6 Essential Oil Safety Tips for Cat Owners

I love using essential oils. But when you have cats in your home you must be careful of what you use. Rachel from The Essential Girl blog is here to share her research regarding toxic essential oils.

Curiosity killed the cat. And essential oils can too if you’re not careful.

We all love our feline friends, but they have an uncanny knack for getting into things they shouldn’t. So it’s our job as responsible pet owners to be in the know about what’s dangerous for them and then keep it far far away from their cute little noses.

Read on for 6 essential oil safety tips to keep your cat safe (without throwing away all your essential oils).

Want to learn more about using essential oils with your cat? Take my free essential oils for pets email course! Inside I cover why using essential oils with your pets can be so beneficial, common mistakes people make when using essential oils with their pets, and I answer all of YOUR burning questions! Just click below to get started.

Cats are Sensitive to Certain Essential Oils

Researchers have identified two major categories of essential oils that are more dangerous to cats than other mammals (such as humans, dogs or horses). The reason these essential oils are more dangerous to cats lies in the physiology of their liver. Cats lack an enzyme (glucuronyl tranferase) that in other animals helps to process and break down certain components of these essential oils. Due to the concentrated nature of essential oils, toxic buildup of these components occurs and can ultimately be fatal. [1]

If you’ve already used essential oils on/around your cat, don’t worry! If your cat hasn’t shown any symptoms of toxic buildup, they will likely be alright. Many oils are safe for cats, and even if you’ve used a toxic one your cat will probably be ok if you discontinue the unsafe use immediately, because it takes time for toxic buildup to occur.

Dangerous Components

So what are the components that make specific oils so dangerous to cats? They fall into two categories called phenols and monoterpene hydrocarbons.


[Also known as carbolic acid, phenol describes a group of aromatic organic compounds consisting of a phenyl group bound to a hydroxyl group. Although similar in molecular structure to an alcohol, phenols have their hydroxyl group attached to an aromatic hydrocarbon ring, whereas an alcohol’s hydroxyl group is bound to a saturated carbon atom.]

It turns out phenols can be pretty toxic to humans too. They are corrosive to the skin, eyes, and are irritants to the respiratory tract. [2] But this isn’t too surprising, given the safety warnings that come with high-phenol oils (Cinnamon, Clove, Thyme, Oregano, Savory). These oils are generally recommended for use at the lowest dilution of 1%. If used at a higher dilution, there is a risk of burning your skin or respiratory tract, depending on how you’re using it. Most websites recommend only using higher dilutions for very short periods of time when higher effectiveness is needed (such as getting rid of a particularly bad cold).

While humans can tolerate these oils is small amounts (due to our liver having the ability to filter out the phenols), cats have a much lower tolerance, and exposure of your cat to these oils should be as limited as possible.

Monoterpene Hydrocarbons

[Terpenes are a very large class of organic compounds commonly produced in plants. Monoterpenes are within this class and consist of two isoprene units (which are a more basic organic compound produced by plants). Monoterpene hydrocarbon refers to a monoterpene attached to an aromatic hydrocarbon ring (what else has an aromatic hydrocarbon ring?… phenols!)] 

Other than phenols, oils containing monoterpene hydrocarbons can be toxic to cats. So what oils contain monoterpene hydrocarbons? Unfortunately, many. Here’s a list of monoterpene hydrocarbons found in essential oils, and the oils that contain these components.

  • Terpineol: cajuput oil, pine oil, and petigrain oil
  • Limonene: Very common in citrus oils
  • Pinene: pine oil (obviously), and other coniferous plants such as fir.

Using Pure Essential Oils is Key

Often, essential oils producers will dilute their oils with additives to bring down the price of the oil. Many of these additives are toxic to cats (and humans to an extent). So if you find that your cat is reacting to an oil not listed as toxic, it could be that the oil is not pure.

But how do you know you’re buying pure oils? There’s currently no way to know for sure unless you’re bottling the oils yourself. Many of you may know that there isn’t very much regulation when it comes to the quality of essential oils (i.e. something like “theraputic grade” means nothing because no outside body sets standards to meet). However there are things to check about a company that are an instant indication of diluted oils.

  • Do they bottle their own oils? Many companies buy pure oils and then dilute them before re-bottling them and selling them at lower prices.
  • How much information do they provide about their process? While some companies provide no information (which could mean anything), others specify their methods and even tell you where the plants used to make oils are sourced from.
  • How much do they charge? Ok, now this one is a little less specific, but if something is too cheap to believe, you probably shouldn’t believe it. Too-low prices point to extensive dilutions (because no one is going to sell their products for a loss).

6 Essential Oil Safety Tips for Cat Owners

6 Essential Oil Safety Tips for Cat Owners | Did you know that some essential oils are toxic to cats?? I didn't at first, but I'm so glad that I know now! Click through for a list of essential oils toxic to cats, as well as some tips for keeping them away from kitty without having to throw them out!Just because an oil is toxic to cats does not mean that you can never use it in your home. However it does mean that certain precautions will need to be taken to ensure your cat is not exposed to the oil. Here’s a list of tips to help keep your cat safe:

1.Never diffuse a toxic oil in your home. 

