Essential oils are fast becoming a vital part of everyone’s home. They are wonderful for helping with general health and wellbeing, for putting into massage oils and particularly lovely for diffusers. Eucalyptus is popular, mainly for its ability to decongest. Of course, when they are diffuse, molecules are projected into the air which affect not only humans but other household inhabitants too. The issues surrounding this are not straightforward so today we ask is eucalyptus essential oil safe for cats?
Actually, most essential oils are safe around cats, except for ones that are high in a chemical group called phenols. Their livers seem to struggle to assimilate. Eucalyptus owes most of its antibiotic power to phenols, so eucalyptus is not a safe oil to use topically on cats and can also be problematic in diffusers. You should remove cats from the room if you are diffusing eucalyptus.
Understanding The Issues Surrounding Essential Oils And Cats
The main issue surrounding essential oils is how they are processed internally. Cats do not possess the same enzyme we use in our livers to break down certain constituents. Chemicals remain very high internally and can lead to poisoning.
Ordinarily, we might say, “Well we are not going to give them to them orally, so we should be ok”. These are the guidelines we would expect for humans. But if droplets fall onto a cat's coat, and then she grooms herself, we still have an issue with ingestion. Likewise, if we use the oils topically for some reason, then they still won’t weaken as they are absorbed.
Now, we can see how diffusers would become problematic too. We place the oils into the water, and oils and water do not mix, so they remain undiluted. Tiny droplets are projected into the air and often land on our pets. Even reed diffusers and evaporators could theoretically present the same risk if a cat spends too much time in a room with essential oils.
In addition, a cat’s sense of smell is far more acute than a human’s. Where we have around 5 million odor sensors, they have more than 200 million. Their sense of smell is deemed to be between 9-16 times better than ours. It’s worth considering then how much stronger the oils that you are using will seem to them than they do for you.
How Do I Know Which Ones are Safe and Which are Not?
Excellent question, and for the most part it is a case of referring back to this list. The main ones to avoid are eucalyptus oil, tea tree, cinnamon, citrus oils, peppermint, pine, wintergreen, and ylang ylang.
However, they love things like rose, lavender and geranium that probably remind them of lazing in the sun, just as they do for us, the key to understand that they absolutely must be diluted if you are going to use them topically, and even if you are using these in a diffuser, then perhaps leave the cat out of the room. Their sense of smell is far greater than ours. They can actually find even “benign oils” troublesome because the smell is simply too strong. Be sure to leave a door open for them to leave the room when they have had enough of the oil.
Like humans every cat is different and some will react more strongly to things than others. For some cats, essential oils can irritate their mucus membranes or even lead to respiratory poisoning.
Symptoms of Poisoning
As ever, when introducing something new to the home, it’s worth keeping an eye out to see how it affects everyone. Some cats can develop a runny nose or itchy eyes from strong fragrances, or burning sensations in their nose and throat. Watch out for them drinking more water than usual.
Drooling can be a sign they feel nauseous, and watch for them vomiting or having difficulty breathing. They might seem to be coughing up a hairball, and that too might indicate some kind of respiratory irritation.
If any of these do start, the first thing to do is to get them out into the fresh air. Usually being moved away from the scent will help. If not, then seek urgent veterinary assistance. Remember that what you are witnessing is poisoning and they need seeing straight away.
Is Eucalyptus essential oil safe for cats? No. If they are unfortunate enough to get it on their fur somehow, the best thing to do is to add some carrier oil (Like olive or sunflower oil for example) to try to dilute it down. Then put a little shampoo on and try to wash it off. Even after you have achieved that (hopefully without being scratched to pieces) watch carefully for negative effects and visit a veterinary practitioner if required. Take your bottle of oil with you so they can accurately check toxicity rates for you.