One of the most hotly debated subjects in animal aromatherapy…cats. There are many out there that suggest it is perfectly safe. Then there are those that vehemently say, not safe at all.
Using essential oils can be a huge benefit for people. They can also be beneficial for animals, but no one is created equal. Every person and animal is going to react differently. But why are cats such a hot topic?
The reason those of us that follow safety guidelines say no is based on science. Cats lack the enzyme glucuronosyltransferase. Most mammals have this enzyme, which is responsible for processing and removing most drugs, toxins, and dietary substances. Since cats lack this enzyme they are more likely to suffer from toxic reactions to substances. Essential oils are a substance that needs to be processed and eliminated by the body.
Some signs of an adverse reaction would be; salivation, a change in breathing (panting or coughing), diarrhea, abnormal behavior, depression, weakness or vomiting. These are only a few of the possible signs, knowing your pets’ behavior is key.
Holistic options for cats would include; dietary supplements with herbs, diluted hydrosols and flower essences. There are also trained practitioners in aromatherapy, acupuncture and massage that can provide safe services.
Don’t worry you can still use all your oils and keep your cats safe. Using a diffuser is probably out of the question if you have in indoor cat, but here are some great options:
Lotion or Body Butter (if the cat won’t lick)
Aromastone (small space where cat isn’t)
I feel that every person needs to make an informed decision. There are plenty of articles stating it is safe. Many of the articles are even written by veterinarians. Although there is no definitive proof now about the safety I tend to be cautious. I would prefer to keep my cats’ exposure to essential oils to a minimum. As more research is done we may discover cats have a different enzyme to help process toxins, but for now let’s keep our fur babies safe and healthy without essential oils.
Once I began teaching workshops regarding aromatherapy a common question kept coming up. Can I use this with my pets? My opinion is utilizing complimentary care is always a good idea for anyone whether it is human or animal, but I honestly wasn’t sure how safe it would be to use essential oils with our animal friends.
This question has put me on a quest to understand the benefits of complementary and alternative options for our animal friends. I will always advise you to seek veterinary care, but wanted to find out a better answer. I began studying animal aromatherapy with my amazing instructor Kelly Holland Azzaro and have discovered that there are many options available.
Animal aromatherapy truly encompasses more than just the use of essential oils. As I share in my article about the definition of aromatherapy. It truly is the use of aromatic plants in a variety of forms.
I have been fortunate throughout my studies to work with a large variety of animals from small bunnies all the way up to large horses. Each animal brought me a deeper understanding of viewing a concern from all aspects, both internal and external. Since animals can not communicate it is important to spend some time really getting to know them.
Aromatherapy works on all levels of an animal including the physical, emotional, conditional and spiritual. Animals have a strong sense of smell, much stronger than humans so extra caution is required when using aromatherapy. They can’t tell us what they like or don’t like so being able to pay attention to the physical cues is important.
I have been fortunate to volunteer at Celestial Farms, a farm animal rescue, and have really been able to learn the personality and cues of all the animals. When I work with clients I offer them a list of things to watch for. Each animal is different and will respond to holistic care differently.
Ultimately, the answer is yes, aromatherapy does work for animals*. I would advise you to take it slowly, work with a qualified holistic veterinarian or animal aromatherapist whenever possible. Always remember that this is a complimentary health care option and less is best.
Dill (Anethum graveolens) is an herb that I have had great success with. In my outdoor garden, I sometimes get lazy and this herb tends to be self-seeding if you leave it alone. Self-seeding means that as the plant matures it will flower and develop seeds, the seeds then fall and if the birds don’t eat them they start to grow again. Due to this I haven’t had to plant dill in a couple years.
When I first started my Florida garden it was mostly in pots. As you can see dill does just fine in a small pot. I will be the first to admit that I did not stay on top of trimming or caring for this plant. If you take the time to trim plants regularly they will continue to grow nicely for an extended period and they won’t bolt.
I love drying the aerial portions to use on fish, in salads or sprinkled in sandwiches to add a unique delicious flavor. Another great use for dill is to make a lemon dill compound butter which you can use on chicken, pork or beef. Consider adding it to some pasta with garden fresh vegetables for a tasty summer dish.
To make a compound butter always make sure to use unsalted butter so that you can control the salt (sodium) within your recipes.
For a lemon dill compound butter:
one stick of butter (1/2 cup)
the zest and juice of half a lemon
approximately 1 tablespoon of fresh dill
salt to taste. (adjust all ingredients for personal preference)
When you don’t keep the plant nicely trimmed it will bolt, meaning it grows taller and starts producing flowers. The flowers will produce a bunch of seeds. Once the seed pods dry on the plant some cut off the top portion to continue allowing them to dry. The seeds can be used for a variety of purposes. A delicious option would be dill pickles. A recipe I like came from this site The Kitchn about making dill pickles.
Herbalists also delight in the different medicinal applications of dill which include improving your appetite and digestion. You can make the feather/aerial portion of dill into a tea to help ease abdominal pains or cramps. According to Michael Tierra in the Way of Herbs it can help with colds, flu or cough. It may also help with the flow of breast milk for breastfeeding mothers (pg 43, Reader’s Digest The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs). As with any holistic practice always consult with a physician or a natural health practitioner.
To learn about dill essential oil, please visit my article here. I would enjoy hearing how you use fresh herbs and what is your favorite? Stay tune for my next installment of fresh herbs from my garden.
Recently while I was doing some volunteer work with the farm animals a person asked my opinion about an article they had seen using oregano essential oil with chickens. I am choosing to not share the link to the article because I do not want people to think I promote the authors suggestions. Unfortunately the article didn’t state which type of Oregano they utilized I have to assume it was Oregano vulgare.
Oregano essential oil is generally high in carvacrol and thymol. These chemical constituents lend to the possible therapeutic uses with viral infections, bacterial infections and helping with congestion. The author references investigating essential oils in the prevention of Avian flu. I did an extensive search through PubMed, one search and couldn’t find any research on Avian flu and oregano oil. Due to the therapeutic benefits with viral and bacterial infections this oil may help with prevention, as long as it was used safely and highly diluted.
For human use the oil has a recommended maximum dermal use of 1.1% and several cautions against oral use (pg. 375 & 376 Tisserand & Young 2014). Knowing these precautions I would never suggest use of this oil with chickens, simply because they are small birds with completely different systems. The only way I would use it would be during cleaning of their coop after illness and when all the chickens are removed for a period of time.
To ensure the health of your flock rather than turning to essential oils consider using the actual plant. Adding a variety of herbs to a nesting box can help deter pests, add a healthy snack and create a fresher environment. The fresh herbs will also provide vitamins and minerals which are not available from an essential oil. If you do use fresh herbs these will have to be changed frequently to avoid mold developing, if you are in a humid area consider dried herbs.