Ah, lavender, the quintessential flower of relaxation. Whether in your bathtub or a room spray, this fragrant herb is closely associated with peace and well-being. But for your cat? Not so much.
The smell of lavender isn’t toxic to cats, but the flower itself can be. Let’s talk about lavender toxicity, how it can affect your cat, and what to do in an emergency.
Why Lavender Is Toxic to Cats
Lavender contains organic compounds called linalool and linalyl acetate1. These compounds are part of what makes lavender smell so good. They also contribute to that calm feeling when you breathe in the aroma.
However, cats can’t metabolize these compounds as well as humans can. When ingested, the compounds accumulate in your cat’s body and can cause serious health problems.
Ingesting fresh or dried lavender, essential oils, lotions, or tea made with lavender can lead to one or more of the following issues:
How Much Lavender Is Toxic to Cats?
Lavender toxicity in cats depends on the kind of lavender ingested.
Your cat will need to eat quite a lot of fresh or dried lavender to cause issues. At most, they’ll get a belly ache, vomiting, or diarrhea, especially if they’re sensitive to it. Accidentally eating a bit of dried or fresh lavender is rarely deadly for cats.
The risk is higher when it comes to lavender essential oils. These are much more concentrated than the flower itself and are, therefore, more dangerous.
Ingesting even a small amount can cause significant distress to your cat, ranging from breathing difficulties to liver damage, seizures, and coma, and may even be fatal in high enough amounts. Essential oils can also irritate or burn your cat’s mouth, nose, and eyes.
There are also more opportunities for a cat’s system to absorb lavender essential oils. Aside from ingestion, it can enter their body through their skin or via grooming their fur, further increasing the danger.
Is It Okay for Cats to Smell Lavender?
The scent of lavender doesn’t contain as much of the toxic compounds as the actual flower or essential oils. But again, it still depends on your cat’s sensitivity level and the delivery method of the scent.
For instance, if your cat gets a whiff of dried lavender, it’ll probably be fine because the compounds are significantly weaker in this form. On the other hand, if your cat gets a nose full of lavender essential oil mist (like in a diffuser), it may get nauseous and experience other negative effects. It’s particularly risky for cats with respiratory problems such as asthma.
It’s hard to predict how sensitive your cat is to lavender, so it’s best to be cautious and avoid exposing them to it in any form, including the scent.
What to Do if Your Cat Ingests Lavender?
If your cat ingests fresh, dried, or essential oil lavender, call your vet as soon as possible. They will ask you questions about the amount of lavender ingested and how long ago it was eaten, so try to have as much information as possible.
If you can’t reach your vet, call poison control or your local emergency animal clinic.
In the meantime, keep a close eye on your cat for signs of distress, such as breathing problems, loss of appetite, lethargy, and disorientation. Treatment for more serious cases may include activated charcoal, anti-nausea medication, and IV fluids. You may also have to assist your cat with eating if its mouth is injured.
Lavender is a beautiful and calming scent, but it can be toxic to cats if ingested in certain forms. Essential oils are particularly dangerous as they can easily enter your cat’s system through their skin, eyes, or mouth.
If you suspect that your cat has ingested lavender, contact your vet immediately. In the meantime, watch it closely for any signs of distress and provide it with supportive care if necessary.
Lastly, the best way to keep your cat safe from lavender toxicity is to completely avoid exposure, whether to the flower, essential oil, or lavender-infused products. If you really must have lavender at home, make sure it’s completely out of reach for your cat.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay