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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 10465
Experience:  I have loved and owned cats for over 45 years.
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Can diffusing essential oils around cats be harmful?

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I just got an essential oil diffuser for my house and got a starter pack of a bunch of essential oils. But I was reading someplaces online that cats' livers do not process some essential oils and it builds up as toxins in their systems.

Is there really a difinitive list somewhere of what oils are toxic? I've heard lavender oil is safe or unsafe depending on which site you check. But also I'm afraid to use my diffuser really with any oils unless it's listed somewhere as safe for cats.

Also, when they say it's toxic for cats does that count using a diffuser? I don't plan on rubbing any essential oils on my cat, that's a definite, but really how sensitive are they to it?

Thanks, Tom

I can understand your concern and your confusion about essential oils and their use around cats. The problem with essential oils are usually seen when these products are applied directly to a cat's skin or if they are ingested. This species is much more susceptible to them than dogs although they can cause some problems for dogs too. Commonly seen problems include: skin rashes, nausea, drooling, vomiting and depression.

Some oils such as cinnamon, oregano, and clove might be more toxic than others but all essential oils carry risk when it comes to a cat especially if direct contact is made either orally or topically. They should be avoided, in my opinion.

However, use of diffusers or aromatherapy should not cause any harm to Scarface. It will be important to not overuse them though whether you use lavender or something else. Remember that a cat's sense of smell is far stronger than yours and the scent may be overpowering for Scarface.

However, use of lavender in this context would be fine and actually may have a calming effect for him. Just be really careful that he won't have access to the oils ....which I'm sure you will be since you understand the toxicity risk.

I hope this helps. Deb

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Scarface does like the lavender, I tried it out. Frankinsense even better, he just sat next to the diffuser for hours. That was the first one I tried a few days ago on a weak dose because a couple sites said it was fine and cats love it. I'm gonna see what a little catnip oil does too.

Couple just followup questions:

You listed clove, oregano and cinnamon bark are specific ones to avoid. I have been over the internet and found a lot of lists that include those and also birch, lemon, orange, eucalyptus, tea tree (malaleuca), peppermint, wintergreen, sage and a few others. But really the lists differ. What would you consider to be the definitive source on what specifically to avoid? Is there a reference list somewhere to buy or see online?

Are there any shops you know about that specifically market these products for cat owners and take the animals into consideration?

I'm glad that Scarface likes the diffuser since so many cats appear to be indifferent to them.

I would consider Dr. Melissa Shelton to be the "expert" on this topic. She's written the most extensively about it from what I know and since she's a holistic vet, I trust what she says. This LINK is to one such book that she's written.

As with most of these kind of products, some might be "better" than others; I've heard good things about essential oils from Young Living's oils.

But I don't know of any specific company that I can refer you to that sells or offers these oils specifically for pets (although I'm sure they exist). I suspect that Dr. Shelton covers this in her book though.


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