When an oil is diffused into the air, whether with an ultrasonic diffuser or a spray air freshener, there is a high potential that your cat will inhale the oil, same as you (that’s kind of the point of diffusing and air fresheners). The components of the oil that are toxic will be able to make their way into your cat’s body very easily through inhalation, so don’t even allow your cat to sniff toxic oils while you are using them. If you must use an essential oil by inhalation, try putting a few drops in a bowl of steaming hot water and then covering your head and bowl with a towel and breathe in the vapor. (Make sure there isn’t so much steam that you will burn your face – use your common sense). Make sure to do this in a room away from your cat.

For more alternative diffusion methods, check out this post.

2. Never pet your cat after applying essential oils to your skin.

If there is any residual oil on your hands, it can get on their fur, and when they go to give themselves a bath they will ingest it. So be cautious and wash your hands well after applying oils, as well as making sure to keep the skin that you applied the oils on covered so that your cat does not rub up against you and get the oils on their fur that way.

3. Keep all your oils (toxic or not) stored where your cat cannot reach them.

We all know that cats are very curious and mischievous beings, capable of getting into almost anything. Even if your oils are sealed tightly, there is a likelihood that there will be residual oil on the bottle that your cat could lick off or get on their fur. So keep your oils in a closed cabinet or drawer that you are 100% certain your cat cannot break into. (Also for those of you with small children, remember that your kids could get into the oils and inadvertently expose your cat, so keep your oils out of reach of little hands as well).

4. Don’t use toxic oils to clean anything your cat could lick or rub.

When you use essential oils as cleaners (as with any cleaner) a residue is left on the surface. If your cat rubs against this surface or licks it, they can easily end up ingesting some of the toxic oil. So for example, it is ok to use toxic oils to clean your showehead, but not your kitchen counter (I’ve never met a cat that doesn’t like to lick dirty dishes left on the counter when you aren’t home).

5. Don’t leave out dishes that have touched toxic oils.

For those of you that cook with essential oils, it is important to put away or clean these dishes immediately after use because, as mentioned above, I’ve never met a cat that doesn’t love licking leftover food off the dirty dishes in the sink.

6. Use higher dilutions when possible

Even with all these precautionary measures, exposure of your cat could still happen, so use your toxic oils as diluted as possible for them to still be effective. This way, accidental exposure of your cat to the oil is less likely to be enough to cause a toxic buildup.

For more information on how to dilute your oils, check out this post.

Even if you have been using one of these toxic oils around your cat and your cat has been fine, you should NOT continue use. Toxic buildup happens over long periods of time, and in most cases there are no symptoms until it is too late.

List of Oils Toxic to Cats

Cinnamon Clove Thyme Oregano
Savory Cajuput Pine Petegrain
Lemon Lime Orange Grapefruit
Bergamot Mandarin Tangerine Neroli
Fir Cypress Juniper Spruce
Tea Tree Birch Bitter Almond Boldo
Calamus Camphor Cassia Chenopodium
Garlic Horseradish Mustard Tansy
Wintergreen Peppermint Sassafras Rue

Looking for this list in printable form? I’ve got you covered (plus you can get access to my entire library of free printables). Just click here!

Note: While I have done a lot of research and compiled a list that most sources seemed to agree on, I cannot guarantee that an essential oil not on this list is automatically safe for cats. When in doubt, limit use around your cat, and never apply it directly to your cat’s fur or skin. 

Whew! That’s a lot of information to take in. Congrats on making it to the end! What tips and tricks have you guys implemented to keep your kitty safe? Let me know in the comments below!

Read more about using essential oils to prevent and kill fleas.

Want to learn more about using essential oils with your cat? Take my free essential oils for pets email course! Inside I cover why using essential oils with your pets can be so beneficial, common mistakes people make when using essential oils with their pets, and I answer all of YOUR burning questions! Just click below to get started.


  1. Addie DD, Boucraut-Baralon C, Egberink H, Frymus T, Gruffydd-Jones T, Hartmann K, Horzinek MC, Hosie MJ, Lloret A, Lutz H, Marsilio F, Pennisi MG, Radford AD, Thiry E, Truyen U, Möstl K; European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases. Disinfectant choices in veterinary practices, shelters and households: ABCD guidelines on safe and effective disinfection for feline environments. J Feline Med Surg. 2015 Jul;17(7):594-605.
  2. Budavari, S, ed. (1996). “The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of Chemical, Drugs, and Biologicals”. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck


About Rachel:


Rachel is a blogger and bioengineering masters student who lives in Clemson, SC (go tigers!). Her two passions are health and science, and she blends them masterfully in her blog The Essential Girl, where she writes about the science behind essential oils and sorts through the hearsay about clean living.

When she’s not blogging or sciencing the shit out of something in the lab, she likes to drink tea, nom on popcorn, and binge Netflix with her soon-to-be astrophysicist boyfriend.



  1. pilch92
    February 15, 2016 / 6:41 pm

    Excellent post! It seems like essential oils are the “in” thing right now so this post is very important. I am super cautious and choose not to have any in my home.

    • February 15, 2016 / 10:02 pm

      Thank you pilch92! I definitely understand about wanting to be cautious – only the best for the fur babies!

