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Aromatherapy – Is It Safe For Your Cat?

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Aromatherapy is the art of using essential oils for healing. It can work very well on people and on dogs. However, cats are NOT able to tolerate or metabolize essential oils. As little as a single drop of some oils can poison your cat, making him extremely ill. Is there a safe way to use aromatherapy on your cat?

What Are Essential Oils?

People don’t realize how amazing plants are. They can’t get up and run away when danger threatens, so some plants produce certain substances that fight off bacteria, viruses, molds, and even insects, animals, and other plants. These substances can be extracted from the plant’s flowers, leaves, stems and roots in various ways, including steeping leaves or roots in hot water to make tea, and soaking plant material in alcohol or glycerine to make tinctures.

Essential oils are produced by putting the plant material on a screen over water in a large cooker, or still. The still is heated, and steam is produced. The steam causes the cells of the plant to burst, which releases the plant’s oils. This essential oil rises through a condenser and is collected in a separate container.

But what happens to the water that was used to steam the plant material? This floral water, or hydrosol contains all the water-soluble extracts from the plant, and also has therapeutic properties, like the essential oil does. But hydrosols are safe to use on cats, unlike essential oils.

Why Can’t You Use Essential Oils On Cats?

Cats have very thin skin, which allows essential oils to be absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly. Cats, unlike people and dogs, can’t metabolize these oils, or break them down. This is why essential oils can quickly build up in your cat’s body to toxic levels. As little as one drop of essential oil on your cat’s paws or belly can poison him.

Symptoms of toxicity include:

  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • clumsiness
  • loss of appetite
  • no energy

Products that contain essential oils include shampoos, ear cleaners, rechargeable flea collars, and even herbal flea dips. You need to read labels carefully, as some manufacturers just refer to essential oils as “oil” or “herbal oil.”

Using Hydrosols On Your Cat

Hydrosols are perfectly safe to use on your kitty. They are inexpensive, compared to essential oils, and can be used for deodorizing purposes, to repel fleas and ticks, to clean your cat’s ears, and just to calm your feline friend down after an upsetting experience. (Hydrosols are great for people, too, although hopefully not to repel fleas!)

Hydrosols have similar effects as herbs do:

  • Chamomile hydrosol is soothing on skin irritations.
  • Lavender hydrosol helps to calm your cat. It’s also good for burns.
  • Rose hydrosol is also good for rashes and irritated skin.

It’s easy to make up your own blends, too. Combine lavender and chamomile hydrosols to make a soothing solution for cleaning your cat’s ears. Rose, lavender, and orange blossom hydrosols can be mixed together and spritzed onto your cat to calm him.

Hydrosols should be stored in the fridge, away from heat and direct sunlight.

Where Can I Find Hydrosols?

Mountain Rose Herbs is a great place to buy excellent-quality reasonably-priced hydrosols.

You can read more about hydrosols here:

Aromatherapy and Your Cat

What Is A Hydrosol?

Holistic Aromatherapy For Animals is a great book if you want to learn more about aromatherapy for your pet.


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  1. 6 Comment(s)

  2. By George Kakaris on May 12, 2008 | Reply

    Hey this is very nice info. I liked it and got it that Aromatherapy cannot be used on cats but it is very useful for humans.

  3. By Susan on May 13, 2008 | Reply

    I love reading people’s ideas on the uses of essential oils. You never stop learning. I never knew this, and am so glad I read this article! I would hate to have killed my cat through what I would have considered love.

    Susan’s last blog post..Healing Your Body Naturally

  4. By admin on May 14, 2008 | Reply

    George, I agree, aromatherapy is great for humans, but not so great for cats. But you can use hydrosols on cats instead of essential oils.

    Susan, before I did the research for this article, I never knew essential oils were bad for cats. This is information that should be more widely available.

    Thanks for your comments! Come back soon.

    Darlene

  5. By RC on Jul 25, 2008 | Reply

    Glad to find out about the use of hydrosol on cats.
    Now if I can find a place locally to purchase especially the lavendar hydrosol.
    Will order online if have to for future use. Will try it out and keep on hand.
    Thanks for the info.

  6. By Michele on Oct 1, 2008 | Reply

    You mention some oils may be extremely poisonous to cats, but do not mention which ones they are.

    I would be very helpful for you to list those. We use a lot of aromatherapy at home for us humans, so it would be nice to know what to keep far out of reach.

  7. By admin on Oct 4, 2008 | Reply

    Michele,

    Thank you for pointing out this omission. Essential Oils and Cats: A Potentially Toxic Mix has a list of essential oils that can cause problems for cats:

    “Essential Oils Potentially Toxic to Cats
    (This list is not all-inclusive)

    * Peppermint
    * Lemon Oil
    * Lavender Oil
    * Melaleuca Oil
    * Tea Tree Oil
    * Cinnamon Bark Oil
    * Wintergreen Oil
    * Thyme Oil
    * Birch Oil
    * Other oils containing phenol”

    You may also want to read Essential Oil Safety And Cats to learn more about this topic.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Best Wishes,

    Darlene

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