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Warning! Essential Oil Diffusers Are Harmful To Cats

Warning! Essential Oil Diffusers Are Harmful To Cats... I love essential oils and use them all the time! But luckily I found out about how toxic they are to cats before I bought a diffuser. While they are great for a ton of natural uses, only a few of them are safe around cats! #essentialoils #cats #diffusers

You are starting to dabble in essential oils, which is great for you, but may not be so great for your cat. For the most part cats and essential oils don't really mix.

When I discovered essential oils I was all gung ho to use them all the time in many ways. I use them for teeth care, to clean and to help with my kids boo-boos and mood. And that is all great!

And then I started thinking about using them in a diffuser to get even more benefits from the air! How cool is that?

Luckily I caught on early that what is great for me and my kids might not be so great for my kitties. Dispersing essential oils in the air can be seriously harmful for cats since their livers work differently from ours.

I was so glad I learned this before I got that super cute diffuser and blasted my whole house with wonderful and healing smells!

Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you make a purchase. I try to find amazing things that my readers will love as much as I do!

If you love your cat (okay cats, I have two but that doesn't make a crazy cat lady yet) you have to be super careful with essential oils around them. 

I know, I know, there are those who will tell you they used them to do things like treat ear mites or respiratory issues, but now scientists and veterinarians are advising that they aren't so safe.

So let's look at why and then what you can and can't use around and on your cat.

No matter how you use certain essential oils with your cat, whether diffused, ingested or on the skin, liver problems will ensue.

Unlike dogs, horses and other animals, cats' livers can't metabolize certain components of particular types of essential oils. They lack an enzyme called glucuronyl transferase. This is the enzyme that allows the liver to break down certain compounds. Instead it accumulates in their livers, eventually causing damage or failure.

Cats are sensitive to a group of compounds called ketones and phenols, and some monoterpenes. It is the thujone content in ketones and carvacal in phenols. Carvacrol is a byproduct of d-limonene which is found in all citrus fruits and in many tree oils. That covers a lot of oils, so here are some examples of popular oils in each group:

Essential Oils To Avoid Around Your Cats


Wintergreen, Anise, Birch, Clove, Basil, Tarragon, Fennel, Oregano, Thyme, Mountain Savory, Peppermint, Tea Tree, Calamus, Cinnamon Bark, Citronella, Marjoram, Nutmeg, Eucalyptus citriodora, Parsley, Ylang Ylang. These all contain greater than 8% phenols.


Western Red Cedar, Idaho Tansy, Marigold, Spearmint, Thuja, Hyssop, Davana, Sage, Dill, Yarrow, Peppermint. All these oils contain greater than 20% ketones.

D-Limonene: Grapefruit, Bitter Orange, Orange, Tangerine, Mandarin, Lemon, Celery Seed, Lime, Bergamot, Angelica, Dill, Neroli, Blue Tansy, Citronella and Nutmeg.

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Cypress, Cistus, Pine, Douglas fir, Juniper, Myrtle, Rosemary Verbenone, Silver Fir, Angelica, Nutmeg, Eucalyptus, Dill, Spruce. These are all monoterpenes that have alpha-pinene concentrations greater than 15%.

Here are some others to avoid:

Cassia, Clove, Fennel

A cat that has toxicity due to essential oils will have changes in their eating and sleeping habits. They may be lethargic and lack energy. They may vomit, have diarrhea or be constipated. They may also appear confused or dizzy.

Stronger sense of smell

Don't forget too, that other than the liver issue, cats have a much stronger sense of smell than we do. Most oils may smell wonderful to you, but can be overwhelming to your cat.

Don't think that you can get around this by using hydrosols. Hydrosols are the by products left behind when oils are steam distilled. They are less saturated than essential oils, but they can have residual matter from the plants that can be toxic if ingested or even inhaled.

There are some oils that can be used on or around cats…

Just do so with caution and dilute them more than you would for yourself or another animal. Use the 80/20 rule: 80% carrier oil, 20% essential oil. Also, and this is incredibly important, only use therapeutic grade oils. Cheaper oils with questionable quality can have synthetic scents and other compounds that are bad for everyone!

Additional Resource :: Essential Oils Cleaning Tips and Recipes

Essential Oils You Can Use Around Cats:

If you diffuse oils

If you regularly diffuse oils, be sure to provide a place where your cat can go that doesn't expose him or her to the oils. And for goodness sakes, before treating your cat with any kind of essential oil, diluted or not, consult a veterinarian!

Cats and Essential Oils Wrapup

Okay, there were a few takeaways that I got from researching this article!

  1. I am bummed that so many essential oils are not good for cats, but it is what it is. I am not going to risk my cat's health for mine so I have my tiny list and will use those.
  2. It is best to keep your kitty in another room when you are diffusing. She will hate it and stomp around, but better safe than sorry.
  3. Tell your friends! I was shocked to see that the list of BAD oils is what comes up when you do a search on Google for oils to avoid. I am not sure that the word is out yet and many well intentioned people may be hurting their cats.

I get my essential oils from Rocky Mountain Oils who has great resources and a high quality product! (oh and fun rewards program that let's you get free products from time to time!) 


I love that the media is getting wise to this… he does say that “passive diffusers” like reeds are less harmful… hmmm not sure if I am going to take the chance.

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Ohio veterinarian warns essential oil diffusers can be toxic for cats: ‘They just don't mix'

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