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Aromatherapy for Cats

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Aromatherapy for Cats

The subtle use of aromatherapy can enhance all healing therapies. Scent has been used by humans for millennia, documented as far back as the Old Kingdom in ancient Egypt.

Humans use aromatherapy to stimulate the immune system and promote healing. This is done by using the distilled or expressed product of aromatic plant materials. These aromatic essences have many desirable physical and psychological properties, including tonic, antibacterial, antispasmodic and anti-anxiety effects.

Because the cat’s sense of smell is so much more complex and acute than our own, aromatherapy must be used thoughtfully and safely.

Cats’ amazing olfactory ability evolved as a defense against predators and other dangers. Both domestic and wild cats have the same keen sense of smell. In fact, cats can detect the scent of prey or food up to three, four, or even five miles away if conditions are good. A cat’s sense of smell is approximately 14 times better than ours.

Cats and Essential Oils Are Not A Good Blend!

Cats, like all animals, are susceptible to injury and disease. People who use essential oils in their own lives may be tempted to share their positive experiences with their pets, but it is important to know that cats are wired very differently from other animals and, as such, are not good candidates for many alternative healing therapies without in depth knowledge of the difference between cats and humans and how they react to various holistic therapies, such as aromatherapy.

Cats’ livers lack the ability to properly metabolize and detoxify many substances. This may allow certain compounds in essential oils to build up to toxic levels, causing liver damage or even death.

Never use essential oils directly on a cat, even when diluted. There are products on the market that instruct you to spray them onto your cat–but don’t do it! First, it is a serious violation of their personal space! How would you feel if someone sprayed something on you that you couldn’t get away from? Second, many cats equate being sprayed with punishment; this is not a good way to introduce a cat to aromatherapy, and could paradoxically create a major aversion. Third, the cat will try to lick the substance off; but ingesting the oil is an even more direct route for potential toxins to invade the body.

Next: Safe aromatherapy

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Celeste Yarnall

Celeste Yarnall, PhD shares musings on myriad of topics at her Celestial Musings Blog. She is the author of The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care with Jean Hofve, DVM and Paleo Dog. Celeste is an actress/producer/activist/writer and keynote speaker. She and her husband Nazim Artist created the Art of Wellness Collection and are the producers of Femme: Women Healing the World. They live in Los Angeles, California with their beloved Tonkinese cats. Join Celeste at her website or on Facebook.


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1:30PM PDT on Aug 13, 2013

Thank you for sharing this information. Too many people think it's safe to use essential oils around cats but they simply can't metabolize it and can very much harm them! Dogs are a different matter--they respond really well to natural aromatherapy shampoos and bug repellents. But spare your cats!

3:22PM PDT on May 2, 2012

Thanks, the most comforting sent for my most needy cat is my sent. If I do not leave my bed with dirty sheets when I go out of town she will not eat. So When I take her to the vet I sleep with the towel for a couple weeks so that my sent is very strong on it. This really calms her and makes going to the vet much better.

11:28PM PDT on Jul 22, 2011

Very interesting - never thought of aromatherapy for cats.

8:25AM PDT on Jul 16, 2011


8:11AM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

I don't use any oils anymore, my cats don't like anything that smells. Other than their catnip, which they go crazy for! I've seen some comments, though haven't read them all. I do grow catnip for my kitties, and when I cut it and bring it in, they all go nuts! That's the only scent they like, other than food scents, and they don't eat people food. They just like the smell.

7:35AM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

thanks for the info

12:38AM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

very helpful.I never thought about how they could effect our cat thanks

11:57PM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

We use a lot of lavender in the house. It's been calming for everyone.

10:32PM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

Thanks so much for this. We had a naturopathic vet who actually believed that oil of oregano in olive oil was an appropriate cure for ear mites in cats. Since it is listed as toxic it must not be safe. It really pays to check your vets belief systems because some of them seem to be pretty far-fetched. She even believes in raw meat diets being better for cats.

9:50AM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

thanks! good to know

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