Essential Oils and Cats…(Learn How to Use The Best and Safest)

Essential Oils and Cats

Oh, how I love cats! They are such beautiful, mysterious creatures! These sensitive animals soothe our souls and please our minds. Are you looking for the best holistic treatment for your cat? Then Aromatherapy (essential oils...for your cat/s) is the answer! 

For centuries, essential oils have benefited humans; curing and preventing illnesses. There is no reason why they shouldn’t do the same for cats. After all; cats have a heightened sense of smell and the right essential oils for cats can do wonders for their health and overall well-being. In this article,

Let me teach you all about the safe use of the right essential oils for cats and also highlight essential oils that are actually toxic to these beautiful creatures.

So let's dive right into it!

Cat scratching fleas and ticks

A Few Words of 'Caution'...

While there are many essential oils that are safe to use with cats, you should always, and I mean ALWAYS, use a smell test first before using particular oil around your feline.

Aromatherapy is an ‘experience’ for your cat; s/he may not always like it. That is why, before using any essential oil around it, you must perform a smell test. If your cat does not like the smell of a particular oil-DO NOT USE IT.

Never allow the cat to sniff the oil directly. Dip a clean Q-tip in the oil and wipe it on a cloth. Then gently place the cloth near the cat. If your cat starts sneezing, or runs away or starts salivating or drooling- DO NOT USE THAT OIL AGAIN in any way.

As always, dilute the essential oil before using it on/around your cat for cleaning, diffusing, bathing etc.

Essential Oil for Felines

Essential oil use for cats is limited due to their sensitive metabolic system and internal organs. Due to lack of certain liver enzymes, cats cannot break down many substances and certain essential oils are some of them.

So if you plan to use a particular essential oil, talk to an experienced aromatherapist first.

You can also safely use an infusion of flowers, barks, seeds, leaves, and twigs in hot water or hydrosols instead. These are a much safer and gentler way of using alternative and holistic remedies for cats.

That said, certain gentle essential oils can be safely used around cats. You can dilute them with the right carrier oils and use them for spot application or topical massage.

Inhalation therapy is also useful- use an atomizer diffuser or mist sprays in the room where your cat is resting. If you plan to use strong smelling oils for self-use, it is best to remove the cat from the room first or at least increase the ventilation in the room.

Some essential oils are contraindicated with certain health conditions in felines. So if your cat is known to have an allergy or a medical issue, discuss with your vet prior to using aromatherapy.

Signs your Cat Loves/Hates the Essential oil

essential oil pet bath

As I mentioned above, it's essential that you perform a smell test on your cat when using an essential oil for the first time. As described above, take the oil on a Q-tip and rub it on a soft cloth. Place the cloth near your cat. If your cat loves the smell, it will reach out for the cloth and rub its nose on it. It might even sniff or lick the cloth. Staring at the cloth with wide eyes is another indication that your pet is testing the oil.

However, cringing, running away, drooling or excess salivation is a sign that your cat dislikes the oil.

Here are some serious signs of toxic overload in your pet:

Symptoms of essential oil poisoning in cats

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Temporary paralysis, lack of coordination/stumbling
  • Dermal or mucous membrane inflammation

If your cat is showing these signs, please see your vet immediately.

Diffusing Essential Oils and Cats-Important Safety Instructions

Breathing strong, undiluted essential oils can be very toxic to cats. The effects can build up by inhalation over time causing liver damage. Try not to use excessive oil for diffusing.  Make sure the room has proper ventilation so that the cat can leave it if they want.

Cats tend to metabolize certain compounds in oils rather slowly-so allow a period of 24-48 hours between diffusion to avoid repeated exposure through inhalation. If you notice symptoms of toxicity like vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, clumsiness, etc, see a doctor immediately.

caution sign

As a rule, NEVER give essential oils by mouth or in food to cats. The risk is too great!

List of Essential Oils Harmful to Cats and Kittens (Essential Oils with Phenols)

Before we discuss the safe essential oils for cats, let’s review some oils that are harmful and downright toxic to felines.

