Essential Oil Safety Information
General Safety Guidelines
Do not use essential oils undiluted on skin (see our essential oils dilution guide). Patch test for skin sensitivity before use, and do not put an essential oil directly into eyes, ears, nose, or damaged skin. If pregnant or under a doctor's care, check with a clinical aromatherapist or physician before use. Consult with a clinical aromatherapist or veterinarian trained in veterinary aromatic medicine before using any essential oils on cats, birds, or reptiles. For external use only. All information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease, nor replace proper medical care.
Using Essential Oils with Cats
You can use essential oils around your cats when used with care and caution. Consider passive exposure methods before active exposure methods. You will need to select your essential oils with care, use high quality essential oils, dilute the oils, use small and infrequent amounts, and watch your cat carefully for any adverse reactions.
Cats, unlike dogs, are particularly sensitive to certain essential oils that contain polyphenolic compounds because they can interfere with their liver detoxification process. This article will cover ways we may affect our cats when we use essential oils, in particular. Part 1 will cover some of the reasons why cats may be more likely to suffer negative consequences when exposed to essential oils, and precautions we can take to prevent these unintended consequences.
Let us consider the ways in which cats are different from us, in order to better understand how they may react to essential oils. If we start with the obvious, cats are covered with fur. Hair may act as a kind of conduit for essential oils, causing them to be absorbed faster in to the body (Shelton, 2018).
Cats are also relatively small, which means that if one drop of an essential oil were to be used on a human adult, that same one drop used on a cat would be an incredibly high dose.
Cats’ sense of smell is much keener than ours, so they may be overwhelmed by an aroma that we may hardly notice (NOVA Cat Clinic, 2018). Cats will also avoid aromas they find unpleasant, which is fine if they can come and go as they please when you use a diffuser, but if you use an essential oil topically on your cat, keep in mind that the cat cannot escape that smell.
Cats are known for their extensive grooming regimens. If essential oils are applied to a cat’s fur, there is a good chance the cat will ingest those oils, which may be significant, especially when using certain essential oils.
Cats also have some different liver enzymes than we do. The liver is where individual chemicals in the bloodstream get broken down, metabolized, and then either used by the body or eliminated. It is where toxic chemicals may be broken down and rendered harmless, or, sometimes made even more toxic. If the liver does not have the correct enzyme to break down a certain chemical and if that chemical is toxic to the body, it may cause harm before it is eliminated.
Cats also often take much longer to process certain chemicals than humans or other pets and livestock. This means you want to expose your cat to an essential oil less frequently than you might for a different pet. How a cat metabolizes certain chemical constituents in essential oils determines which essential oils and how much of those oils a cat can tolerate (Shelton, 2018.)
When used within reason, and with cats’ differences in mind, you can use your essential oils around cats safely and confidently.
Whenever we use essential oils, whether it is in a diffuser, in our cleaning products, or applied on our bodies, our pets often experience those essential oils along with us – passive exposure. A few simple practices can minimize a cat’s exposure, while you enjoy beautifying yourself and your environment using essential oils.
Diffuser Use (Shelton, 2018; Tisserand, 2018):
Our pets are exposed to all kind of chemicals in their environment, from furniture off-gassing, to cleaning products residues, to food ingredients dropped on the floor, to air fresheners, to our personal care products. With a little forethought and simple precautions, we can keep these exposures from hurting our beloved pets.
Using Essential Oils with Cats (Part 2)
In Part 1 of this article we understood why cats may be affected more strongly by essential oil exposures than we might anticipate when we think in human terms. We considered several ways cats may be exposed to essential oils in our homes (passive exposure), and how to minimize possible negative effects of those exposures.
Consider carefully before using essential oils directly on your cat. Although we may use essential oils on a daily basis for our own skin care, perfumes, or other personal care reasons, only use essential oils for a specific purpose and with veterinary guidance on your pets.
It is best not to put essential oils on a cat’s paws. Some essential oils will make the skin more permeable to other chemicals. Your cat is walking through all kinds of stuff all day long. Some of that other stuff may be toxic to your cat, and you do not want the essential oil causing chemicals to enter your cat’s body when they would otherwise be kept out. Cat’s feet are also more sensitive, resulting in an increased chance of a negative skin reaction. It is also easier to use too much when applying to the pads of the cat’s feet.
Another recommended technique that is not pet-friendly is “tipping the ears.” This is applying the essential oil blend directly to your cat’s ears. In general, putting essential oils on your pet’s ears can be very irritating and unpleasant for your pet.
Oral use is controversial in pets as well as in humans. The same rules apply. When you ingest essential oils, toxicity risks increase. It is best not to give your cat essential oils orally.
Cats may ingest oils that are rubbed onto their fur, so be extra cautious when selecting these oils.
Some essential oils to avoid with your cats (Sheldon, 2018):
*Note, none of the above essential oil variants are currently sold by Vasseur Essentials*
It is also critical that you buy your essential oils from a retailer you know has high quality, authentic essential oils. That means do not buy essential oils from your local grocery store just because they are cheaper. Research your retailer and be sure your oils are unadulterated. Vasseur Essentials sells only 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils.
If you have specific questions, seek out a veterinarian with essential oil training or an aromatherapist with animal aromatherapy training or ask us. Enjoy your oils and your fur babies.
By Sherilyn Siegmund-Roach, M.Sc., C.C.A., certified clinical aromatherapist
NOVA Cat Clinic. (2018). Can essential oils harm my cat? Retrieved 17 June 2018 from https://novacatclinic.com/can-essential-oils-harm-my-cat/
Shelton, M. (2018). The animal desk reference: Essential oils for animals (2nd ed.). Middletown, DE.
Tisserand, R. (2018). Cats and essential oil safety. Retrieved 17 June 2018 from http://tisserandinstitute.org/cats-essential-oil-safety/
Essential Oils for Pets? https://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/essential-oils-for-pets/
Essential oils – Are they safe for pets? http://www.okawvetclinic.com/essential-oils.pml
Using Essential Oils with Dogs
There are certain essential oils that should not be used on or around dogs including: anise, clove, garlic, horseradish, juniper, thyme, wintergreen, and yarrow. These essential oils can trigger allergies and skin sensitivities. *Note, none of these essential oils are currently sold by Vasseur Essentials*
Passive usage of essential oils (in the home, on yourself, in a diffuser) with dogs in the house is regarded as safe. Any direct usage of essential oils on dogs should be performed under the supervision of a veterinarian.
If you have an additional questions about essential oil usage, safety or application, you can email our expert here.