Thanks to yoga, alternative healing, and health-conscious Californians, essential oils have made a comeback in recent years due to their supposed therapeutic properties. And while there’s little concern when it comes to human use, many essential oil users may wonder if they’re safe to use around their cats
While essential oils are derived from plants and herbs and, therefore, essentially natural, that doesn’t mean they can’t have toxic effects. It’s like how chocolate and tomatoes are completely fine for humans to consume, but give a dog too much of either one and you have a problem.
With essential oils, there’s an even greater threat of toxicity because of their concentrated nature. For example, it takes 200 pounds of lavender flowers to get one pound of oil. So as you can see, when it comes to using essential oils safely around your favorite feline, it’s all a matter of educating yourself and understanding which oils are safe and which to avoid.
First things first though, keep in mind that the topical use of essential oils on your cat is not recommended and is strictly up to you and your vet to decide. On the other hand, oral use of essential oils is never suggested, regardless of whether you’re a cat, dog, human or penguin. In other words, do yourself a favor and completely avoid oral use of essential oils, period. Ok, PSA complete.
Essential Oils 101
The most common way you’ll see essential oils used is with a nebulizing diffuser (or you can just call it a diffuser) for aromatherapy purposes. If you’re not sure what a diffuser is, there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled across one in the spa, and wellness section of your local department store. To use it, you just place a bit of water in the base, add the essential oil of your choice, and turn it on. Voilà! You’ve got the effects of a mini aromatherapy spa service wherever and whenever you want, without the ridiculous prices.
Essential oils and aromatherapy aren’t anything new, they’ve been around for thousands of years. The first recorded uses of essential oils date back to numerous ancient civilizations around the world. Ancient Egypt, India, China, Greece, and Rome all turned to essential oils for a variety of different reasons. Before the modern era, essential oils were widely accepted as beneficial, and were commonly used to treat and protect people from illness.
Of course, science and modern medicine have given us much better options when it comes to healthcare, but essential oils are still appreciated by many for their soothing and therapeutic properties. Today, aromatherapy is a natural way to help improve your overall well-being and is often used along with other practices like meditation and massage therapy.
What Essential Oils are Bad for Cats
The toxicity of certain essential oils is caused by specific compounds the a cat’s liver is unable to process. Cats and humans have very different biological make-ups. Their livers simply don’t have the enzymes necessary to break down these compounds, causing severe health problems like liver damage and even death.
Phenolsare the number one compound found in essential oils that are toxic to cats. In fact, exposure in large doses may even cause humans to have negative reactions. Some of the more common essential oils high in phenols are:
- Tea Tree
Even though it may seem safe, diffusing these oils means you’re literally diffusing them throughout the air. By breathing, your cat is inhaling the oil while it’s also settling on its fur. When cleaning itself, your cat can unintentionally ingest the oil or it may also absorb directly into their skin. If you’re concerned your cat may have been exposed to any of these essential oils, look for these symptoms:
- Breathing difficulties
- Difficulty walking or moving normally
If you notice any of these symptoms, bring your cat to their vet immediately for evaluation.
Which Essential Oils are Safe for Cats?
The most important thing to remember when using essential oils, for both cats and humans, is that you’re using a pure, therapeutic-grade product. This means there are no added chemicals and it’s 100% plant-derived and not synthetic. Most natural food stores and health spas that sell essential oils should be trustworthy sources that can help you find the right product. Essential oils that are safe for catsinclude:
Experts agree that there is no black and white answer when it comes to essential oils and cats. But taking precautions and avoiding ones which contain phenols is the number one step you can take to prevent a toxic reaction in your cat. It is agreed though that if you’re going to use essential oils, diffusing them is the safest method and poses the smallest potential threat to your cat’s health.
Some important points to remember if you diffuse essential oils are to make sure the area is well-ventilated, your cat isn’t confined to the area, and it’s only for short periods of time. Also, as stated earlier, always avoid topical and oral exposure unless otherwise directed by an experienced veterinarian. If you use common sense, follow some basic rules, and avoid oils known to be toxic for cats, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of essential oils without having to worry about the health of your feline friend.
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