When it comes to cats and essential oils, do you know how to keep your pet safe? You might love using essential oils around the house, but these seemingly harmless oils can spell danger for your cat. However, not all essential oils pose the same risks – some can even be beneficial for pets.

Before you decide to mix cats and essential oils, read this definitive guide on how to keep your furry friend safe. We’ll go over everything you need to know to use an essential oil diffuser around the house without putting your pets at risk. Read on to make sure your cats stay safe!

Cats and Essential Oils: Are They Safe?

cats and essential oils

Image CC0, by ilyessuti, via PixabayThe short answer is no: cats and essential oils should not be around one another.

You should never assume an essential oil will be okay for any pet. However, cats are particularly sensitive to the dangers of some essential oils. Scientists have found that two types of essential oils pose more risks to cats than to other pets or humans.

Why don’t cats and essential oils mix well? It’s actually because of the way cats’ livers function. Most other mammals have an enzyme called glucuronyltransferase that allows them to safely break down and process toxins like the ones found in essential oils. However, cats don’t have the same enzyme. Essential oils are very concentrated, which means those toxins can quickly build up and become fatal when the liver can’t process them.

Researchers think cats don’t have this enzyme because they’re very carnivorous. Since their meat-based diets don’t expose them to toxins from plants, cats didn’t need to evolve a way to process plant-based poisons. However, essential oils often contain these toxins in high doses. A curious cat can easily become sick – or worse – after getting into an essential oil diffuser.

Have had cats and essential oils are each other by using a diffuser? Don’t worry too much. If your cat hasn’t shown any signs of poisoning, he or she is probably just fine. Many essential oils are okay for cats, and even with toxic ones, it takes time for enough buildup to occur to cause problems.

However, this is an excellent time to learn about the essential oils harmful for cats, so you can remove them from your home, or avoid buying them in the first place.

Essential Oils Harmful for Cats

cats and essential oils

First, let’s take a look at the dangerous essential oils for cats, so you’ll know what to avoid. There are two main components of essential oils that can pose a danger.


You might also hear phenols referred to as carbolic acid. Phenols are a type of aromatic organic compound.

Phenols have molecular structures kind of like alcohol, and actually can be poisonous to humans as well as cats. If you come into contact with phenol, your eyes, skin, and respiratory tract can become irritated. That’s why we must dilute many essential oils before using them safely.

Higher-phenol oils are even more toxic and are recommended for use at the lowest possible dilution. Thyme, cinnamon, and clove are among those high-phenol oils.

However, humans have a tolerance for small amounts of phenols, while cats have almost no tolerance since their liver can’t process these toxins. Be careful when keeping cats and essential oils of this type in your home together.

Monoterpene hydrocarbons

Many plants make terpenes, a kind of organic compound. Monoterpenes are one type of terpene that can attach to aromatic hydrocarbon rings, creating monoterpene hydrocarbons. Phenols also contain aromatic hydrocarbon rings.

Even if an essential oil doesn’t have phenols, it can still be harmful to cats if it contains these hydrocarbons. The bad news is that a lot of different essential oil types have monoterpene hydrocarbons:

  • Limonene is often found in citrus-based essential oils
  • Terpineol is in petitgrain oil and pine oil
  • Pinene is also found in pine oil, and other oils derived from coniferous plants

Be careful to keep your cats away from these types of toxic essential oils.

Toxic additives

In addition to these toxic compounds in essential oils, many oils are made using additives that can be poisonous.

To keep prices low, some essential oils producers mix pure oils with cheaper ingredients. However, not all of those added ingredients are safe for pets. Even if you’re buying essential oils safe for cats, you need to make sure they’re pure so that additives won’t create problems. If your cat reacts badly to a cat-safe essential oil diffuser, it’s probably because of the other ingredients.

However, it’s hard to know that the essential oils you use are pure unless you make them yourself. There isn’t much quality regulation for essential oil production. Companies that make pure oils are usually transparent about their processes, so avoid any company that won’t tell you how they make their products. Also, if an essential oil is surprisingly cheap, that’s probably because it’s been diluted with additives.

Essential Oils Safe for Cats

cats and essential oils

Image: CC0, by Kessa, via Pixabay

Sometimes, cats and essential oils do mix. Here are a few types of oils that are safe to use around your furry friends – and that actually come with some benefits.


Not only is cedarwood safe for cats, but it can actually kill fully-grown fleas. If you have to give your cat a flea bath, you might want to place a couple of drops of cedarwood oil on his or her collar afterward to keep fleas away.

You can also use a cedarwood spray around the house to get rid of fleas as soon as they hatch. Or, if you have no flea problems and just love the scent, just use a cedarwood essential oil diffuser for a cat-friendly home fragrance.

Sweet basil

Sweet basil often gets used in cooking, but in addition to being delicious, it’s also wonderfully fragrant. Even better – it’s not harmful to cats.

Sweet basil can help ward off bad odors and keep things clean: it’s naturally antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. Humans can use it for some medical purposes, including clearing up headaches and healing minor cuts and wounds. This oil makes a great, cat-friendly air freshener.

cats and essential oils

Image CC0, by silviarita, via Pixabay


Peppermint is another cat-safe essential oil that can help keep away fleas and other pesky bugs. You can mix a few drops of peppermint oil into a spray bottle full of water and spray it anywhere your cat hangs out to drive away fleas. Or, dip your flea comb into this peppermint oil-water blend before using it on your cat.


Another delicious-smelling oil that can help control fleas is rosemary. Add it to your cedarwood or peppermint anti-flea spray, or add a couple of drops of rosemary oil to the water you use to bathe your cat. No fleas? Rosemary still makes a great home fragrance that won’t hurt your cats.

Tips for Diffusing Essential Oils Around Cats

If you have an essential oil diffuser, there are a few steps you can take to use it safely around your feline friends. This guide will help you avoid potential trouble.

Don’t diffuse toxic oils

Even if your cat is good about staying out of trouble, it’s best to never diffuse a toxic essential oil in the house. Essential oil diffusers release the oil into the air, where your cat can breathe it in without ever coming into physical contact with the oil. After inhalation, the toxic parts of the oil will harm your cat.

If you need to diffuse toxic essential oil for medical purposes, put a couple of drops of the oil into some very hot water, then use a towel to cover the bowl and your head while you inhale the vapor. To minimize the risks further, don’t let your cat in the room while you do this.

Don’t apply toxic oils through petting

If you’ve applied dangerous essential oils to your skin, make sure to wash them off before petting your cats. Otherwise, it will get on their fur, and then into their digestive systems when they clean themselves. If you apply essential oils to other parts of your body, keep those body parts covered while you’re around cats.

essential oil bottle in woman's hand, image for cats and essential oils article

Image CC0, by artisano, via Pixabay.

Store your oils safely

Make sure to keep any toxic oils stored well out of reach of your cats. Keep in mind that even oils in sealed bottles can leak, and your curious cat might lick off any residue on the outside.

Keep those bottles in a drawer or cabinet that even the most inquisitive cat can’t open.

You Now Have All The Information You Need

Essential oils can seem harmless, but “natural” doesn’t mean “pet-safe.” Even pure, natural oils can be toxic to cats thanks to the organic compounds they contain.

You can use cat-safe essential oils around the house with no problems. But if you need to use other, toxic oils, make sure to follow all of these precautions to keep your beloved pets safe.

We know protecting your pet is your priority – and it’s ours too. Check out the rest of our pet safety tips here.


Featured Image: CC0, by ouzgnl, via Pixabay

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