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Home > Cats > What Essential Oils Are Safe to Diffuse Around Cats?

What Essential Oils Are Safe to Diffuse Around Cats?

Essential oil dripping from basil leaf into glass bottle

Essential oils are fragrant, all-natural compounds extracted from plants. Used in a variety of ways, including aromatherapy, insect repellant, herbal remedies, and food flavoring, essential oils are found in many homes, including those with pets. However, essential oils can also pose serious dangers to our pets, especially cats.

Diffusing is a common method of utilizing essential oils, but many of the most popular products can pose a risk to felines. So, what essential oils are safe to diffuse around cats? The answer to this question gets complicated because even diffusing oils considered safe for cats pose some potential health complications.

In this article, we’ll discuss the dangers of essential oils and diffusing them to cats. We’ll also talk about how you can diffuse in a way that will limit the dangers to your kitty, including what essential oils are safest to diffuse around cats.

divider-multipetEssential Oils and Cats: The Basic Dangers

Because of how they are extracted and processed, most essential oils are extremely concentrated products. They may contain a high volume of chemicals in just a few drops of oil. These oils can be quickly absorbed by your cat, either through their skin or if they are licked up and swallowed.

Cats are very different from humans or even dogs when it comes to how they process chemicals or medications. Many of these substances are metabolized through the liver and cats are missing certain enzymes that help with this process. This makes it harder for them to remove some chemicals, such as those found in many essential oils, from their bodies.

The buildup of these chemicals can cause toxic effects on your cat. In addition, the concentrated essential oils can irritate a cat’s mouth and tongue if they lick or swallow them. Young cats and those who already have problems with their livers are most in danger.

Cedarwood with oil
Image By: Madeleine Steinbach, Shutterstock

Diffusing Essential Oils Around Cats: A Cause for Concern

While diffusing essential oils does dilute out the concentrated chemicals that can be dangerous to cats, the process itself poses separate hazards. Both passive and active essential oil diffusers can be problematic.

The strong fragrance of the diffused essential oil can cause respiratory irritation in cats. Remember that a cat’s sense of smell is far more sensitive than a human’s. A scent that is pleasant and not overpowering to us may be much more intense and irritating to a cat. Cats with underlying breathing problems, such as asthma, are especially at risk.

Active diffusers that disperse droplets of oil into the air can be problematic in a couple of ways. Inhaling the oil droplets could potentially lead the cat to develop pneumonia. The cat could also collect oil particles on their coat and ingest them while grooming, leading to toxicity.

Besides potential issues with inhaled essential oils, curious cats often knock over diffusers. This can lead to the oils spilling onto the cat or the cat taking a lick of the fragrant liquid, leading to serious side effects.

How to Safely Diffuse Essential Oils Around Cats

CBD oil
Image By: Aedka Studio, Shutterstock

Before exposing your cat to diffused essential oils, check with your veterinarian first. As we already mentioned, some cats are more susceptible to having issues with essential oils than others. It’s also just a good idea to ask your veterinarian before you introduce any new food, vitamin, or supplement into your cat’s life.

Safely diffusing essential oils around your cat starts with picking the right oil.

Here are some essential oils that are safe for cats:
  • Frankincense
  • Copaiba
  • Helichrysum
  • Chamomile

Try to run your diffuser in a room away from your cat and only for short periods. Your cat should never be in an enclosed area with the diffuser while it’s running. Keep the diffuser somewhere your cat can’t get to it when not in use to guard against any curiosity-induced spills.

Some holistic veterinarians use essential oils as part of alternative medical therapy for pets. If you’re interested in this type of treatment, a holistic vet can help you use the right oils and the right amounts. They can also make sure you get the best quality essential oils since these products are not regulated and quality and ingredients can vary widely.

Never apply essential oils directly to your cat or allow them to lick or eat any by themselves or in food unless directed by a veterinarian.

Image By: monicore, Pixabay

Essential Oils That Aren’t Safe for Cats

The majority of essential oils, including many of the most popular types, are considered toxic and unsafe for cats.

Here are some of the essential oils you should definitely avoid:
  • Sandalwood
  • Tea Tree
  • Mint (any variety)
  • Cinnamon
  • Lemongrass
  • Eucalyptus
  • Clove

Again, this is not a complete list. It’s probably easier to assume an essential oil isn’t safe for your cat until you can double-check with your veterinarian.

Signs of Essential Oil Toxicity

As you diffuse essential oils, you should be aware of the signs and symptoms of essential oil poisoning in cats.

If your cat has respiratory irritation from diffused oil, here’s what you might notice:
  • Watery eyes and nose
  • Labored breathing
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
If your cat ingests toxic essential oils, you may notice the following signs:
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased breathing rate
  • Mouth and tongue sores

If you’re concerned your cat may be having respiratory issues from diffused essential oil, the first step is to get your kitty to fresh, oil and fragrance-free air. Then contact your veterinarian to find out what to do next.

If you see or suspect that your cat has ingested essential oils, have your cat seen by a veterinarian. Treating essential oil toxicity usually involves supportive care like IV fluids and heart rate monitoring. Your vet may also run tests to see if your cat’s liver or other organs have been impacted.

essential oils
Image By: asyouwish6, Pixabay


Essential oils are everywhere and they smell fantastic. While the science behind many human uses of essential oils may be ongoing, the products themselves are only getting more popular. Diffusing essential oils is just one way that these scents are used in the home. It’s also the way that is most likely to impact more than one member of the household, including the furry ones.

To keep your cats safe, make sure to only choose non-toxic essential oils and use caution when diffusing them. Check with your veterinarian as well to ensure your cat stays healthy while you make your house smell amazing.

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Featured Image Credit by: Sinfebeth, Shutterstock

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