Can I use essential oils with my cats?

Sassy black farm cat

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:

Personal inhaler
Aromatherapy jewelry
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.

Is aromatherapy safe for pets?

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.

*Not advised for birds, cats, fish or reptiles.

Aromatherapy – My definition

Combining materials
Combining materials

Over the last several decades we have seen the emergence of marketers utilizing fragrance to sell products. Also, the emergence of several large multi-level marketing companies selling essential oils. This growth has made aromatherapy a recognizable term. The down side is most don’t know what it truly means.

The term aromatherapy came about in 1937 when Rene-Maurice Gattefosse used it in his book “Gattefosse’s Aromatherapy“. At that time, the term was used to describe the use of essential oils for their therapeutic actions. An essential oil is the aromatic essence of the plant that is generally extracted through steam distillation. They are highly concentrated so a little goes a long way.  A true essential oil will offer valuable psychological and physical benefits. To learn more visit AromaWeb.

“Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same” Helen Keller

Throughout my study of aromatherapy for both people and animals my definition has expanded to include the use of fragrant plant materials in many forms. When using essential oils topically we are always combining them into a plant based carrier, such as coconut oil. Hydrosols or hydrolats have taken up much of my aroma tool kit due to their gentle nature. I am also constantly turning to herbal preparations and flower essences to help my clients.

As more practitioners are studying the safe and effective uses for essential oils we are learning that there are other options. Beyond the essential oils we also have absolutes, CO2s and hydrosols. The carriers that are used to dilute essential oils also carry therapeutic properties and many have a wonderful fragrance on their own. So for me aromatherapy is no longer just about essential oils, but about combining many aromatic plant materials.