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Do Essential Oils Work for Calming Cats? Vet Approved Advice

Written by: Misty Layne

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

essential oils

Do Essential Oils Work for Calming Cats? Vet Approved Advice


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


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 determine what to do in these situations if we want to calm them down. If you’ve looked online for a solution, you’ve likely come across many suggestions—some safe to try, some not. Using essential oils might have been one of those suggestions.

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 familiar with essential oils. If not, what exactly are essential oils? They’re the part of a plant that contributes to how it smells and tastes. The oils are extracted from plants via cold pressing or distillation.

There are several ways essential 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. Typically, the oils are used as aromatherapy.

essential oil
Image Credit: Madeleine Steinbach, Shutterstock

Essential Oils & Cats

Essential oils sound pretty harmless. So why are they so bad for our cats? Felons lack the liver enzymes needed to metabolize essential oils, which can be absorbed through the skin and orally.

The missing enzymes make essential oils toxic to cats and can cause liver damage, liver failure, and death. Some 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?

Our cats can absorb essential oils from their 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 (reed diffuser, motorized diffuser, or heat diffuser), it can emit a fragrance strong enough to cause respiratory irritation in your pet.

If that occurs, your cat can experience vomiting, drooling, watery eyes, or difficulty breathing. The first step is to move your cat to an area with fresh air. Then, call your vet. You’ll need to rush to the vet’s office if your cat is having breathing problems.

There are also active diffusers (i.e., nebulizing diffusers or ultrasonic diffusers), which are even more likely to harm your cat. They emit particles of essential oil into the air that can irritate your cat’s respiratory system and settle on their fur and skin, which can be ingested when your pet begins to groom. This can lead to vomiting, drooling, wobbliness, tremors, low heart rate, and 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 calm 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 not recommended if you have pets. 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.

Featured Image Credit: Madeleine Steinbach, Shutterstock

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