  2. February 18, 2016 / 5:10 pm

    Why is peppermint on the list? After all, CatNip IS part of the mint family of herbs that cats ingest, and seeing peppermint is in that same family of plants, this one puzzles me. I have yet to see any cat or kitten get ill or sick from a candy cane {peppermint} or is there something else in the peppermint oil that would be the culprit. And I don’t recall seeing strawberry on the list above, yet, I’ve read that they are also toxic to cats, but then I see so many different sites that one will say something is toxic, another it isn’t. So how in the world can any of us really be certain what is truly toxic and what isn’t. Not that I want to take a chance, but I do know my cats have eaten candy canes, again peppermint and never suffered any ill effects from ingesting them when they’ve gotten hold of one or two.

    • February 18, 2016 / 9:11 pm

      Peppermint is on the list because it contains small amounts of limonene and pinene, which are monoterpene hydrocarbons. (Ref) Catnip also contains these compounds in similarly small amounts (see same reference). I think the difference is that when you make an essential oil, you are effectively super-concentrating the plant (or whatever else you’re making the oil from), which is why they are volatile and must be used in such small amounts. So when you give a cat some catnip, they are getting FAR less of those compounds which are toxic, and would have to eat exorbitant amounts of catnip to experience the toxic buildup. And in terms of the candy canes, most of the peppermint used in those is pretty dilute compared to a pure essential oil, and plus it is then diluted among the volume of the candy. However, if it did happen to be more concentrated, you might not see any adverse affects until there was a considerable buildup in the cat’s system.

      I’m not so sure in terms of incense, but I do know that heat has an effect on the molecular structure of the molecules of an essential oil, generally degrading it. (Ref) So it is possible that it is degraded enough that the toxic components may not longer be toxic to cats (if it contained any in the first place), however this source suggests the overall the heating of an essential oil renders it more toxic and less effective. So if you are burning incense sticks that are soaked in essential oils, I would recommend against it, but if you are burning resins that is a bit different because they aren’t as volatile or as easily degraded. I don’t know too much about incense or what they use to make those sticks, but I hope this helps some!

      • kle5071
        December 24, 2016 / 7:27 pm

        I agree with Cataptra I’ve been reading so much contradicting information about which oils are toxic and which are safe. One site in particular said Lemon and other citrus oils were toxic(which seems to be the only unanimous conclusion in the research I’ve done) but then went on to say Lemongrass was safe. Call me crazy but isn’t Lemongrass a citrus oil? This brings me to my main question which is: Are blends with some of these “toxic” oils harmful to diffuse around cats? Does it depend on how much of the blend is made up of toxic oils vs safe oils? Is it then safer to use less drops of these oils in a diffuser? Would it be as harmful as diffusing the toxic oil alone?
        I’ve been using young living essential oils as I noticed you do as well from your picture. Do you have a list of safe oils from their blends? I would appreciate any insight into this as I obviously don’t want to cause harm to my two kitties.

        • December 27, 2016 / 5:55 am

          Interestingly, lemongrass is not a citrus, it’s actually part of the grass family. However, as I found when another reader commented, lemongrass oil should be on the toxic list, as it can contain anywhere between 3-5% of a monoterpene hydrocarbon called β-myrcene.
          I would recommend not using any blend containing an oil on the toxic list long term, as it is unclear just how much it takes for toxic buildup to occur and could differ from animal to animal. However for short term or one-time uses, using blends that contain less than 25% toxic oil and then also using less drops of those oils will likely be alright. In terms of young living, I don’t believe a ‘safe’ list exists in relation to how their oils affect cats.

      • KIMBERLY
        December 27, 2016 / 11:59 pm

        so does this mean I can’ diffuse peppermint or have a peppermint plant if i have cats

        • December 28, 2016 / 2:52 am

          A peppermint plant should be alright, especially if your cats aren’t trying to eat it. However, diffusing peppermint oil into the air is very likely to cause toxic buildup in your cats because the oil is so much more concentrated than the tiny bit in the plant.

    • homeopetmom
      February 27, 2017 / 2:56 am

      Basically, this post contains so much erroneous information I could compose pages of documented cases. Essential oils are use with great efficacy and safety for cats. I personally utilize them for my own as well as clients’ cats and within my nonprofit animal rescue organization. However, education about the proper methods and oil types (this was I admit wonderfully presented here) is paramount or working with reputable and trusted holistic animal healthcare practitioners. It saddens me that a great many amazing healing modalities are overlooked or dismissed as “hooey” because of the plethora of misinformation and scarey articles against it. :(

      • February 28, 2017 / 3:32 am

        If you have access to these resources, I’d honestly like to see them, as I have been unable to find reputable, unbiased sources on the safety of essential oils containing phenols and monoterpene hydrocarbons in cats. Due to this, I took a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach to the article.

  3. February 18, 2016 / 5:15 pm

    Oh forgot to ask, what about incense? Those cones or sticks you ignite with a match or lighter. We’ve always used a wide assortment of them in our home and have not had any issues with any of our cats falling ill to them. Are they the same as these essential oils, or are they different, if not, is there a list on them somewhere

    BTW: I find it difficult to read these pages because the emblems on the left of the screen block the text and make it almost impossible to read the articles,the ones for all the media social sites, e-mail, etc. There should be a way to turn those off so one could read the article much easier without them blocking the text.

    • February 18, 2016 / 9:51 pm

      Thanks for the questions and letting me know about the difficulty reading. Are you viewing on a desktop or mobile? I don’t see that when I have view the site on various sources. But I will defiantly look into it to make it consistent.

