Proceed with caution, and avoid certain oils
Cats can still benefit from essential oils, when they are administered with caution. Essential oils high in phenols such as cinnamon, citronella, clove, oregano, thyme, and savory are best to be avoided completely as these are the more difficult essential oils for a cat to metabolise. Various experts have longer lists of oils to be avoided, and viewpoints vary widely, which is another reason to do copious research, and proceed with caution. Each cat should be assessed individually, and oils should be removed from the environment if lethargy or any abhorrent behavior is observed.
Cats will absorb some essential oil constituents if there’s a diffuser releasing essential oils into the air in a barn, however, with access to fresh air and proper egress, an average adult barn cat with a healthy detoxification process will eliminate the essential oils and, if not exposed daily, is unlikely to experience any negative consequences of toxic build-up. Signs of toxicity might include dribbling with excessive saliva. This reaction could occur if a cat has licked the top of a oil bottle or had drops accidently spilled on him, and should be treated the same way as a poisoning.
Other methods of administration
A personal diffuser can be clipped onto the cat’s collar or travel box with bergamot to help settle travel anxiety or lavender to settle nervous stress.
To banish grass fleas when your cat comes in for the evening, a personal diffuser with peppermint essential oils clipped to the collar will help them drop the fleas at the threshold, once the cat is inside, the diffuser should be removed.
Remember: a little goes a long way
Cats have very acute senses of smell and delicate and thin skin. Once your awareness of a scent has fatigued, you should stop exposing your cat to the aroma of the essential oils.
If you want to apply your essential oils topically to your cat, keep the area smaller than a nickel and dilute so that the essential oil is only 1 percent of the mix. In most cases this would be 1 drop of essential oil to 100 drops of palm or carrier (gel or vegetable) oil. Do not apply for more than three consecutive days. Older cats and kittens will be less tolerant of topical applications.
Overall, if you are using essential oils in your home or barn, and your cats are sharing the ambiance, a healthy cat will be unaffected. But if the cat shows any signs of not being quite right after a period of exposure, turn off the diffuser for a week or so, and if your cat doesn’t pick up have your veterinarian assess your cat’s liver health.
About Catherine Bird:
Catherine is an aromatherapy practitioner and author of Horse Scents (Making Sense with Your Horse Using Aromatherapy) and A Healthy Horse the Natural Way. Catherine provides the Equine Aromatherapy Correspondence Course, which boasts graduates on all continents.
“Originally published in Holistic Horse, Issue 109, June/July 2017 with permission.” as ‘Feline Groovy – Are Essential Oils Safe for Barn Cats?’