Is Lemon Essential Oil Safe for Cats?

Lemon essential oil is not safe for cats. Citrus essential oils are hazardous to them. Essential oils are rapidly absorbed both orally and topically, then metabolized in the liver. Cats are especially sensitive to phenols and phenolic compounds, which can be found in some essential oils. They lack an essential enzyme in their livers which means they have difficulty in metabolizing and eliminating them in some oils such as citruses. The higher the concentration of the essential oil (i.e. 100%), the greater the risk to the cat (PDSA, 2020).

There are other oils which may be safe as substitutions. We address this later in the article.

Understanding the Issues Surrounding Cats and Essential Oils

Pets, especially dogs and cats, have a heightened, more sensitive sense of smell compared to humans. For this reason, many fragrances are potential irritants for them. While humans have around 5 million odor sensors, the odor sensors of a cat can pass 200 million. As a matter of fact, their sense of smell is said to be 9-16 times better than ours.

It is also important to know that cats do not possess the same enzyme we use in our livers to break down certain constituents, such as those found in essential oils. For this reason, the concentration of chemicals remains high in their systems, leading to such issues as breathing conditions, weakness, skin irritation, and more. For this same reason, even topical applications of certain oils will create problems, despite dilution as the oil is still present in the dilution.

This leads to a discussion of diffusers and how they might cause issues as well.  Oil and water do not mix, and therefore as the oil is diffused, it remains in its original state. As droplets are introduced into the air, these droplets can land on your pets. Even reed diffusers and evaporator could present the same risk if used in  rooms your pet spends a lot of time in.

Are There Any Essential Oils That Are Safe For Cats?

Is Lemon Oil Safe for Cats

Are there essential oils that are safe for cats?  Yes, but it’s important to understand what oils aren’t safe for them as well. Citrus oils, such as lemon, top the list of essential oils to avoid. Others include eucalyptus, tea tree, cinnamon, peppermint, pine, wintergreen, and ylang-ylang.

If you’re set on using essential oils within your friendly home, so good ones to try are rose, clary sage, and geranium. It is always essential to dilute any essential oil you use, even if you are using it in a diffuser. Since their sense of smell is so much stronger than ours you should ensure there is good airflow in whatever room you use the oils in, as well as leave a door open so they can leave the room if needed.

Remember, every cat is different and just like humans they may react more strongly to some scents than others. It’s also important to remember that every animal’s biological makeup is unique and products will interact differently from species to species; accordingly, the physical response will depend on the specific pet.

Symptoms Of Poisoning

It’s important to monitor for reactions anytime you introduce something new into your home. Essential oil toxicity can happen fast or build up over time and symptoms can range from a runny nose, or itchy eyes to skin irritations and weight loss.

Watch out for them drinking more water than usual. Be mindful of coughing as well. It may seem like they’re coughing up a hairball, but instead, they could be suffering from a respiratory infection. If you notice anything odd happening with your pet, first get them out into the fresh air. If removing them from the scent doesn’t help, seek urgent veterinary assistance. Usually being moved away from the scent will help. If not, then seek urgent veterinary assistance. If your pet is in distress they should be seen immediately. It may be a good idea to take whatever essential oil they’re reacting to with you.

Is Lemon Essential Oil Safe For Cats: Conclusion

Is lemon essential oil safe for cats? No. If they happen to come in contact with lemon essential oil somehow, you can remove them from the room if it’s being diffused, or add some carrier oil to try to dilute it down. Both olive and sunflower oil are options for your pet. After applying the carrier oil, add a little shampoo to try to wash it off. Continue to monitor the situation and if need be, visit your veterinarian. 

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