Thyme Oil

Thyme oil contains phenol and cats are extremely sensitive to essential oils with phenols. Exercise caution when using Thyme oil around cats. It is best not to use this essential oil if you have a cat.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is also known as Melaleuca or Melaleuca Alternifonia. This oil also contains phenol, so it is best to avoid it around cats. If you want, add no more than 1 drop of it to your pet’s shampoo when bathing pets infested with ticks and fleas. Do not diffuse this oil in an area where cats rest. Avoid using it for massage.

Cinnamon Oil

Spraying cinnamon and black pepper oils can actually help you keep an area cat free. Both these oils cause respiratory issues in felines so most cats hate their smells. So in case you want to keep your yard free from stray cats, spray these oils around the fence from time to time.

Peppermint Oil

Many pet owners ask this question: Is peppermint oil safe for pets? In most cases, peppermint is safe for dogs but it can be toxic to cats and kittens especially in highly concentrated form. Never allow your cat to ingest peppermint oil-it can cause vomiting or diarrhea.

Additional essential oils toxic/aversive to cats

Following is a further list of essential oils that are toxic to cats:

  • Bergamot
  • Birch
  • Clove
  • Camphor
  • Fir
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mandarin
  • Niaouli
  • Sweet Orange
  • Oregano
  • Pine
  • Savory
  • Spruce
  • Tangerine
  • Safest Essential Oils for Cats

    Here are several oils for cats that are safe for diffusion, topical application or bathing after dilution with a suitable carrier oil.

    Basil Oil

    basil essential oil

    The scent of Basil essential oils is attractive to cats. However, basil oil contains certain compounds which could be toxic to young kittens. So, always dilute the oil with a suitable carrier oil. Basil essential oil is very effective in treating weakness of the nervous system. You can safely use Basil oil as a hydrosol and diffuse it near the cat’s resting area.

    Roman Chamomile Oil

    chamomile essential oil

    Roman Chamomile has been around for ages and has even been called the ‘magical healer’. It is highly beneficial in uplifting the mood of animals and you can safely diffuse it near dogs, cats, and horses.

    Using this oil in cat’s shampoo has low chances of irritation and allergies. Today, it is a popular addition to many vet approved cat products.

    Pet owners can safely diffuse this oil or use it for cleaning cat bedding, for massage and to deter ticks, fleas, and other parasites. Cats love the scent of Roman Chamomile as it calms their mind.

    Valerian Oil

    Valerian essential oil

    Another scent which cats are highly attracted to is Valerian essential oil. Spraying valerian oil around cats can send them into ecstasy.

    If you want your cat to stop scratching your furniture, spray some Valerian on cat scratch posts and your cat will not leave it!

    Lavender Oil

    lavender essential oil

    Lavender oil is safe, calming and comforting for cats. Use it diluted for massaging their fur, or in their shampoo.

    Diffuse the oil or use it in mist spray around the room to calm and soothe cats with anxiety and help them sleep better.

    Calendula Oil

    Calendula Essential Oil

    Calendula oil is very safe for use around cats. Use it diluted to treat wounds, cuts, blisters or other skin issues.

    Catnip Oil

    Cats love catnip! Its essential oil is an excellent pest repellent. Apply it diluted or in bath water to repel parasites.

    Citronella Oil

    Citronella Essential Oil

    Citronella oil is very well known for its insect repellent properties.

    Apply it diluted on cat’s body or in form of hydrosol spray to prevent ticks, fleas, mange etc.

    Eucalyptus Oil

    eucalyptus essential oil

    Eucalyptus oil is antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal.

    It can prevent and treat colds and respiratory infections in cats. In shampoos, it can treat skin irritations quickly.

    Jasmine Oil

    jasmine essential oil

    Jasmine is one of the prominent calming essential oils for cats and aids in sleep.

    It is also known to alleviate depression in cats and kittens.

    An even longer list of essential oils safe for cats...

    These essential oils are safe to diffuse around cats as well...