  4. February 22, 2016 / 7:17 am

    Thank you very much for this very informative and important information I love my cats very much and am always greatful for good advice

      • February 23, 2016 / 12:25 am

        And thanks to you, Jenna, for helping me reach an audience that seems to be truly helped by it! :) Susan, so glad you found it helpful.

  5. Mary
    February 23, 2016 / 4:38 pm

    Thank you for this. I have a felt heart pomander thing I made that I put orange and lemongrass oils on. It’s hung out of reach of the cats but it smells strong. Should I get rid of it?

    • February 23, 2016 / 4:54 pm

      I would say yes. The reason anything has a smell is because small molecules of it get into the air and then into our noses. So it is very likely that your cats are inhaling these molecules and they are getting into their systems, which can eventually cause that toxic buildup.

      • Mary
        February 23, 2016 / 4:59 pm

        Thank you, the pomander and the oils are now in the bin.
        Lavender is ok isn’t it?

        • February 23, 2016 / 5:06 pm

          As far as I know, lavender is alright.

          • Mary
            February 23, 2016 / 5:26 pm

            Thank you! I’ll still use it away from the cats, if I use it at all.

          • February 23, 2016 / 5:31 pm

            You’re welcome! Glad I could help.

  6. February 28, 2016 / 1:14 am

    Rachel – great post! As a cat behaviorist I often recommend certain scents (citrus, mint, cinnamon) to discourage kitties from scratching furniture or keep them out of a specific area. But I know that essential oils are dangerous for cats, so I always tell my clients to not use them – instead, I suggest they simply soak orange peels and/or mint leaves in water, then spray the area with that (not the cat, of course). Do you think that the oils in something dilute as that are ok? Additionally, do you have any recommendations for alternative scented sprays that could do the same job, but that aren’t dangerous to kitties? I’d like to be able to recommend something effective yet safe to my clients. Thanks! :)

    • February 28, 2016 / 2:51 am

      Thanks Marci!
      I think that what you recommend for your clients is dilute enough. Plus, as you know since these are used as deterrents, cats generally avoid the oils that are bad for them, so they won’t be exposing themselves to much of that already dilute solution. The reason essential oils are especially dangerous is because of their super-concentrated nature. I don’t personally know of any alternative sprays, but I think what you’re doing is alright.

      • February 29, 2016 / 6:48 am

        Thanks, Rachel! I appreciate your advice! :)

  7. pilch92
    March 5, 2016 / 7:39 pm

    Excellent post. I avoid all oils, but I recently used a calming spray on a feral that contained limonene- someone commented on my post about it. I need to email the company and find out about that.

  8. March 6, 2016 / 4:06 am

    Thanks for an informative post. I just became involved with essential oils and have been looking for some comprehensive info such as this. I will definitely print this info and refer to it frequently, especially before diffusing. I had peppermint in my diffuser when I started readig this and shut it off!

    • Rachel
      March 6, 2016 / 4:33 pm

      Lola, glad you liked it! It means a lot to me to hear that I’m helping you. I hope you found the link to the printable list of oils? It’s right underneath the table of oils in the post.

      • March 10, 2016 / 8:48 pm

        I wasn’t able to access the printable list of toxic oils, but I”ll just cut and paste from this post. Rachel, I will definitely read your blog and possibly reach out to you as I just recently started using Young Living oils.

        • March 10, 2016 / 9:10 pm

          The printable list is part of my library of resources for my subscribers. The link should have taken you to page to sign up for that (if not let me know). I’m glad you’ve liked my blog, and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have!

        • March 10, 2016 / 9:13 pm

          Ah ok good! Glad you like them!

  9. Michele
    March 17, 2016 / 12:16 pm

    Is it okay if I have these essential oils as an ingredient in my own personal shampoo and conditioner or could sniffing my head build up in the cats liver?

    • March 17, 2016 / 1:57 pm

      I think that this is probably alright. It’s already pretty diluted in your hair products, and then you wash most of it out. In my opinion they would get more of the molecules in their bodies by sniffing an orange (if your products happened to be orange scented lol), which is not harmful to them. Bottom line: don’t worry about this. :)

  10. Bianca
    August 3, 2016 / 5:35 am

    We have an abundance of mosquitoes this year and I truly dislike the idea of putting toxic poison on my cats’ skin to keep them safe from fleas, ticks and mosquito bites that can lead to heart worm. I am grateful I found this description of toxic oils for cats, but what vets prescribe and sell to put on cats to prevent flea and tick and heart worm is highly toxic! What is natural that I can use, healthy and safe for my cats? Thank You!

    • August 9, 2016 / 3:49 pm

      Hi Bianca!
      Good question! While many oils are toxic to cats, there are some insecticidal oils that are not. These include cedarwood, rosemary, and catnip. There is a really great article about non-toxic ways to control fleas on cats here: http://www.christinedemerchant.com/fleas_in_cats-natural-control.html This article includes several options for controlling fleas, such as home cleanliness practices, that involve no insecticides at all. I think a combination of these things should be sufficient to control fleas.

