Are Essential Oils Like Lavender Safe for Cats?

updated Oct 27, 2022
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(Image credit: haru/Shutterstock)

We started looking for natural remedies to our cats’ problems, including fleas, allergies and mood swings, after realizing that our kitties were very sensitive to some of the chemical treatments we had been given at the vet.

As soon as we opened a tube of Advantage, even if it was in another room, our cat P. Kitty would be nowhere in sight. But while researching holistic pet products, we learned that not all natural remedies, even those that are safe and beneficial for humans and other animals, are good for cats. Essential oils, for example, are very harmful to our furry feline friends.

(Image credit: Aura Cacia)

Why Cats are Essential Oils Sensitive to Cats?

Cats are sensitive to essential oils for two reasons. Not only do felines have very acute senses of smell, but they also have delicate and thin skin, which allows for quicker absorption of these concentrated substances into the bloodstream.

Most disturbingly, cats can’t efficiently metabolize the compounds in essential oils, which can lead to toxic build-up in their bodies. It’s scary to think about all those cat owners who’ve unknowingly used products with essential oils in their homes or directly on their pets!

Here is a list of some essential oils that are known to be toxic to cats:
• Peppermint
• Oregano
• Clove
• Sage
• Citrus oils
Lavender
• Melaleuca (tea tree oil)
• Cinnamon (cassia)
• Wintergreen
• Thyme
• Birch
• Bergamot
• Pine
• Spruce
• Any other oils containing phenols

There’s debate over whether hydrosols, a by-product made when a plant is a steam distilled to extract essential oils, are also toxic to cats. Since the verdict isn’t out, we’re going to steer clear of any and all essential oil products in the future, just in case.

The ASPCA web site lists common house plants and household items that are toxic or dangerous to your cats and dogs.

And don’t worry, the sleeping cat in the photo above is safe. Fresh lavender is not toxic to felines; only the essential oils derived from the plants are.