Essential Oils: For Your Cat


General guidelines

  • Cats will vary in how they tolerate and accept essential oil use.

  • Cats will vary in how they respond to essential oils in general as well as to specific individual oils.

  • Make sure you are aware of your cat’s reaction to the use of the oils. Some may enjoy the smell, others may drool, others may hide when oils are in use.

  • Start low and slow and dilute a lot. When using essential oils with cats it is recommended using at least a 75% dilution, even up to 90% dilution can be used with cats.  Their sense of smell and taste is way more sensitive than ours.


Feline metabolism

Cats are carnivores and therefore their metabolism is different. The mechanism by which humans, dogs and other omnivores metabolize plant based chemicals is lessened in cats, as they routinely don’t consume much of a plant based diet. This can lead to an increased risk of toxicity when essential oil use is concerned since essential oils are such a concentrated form of plant based chemicals. For this reason, oils containing salicylate and phenols are not recommended for use with cats.

  • Salicylate: Cats can not break down salicylate (a component of aspirin) properly. Naturally occurring salicylate is also a major component of wintergreen oil, therefore use of wintergreen oil is usually contraindicated in cats.

  • Phenols: Essential oils containing high levels of phenols should be avoided or used with caution in cats. Cats have a decreased ability to metabolize phenols. These oils include, but may not be limited to basil, clove, oregano, tea tree, cinnamon bark.


A cat’s metabolism can also be sensitive to ketones, limonene and pinene. Oils containing these compounds are not contraindicated for use with cats, but they should be used at higher dilutions and at a decreased frequency.

  • Ketones: Essential oils with high levels of ketones should be used highly diluted in cats. Ketones may accumulate in cats increasing the risk of ketoacidosis. These oils include, but may not be limited to dill, peppermint and rosemary.

  • Limonene: Citrus oils contain high levels of a monoterpene hydrocarbon called limonene. These oils are generally regarded as safe to use around cats as long as they are diluted. Cats tend to not like the smell of any citrus oils, and may respond adversely to the use of this oil just due to the smell. Citrus oils should not be used on skin exposed to direct sunlight as burns could occur on both animals and humans who spend time outside in the sun. These oils include, but may not be limited to lemon, orange and grapefruit.

  • Pinene: Oil from coniferous trees contain high levels of a monoterpene hydrocarbon called pinene. These oils are generally regarded as safe to use around cats as long as they are diluted. These oils include, but may not be limited to pine, spruce and fir.


Essential oil quality

  • Make sure you are using only pure, therapeutic grade essential oils.

  • Pure essential oils of therapeutic quality are expensive.

  • Low grade essential oils may contain residue of pesticides, herbicides, solvents or synthetic chemicals and may have little to no actual therapeutic value.

Application techniques and suggestions

  • External application techniques such as diffusing, petting and litter boxes are recommended for cats.

  • Internal consumption is usually not recommended as the oils can cause irritation the gastrointestinal tract if not diluted properly. Cats also tend to have more of a finicky palate/taste aversion compared to dogs or other animals, making giving essential oils to cats internally difficult anyways.

  • Adding oils to the drinking water is not recommended for cats. They will rarely drink water with oils in it and this can lead to dehydration and other medical problems if they are not drinking sufficient amounts of water. Even if your cat does drink the water, the oils can create a film across the top of the bowl and your pet’s intake of the oils cannot be regulated.

  • You can use yourself to diffuse the oils around your cat. By applying the oils to yourself you can measure your pet’s response to the scent by whether or not they want to be around you when using specific oils.


Feline Friendly Essential Oils for Cats. (2018, February 27). Retrieved April 18, 2018, from

Elmore, L. (2018, February 13). Safety of Essential Oils in Pets. Retrieved April 18, 2018, from

Essential Oils Animal Desk Reference. Life Science Pub., 2017.

Please note, this content is for informational purposes only, it contains general guidelines and is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice regarding your pet.