  11. Joyce
    August 13, 2016 / 8:41 am

    Essential oils have been very good for me and my husband. I presently have 4 cats and have always had several cats. I’ve never had a problem with essential oils and cats. Mine love the peppermint. If I put any under my nose the cats go crazy trying to jump on me to lick it. It’s never hurt any of them to lick it. I feed them organic food, they love wheat grass, strawberries and organic yogurt. They are very healthy 8 year olds and very active. I would think the flea medications and rotted foods that cats eat when they get into in the trash would be far worse than essential oils. My cats won’t eat meat at all. They snub their noses to it. But love certain fruits n sweet potatoes. Weird! I don’t understand the scare on essential oils cuz none of them have harmed my cats ever. I use strait cassia bark oil and cinnamon straight non diluted on everything in the house. It smells wonderful. This is the first I have ever heard of this.

    I also feed them diatamacious earth every once in awhile to make sure they have no parasites. I just bought some lemon grass to repel fleas and the organic store says it’s no problem to put it on the back of their necks like you would flea medicine. I came on here to find out how much to use or if I should dilute it. And eucalyptus also. I’ll have to do some more research cuz I have not ever had a problem with any of our cats having any negative effects to these oils ever. It seems that the roads and cars have been the worse dangers for our outside cats. And old age for our inside cats. I also make sure they drink 99.9 percent pure spring water. No filtered garbage or tap/toilet water. And sometimes I give them a little iodine. They are healthier than other cats their same age so maybe I’m doing something right. ??
    I mean I don’t want to hurt them but I don’t understand all this about the oils. Shouldn’t my cats be sick or dead by now if this is really true?

    • October 19, 2016 / 7:34 pm

      I think there are a lot of variables here that could be contributing to you not seeing much of an effect. The first thing I think of is that you may not be using pure essential oils. So many companies dilute the heck out of their oils, so that would lower the exposure level of your cats to start with. In addition, some cats will be more sensitive to specific oils than others, simply due to individual variability (same way some people are more sensitive to different allergens).

      Also, you do need to take into account that this toxic buildup can take many years to occur in some cases, depending on the level of exposure. It is possible that you haven’t seen any effect yet because the exposure level is just really low.

      I can’t comment on anything else you’re doing for their health, but in the end, you know your cats better than anyone else, and if you and your vet agree that your cats are healthy and happy and that these oils aren’t having unseen effects, then I wouldn’t worry too much.

  12. Lisa
    September 6, 2016 / 11:44 pm

    Im concerned i’ve harmed my cat. I natural healer recommended adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil to their collar as a flea, tick, mite etc repellant – however following doing this last week i have now noticed my cat has sore skin under his collar! I feel terrible and wish to sooth this for him however am now confussed about what is okay/safe to apply to help this.

    Many thanks, Lisa

    • Rachel
      September 9, 2016 / 5:10 pm

      Hi Lisa,

      I would recommend removing the collar immediately, first of all. Then I would apply coconut oil to the affected area (just a little). This is the safest/gentlest way to soothe raw skin, and won’t harm your cat or any other cats that lick it off.

      If the sore doesn’t go away or show signs of improvement in a few days, then I’d seek professional help from a licensed vet.

  13. September 17, 2016 / 10:59 pm

    Is litter with pine ok?
    Arm and Hammer makes it.

    • September 22, 2016 / 6:23 pm

      Yes pine used in litter is a great litter option. There are many pine litters on the market. I use wood burning pellets as cat litter, I have a post about it here.

  14. Maree
    September 23, 2016 / 12:55 pm

    Thank-you for your post. The most comprehensive I’ve found since I’ve started looking. I’m only just getting good into using essential oils for my health both with diffusing and diluting
    I have a thyroid problem and diffuse Frankensence and lavendar when I sleep and Frankensence and ylang-ylang dusing the day to help with my condition
    My cat is an indoor cat.
    I’ve noticed no lists I’ve read that list these oils as toxic for cats.
    Do you know if they are.
    If not I will be using them in smaller amounts i think in the diffuser from now on in case she is affected.
    I’m finding relief but hate to think I might be causing her harm.
    Thank you Maree

    • September 23, 2016 / 2:05 pm

      Hi Maree,
      I’m fairly certain that frankincense and lavender are both safe to use around cats. I haven’t ever seen them on lists that are toxic to cats either, and they do not contain the compounds listed in this post (in any significant amount if at all). While some cats may be more sensitive to the scent of essential oils, as long as you don’t notice that your cat is having any adverse reactions I’d say that it is safe to continue use.

      • Lola The Rescued Cat
        December 12, 2016 / 8:30 pm

        I use Frankincense frequently and am glad to get another opinion that it is safe.

  15. Katie Anderson
    October 19, 2016 / 2:56 pm

    Thanks for your helpful article. I’d avoided getting a vaping scent diffuser as I’d read they can be bad for cats, but I do have one of those scent stick diffusers on a high up shelf in the bathroom. Are they as bad/dangerous for cats?
    Also, it’s grapefruit and mimosa which made me worry more as grapefruit is on your list of oils that are toxic for cats. Please let me know if you think I should remove this scent stick diffuser.

    Many thanks, Katie

    • October 19, 2016 / 7:23 pm

      Katie, I don’t know a ton about those sorts of diffusers, but in my opinion they aren’t as efficient at distributing the oil into the air, so the effective radius is smaller. Therefore your cats would probably have to be consistently close to it for it to affect them. If they tend to spend a lot of time in that bathroom, I’d say remove it, but if they rarely go in there it will probably be ok.

