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What Essential Oils Do Cats Hate? (The 7 Worst Options)

If you’re looking for a cat-friendly way to keep your favorite feline away from your sofa or prized plants, you may consider using essential oils to encourage your companion to keep moving. Or you may have recently purchased a new essential oil that your cat is visibly uncomfortable around, leading you to wonder if it is safe for cats to be around them.

In short, essential oils are highly toxic to cats and should never be used to keep cats away from furniture or areas in your house. Exposure to even small amounts of essential oils can have severe and even fatal consequences for cats. Kitties can become ill just from inhaling the fine essential oil droplets dispersed by infusers. Read on for more information about the seven essential oils that cats despise.

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The 7 Essential Oils Your Cat Will Dislike

1. Lavender Essential Oil

lavender essential oil
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While most humans find lavender to be particularly soothing and a great way to naturally lower anxiety and ease depression, most cats find the smell noxious and will avoid anything smelling like the purple plant. Fresh lavender plants are toxic to kitties but will only cause vomiting if your cat eats a large quantity. Cats naturally tend to avoid eating lavender leaves, stems, and flowers. Lavender essential oil, on the other hand, is a totally different beast and can cause serious problems, including dizziness, drooling, refusal to eat, and liver failure if your cat ingests it.

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2. Citronella Essential Oil

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Citronella is often used as a natural way to boost your mood, limit fungus growth, and encourage wound healing. It’s most commonly used as a natural insect repellent; mosquitos hate it, as do cats. Citronella smells enough like citrus to annoy kitties and drive them away. While the plant is safe for cats, most “natural” citronella-based insect repellents contain essential oils or other products that are toxic to your four-footed buddy. As long as you’re using a citronella-based candle outside (and well away from your cat), your feline might get annoyed, but they should be safe.

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3. Eucalyptus Essential Oil

The powerful eucalyptus plant is native to Australia, where it’s a popular natural way to clear nasal congestion and ease nagging coughs. It’s also frequently used to soothe sinus infections, manage blood sugar spikes, and reduce joint pain. It has a strong menthol-like smell that cats typically detest. The eucalyptus plant and its oil are toxic to cats. Cats that eat eucalyptus leaves, stems, or roots often begin to salivate excessively. Vomiting and diarrhea are other common symptoms of eucalyptus poisoning in cats.

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4. Citrus Essential Oil

citrus essential oil
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Citrus essential oils are often used to improve mood, address fungal infections, and reduce anxiety in humans, making the products extremely popular aromatherapy modalities. Cats, on the other hand, don’t enjoy strong citrus scents, including anything that smells like lemons, limes, or oranges. In fact, citrus plants are mildly toxic to cats! Symptoms of citrus poisoning include vomiting and extreme sensitivity to sunlight. If ingested in sufficient quantities, lemons and oranges can cause cats to have tremors. Most cats naturally avoid eating lemons, oranges, and limes.

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5. Lemongrass Essential Oil

Lemongrass is a hearty perennial native to Sri Lanka and India. It’s a popular choice among gardeners who love to cook since it’s super easy to grow, and you can use it to add a sharp, rich flavor to anything from curry to grilled meat. Lemongrass essential oil has health benefits, including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties. Cats, however, hate the stuff! The plant itself is mildly poisonous to cats, but your companion would need to consume a massive amount of the fragrant plant to get sick.

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6. Peppermint Essential Oil

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Most humans enjoy peppermint’s sharp, slightly spicy, yet minty taste. You can find several peppermint-flavored items, including oral care products, chewing gum, and more. Cats tend to be put off by the smell of peppermint, which is good since the plant is mildly toxic to kitties.

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7. Garlic Essential Oil

garlic cloves with extract essential garlic oil
Image Credit: NIKCOA, Shutterstock

Garlic is a wonder plant for humans! It provides health benefits, including immune system support. It can also help ease various digestive issues and regulate blood sugar levels. Garlic essential oil can reduce headache pain, stimulate hair growth, and even fight fungal infections. Garlic, however, is a smell that’s distinctly unattractive to cats. Keep in mind that garlic in all its forms is poisonous to felines; this includes raw and cooked garlic as well as garlic essential oils and cooking oils infused with any part of the plant, including its leaves, stems, roots, and cloves. Cats and garlic are a distinctly bad combination.

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Final Thoughts

Essential oils and cats don’t mix. Cats lack the required enzymes to break down compounds found in most essential oils, making it incredibly easy for them to suffer adverse effects from exposure. Depending on the oil’s strength, cats can become sick after licking just a few drops of the wrong product or inhaling essential oil droplets dispersed by an infuser. No matter how stellar your cat-proofing abilities may be, there’s always the chance your cat will find a way to knock your infuser over and get sick after licking their paws clean.

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