Do you ever feel pulled in two different directions and not know which one to believe? Does it make you want to avoid going into that thing all together? This is the unfortunate experience many people have in the world of essential oils.
But true and sound research can solve this dilemma. And those of you who have followed HFFG for any length of time know I am a true research hound and prefer to base all information I share on research over common thought or popular opinion.
By the way: Do you notice that posts about oils to avoid for animals, during pregnancy, on children, etc. usually never have links to research proving that point or those specific oils?? Anyone can write anything on the internet. And they do.
So I've dug deep into many of the commonly-held beliefs about essential oils and am going to be sharing the research that is missing to expose the parts of these beliefs that are myths and the parts of these beliefs that hold some validity.
For the first part in this series, I've dug deep into the topic of essential oils and cats. There are many out there who claim that using essential oils can and will literally kill a cat. If that's the case, then we definitely need to address this first and foremost!
I am a holistic farmer. I have goats, chickens, ducks, cats, rabbits, etc. I am also a research nut. And I love giving my animals the best health possible. So this is an area I am passionate about. My anecdotal experiences with raising animals naturally have helped many people, but for this post, we'll only be covering the research.
Let's break it down in simple terms.
Cats Are Not Deficient in Anything
First, let's address the idea that cats are deficient in an enzyme and cannot break down certain things, including phenols.
First off, cats are not deficient in anything. They are exactly the way they were created to be. Their physiology, however, differs from other animals. All animals differ in many ways like this. Cats basically just have a slower half-life or elimination time. Their bodies metabolize things like drugs and plant constituents more slowly. While the elimination time for a dog is about 9 hours, a cat's is almost 38 hours. That definitely gives the cat's body more time to be negatively affected by things. It's not a deficiency; it's just a different way that a cat's body works from other animals.
This doesn't mean that the cats should never be exposed to those things; it simply means the dose and type should be considered more carefully whether it's a drug or a plant-based product.
Phenols are a naturally-occurring constituent in some essential oils like cinnamon, clove, oregano, basil, thyme, mountain savory, etc. These are warned strongly against any use in homes with cats.
There is some truth to this. With the difference in feline metabolism as described above, phenols are a bit harder for a cat to eliminate entirely due to a difference in glucoronic acids that help conjugate various substances.
However, this does not necessarily mean they need to be avoided entirely in a home with cats. It does mean that they are usually not a good choice to use topically for a cat unless the situation seriously warrants it and that they should be used carefully aromatically in a home with cats.
You may also have heard that cats hate citrus essential oils or that citrus essential oils are also toxic to cats. Where does this idea come from? Do any of those claims provide research demonstrating that?
If you look on PubMed for cases of limonene and toxicity in felines, you will find only a couple reports. But if you look closer, you'll notice that there are other factors. For instance, this one shows that it was an insecticidal dip used topically at high concentrations.
I have yet to see any true evidence of citrus oils being completely toxic or dangerous to cats. On the contrary, I have seen many situations where cats have benefited greatly from consuming very small amounts of a liquid nutritional supplement containing citrus essential oils.
Eucalyptus & Tea Tree
Again, this is another area where we see warnings without any evidence to substantiate those warnings. Even the ASPCA listing eucalyptus or eucalyptol as toxic does not provide evidence to that claim. A PubMed search doesn't reveal any evidence of eucalyptus' or tea tree's toxicity to felines with safe use either.
It is interesting to note that these are two of the most commonly-adulterated and mass-produced essential oil products. Hmmm...
That leads me to the most important part of this topic.
Toxicity in any area of essential oils is almost always related to purity. The majority of products sold as "essential oils" today are anything but that.
These knock-off oils are produced with synthetic ingredients that are toxic not only to pets but to people as well. These ingredients are similar, and sometimes the same, as the fragrance chemicals in everyday home and body care products that are incredibly dangerous for cats.
This is why I took two years to research essential oils and companies before I decided to talk about them on HFFG. I wanted to be sure I wouldn't be recommending anything that would harm anyone. I have received numerous emails from people experiencing adverse reactions from products marketed and labeled as "essential oils," even labeled things like "pure," "natural," "organic," etc.
More homes are filled with products containing "fragrance" chemicals than essential oils. Look at the labels on your cleaners (especially ones that are used on surfaces that cats walk on), candles, air "fresheners," laundry, etc. If they contain "fragrance" or "parfum," they are negatively affecting your cat's health.
So how can you know if an essential oil is safe to use for your pets? Price is one of the first ways to tell. As Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, Founder of the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy, says, adulteration is apparent in the price.
A few final words
- Wintergreen is one essential oil that does have research behind it to generally avoid using on cats. It does seem that they have more difficulty metabolizing salicylates. While I do not use it topically on my cats, I will occasionally diffuse wintergreen. I do it in a large area that allows my cats to leave to anywhere else in the home if it bothers them.
- When diffusing any essential oils in the home, cats should always have another location they can go to.
- Because cats lick themselves more than most animals, topical use should be minimal only as needed for therapeutic purposes.
- Applying essential oils that will benefit a cat can be done safely and easily by rubbing a drop into your own hand until it is mostly absorbed and then petting the cat.
- Essential oils can also be used in kitty litter for aromatic benefits to both the cat and the owner. A couple of drops in a cup of baking soda with a little of it sprinkled into the litterbox daily works great and is a much safer option to fragranced kitty litter products.
No matter what, please remember that purity is the most important issue. Essential oils from Amazon, garage sale sites, soap companies, etc. are almost always guaranteed to be adulterated and dangerous. Please be sure to read the links above with important information on purity.
And please utilize caution with fragranced home/body care products.
There are additional resources and information from vets and other holistic animal experts that I would like to direct you to but am not allowed to due to certain governmental regulations and speech laws. If you would like information on additional resources, please feel free to contact me below.
Blessings of good health to you and your furry friends,
~Sara Jo Poff
Natural Health Practitioner
Healthy Families for God
Big Faith Farm
The information provided on this site should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this site. Readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.