Much has been written recently about the dangers of using essential oils with cats. For 13 years I have been using essential oils, hydrosols and herbal oils with cats, in my practice of animal aromatherapy. In this time I have helped many troubled felines to a healthier, happier lifestyle with no harmful side-effects. If you follow a few basic guidelines essential oils and hydrosols can be a safe and effective solution for many common cat problems such as:
The basic guidelines are:
Cats lack an important detoxification mechanism, known as glucuronidation, which is present in most mammals. This means, to avoid possible fatal toxic shock (at worst) or a build up of toxic metabolites in the body, you must be very cautious when using essential oils with cats, and completely avoid anything containing phenols.
There have been reports of liver failure in cats after exposure to essential oils, however these have always been due to forcing a cat to use the essential oil e.g. using tea tree oil undiluted, or prolonged exposure to diffused essential oil. In fact, despite its widespread use, tea tree oil is not safe for cats. However, essential oils occur naturally in nature and cats are probably exposed to small quantities on a daily basis. If just a one whiff of essential oil was going to cause kitty to keel over Felis Catus would not be one of the most successful species on the planet today!
To find out if your cat wants or needs a certain essential oil or hydrosol, hold the closed bottle in your hand at least 6 inches away from your cat's nose. Be patient and allow the cat to come towards the bottle if it wants to, rather than you going towards the cat. Once you are sure the cat likes the oil (see responses below), dilute one drop in 10 mls (approx. 1 tablespoon) of cold-pressed vegetable oil.
Signs of a keen interest: smelling intently, licking the lips or trying to lick the bottle, follows you around with the aroma, rolls on its back, rubs against you - Offer diluted oil once or twice a day.
Signs of a moderate interest: A few sniffs then looks away, a small sniff but returns to the bottle, tongue licks quickly, easily distracted from the aromas - Offer diluted oil once a day.
No interest: turns away from the aroma, leaves the room - Do not apply.
Cats are very sensitive to the oils so just a few sniffs is all that is needed to trigger the healing process. Cats are also quite subtle in their response to the oils, and sometimes secretive, so if the cat stays in the room with you when the bottle is open count it as a positive response, even if they are acting nonchalant and indifferent.
If the cat shows signs of wanting to lick the oil allow it to lick diluted oil from your fingers if it will (this is very rare) or put a few drops on a saucer and leave it on the floor, but not near its usual eating-place.
In my experience of treating cats I have never come across a cat who wants essential oils put on their skin, usually a few little sniffs is enough to effect a profound change, even in the case of wounds.
Cats can become overwhelmed by the smell of essential oils, sniffing, licking or attacking their owner manically if the person smells of oils. Cats can also behave as they do with catnip (after all it is the essential oil in catnip they are responding to) jumping around and having a mad moment or five. This can lead people to believe that their cat really loves essential oil, when, in fact, it is literally driving them crazy.
Cats often ‘hang out’ near closed bottles of essential oil. I have a client who, mindful of the cautions, put her selection of oils inside a bag on top of a wardrobe out of harm's way…. only to find that her cats had taken to sleeping beside it. Cats are energetically finely tuned and a collection of essential oils is giving off a powerful radiation to which they are naturally attracted, especially if they (or you) need some healing
There is no need to deprive cats of this wonderful tool, just allow your cat to guide you in how to use aromatics, and never think you know better than a cat!
This video shows clearly how a cat can choose its own hydrosol