Essential Oils That Are NOT SAFE for Cats

UPDATE: I am now pleased to offer my teacher Jan Benham's book Pet Care With Essential Oils And Their Friends http://www.anarreshealth.ca/content/book-pet-care-essential-oils-and-the... I am not an expert on pet care, but she is! If you want to use essential oils safely and to the benefit of your furry loved ones, please consult this book!

Years ago, a woman consulted with me regarding essential oils for her cat who suffered from kidney and respiratory problems. Only one of her 5 cats was still alive when she consulted me. I deduced that she had inadvertently killed her cats with essential oils recommended to her by a certain multi level marketing essential oil brand.

A friend of mine's cat was facing amputation in one cancerous paw. My friend had been advised to use polysporin on it to stave off infection. When I offered to make a salve, I started researching essential oils safety for cats and entered the vortex...


Photo thanks to Wikimedia Commons and photographer WeeJeeVee .

The following is a work in progress. In short, I am still figuring it out. Please come back to this entry as I sift facts, collect my thoughts, and form opinions.

Why can essential oils be a problem for cats?

Cats are sensitive to essential oils for a few reasons.
1. Cats have very acute senses of smell.
2. Cats have delicate and thin skin, which allows for quicker absorption of these concentrated substances into the bloodstream.
3. Most importantly, cats can't efficiently metabolize some of the compounds in essential oils, which can lead to toxic build-up in their bodies.

Multitudes of cat owners have unknowingly used products with essential oils in their homes or directly on their pets! You are not alone.

Which Essential Oils Can Harm Cats?

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

Essential Oils should always be well diluted in a carrier oil or fat.

Cats are particularly sensitive to certain groups of oxygenated compounds called ketones and phenols, and some monoterpenes. It is the thujone content in ketones and carvacal in phenols that seem to create most of the problems when not used with enzymes. Carvacrol is a byproduct of d-limonene which is found in all citrus fruits and in many tree oils.

Examples of essential oils that should be used on cats with caution - meaning highly diluted - are shown below.

And just as with humans, each animal’s chemistry and blood type is different so the response is different!

Examples of oils containing Phenols – Wintergreen, Anise, Birch, Clove, Basil, Tarragon, Fennel, Oregano, Thyme, Mountain Savory, Peppermint, Tea Tree, Calamus, Cinnamon Bark, Citronella, Marjoram, Nutmeg, Eucalyptus citriodora, Parsley, Ylang Ylang. These all contain greater than 8% phenols.

Examples of oils containing Ketones – Western Red Cedar, Idaho Tansy, Marigold, Spearmint, Thuja, Hyssop, Davana, Sage, Dill, Yarrow, Peppermint. All these oils contain greater than 20% ketones.

Example of Oils containing D-Limonene - Grapefruit, Bitter Orange, Orange, Tangerine, Mandarin, Lemon, Celery Seed, Lime, Bergamot, Angelica, Dill, Neroli, Blue Tansy, Citronella and Nutmeg.

Examples of Oils containing Alpha-pinene – Cypress, Cistus, Pine, Douglas fir, Juniper, Myrtle, Rosemary Verbenon, Silver Fir, Angelica, Nutmeg, Eucalyptus, Dill, Spruce. These are all monoterpenes that have alpha-pinene concentrations greater than 15%.

Essential Oils that could be used on cats with caution by an aromatherapist: Black Pepper, Cardamon, Carrot Seed, Celery Seed, Cinnamon Bark, Citronella, Clove, Galbanum, Ginger, Juniper, Melaleuca species (use with extreme caution and monitor cat), Palmarosa, Petitgrain and Western Red Cedar.

If your cat has liver or kidney trouble, be extra cautious to avoid ketones and phenols.

What Essential Oils Can Be Used on Cats?

Here are the essential oils for cats that are generally safe - when diluted! - for cat use:

• Clary Sage Essential Oil

• Elemi Essential Oil

• Frankincense Essential Oil

• Geranium Essential Oil

• Helichrysum Essential Oil

• Idaho Balsam Fir Essential Oil

• Lavender Essential Oil (high grade Bulgarian)

• Roman Chamomile Essential Oil

• Rosemary Essential Oil

• Valerian Essential Oil

UPDATE: I am now pleased to offer my teacher Jan Benham's book Pet Care With Essential Oils And Their Friends http://www.anarreshealth.ca/content/book-pet-care-essential-oils-and-the... I am not an expert on pet care, but she is! If you want to use essential oils safely and to the benefit of your furry loved ones, please consult this book!