Cats and Diffusing Oils

Cat's are special creatures when it comes to aromatherapy, as their livers are unable to process many essential oils. Share with the world what you know about what oils and practices are acceptable and which are not!
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Sue Cruz
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Re: Cats and Diffusing Oils

Post by Sue Cruz » Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:29 pm

Hi Merlin,

I just purchased a book recently about Essential Oils, Hydrosols and Pets. There are definitely some serious contraindications for diffusing oils and cats. It has to do with the fact that their livers do not produce a certain enzyme that can break down and eliminate toxins. Diffusing certain essential oils can make cats very sick and even cause death. There are some safe oils, but I don't have the book handy and don't want to make a guess. I do remember for certain that the cannot process the "limonenes?" present in lemon, lime, etc. and certain terpenes. The book is in my office. On Monday, I will post some information for you and I will give you the name of the book and the author. The authour trained under Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt author of Advanced Aromatherapy and founder(?) of Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy, so I think it's safe to assume she is a trusted authority on pets/cats and essential oil use. She has case studies in her book as well and she mentions the Lavender Cat.


Last edited by Sue Cruz on Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Sue Cruz
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Re: Cats and Diffusing Oils

Post by Sue Cruz » Sun Oct 02, 2011 7:41 pm

Hi Merlin,

The name of the book is: "Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals --- A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols with Animals" by Kristen Leigh Bell (First published in 2002 by Findhorn Press). I found it on
Below are some important points I gleaned from Section 5 of this book - titled "Aromatherapy for Cats --- Sensitive and Mysterious Creatures"


1) Feline hemaglobin, the molecule in the blood that carries oxygen, is extremely sensitive to drugs such as acetaminophen and allyl propyl disulfide (found in foods like onions). The end result is severe anemia and possibly death.

2) Cats do not have the necessary enzymes to break down certain substances and effectively excrete them. This leads to a build up of toxins in their bodies. The toxin buildup does not always manifest itself immediately in cats. Depending on the cat and what it is exposed to, it can show up in hours, days, weeks, months or even years. A cat with symptoms of essential oil toxicity may be despondent, clumsy and uncoordinated, sometimes partially paralyzed, vomiting, drooling and in a daze. A run of bloodwork on a cat showing such symptoms almost always reveals highly elevated enzyme levels and varying degrees of impaired liver function. Veterinarians see many cases of what they call "mystery poisoning" in cats. Sometimes Essential Oils are to blame.

3) Cats are uniquely sensitive to phenolics and other compounds containing benzene rings. Compounds preserved in benzyl alcohol are toxic to cats. Exercise caustion when administering phenol-containing essential oils as Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris or T. serpyllum) Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) and Tea Tree (Melaleuca, Melaleuca alternifolia). Cats are adversely effected by certain essential oil components known as phenols and ketones, but veterinarians have also determined through toxicology reports that cats are MOST SENSITIVE to a specific group of essential oil constituents which other mammals are not --- MONOTERPENE HYDOCARBONS, specifically PINENE and LIMONENE having the MOST ADVERSE SIDE EFFECTS. These two substances found most commonly in citrus and pine essential oils, are common ingredients in natural flea and tick repellants and shampoos, as well as natural citrus and pine cleaners. These products can wreak havoc on a cat's liver detoxification mechanisms.


Lemon (Citrus limon), Orange (Citrus sinesis), Tangerine (Citrus reticulata), Mandarin (Citrus reticulata), Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), Lime (Citrus aurantifolia), Begamot (Citrus bergamia), Pine (Pinus sylvestris), Spruce (Picea mariana), Fir (Abies balsamica)


OREGANO (Origanum vulgare), Thyme (Thyme vulgaris), Clove (Eugenia caryophyllata), Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis), Winter Savory (Satureja montana), Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia)

Although the author alleges that there some essential oils that are safe to use for cats, she claims there are too many risk factors and she discourages their use amongst laypeople. For this reason the author only includes recipes for cats based on hydrosols.

My cat had to be euthanized last January with the symptoms of Essential Oil poisoning, because I had no idea that the Citrus and Pine Oils I was diffusing near her litter box were causing her harm. Until I purchased this book recently, I had no idea that these seemingly harmless oils could be fatal to cats.

