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Top 5 Best and Worst Essential Oils to Use Around Cats

So, you started using essential oils, and you can’t get enough of them. But for some reason, your cat seems to be keeping its distance, staring straight at you from afar, even creepier than usual. It’s possible that your cat just enjoys doing this to freak you out, but it’s more likely that your cat does not like the smell of those essential oils!

This brings us to the question, “what are the best and worst essential oils to use around cats?”

Using Essential Oils Around Cats

It’s important to understand that there is a raging debate about the use of essential oils around pets. GuruNanda doesn’t recommend applying any of these oils directly to the skin or fur of your cat. Be sure to consult your Veterinarian and/or a clinical aromatherapist specializing in animals for advice on topical usage.

Many cat lovers have asked, “Are essential oil diffusers safe to use around cats?” While we don’t encourage the use of essential oils topically or orally for cats, some essential oils are considered safe to diffuse around cats. Although this article will provide some reliable guidelines, please understand that each cat is unique and could have a different reaction.

If you only take away one thing from this article, please let it be diffuse essential oils very sparingly around your cat. It’s also a good idea to pay close attention to
your cat(s) behavior when enjoying aromatherapy.

cat on bed

Determining the Effects of Essential Oils on Cats

Differentiating between which essential oils are safe to diffuse around cats and which ones are not is a complicated challenge. The perspectives are varied, so our mission with this article is to find the most consistent information among trained pet aromatherapy experts and share it with you.

In many articles, you will find a reference to the ASPCA website, which lists the plants and herbs that are toxic to cats. ASPCA covers the ingestion of such plants and herbs. However, there have not been enough formal studies to be certain about the effects of diffusing essential oils. Therefore, ASPCA is an excellent resource for the ingestion of plants, but not so much for diffusing essential oils.  

However, many people have used essential oils around their cats, and the goal of this article is to provide advice based on the views of qualified aromatherapists and Veterinarians. This article will discuss the safe use of essential oils around cats and provide a list of the best and worst essential oils to use around cats. Cedarwood Add to Cart Frankincense Add to Cart Rosemary Add to Cart

The Top 5 Best Essential Oils to Use Around Cats

Disclaimer: Each cat is different. That’s part of what cat lovers most appreciate about their cats. It’s important to note that each cat is an individual, and can be allergic to certain plants and herbs just like each person can have differing reactions. Further, an individual may have a reaction to a botanical at one point in time that they may not have at another point in time. It is always best to check with your Veterinarian and an aromatherapist that specializes in animals before using essential oils around cats. Also be sure to carefully observe your cat after diffusing an essential oil. If you notice your cat behaving strangely or moving away from the area more than usual, the cat may dislike, or be experiencing adverse effects to the oil.  

5 Best Essential Oils to Use Around Cats

Cedarwood: Cat lovers around the web praise the use of Cedarwood Essential Oil. It is generally safe when used properly, and may also contain properties that help kill fleas and other pests. For users, it provides a calming and grounding experience (Research Link).

According to Cornell University, Cedarwood is eligible for minimum risk pesticide use.

LavenderLavender essential oil offers a gentle floral aroma that may help soothe anxiety. Some cats may delight in the way it reminds them of a Summer cat-nap in the garden. With all essential oils, test a very small quantity for a short period of time to see how your cat responds to the aroma. Moderation and observation are critical parts of using essential oils around cats.

Catnip: Studies have shown that catnip aroma can send most cats into a euphoric silly state. Having a sensitivity to the nepetalactone constituent is an inherited trait in cats, and about 2 out of 3 cats will be affected by the aroma. Test out a very small amount to see how your cat reacts.

Petitgrain: There are mixed reviews about the use of citrus aromas around cats. Petitgrain, coming from the twigs and leaves of various citrus trees, has a chemical make-up with similarities to lavender. Both are highest in linalool and linalyl acetate. Petitgrain’s aroma is fresh, woody, herbal, and faintly floral. It can help freshen the aroma of a home with an uplifting scent.

Pine Needle: Some outdoor cats will search for a bed of pine needles for a cat-nap or even to use as their cat box. The aroma has provided peace to forest animals for centuries and reminds people of holiday celebration. The fresh scent may also have antimicrobial qualities to improve air quality and help with respiratory complaints. 

Warning Signs

Always use essential oil diffusers very sparingly around cats. Diffuse in well ventilated areas and allow your cat an escape route away from diffusers. Discontinue use if any irritations occur. Contact your vet with any concerns.

  • Rubbing of the face with a paw
  • Inflammation or redness on the mouth or nose
  • Irregular breathing
  • Unusual lethargy
  • Signs of dizziness
  • Constant drooling
  • Spasms or tremors
  • Vomiting
Cat trying to escape

The Worst Essential Oils for Cats:

This list was put together by exploring the official ASPCA and Pet Poison Helpline websites. While some users have found that their cats are fine around some of these oils, there is enough evidence out there to suggest that these are a risk to your cat.

Tea Tree: There are several accounts around the web of cats falling victim to tea tree oil. It is cited as toxic to cats on both Pet Poison Helpline and ASPCA. However, keep in mind that the ASPCA list is more focused on digestion than inhalation.

Peppermint: According to Pet Poison Helpline, peppermint essential oil is “known to cause poisoning in cats.” Dogs are also highly sensitive to this essential oil, so it might be best to avoid peppermint essential oil around pets in general.  

Wintergreen: According to several sources, including the Pet Poison Helpline and ASPCA, wintergreen essential oil can be toxic to cats. There are also several anecdotal examples of cats struggling around wintergreen essential oil.

Citrus: According to oconeehumane.org, “The stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, essential oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts.” There have also been numerous reports of cat-owners whose cats are sensitive to citrusy scents. Petitgrain essential oil, however, is generally ok around cats. While it comes from the twigs of citrus trees, it does not contain the limonene constituent that has a citrusy aroma.

Pennyroyal: This essential oil is derived from a plant within the mint family. The essential oil is high in a chemical called beta pulegone, which has known hepatoxic, neurotoxic, and abortifacient effects (Tisserand & Young, 2016). It has unfortunately, been found in some flea powders, sprays, and fragrances to help get rid of fleas. Some pet owners have used it to ward off pests even though it should be avoided.

Cat cuddling

Final Thoughts

Yes, it might be a little inconvenient to do all the research for the best and worst essential oils to use around cats, but it’s worth it because you love your little feline friend. Very few things are more devastating than feeling like you might’ve harmed your cat. Remember that with essential oils and cats, a very small amount can go a long way. It is also a good idea to monitor your cat’s behavior when diffusing essential oils. And definitely, don’t leave the essential oils lying around or easily accessible to your curious cat.

Which essential oils work well around your cat(s)? Which ones don’t?

Let us know in the comments below!

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