People Are Saying Essential Oils Are Toxic To Cats— Now ASPCA Fires Back
Do you use essential oils around your cats?
Britanie Leclair

Most recently, there has been a debate over whether essential oils are bad for cats.

Now, these oils are nothing new; they’ve been used in holistic medicine for thousands of years. But with the popularity of multi-level marketing businesses, they’ve recently experienced a renaissance. Nowadays, there’s an essential oil for literally everything. Whether you want to sleep better, improve focus, lose weight, or grow thicker hair— there’s an essential oil for that. But are these oils hurting our animal friends? With all the controversy going on, we decided to go straight to the source to see what the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has to say.

As with most things in the world, the ASPCA’s answer isn’t as easy as a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

NOW Essential Oils/Groupon
NOW Essential Oils/Groupon

To begin with, certain essential oils in their concentrated form (ie. 100%) can be toxic to cats.

Apartment Therapy explains that cats have an acute sense of smell and thin skin. This means that it’s much easier for them to absorb essential oils in large concentrations. More disturbingly, cats also can’t properly metabolize the compounds in these oils, which can eventually lead to a toxic buildup. Therefore, having a cat who walks through the oil, gets some on their coat, or has the oil placed directly only them can experience any of the following symptoms (listed by the ASPCA):

  • Unsteadiness on the feet
  • Depression
  • Low body temperature (in severe cases)
  • Irritation
  • Seizures

If ingested, these oils can also cause vomiting and diarrhea.


Some oils are definitely more toxic than others.

As mentioned, the concentration of an oil has a big effect on its toxicity; however, what the product is mixed with can also have an effect too. Because of this variability, the ASPCA recommends never applying oils directly on your cat and always keeping the oils out of their reach.

A few oils that are known to be toxic to cats include (but are not limited to):

  • Peppermint
  • Lemon
  • Lavender
  • Melaleuca
  • Tea Tree
  • Cinnamon Bark
  • Wintergreen
  • Thyme
  • Birch
  • Other oils containing phenol
The Debrief
The Debrief

Kept in an enclosed space away from your cat, oil diffusers are not particularly harmful— unless your cat has pre-existing breathing problems.

The ASPCA notes that cats have a much better sense of smell than we do; therefore, any scent that seems light to us can potentially overwhelm them. When it comes to cats who have breathing problems, it may be best to not use a diffuser at all.

For all other cat-owners, the ASPCA says, “Using an oil diffuser for a short time period in a secured area—one that your [cat] cannot access— is not likely to be an issue.”

“Ensure that it is in a place where your [cat] cannot knock it over and potentially expose themselves to the oils.

“The best way to avoid exposing your [cat] to dangerous substances is always to err on the side of caution and by “pet-proofing” your space.”


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(h/t): ASPCA

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By Britanie Leclair
Britanie Leclair is a contributor at SBLY Media.