I Hope this is helpful.


Last edited by Sue Cruz on Sun Oct 02, 2011 8:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Sue Cruz
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Re: Cats and Diffusing Oils

Post by Sue Cruz » Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:42 pm

Hi Cryan,

A word of advice on using essential oils around cats from the book: "Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals --- A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols with Animals" by Kristen Leigh Bell (First published in 2002 by Findhorn Press). The majority of essential oils have one or more components that a cat's liver and or kidneys can't properly metabolize or fully excrete, so the only alternative is to exercise caution when using essential oils around cats.
If you diffuse essential oils, don't keep your cat enclosed in the room with diffuser. Open a window and provide ventilation. If you apply oils to your dogs, keep the cats away for at least an hour. (The same goes for you). You can't eliminate exposure, but you can responsibly minimize it, thus decreasing the chance that any level of essential oils will quickly build up in your cat's system.
Good luck and Happy New Year!



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Re: Cats and Diffusing Oils

Post by Intamuppamb » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:27 pm

This is fantastic. So I have three favorites and would be very grateful if someone would let me know the research out there. I like diffusing cedarwood, lavender, and verbena. Can anyone let me know if this is safe to use in my house. I have both a cat and dog. I just purchased an aroma ace nebulizer and don't want to see anything happen to my precious cat.

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Re: Cats and Diffusing Oils

Post by Intamuppamb » Tue Apr 23, 2013 10:35 am

Where might I locate verbena and cedar wood hydrosols or are they safe?

Ananda Staff
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Re: Cats and Diffusing Oils

Post by Ananda Staff » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:09 pm'll have to search the web...these are a little rare. Diffusing the oils for your own aromatic pleasure won't be a problem for your cat - just use per instructions, where you're only to run the diffuser for 5-10 min every hour - otherwise your olfactory sense gets desensitized to the aroma. But with just enough oil in the air so you're enjoying the aroma, your cat will be fine.

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Re: Cats and Diffusing Oils

Post by SiberianCat » Fri Sep 26, 2014 11:16 pm

Please give me permission to post links, I have some great information and would like to be able to post the sources.
Sorry for "necro-posting," but I just received my first ever diffuser and should receive 14 essential oils tomorrow morning, 14 bottle set 7 of which are citrus-based.
I've contacted amazon to try to intercept the shipment and cancel it, but in case I receive it I will have to ship it back.
Diffuser I got is one where you mix oils with water - amazon [dot] com/gp/product/B00LPPIKVU/ (remove the link if not allowed to post for product)

I am a pre-dental student applying, and I have had very science heavy past.. here is my analysis.
I googled "monoterpenes cats" and it led me to this googlebook which you can view and read for free, I read some of it.

From organic chemistry, a monoterpene unit are made of 2 isoprene units, they can form a ring, or stay in chain, and can have many active groups and form a vast variety of molecules.
Isoprenes, monoterpenes are present practically everywhere, every single plant has them, they have many roles. ei. one is insect repellant, tree releases a form of monoterpene that repels insects.

Truth is, monoprene units are NOT ONLY present in aforementioned Citruises and Pines, they are present IN EVERY SINGLE ESSENTIAL OIL, but are all harmful?
take a look at this gas spectroscopy of Eucalyptus Essential Oil hindawi[dot]com/journals/bmri/2014/969143/tab1/
now read here about monoterpenes life.illinois[dot]edu/ib/425/lecture19.html

Clove contains 58% Euginol, thats a phenol, that also has oxides, so it should be stimulating, irritating and act as an expectorant
Eucalyptus 80% 1,8-Cineole, thats an oxide, which is also made of one monoprene unit forming a ring with oxygen, probably shouldn't be bad.
it seems like the further away you get from the original monoprene hydrocarbon (meaning no other groups than carbons and hydrogens) the less it will affect a cat
Lemon Citrus latifolia is 62% Limonene, that is a 100% pure hydrocarbon monoprene - according to OP's literature super harmful.

