure to use a passive diffuser.

Image Credit: Pixabay

These kinds of diffusers work by evaporating the oil:

1. Motorized diffusers

The motorized diffuser uses a small fan that blows air through a pad or filter with essential oil soaked into it.

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2. Reed diffusers

Reeds (usually rattan reeds) are placed in a glass container with a mixture of essential oils and a base oil (such as jojoba oil). The reeds soak up the oil, and the scent evaporates into the air.

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3. Heat diffusers

These diffusers use heat to disperse the scent into the air. This can be accomplished with a plug-in or electric diffuser, tabletop warmers, and candle burners.

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4. Personal diffusers

You can have your own personal diffuser with a pendant for a necklace or bracelet that uses a pad soaked in the essential oil that is placed inside.


Some Warnings

The passive diffuser works best as the scent is released but none of the actual oil. However, you’ll want to place the diffuser in a location that your cat won’t be able to reach. If she accidentally (or maybe purposefully, knowing cats) knocks over the diffuser and gets the oil on her, she’ll lick it off her fur and could become quite sick.

There is also the chance of your cat suffering from respiratory irritation from the diffuser just emitting the scent, even passively. If your cat inhales any strong fragrances or odors, she might develop:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Burning sensation in the nose and throat
  • Panting and fast breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing

Take your cat into some fresh air as soon as you notice these signs and if she doesn’t show any improvement straight away, take her to the vet immediately.

If your cat already suffers from any respiratory condition, such as allergies or asthma, she’ll be far more susceptible to suffer from serious respiratory irritation than other cats. You might want to reconsider using a diffuser at all if this is the case.

Cat sneezes
Image Credit: ZlataMarka, Shutterstock

A Few Last Notes

If you’re going to go ahead and use a diffuser, first of all, make sure the essential oil is diluted. Either follow the directions of the diffuser you purchased or use 3.4 ounces of water combined with 3 to 5 drops of essential oil. This is a good dilution rate.

When using a diffuser, just be sure your cat can actually leave the room where it’s located. Your cat should never be confined in a space where you have a diffuser with essential oils.

Lastly, speak to your vet before using a diffuser. Talk to them about the oils and the actual diffuser you’ll be using and follow any advice they give you.

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As long as you’re very careful and take the necessary precautions, using a passive diffuser, particularly with the listed essential oils that aren’t as likely to harm your cat, everything should be okay. And as already mentioned, do speak to your vet about any concerns or questions you may have regarding diffusing essential oils. Of course, we want to feel calm and have a lovely smelling home, but our cat’s safety and wellbeing are of the utmost importance, and this means approaching with caution.

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Featured Image: Pixabay