    • Yarrow and Sweet Pea for courage and healing
    • Sweet Fennel for longevity
    • Hyacinth for sleep and calming
    • Rose and Geranium for wounds/burns cleaning and healing
    • Myrrh and Palmarosa for healing
    • Lemongrass is a good oil around cats as long as it is diluted. Many pet shampoos contain Lemongrass oil.
    • Frankincense can safely be diffused around cats and kittens.

    Safe Carrier Oils to Use for Diluting Essential Oils for Cats

    Never forget to dilute the essential oils before using it on your cat. Use a good carrier oil for the job. Like essential oils, carrier oils are also different and not all of them are safe for use on cats.

    Using the right carrier is essential for the safety as well as the successful use of the essential oil for a particular purpose. For cats, there are three carriers that work the best. They are as follows:

    V6 Vegetable Oil Complex

    This is a blend of 6 different oils, hence the name. All 6 oils used in the blend are safe to be ingested. The oils included in the V6 blend are: wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, grape seed oil, sweet almond oil and fractionated coconut oil.

    This carrier oil for cats is not just safe; it is also wonderful for creating customized essential oil blends for your feline. It does not have any particular odor and won’t stain clothes. V6 blend is also suitable for mixing essential oils for horses and dogs.

    Olive Oil

    olive oil


    Olive oil makes a great carrier oil for essential oils for cats. It contains many antioxidants and is useful in healing wounds and repairing cells.

    Its vitamin-rich content destroys free radicals and prevents issues like dandruff, ringworm and other skin infections. With regular use of the right essential oil, organic olive oil can greatly improve your cat’s coat.

    Coconut Oil

    Coconut Carrier Oil

    Coconut oil is well known for its rich health benefits for humans but it is also wonderful for cats and dogs. It makes a great carrier oil for all your cat essential oil recipes and blends.

    Coconut oil conditions and moisturizes cat fur, healing and treating wounds, cuts and skin infections. It is also a natural flea and tick repellent.

    Many pet owners also feed coconut oil to their cat for improved bone health, heart health, skin condition and weight management.

    Essential Oil Recipes For Cats

    Flea Powder

  • Chamomile essential oil
  • Eucalyptus essential oil
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Citronella essential oil
  • 120 ml Cornstarch powder
  • Mister Flea doesn't like essential oils

    Make a blend of the 4 essential oils to yield a total of 1 ½ ml. Mix the blend with the cornstarch powder and place the mixture in a spice powder jar. Let it sit for 2 days. Shake well before use. Apply all over cat’s fur.

    Flea Collar

    essential oil in cat collar
    • Chamomile essential oil
    • Eucalyptus essential oil
    • Lavender essential oil
    • Citronella essential oil
    • 1 tsp alcohol
    • 2 tsp Olive oil

    Take 2 drops of each essential oil and mix well to make a blend. Then add 2 garlic oil capsules to it along with the alcohol. Now add the olive oil and stir well to combine. Soak a soft material collar in this blend. Leave the collar in the blend overnight so that the oil is fully absorbed by it. Let it dry. Place the collar around the cat’s neck. It will remain effective for a month.

    Cat Shampoo

    cat shampoo essential oil added
    • Basil essential oil
    • Citronella essential oil
    • Eucalyptus essential oil
    • Lavender essential oil
    • Pet shampoo for cats

    Take 2 drops each of Basil, Citronella and Lavender oils and one drop of Eucalyptus oil. Do not use Eucalyptus oil in excess as it can cause skin irritation.

    Mix with your pet’s shampoo and use as usual. Also, add one or two drops of the blend to apple cider vinegar and use as a final rinse. This will deter fleas and ticks.


    Essential oils, though natural, must be used cautiously on cats as they are highly sensitive to them. A significant number of animal poisonings have occured due to improper use of essential oils. Cats are fastidious groomers and lick their fur extensively.

    So it is best to avoid using essential oils directly on their coat. Always dilute the oils with suitable carrier oils mentioned above.

    Subtle and careful use of essential oils for cats can enhance this healing therapy for your beloved feline pet.

    About the author

    Jill Holiday

    Jill Holiday is publisher of Pure Wild OIls, an e-magazine devoted to articles about the benefits of essential oils and related product reviews.

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