Why essential oils can be toxic to cats

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Aromatherapy and cats don’t go together. If people, aromatherapists or essential oils suppliers, fool you into believing that essential oils are safe for use in cats, know that it is all humbug. Though aromatherapy as such is not harmful, use of essential oils can be very toxic to cats. Unlike puppies, dogs and humans, cats do not have the capability to metabolize the essential oil molecules they receive through aromatherapy. There is no way of them eliminating such accumulated bouts of aromatherapeutic oils, which sets off build up of toxins in your cat’s body. In the long run, this becomes even fatal for the cat. This article will detail on how aromatherapy using essential oils can be toxic to use. We will also discuss on replacing essential oils with hydrosols for cat aromatherapy.

Essential oils and toxicity in cats: Cats do not have the same liver as humans or dogs. They cannot stand any strong aroma, leave alone the effect of essential oils (diluted or concentrated). If you administer a cat with essential oils through diffusers, it may accumulate in the animal’s body and grow toxic day after day. Since cats have very thin skin, essential oils rubbed on to the body are easily absorbed into the blood stream. This in turn causes skin problems and liver disorders, leading to vomiting, dizziness, clumsiness, loss of appetite and reduced immunity etc in the cat. It has been found out that even a single drop of diluted essential oil (with a strong aroma) can set off several physiological changes in a kitty. In cats, physiological changes are often associated with psychological changes and hence, disturbance of physical or biological rhythm can upset a cat’s moods, causing anxieties, stress and panic.

Lavender cat: Aromatherapy has been used for cats for several years. Only recently, studies have revealed that essential oils can be very toxic to cats. A special concept called Lavender Cat, created by Dr. Khan revealed the amount of toxicity involved in administering essential oils to your beloved kitten. Sue Martin, in an article titled ‘Be wary of aromatherapy claims for cats’ states why plant oils are  harmful to cats: Essential oils usually consist of hydrocarbons in the form of mono-functional compounds with volatile aliphatic and aromatic substances. Many of the terpenoids in the essential oils are rapidly absorbed and used in the cat’s system to be metabolized in the liver. Normally, these terpenoids and their metabolites are conjugated with glucuronic acid and glycine. But cats are deficient in this because they do not have glucuronidation (elimination mechanism required to excrete toxic wastes from essential oils) and hence results in slower exit of essential oils. This in turn leads to build up of toxicity and thereby, health problems in cats.

Toxic essential oils: Some of the essential oils which are potentially toxic to cats are: Peppermint oil, Lemon oil, Lavender oil, Melaleuca oil, Tea Tree oil, Cinnamon Bark oil, Wintergreen oil, Thyme oil and Birch oil. Oils containing phenol are also toxic to cats.

Which is a safer alternative? You can replace essential oils with hydrosols in cats. Though derived during essential oils preparation, hydrosols are just byproducts which are much safer than strong, concentric oils. Since cats can tolerate them, they are not toxic. Hydrosols can be spritzed on the cat for deodorizing or flea or tick control purposes. Some of the hydrosols work well as ear cleaners or stress-calming agents too. You can combine and be as creative as possible with your hydrosol blends as there is not toxicity or concentrated plant oil involved.