  16. Kathy w
    October 30, 2016 / 8:59 pm

    Oh noooo. I’ve been diffusing clove oil around my house. My whole house smells and I love the way it smells. Would a few drops in water hurt them? Of course I will stop immediately. Could I have already done any damage? I have one skidish kitty who is “jumper” than usual. I’d be devastated if this has harmed them :(

    • November 1, 2016 / 11:05 pm

      Hi Kathy, I would definitely recommend stopping the whole-house diffusing immediately. While it’s hard to tell if damage has already been done, long-term exposure at that level would definitely be harmful. If you’re worried that one of your kitties is responding badly to the clove, consult with your vet to determine if it’s simply a behavioral change or a reaction to the oil.

  17. Esme
    October 31, 2016 / 5:29 am

    Question: we’re having problems with one of our cats peeing on our bed. We’re working on adjusting her environment because it’s definitely behavioural and not a medical issue. However, she’s gotten it into her head that our sheets are an attractive substrate for her to pee on, and she won’t stop. I was considering putting some citrus oil on a dryer ball to put in with our sheets while drying them, in the hopes of further discouraging her from using our bed as her litterbox. Would even that be to concentrated?

    • November 1, 2016 / 11:10 pm

      Hi Esme, In my opinion, it shouldn’t be too concentrated as long as it actually deters your cat from being around the sheets. If your cat was going to have constant exposure to the oil on the sheets I would recommend against it, but if it has the intended effect of keeping the cat away from the sheets then I think it should be alright. Just be sure that you only use the dryer ball with your sheets, and not any clothes that you might wear on a regular basis around your cat. Another tip: I have read that this sort of deterrent does not need to be around forever to continue to enforce the behavior, so if the cat’s behavior changes, you may be able to stop using the oil in your house afterwards to further lower exposure.

  18. Heather
    November 3, 2016 / 4:22 am

    HI Rachel, thank you so much for this information! I’ve noticed my cat has had very itchy skin over the last few months. The vet gave her a prednisone shot & it helped for a few weeks, but now the itchiness has come back. I have been diffusing quite a few of the harmful oils. Not constantly, but at least 2 times a week. Would the itchy, hot spots be a symptom of her liver becoming over burdened, and if so will time help her liver to clear?

    • November 3, 2016 / 2:24 pm

      Heather, from what I’ve read, it is possible this is a symptom of essential oil poisoning. Since cats don’t have the physical ability to filter these compounds out of their body, I doubt that simply time would clear the liver if there is indeed a toxic buildup. However, some sources do suggest that your vet may be able to help your cat detox somewhat, as long as they know what the source of poisoning was.

  19. November 4, 2016 / 12:31 pm

    Please help. One of my 4 cats has had a terrible allergic reaction. I wish I could post pictures to show you her swollen face & red eyes that are nearly shut. We have been back and forth to the veterinary hospital nearly everyday for a week trying to figure out what has triggered this. Someone suggested essential oils. Two months ago I started using essential oils in a diffuser overnight in my bedroom where my 4 cats sleep. I keep the door shut so they are stuck in there. Although none of the oils I use are on your list (lavender, chamomile & eucalyptus), and I purchased “therapeutic grade” oils per the label, I use quite a lot of drops of each nightly. However, only one of my cats has had a reaction. Thoughts?

    • Rachel
      November 10, 2016 / 8:02 pm

      The same way some people are allergic to nuts but most people aren’t, it is possible for some cats to be allergic to essential oils that aren’t necessarily toxic. Swollen face and red eyes sounds like an allergic reaction to me, however I am not a medical professional, and I can only recommend that you be sure to tell your vet about everything you’ve used on or around your cats leading up to this reaction.

      Also, a quick note about “therapeutic grade” oils: this designation is not regulated by any external body, meaning there is nothing to stop a company from arbitrarily labeling their oils this way based on only their own internal standards.

  20. Shell Mustakalli
    November 12, 2016 / 3:55 am


    I have trouble sleeping and without thinking sprayed my pillow with the ‘this works pillow spray’. My cat sleeps on my pillow and I have turned the pillow round placed another one on top (I need two pillows to sleep with due to health reasons). I can not smell it but is it still harmful for my cat?

    • Rachel
      November 14, 2016 / 7:49 pm

      Shell, The oils in that product seem to be limited to lavender, vetiver, and chamomile, which are not toxic to cats, so you should be fine.

  21. Runda
    November 26, 2016 / 8:47 pm

    I am confused. What about electric diffusers? I use wintergreen, lemon and lavender together. Are my cats being poisoned from the air? Is rosewood safe for cats?

    • Rachel
      November 28, 2016 / 8:40 pm

      Anything you diffuse into the air around your cats, they will definitely breathe in, and the lemon and wintergreen are both on the list of oils toxic to cats. It is possible that the oil could build up in their systems and cause problems. I haven’t seen rosewood on any lists of oils toxic to cats, so I think it is alright.

  22. Denise
    November 27, 2016 / 7:09 pm


    I use tea tree oil to help my acne prone skin and it works a lot. However, I’m worried it could be harming my kitty. I dilute about 5 drops of pure tea tree oil into a medium sized spray bottle with water, and I spray it on my face twice a day in my bedroom, where my cat spends most of her time. I haven’t been using this treatment for too long so I’m not concerned about the buildup yet, but I also don’t want to discontinue use because it does wonders for my skin. Should I relocate where I spray (like my bathroom?) or is the diluted amount ok?

