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Essential oils for cats – is rosemary toxic to cats?

Safe Essential Oils for Cats

Essential oils can be great natural alternatives for treating a wide array of health concerns without having to resort to expensive and potentially harmful pharmaceuticals. It would be reasonable to assume then that essential oil benefits could work just as well for our pets.

It is important to remember that your pet is not a person, even if they are a part of your family. The answer to the question “are essential oils safe for cats?”  isn’t a simple one.

Cats, particularly their liver, absorb and filter nutrients much differently than humans, and this makes some essential oils bad for cats.

There are a several ways to use essential oils for cats including as a natural flea treatment, a calming agent or as a way to naturally repel cats from certain areas in your house.

Aromatherapy for cats may sound odd at first, but diffusing essential oils around cats is one of the safest ways to use essential oils. No adverse health concerns have been observed from the diffusion of essential oils around cats, but essential oils may be harmful if they come into direct contact or are ingested by your pet.

Cats are just as susceptible to aromatic influence as humans. Owners looking for calming essential oils for cats should consider essential oils traditionally thought to be calming or relaxing for humans. Diffusing essential oils with strong odors, particularly lime essential oil and lemongrass essential oil can help deter cats away from certain areas. In general, cats are more sensitive to smells than humans and dislike citrusy smells.

If you’re allergic to cats, essential oils for pet allergies do exist to help relieve stuffed sinuses. Peppermintlavender, and tea tree essential oils all work to help clear congestion when diffused. Chamomile essential oil or frankincense essential oil also may help alleviate allergy symptoms.

Below is a guide to help keep your cat happy, healthy, and safe using essential oil products.

Is Lavender Safe for Cats?

Do cats like lavender essential oil? – Most cats appear to be just as fond of the scent as we are. Unfortunately, lavender and cats are not a safe combination and is not recommend. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists the lavender plant itself as toxic to cats.1 Being sourced from the lavender plant, this means that lavender essential oil is also toxic.

Using lavender oil for fleas on cats may cause severe, life-threatening side effects if your cat is allergic. Make sure to check with a veterinarian before using any lavender essential oil products on your feline friend.1

Rosemary and Cats

While often considered a calming essential oil, pet owners may wonder ‘is rosemary toxic to cats?’ According to the ASPCA, Rosmarinus officinalis is completely safe for your pets.2 In a 2016 study, rosemary essential oil (along with thyme essential oil and oregano essential oil) was used as part of a natural shampoo to treat cat fungal infections, particularly in the ears. Overall, the cats’ essential oils shampoo was well-tolerated, and did not cause any adverse effects.3

Note: Using essential oils for pets can be dangerous, as many essential oils can be harmful to animals. Extreme caution should be used when treating or dealing with cats and essential oils. Safety guidelines concerning essential oils for animals differ significantly based on the animal itself. Conduct product specific research and always consult a veterinarian before combining essential oils and pets.

Tea Tree Oil Cats

Is tea tree oil safe for cats? The answer here is not clear cut, as the relationship between tea tree oil and cats is complicated. At high concentrations, tea tree essential oil is very dangerous to felines and can cause seizers and life threatening complications, especially when ingested by the cat.4

However, low concentrations of tea tree essential oil (less than 1% of a product) may not pose a risk to your pet.Just because a product has tea tree oil in it does not mean it’s toxic for your cat, but you need to make sure it isn’t high in concentration, otherwise it would be safer to steer clear.

Is Peppermint Safe for Cats?

Pet owners looking for natural products may wonder is peppermint essential oil safe for cats? Yet again the answer to the question is complicated. Peppermint essential oil has been used as a disinfectant by veterinarians in the past, however the oil is high in phenol.5

Phenol is a corrosive organic compound that is a natural part of peppermint essential oil. Phenol is considered highly toxic to cats.5 Never use peppermint oil for fleas on cats.

Peppermint in it’s plant form is considered non-toxic for cats, and is reported to have a similar fragrance as catnip.

Is Eucalyptus Oil Poisonous to Cats?

The ASPCA lists eucalyptus as poisonous to cats, dogs, and even horses. Keep eucalyptus essential oil and eucalyptus-based products far from your pets.Many pet products use low concentrations of eucalyptus oil, fleas and mite infestation products in particular, these should never be used on your cat.

Is Marjoram Essential Oil Safe for Cats?

With natural antibacterial properties, marjoram essential oil may be helpful for treating ear mites in cats. In a 2016 study, researchers used marjoram essential oil as natural treatment for Otodectes cynotis, a common feline parasite which can cause ear infections. Marjoram essential oil was applied to the ears for a 30-day period. Results show that marjoram essential oil reduced ear mite parasite eggs by 99% by day 30.7

While results are promising, always consult with a veterinarian before applying any essential oil on a cat.

Is Cedarwood Essential Oil Safe for Cats?

One notable property of cedarwood essential oil is its natural insecticidal quality. Cedarwood essential oil has been observed to repel ticks and fleas, which may be beneficial for both cats and cat owners alike.

Cedar oil products from Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) are safe for use on cats when properly diluted. However, cedar oil from White cedar (Melia azedarach) is toxic. Be careful to check the label thoroughly before using cedar oil for fleas.

Essential Oils for Fleas on Cats

Essential oils have been used as natural alternatives for flea removal on pets, instead of traditional, chemical-based flea collars. Today, there are several flea repellent essential oils on the market. Safe, natural remedies for fleas on cats include marjoram and red cedar essential oils. Flea collars with low concentrations of these essential oils may be effective in eliminating fleas. Always talk to your veterinarian before using any essential oils for fleas on cats.

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Essential Oils for Cat Urine

While the unpleasant odor of cat urine may be strong, essential oils are highly concentrated and may help neutralize or mask the smell. To get rid of the odor naturally, mix 5 drops of lavender or orange essential oil in 1 cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray or soak the soiled area to help to remove the scent.

Mixing lavender oil with baking soda and applying it to a urine stain helps both remove the stain and the odor. Make sure you keep your cat away from any areas or garments you are treating using these essential oils, particularly lavender, as they can be very toxic for your pet.

Scientific Research Referenced in this Article

  1. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Lavender. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/lavender – View reference
  2. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Rosemary. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/rosemary – View reference
  3. Nardoni, S., Costanzo, A. G., Mugnaini, L., Pisseri, F., Rocchigiani, G., Papini, R., & Mancianti, F. (2016). An open-field study comparing an essential oil-based shampoo with miconazole/chlorhexidine for hair coat disinfection in cats with spontaneous microsporiasis. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. doi:1177/1098612X15625709
  4. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Most Common Causes of Toxin Seizures in Cats. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from http://www.aspcapro.org/resource/shelter-health-poison-control/most-common-causes-toxin-seizures-cats – View reference
  5. Addie, et al. (2015). Disinfectant choices in veterinary practices, shelters and households : ABCD guidelines on safe and effective disinfection for feline environments. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 17(7), 594-605. doi:1177/1098612X15588450
  6. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Eucalyptus. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from – View reference
  7. ALTINOK YİPEL, F., ACAR, A., & YİPEL, M. (2016). Effect of some essential oils (Allium sativum L., Origanum majorana L.) and ozonated olive oil on the treatment of ear mites (Otodectes cynotis) in cats. Turkish Journal Of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, 40(6), 782-787. doi:3906/vet-1508-10