by Soojin Um
Essential oils and aromatherapy have never been more popular as they have been in recent years. They are used for the treatment of various ailments such as muscle pain, headaches, joint issues, and even depression. Aromatherapy is an integral part of the wellness and holistic lifestyle. However, could these products, intended for your health and well-being, be causing harm to your cat?
So what are essential oils? They are organic compounds extracted from plants. The term comes from having the essence, or fragrance, of the plants. They can be applied topically either directly onto the skin, like a lotion or ointment, or by adding a few drops into a bath or into moisturizer. You can ingest them as well, as oils are used to flavor foods and as dietary supplements. However, they are most often used with diffusers and humidifiers to aerate the home or workspace with a calming scent. As essential oils grow in popularity, we should be aware of potential effects that they can have on your cat, and what we can do to mitigate risks.
Essential oils enter the body, either orally or absorbed through the skin, and are then metabolized in the liver. Cats do not have the necessary enzymes in their liver to allow them to metabolize and eliminate toxins such as essential oils. Cats are also very sensitive to chemical compounds like phenols and monoterpene hydrocarbons, which can be found in many essential oils. Therefore, the higher the concentration of essential oils, the greater the risk can be to your cat.
If you use these oils through a diffuser, first and foremost you should keep your cat in a different room. You might want to consider designating a room (or floor if you have a multi-level house) for the use of diffusers, and keep your cat away from those areas.
However, even if you keep them in a separate room, depending on the size of your home, your cats could still be affected. Even with these precautions, you should still look out for your cat displaying any suspicious symptoms. If you notice your cat breathing with difficulty, or is drooling, vomiting, or acting in an abnormal manner, it’s imperative that you get them someplace with fresh air immediately. If their symptoms persist once they have been given access to fresh air, then emergency veterinarian treatment might be necessary. Also, it is equally important that you never use diffusers in the same room as your cat’s food or water dish.
This doesn’t mean you can never use essential oils in your home, especially if you enjoy benefits to your mental and physical well-being. However, you can take measures to ensure that your relaxation time does not pose any unnecessary risks to your loved ones.
First, check the contents of your essential oils. Look to see if the oils contain phenols or monoterpene hydrocarbons. Those compounds are harmful to cats, and thus you should be very careful in using them.
You should also never store essential oils in places where cats can access them. You should avoid touching your cat if you have applied essential oils to your hands and body. Also, you should not leave out dishes, toys, or other objects that may have touched the essential oils. While there are some products that may be safe for cats, your best bet is to always keep your loved ones separated from your essential oils.
There are also alternatives to essential oils and diffusers that could help you relax, and at the same time give you the peace of mind that your cat will not be negatively affected. You could treat yourself to a bubble bath. Exercise can yield great benefits, both physically and mentally. You could try music therapy; put on some headphones to your favorite tunes and snuggle up with your cat. You could also cook up a healthy meal loaded with vitamin rich veggies and lean protein.
The possibilities are endless. If you get a little creative, it could be a fun process, and both you and your cat can reap rich, healthy benefits.
Please let us know your thoughts on this topic and/or give us feedback here or on Facebook.