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 catís 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.
Catsí 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
Safe Aromatherapy: Hydrosols and Mists
All this does not mean that cats and other pets can’t benefit from essential oils! There is a preparation called “hydrosol” that can be used with animals safely.
Hydrosols (also called hydrolates or steam distillates) are 100 percent non-alcoholic waters drawn straight from the aromatherapy still. Hydrosols are quite safe, and can be sprayed in the cat’s environment but, again, not directly on any animal; always provide an “escape route” in case the cat doesn’t like the smell. There are several companies making hydrosol aromatherapy blends for cats–and dogs, too. Some sprays made exclusively for dogs and cats, may be referred to as mists which are often used successfully instead of a hydrosol.
Please remember to keep the pure essential oils and the hydrosol bottles or mists, out of the reach of pets and children, and never let any living thing lick, eat, or drink them; never add them to food or water.
Here is a list of those essential oils that, even as hydrosols, are considered toxic to cats. Also note that citrus oils made from fruit peels are aversive to cats. Do not use them in nebulizers or diffusers near cats.
Bergamot (bitter orange) (Citrus aurantium spp. bergamia)
Birch (Betula spp.)
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
Fir (Abies spp.)
Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
Lemon (Citrus limonum)
Lime (Citrus aurantifolia)
Mandarin Orange (Citrus reticulata)
Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia)
Orange (sweet) (Citrus sinensis)
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Pine (Pinus spp.)
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Next: Safe scents for specific purposes
Try the following hydrosols, singly or in combination, to assist in a variety of circumstances:
For Calming: lavender (Lavandula spp.), rose (Rosa damascena), scented geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara or Bigaradia blossom)
For Comfort: calendula (Calendula officinalis)
For Courage: sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus), yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
For Depression: jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum)
When shopping for essential oils for yourself, hydrosols and mists for your cats, avoid synthetic scents and “fragrance” oils. Essential oils and hydrosols are high-vibration energetic substances; those qualities will not be present in synthetic forms. A true essential oil comes from living things and has a direct link with the Earth. This subtle energy cannot be duplicated in a laboratory. The energies of these plant materials merge with our own and those of our cats to support healing.
The subtle use of appropriate scent, through the portal of aromatherapy, is a powerful component in holistic health care for people, as well as our cat companions.