    • Rachel
      November 28, 2016 / 8:42 pm

      Because it is very diluted, I wouldn’t worry a whole lot. However, since it is a spray, there is a potential for buildup on your counters, floors, etc that could result in higher exposure. If it’s possible, maybe consider transitioning to something you rub on your face rather than spray.

    • Rachel
      December 4, 2016 / 9:48 pm

      Hi April,
      You are correct that many sources cite lavender oil as toxic to cats, and if your cat is having a reaction to it, of course stop use immediately. However, in my research, I have found that the reason for this is that there are many adulterated forms of the oil going around, especially present in perfumes, that produce the toxic effect in cats. I have found no evidence that pure lavender oil (Lavandula anguvstifolia) contains the compounds that are toxic to cats.

      • Heather
        December 10, 2016 / 6:00 pm

        What are your thoughts on diffusing Lavender, specifically this oil I just purchased on amazon (Viva Naturals French Lavender Essential Oil, 4 fl oz – 100% Pure & Therapeutic Grade for Relaxation, Sleep & Happy Mood)
        I recently bought a diffuser, hoping to use lavender to help with sleep, and before using it I started reading about the possible negative side effects to cats and as you can imagine, now I am hesitant to even use it.
        Thank you, Heather

        • December 10, 2016 / 9:45 pm

          Lavender oil should be alright around your cats. The main components don’t contain any of the harmful compounds I talked about in the article. However, if you do notice a reaction from your cat, of course discontinue use and see a vet, because similar to humans, each cat can have an individual reaction to something, sort of like an allergy.

          • Heather
            December 10, 2016 / 10:43 pm

            Thanks for your help! Very nice article!

  23. Matt
    December 4, 2016 / 6:55 pm

    Hi Rachel, I know it is not on your list but is lemongrass oil okay to diffuse around cats?

    • Rachel
      December 10, 2016 / 9:28 pm

      I looked into it, and lemongrass oil should be on the list, as it can contain anywhere between 3-5% of a monoterpene hydrocarbon called β-myrcene.

      • December 12, 2016 / 8:32 pm

        Oh no…. this is disturbing. This is one of my favorite oils. I will stop diffusing right away.

  24. Camelia
    December 10, 2016 / 9:24 pm

    Hi Rachel. I wish I would have read your article earlier. I use a lot of tea tree and oregano oil in my house. I dilute them in water and use them to wash the floors and surfaces in my home. My cat had ringworm sometimes ago, and the vet advised me to use them for disinfection. :( After she was cured, I continued to use them as it seemed a natural alternative to the chemical disinfectants and home products. My cat is 1 year and a half old now and she hasn’t got sick since then. I have not had any health problems with her. Now she has kittens. I will stop use tea tree and oregano oils, thanks to your article. Maybe I will replace them with rosemary. Do you know if verbena oil is harmful to pets? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verbena_officinalis Thank you very much!

    • December 10, 2016 / 9:51 pm

      Verbena oil contains limonene, which is one of the dangerous components for cats. It is also pretty rare/expensive from what I’ve read, and is often diluted with other oils.

      • Camelia
        December 10, 2016 / 11:10 pm

        Thank you.

  25. December 13, 2016 / 4:51 pm

    Hey Rachel,
    I just stumbled on your post, and I find I am really sad about this. All of the people promoting essential oils have said it was safe to use around my cat in a diffuser because there are only 2-6 drops of oil in about 1/2 cup of water. I have been difising some high quality essential oils as air fresheners because they aren’t tested on animals and end up being cheaper over time than other cruelty free products. Unfortunately, all of the ones I have used are the yummy citrus or cinnamon-y Christmas scents. Those can really hurt my cat when I diffuse them?

    • December 13, 2016 / 4:57 pm

      Hi Ambyr, They are correct that short-term use at that dilution will be alright for you cat; the issues come with the long term exposure. As explained in the article, toxic buildup takes time. So even if you don’t see symptoms right away, you could still be hurting your cats.

  26. Claudio
    December 15, 2016 / 12:45 am

    Thank you for this article, it is very helpful. I am wondering about diffusing Benzoin and Jasmine around my cat. I cant’ seem to find any information on it. Are you able to provide me with any details? Thanks.

    • December 15, 2016 / 4:35 pm

      Looking at the information in this article about Benzoin, it doesn’t appear to have any of the toxic constituents. Similarly, this article listing the constituents of jasmine oil also does not list any of the toxic constituents.

  27. Jaime L Jacobs
    December 23, 2016 / 8:36 pm

    Oh my! My daughter and I have been sick and ive been diffusing thieves in one room and tea tree, lemon and lavender in living room to kill and disinfect. I hate that this could be hurting my cats. Ive been diffusing oils for a yr and using alot of these oils daily not knowing. I hope to god I didnt just harm my baby. :( Do you know if it would be safe to diffuse while cat is outside or would oil residue be all over house? This is so scary. Why has no one ever told me about this. What are some symptoms of build up. I noticed my cat was breathing very hard earlier. :(

    • December 25, 2016 / 4:25 pm

      There will definitely be oil residue everywhere in the house, so I definitely don’t recommend diffusing while they are outside as a long term solution. Some of the symptoms of toxic buildup in the liver include loss of appetite, weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you’re worried your cats are experiencing the toxic buildup, have your vet check them over soon and regularly to help watch for these signs.

