Cat owners understand that their cats are a unique and very separate breed from dogs. Their personalities, dietary requirements, and perfidy contribute to their uniqueness and add to our fascination with them. That uniqueness also extends to their reaction to essential oils.
Cats lack the enzymes in their liver that are needed to break down certain substances or compounds, which means that toxins can build up in their systems. If continually exposed or overloaded, cats can become quite ill or die. Some cats are more sensitive and vulnerable than others; further, this sensitivity can vary during the cat’s lifetime, depending on its overall health, the situation, and age. Sometimes the reaction will be immediate; at others, the toxins will build over time in the cat’s system.
Of immediate note is the fact that our feline friends are very sensitive to odors (which may be why your cat disdains your company when you apply perfumes or hair spray); they also will not appreciate (or thrive) in an environment in which citrus and pine cleaners are used. If your cat absents itself regularly from your freshly cleaned house or from a room that you have sprayed with air fresheners, it is giving you a very clear signal that warrants your attention and immediate reaction.
That also includes the litter box! Avoid the urge to purchase scented litter for your cat; instead, select the unscented type and, if warranted, add baking soda to absorb odors. But be sure to mix the baking soda into the litter rather than leaving it on the surface, as you don’t want your cat licking baking soda off its pads (or tracking it around the house). Naturally, you’ll want to observe how your cat reacts to the litter/baking soda combination. Also, clean and replace the litter regularly. And don’t forget to air out the washed litter pan occasionally. Set the washed and dried pan out in the sun for a few hours at least once a year to air; that does wonders, all without the use of harsh chemicals or litter additives.
If you want to try mixing an essential oil in the cat’s litter, be sure to provide an alternate, clean box during this experiment. That way the cat can decide which box it prefers. Just be conservative in the amount (and choice) of oil that you use.
You are your cat’s guardian, so you must exercise good judgment about your level of comfort and understanding in using essential oils on or around it. Just as horror stories proliferate about cats experiencing toxic overloads from the use of essential oils on them or in the household, there are just as many marvelous instances of remarkable recoveries from illnesses or injuries thanks to the application of therapeutic-grade essential oils.
Please, never use essential oils that are not labeled as therapeutic grade; otherwise, you have no idea as to the chemical or additive contents. You may save a few dollars but cause a lot more harm buying pretty smelling concoctions that are labeled as essential oils but that contain a long string of chemical additives.
When in doubt, start very tentatively, perhaps diffusing a therapeutic-grade essential oil in an open room so the cat may leave if it prefers or move to sit in an open window where fresh air can waft through. Try diffusing 2-3 drops in an ultrasonic nebulizer: consider using Lavender, Immune Strength, or Lemon. These are great for freshening the air and for your animals and family. Observe your cat’s behavior during this process, then decide whether to continue. And always err on the conservative side!
Likely the only time you would give your cat an essential oil orally would be for a severe or life-threatening situation. Otherwise, diffusion and/or application onto the cat’s body are your options. Before starting to pet your cat with the oil of your choice, consider asking your cat’s opinion. How? By letting your cat sniff the bottle (don’t allow the tip to touch your hand or the cat’s nose, otherwise, the oil can get contaminated); by putting a drop or two on a cotton pad then letting your cat sniff it (or leaving it out in an open room that the cat frequents), or by applying it to yourself first. If it immediately wrinkles its nose and moves away, you got your answer; if instead, the cat is neutral or curious, that oil likely will be well tolerated.
When you’re ready to apply an oil, put no more than 1 or 2 drops of essential oils on your hands, rub your hands together to activate the oils, then stroke and pet your cat. The oils will absorb in through the hair follicles. Consider using Aligning, Ravintsara, Helichrysum Italicum, Frankincense, Elemi, Clary Sage, or Lavender. One or another of these might be well accepted by your cat and they each have wonderfully healing properties.
Perhaps the cat has an eye infection; you might try dampening a paper towel with water, then dabbing one drop of Copaiba at a corner of the paper towel. Wipe away any stains or accumulation from the tear duct and underneath the eye with the damp part first; at your last pass, rub that same area with the Copaiba. See how the cat fares; although it may seem worse initially, the infection might clear up soon afterward.
Helichrysum Italicum is excellent for open wounds; it doesn’t sting, and it will help the healing process. Rather than applying it directly onto your cat’s wound, however, try dripping 2-3 drops onto a soft cloth, diluting it with an equal amount of olive, peanut, canola, or other pure vegetable oil, then dabbing that mixed blend onto the wound. In fact, that’s a pretty good formula to use any time you’re in doubt about the use of essential oils—whether on your cats, your kids, or yourself!
Does your cat get carsick? Try placing a couple of drops of Lavender or Immune Strength on a cotton ball, then placing that in or near the cat carrier. How about an upper respiratory infection? Try diffusing Purify, Lavender, Helichrysum Italicum, Frankincense, Copaiba Balsam, or Immune Strength. That’s also great for those with in your household with asthma or sinus problems.
For urinary tract issues, consider petting your cat with a drop or two of Copaiba, Cleansing, or Eucalyptus on your hands. But please don’t overdo; select one and see how your cat responds. If what you tried doesn’t seem to help, consider one of the others. And, of course, maintain regular veterinary care and seek medical advice for health and behavioral issues.