Here is a little database of some research done on essential oils, you can search eg. "eucalyptus essential oil" then open the article, find the spectroscopy and view what some oils have in them, major ingredients 50%+ are the ones you should worry about. hindawi[dot]com/search/

As per essential oils containing Phenols and especially Benzene rings. Not only they are harmful for your cat, they are harmful for everything that is alive. Why there was a huge fuss about reusing plastic bottles when freezing water in them, or storing alcohol/water in unrefrigerated warm plastic bottles, because in both cases benzene rings that make up some plastics (triangle-1 under your water bottle) get dissolved - you drink them - end up with get cancer. Benzene rings are a major major carcinogens, I've read in some comments people worrying whether a diffuser is made of plastic, that shouldn't even be a concern when the essential oil you use contains phenols, if you use them, do not get too fanatic about them.
PS. Phenol is a benzene ring with an Alcohol (-OH) group on it, doesn't come in pure form, comes with other groups attached to the benzene rings too, benzene ring does not metabolize, and stays in your liver.

All in all, to know for sure, there has to be a conducted experiment. 50 cats of the same breed and similar age, similar diet, 50 diffusers, 50 different essential oils. Cats shouldn't be killed (if cat condition worsens - stop the experiment, declare the oil unsafe), experiment should last from at least 6 months to a year. Daily then weekly blood samples to check the enzyme levels of each cat to see which essential oil affects a cat in what way. If that experiment was conducted we would clearly know which essential oils affect and don't affect a cat, which more which less, and maybe then we could even go further as to study why a certain essential oil is harmful to a cat. This could be easily done, but I am not sure if government would fund a research like this as the essential oils are produced by different manufacturers by different processes and aren't really government regulated or FDA approved, so the only way to test this is by creating a database on cat deaths linked to diffuser users and drawing some data from that.. until then, to be safe, keep your cats closed in a different room while a diffuser is operational AND DO STAY AWAY FROM PINES AND CITRUSES ESSENTIAL OILS AS THEY HAVE ALREADY BEEN DECLARED UNSAFE, IN FACT ALL ESSENTIAL OILS AFOREMENTIONED BY OP SHOULD BE USED WITH EXTREME CAUTION OR EXCLUDED FROM USE ALTOGETHER IN CATS PRESENCE, MY POST IS ONLY MEANT TO TELL YOU THAT OTHER OILS CONTAIN MONOTERPENE MOLECULES AS WELL AND COULD POTENTIALLY BE JUST AS UNSAFE.

My origin of doubt however went around Terpenes being the cause, I personally don't think terpenes could be the cause, but the groups on terpenes and their arrangement. As in if it was the former, cats wouldn't be alive today.. Maybe saturation plays a huge role too because in nature grass smell, leaf smell isn't as saturated as air becomes when you fire up your 10 billion per second vibrations nebulizer on top of your cats potty (use scented sand instead). In my opinion, cats that are pure breeds (eg. Siberian cat) should be more adapted to nature and be able to detoxify some more harmful essential oils better than bread cats (eg. Persian cats), but this is just a speculation, I will not risk running diffuser and my cat being in the same room.

Finally speaking of "hydrosol" based oils, this whole post is about hydrosols, if they contain a preservative - this is another whole thing to worry about.

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Re: Cats and Diffusing Oils

Post by Blushka » Sat May 13, 2017 5:36 am

Ok, so I have lots of questions regarding oils and my cat. I certainly do not want to harm her.
Just started using my diffuser a week or so ago.
I generally run it on the on/off cycle, and for much more than the 10-15 minutes an hour. That is another question.
I usually have it in the living room, up higher, and she doesnt spend much time in there.

When i run it in the bedroom, it sits on a table that is next to a chair the cat often sleeps in. Guess that is not ok.
If i move it to the other side of the room, is that ok?

I had purchased Clary Sage for the purpose of making a natural anti flea application for her. Guess i cant use that anymore.
It says in the recipe i found to put it on her chest.
Have not done this yet. Just received it yesterday.
If this is not ok to use, any suggestions for a safe way to protect her.
She is an inside cat, but somehow got fleas a few months ago. Also have a dog, that is protected by commercial products.
Vet said i should stop using the topical on her since she is only inside.
Since she had the problem with fleas, i want to protect her, but without harming her. Dont want to use the topical commercial if can help it.
Thanks so much for any info.

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