How to Use Essential Oils Safely with Cats

Essential oils for cats

Cats are very sensitive to essential oils. But, when used correctly, they can help support your cat’s overall wellness.

Cats are not humans

Cats lack an enzyme in their liver that causes them to have difficulty metabolizing certain things that humans and dogs can. So whenever you’re using essential oils topically with a cat be sure that you are using either a highly diluted essential oil (we’ll tell you which ones to avoid) at 0.5% dilution rate or less, or use a hydrosol (we’ll talk more about that later). There are also some oils you should not diffuse around them as well (see list below).

Check with your vet

While we’re good at giving essential oil advice, we’re not vets (or doctors). If your cat has any medical condition or special restrictions be sure to check with your vet before trying essential oils or hydrosols with them. Essential oils or hydrosols should not and do not replace the advice or treatment given by a vet.

Should I use essential oils around or with my cat?

After checking with your vet, use your best judgment. Essential oils are a safer option than using synthetically scented candles, sprays, or plugins.

How to introduce essential oils to your cat

Before using a new essential oil topically on your cat or in the diffuser in the room your cat will be in, be sure to introduce the oil to the cat and see how they respond. Allow your cat to smell the oil with the cap on. Look for a positive response like interest or rubbing their face against it. If they’re not a fan, they’ll walk away.

Use Hydrosols

If you don’t feel comfortable using essential oils with your pet and still want a natural approach, hydrosols are a good option. Hydrosol is the leftover water in the process of extracting the oil part of the plant. This water contains many benefits and is a lot less potent than essential oils. This is especially a good option for small animals.

Simply Earth plans to sell hydrosols and will be releasing our first one in August (woot-woot!). In the meantime, you can make a DIY hydrosol with essential oils (or essential oil water). It won’t have as many beneficial properties because it’s coming from the extracted oil, not the original plant, but it still has a lot of great benefits.  

  • To make a hydrosol, pick an oil that you want to try with your pet. Be sure to let your pet smell it with the cap on to make sure the oil won’t distress them.
    • To make the DIY Hydrosol you’ll need
      • 1 cup boiling water
      • A heatproof bowl you can cover
      • Essential oil
      • Coffee filter
      • jar
    • In the heat proof bowl or in a pan, bring water to a boil. Take the bowl or pan off the heat, add 8 drops of essential oil, and cover. This will trap the evaporating water and allow it to cool and condense and fall back into the bowl. Let the water and oil sit for 20-30 minutes.  Pour the water mixture through the coffee filter and into a jar to strain out the oil droplets.

You can apply hydrosols directly on the fur or skin of your animals or incorporate them into any other recipes. Note that water and oil don’t mix, so if you want to create a lotion or balm using a hydrosol, you’ll need to use an emulsifier – aloe vera gel works well for this.

Diffusing Around Cats

Like we said earlier, cats are sensitive to essential oils, even if they are diffused. When diffusing essential oils, only use 1-2 drops and leave an “escape” or open door so that your cat can leave the room if they don’t like the smell.

Avoid These Oils

Don’t use these oils topically or in a diffuser around cats

  • Basil
  • Citrus oils (probably won’t harm your cat, but they may not like the smell)
  • Birch
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Tea tree
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Spearmint
  • Wintergreen

Meet Shilah and Oliver Benson

Shilah and Oliver Benson

Hello everyone! My name is Shilah Roethel, my fur baby’s name is Oliver Benson! He is a Selkirk rex which is why if you see him in the photos (or saw the webinar) he has curly hair!

I just wanted to pop in to tell you how I have been incorporating the Hydrosol into my routine before the cat shows! That’s right I said a “cat show!” Lol. I show Oliver Benson through ACFA (American Cat Fanciers Association). Oliver gets very anxious and antsy before and during the show days. So to help calm him down naturally (some of the other exhibitors will give their cats anxiety medicine which I do not believe in doing) the night before the show, I spray down his bedding and hammock that he brings along to the show with Lavender Hydrosol. I also spray down his carrier. Then after I have sprayed down all of his “things” I will spray his coat down for extra measure. I use about 10 squirts and then gently scrunch his hair to help his curls. If you have a “normal” cat you would just spray the Hydrosol directly onto their fur and massage it into their fur softly.  Next, I will bring a small bottle of Lavender Hydrosol along with me to the shows. I spray him down again before he goes up into the show ring and scrunch his fur again.

You can also spray down furniture, or their cat trees at home to help calm down bad behaviors.

If you are wanting to spray down furniture, make sure you spray the Hydrosol on a place where people cannot see it to test to make sure that it does not stain your furniture; it shouldn’t, but you always want to be on the safe side when you are using a new product!

Possible Negative Reactions

Keep an eye out for these negative reactions that could occur when using essential oils with your cat.

  • Skin irritation (most common)
    • Wash the area with dish soap to remove the oil and apply carrier oil to the area
  • Distress
  • Uncharacteristic drooling
  • Squinting
  • Rubbing face
  • Vocalization
  • Shaking
  • Vomiting

Most adverse reactions clear up within 24 hours once the area is diluted, but for a serious reaction be sure to take your pet to the vet or emergency vet. Store essential oils out of reach from pet as ingesting them could be toxic.

Safety Tips Summary

  • Introduce an oil to your cat before trying it
  • Diffuse 1-2 drops with the door open
  • Dilute essential oils at 0.5% or less, or better yet, use a hydrosol!
  • Avoid the essential oils listed above
  • Store oils away from your cat, ingesting them could be toxic

Please note: This post is a compilation of suggestions made by those that have extensively used essential oils and has not been verified scientifically with clinical tests nor reviewed by medical experts. It is anecdotal information and should be treated as such. For serious medical concerns, please consult your doctor.