  28. liane linner
    December 25, 2016 / 10:02 pm

    Thank you!
    I was simmering orange peels in water to add moisture to the air, as kitty is suffering from all the static electricity. Now i won’t do that, and am going to try miniature rosebuds in water. Thoughts?

    • December 27, 2016 / 5:57 am

      The rosebuds shouldn’t harm your kitty, as far as I know.

  29. Monique
    December 28, 2016 / 7:59 am

    Hi Rachel this post is very useful thanks so much.
    I am a Young Living user and wonder if thieves household cleaner might be safe for use around the house including the floor? The ingredients include citrus oils and cinnamon but it is highly diluted (e.g. 50:1) when used for cleaning.

    • December 28, 2016 / 3:38 pm

      Hi Monique, glad you’re finding this post helpful! With the thieves, what I would recommend is using only on surfaces that your cats don’t come into direct contact with on a regular basis, wiping as much residue off after disinfecting, and avoiding using a spray bottle when cats are in the room to inhale the spray that gets into the air. For your floors, which I assume your cats come in contact with very regularly, an alternate anti-bacterial oil that is not toxic to cats is Rosemary oil.

  30. Katie
    March 3, 2017 / 2:18 pm

    Great post! Very helpful. Thank you!

    I’m wondering about my homemade laundry detergent. It’s borax, washing soda, baking soda, and lemon and clove oils. Obviously it gets rinsed away in the washing machine, and when it comes out, I don’t really smell it anymore. Considering that, I might as well switch to lavender anyway, but I still have a lot left of the lemon/clove and I’m wondering if I need to throw it all away!

    • March 3, 2017 / 4:41 pm

      Katie, I think this is probably ok. Any oils left on the clothing are likely trapped in the fabric and a negligible amount is available to get to your cat.

  31. Tracey solomon
    March 4, 2017 / 7:22 am

    I have a question.. recently started using supposedly really good face cremes by miessence ..but upon reading the ingredients they do have essential oils in them..but supposedly very high quality…but i have a cat that sleeps right on my face and loves to rub and lick my face a lot…now i am concerned..this was an expensive product that i love myself but now I don’t know if i can use it all …..around my cats…can you help with this..i think the answer is no i cannot …..but the quality of this product is good …and some said it depends on the quality….the exfoliating product they have even has some essential oils ..if i wash it off and the cat licks and rubs on me …i just don’t know…help

  32. Tracey solomon
    March 4, 2017 / 7:33 am

    I recently started using a product called miessence ..on my face..supposedly a very high quality product.very expensive…but i was reading the engredients.. and they all have essential oils…the most expensive one has a wonderful smell but very strong..so that got me thinking about my cat who loves to sleep by my face and rub and lick me all night..so..even the exfoliant has oils…its the one that has citrus…so should i not use these at all…..if i wash it all off before i go to bed and he’s with me will it still bother him …or only use it when i leave and wash when i get home?…i think no i cant us it at all now..but some of the comments said high quality might be ok…help ..he’s an old cat ..don’t want to harm him …

    • March 4, 2017 / 6:52 pm

      Tracey, I think it should be ok for use around him as long as you are making sure you wash it off before your cat rubs on you. Quality does play some role, but a lot of the compounds that make these oils toxic are found in the pure oil, not any additives. Just make sure you watch him for unusual behavior.

  33. Michelle Exley
    March 11, 2017 / 12:52 am

    I only use Young Living Essential Oils. Are they all safe for my cart?

    • March 13, 2017 / 4:19 pm

      Hi Michelle,
      Young Living seems to carry mostly high quality oils in my experience, although they don’t post the gc/ms (gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy) for their oils online, making it hard to know for sure. When specifically asked, they do sometimes produce this analysis of their oils. Regardless, any oil on the list of oils toxic to cats, no matter the brand, is not safe for your cat. In that same vein, low quality oils of any kind can be harmful not just to your cat, but also to you, as low quality oils are generally full of fillers or poorly grown/sourced.

  34. Candice
    March 13, 2017 / 4:50 pm

    Hello I was wondering if the Serenity Blend by DoTerra has anything toxic to cats?
    As well, is Vetiver safe?
    I’m pretty sure, both are OK but am asking as when I go to bed at night, I have a cat that will have couching/choking/breathing issue when I put them on before bed.
    It’s odd though, is he not repealed and does not walk away, he wants to be by me.
    Its very confusing and quite bothersome. I won’t want him to get ill but wonder if it was harmful to him,why he doe not walk away? I do not difuse around them at all, and never will but do like my 2 oils oils on before bed.
    Thoughts? Thanks!

    • March 13, 2017 / 4:57 pm

      This blend looks alright, including the vetiver. However, it is possible for individual cats to have reactions to oils that aren’t universally toxic, sort of like an allergy. I would recommend taking your cat to the vet for the breathing issue, as it may be a preexisting condition that the oils agitate. As to why he doesn’t walk away, it may be it’s just not annoying enough to overcome how much he wants to be close to you, but it’s hard to tell (and who really knows why cats do anything anyway).

  35. auntje j
    March 21, 2017 / 7:39 pm

    appreciated the article and information…till i got to the end & you said “what do you GUYS think”…to paraphrase.
    most of your readers are ladies..not guys..please stop using a male term to address womyn
    it is NOT gender neutral..in fact its same as patruarchial culture using MAN & he always in the past…
    lets consiously change that

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