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Are essential oils harming cats?

white and tabby cat asleep on white blanket, close up on face. Feature image for are essential oils harming cats?

Facebook. It’s an excellent place for all the gossip, but also to find advice and spread news. I recently saw this post and was shocked, not only by the poor suffering kitty but how little we knew about the harmful effects of essential oils. I am a cat lover, I also spent a lot of the time on the internet and yet I didn’t know this (and we should).

Edit Update: The original post was removed because sadly Ernie has passed away. A brief synopsis of events is seen below:

Sue’s original post talks about her 16 year old cat Ernie becoming increasingly ill after using a diffuser set that was purchased for Christmas. The Eucalyptus one, in particular, meant that after day 4 he started showing symptoms such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Excessive drooling
  • Being unstable on his feet

After a trip to the vets, they confirmed the poisoning and gave him vitamin boosters and antibiotics to help him metabolize the ingredients. Unfortunately it ended up being fatal and upon further research found that the following ingredients and essential oils were also toxic to cats and small animals:

  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Frankincense
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca)
  • Thyme
  • Peppermint
  • Cinnamon

They were also informed that scented candles that are treated with essential oils will burn in the same way and are harmful.

Are there scientific studies? Not that I could find. BUT

My cats have been vomiting recently since Christmas and I had booked an appointment at the vets. After reading this and realizing I got a big bunch of scented candles and new essential oils for my burner this year, I stopped using them. After a couple of days, my cats are fine. I can find no other contaminant or reason that they would have mysteriously become and subsequently stopped being sick and their diet has been unchanged throughout. This leads me to believe it is probably the cause.


My concern is how many people have unwittingly poisoned their own pets because they didn’t have this knowledge. At the very least, ongoing health issues and high vet bills, and at worst, unknown causes of death! Because of this, I have created a petition to be considered in parliament. If we reach 100,000 signatures they have to debate it and at the very least we can raise awareness! Please Please sign up here, even if you aren’t an immediate cat or small animal owner, if you know any fluff balls that could do with this knowledge then spreading awareness helps. Everything is appreciated:


woman in purple jumper cuddling tabby kitten on a road with trees in the background

In case you weren’t aware, there are actually a lot of poisonous substances that can upset cats that we have around the home and the International Cat Care website have an extensive list here. (some of them are surprising.)

What The Experts Say: 

The veterinary department for UK based charity Cats Protection have stated:

The toxicology of essential oils is not well understood in animals, least of all cats. However, it is clear that cats do not possess the range of detoxification pathways that dogs or people have, and some essential oils are known to be toxic to cats through contact, ingestion and/or inhalation. The majority of essential oils are well absorbed through mucous membranes and many are well absorbed through the skin. Essential oils can cause mucous membrane and gastrointestinal irritation, central nervous system depression, and skin hypersensitivity and irritation.

There may also be psychological effects of these oils when inhaled even at low concentrations. If you think there is a risk that your cats may come into contact with any accidental spills, leaky bottles, residue on door handles, your hands or may lick your skin after the oils have been applied then we would recommend that these oils are used with caution and extra care is taken to make sure your cats are kept well away.

Signs/Symptoms of A Poisoned Cat

It’s always good to know what to look for, so here are some of the warning signs of poisoned cats. If your cat starts displaying any of these, visit the vet ASAP.

  • Lethargy (sleepiness)
  • Fitting
  • Shallow or abnormal breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive drinking or urination
  • Change in behaviour or disposition

cat face snuggled in a red, patterned blanket

If you think your cat could be reacting badly to essential oils, take them straight to the vets! Learn more about indoor cat care here or find out about outdoor cat care here.

Are essential oils harming cats? Here's a warning and petition that could be responsible for making your cat sick. Plus it's potentially fatal. #catcare #cats #catlovers #essentialoils #health

29 comments on “Are Essential Oils Harming Cats?”

  1. List of oils beneficial to felines: Arborvitae, Cardamom, Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Geranium, Helichrysum, Lavender, Lemongrass, Marjoram, Myrrh, Sandalwood.
    Research everything!!!!

  2. I’ve never heard of this, Charlotte. I have cats, don’t use essential oils, but I burn candles all the time. It never occurred to me this could be a problem. Thank you for this information!

  3. Wow i didn’t know this thanks for such an informative blog post. i will send this post to a friend who loves scented candles that just got a cat, i’m sure that she was not aware of this. Thanks.

  4. Interesting! We don’t have pets but it’s something definitely to consider. I know of many friends and loved ones who use essential oils regularly. i’ll be sure to make them aware of how the oils they use may impact their little ones.

  5. Oh!!! this is my first time to hear about the harmful effect of essential oils to our pets. This is such a great awareness. Will share this post to everyone.

  6. I have 3 kittens and I too read this post the other day – gave me a jolt that’s for sure! We tend to use things when we have colds etc and we’ve all had flu for the last 2 weeks — been very careful with what we’ve been using as I had no idea up until now! x

  7. Wow! I think it’s time I go through my oils and start being much more aware of my felines behaviours while using these oils

  8. People need to research things before they leave them in their home accessible to pets or little humans. I know certain plants can be harmful to pets as well. Just because they smell good, or can be helpful to humans, doesn’t mean they aren’t harmful. I’m glad you are creating awareness.

  9. Wow, I had no idea they could harm our pets. This is good to know. I don’t trust essential oils that way some people think they can cure the world. My kids joke about visiting their dad because his wife has an essential oil that says it can cure blindness. Ridiculous.

  10. It’s scary to know that something that you think you’re using to help you or your family can be deadly to your four-legged friend!

  11. I am not a fan of essential oils. I would not think to ever use them on animals. There are so many things that they can’t take that people can, like grapes!

  12. Wow, I never even heard about this on Facebook. My family isn’t really into candles or essential oils, it’s just me, and because I’m a bit allergic to my cat, she isn’t allowed in my room! I’ll definitely keep that up so she won’t be near anything dangerous.

  13. I hadn’t heard of this! I know that one needs to be careful on how you use them. I have used them for years (with a cat around) and no ill effects. I treat my pets like small children, I make sure they can’t reach anything that could make them sick.

  14. I guess you could pattern this with the plants and food that cats aren’t allowed to ingest. It’s really important that people are aware and I appreciate you spreading the word on this. Being a cat mom myself, I am all about the safety of all the kitties!

  15. I have dogs so I feel so worried when I hear that a loved pet was hurt by acccident. I don’t use essential oils and now i will be sure to be careful of them and candles which I use often.

  16. It’s actually amazing to me how little research has gone into essential oils and people do all kinds of things with them. It’s so sad that the cat has passed away and good that you are spreading awareness.

  17. This is the first I’ve heard of this! I do know there is debate over whether essential oils really do what they say they do. I don’t use them, so I wouldn’t know. Thanks for sharing this.

  18. Wow, I had no idea essential oils could hurt a cat! Luckily I’m a dog person, but my sister is obsessed with oils and has a cat, so I’ll have to pass this along.

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