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What is Essential Oils Allergy?

There is a long list of potentially toxic essential oils that should be avoided when you have a cat in your home. Some of these essential oils are used in food additives, cleaning products, insect repellents and shampoos. Use caution when using these products or simply avoid products that contain these essential oils. Cats are very sensitive to smells and they will avoid areas that contain these oils. If you notice your cat avoiding certain rooms or areas, look around for the possible cause and remove any candles or products that contain essential oils. 

Some of the most common and toxic essential oils to cats include oregano, bay leaf, savory, cedar leaf, parsley, sage, hyssop, lavender, eucalyptus, Cyprus, mint, citronella, clove, caraway, ginger, chamomile, rosemary, pine, thyme, peppermint, lemon, tea tree oil, cinnamon bark oil, wintergreen and oils that contain phenols.

Essential oils can be dangerous to cats as they are absorbed into the bloodstream and then metabolized in your cat’s liver because they do not have glucuronyl transferase, a liver enzyme. Most mammals have a natural detoxification mechanism called hepatic glucuronidation but cats do not have this. Whether ingested, inhaled or applied topically, cats are much more susceptible to essential oils than most other mammals.

Symptoms of Essential Oils Allergy in Cats

Your cat may not exhibit symptoms of essential oils allergies until the toxins begin to build up in their body. This can cause damage to their liver. If you suspect that your cat is suffering from essential oils allergies, contact your veterinarian for an appointment. Remove all candles, fragrances and other items that contain essential oils from your home. Symptoms include: 

  • Dizziness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Incoordination or lack of balance
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fragrance/scent on their coat, skin or breath
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Scratching at their mouth or face
  • Muscle tremors
  • Redness around the mouth or on the gums and tongue

Causes of Essential Oils Allergy in Cats

There are two reasons cats are allergic to essential oils. First, they have more delicate skin that is thinner than most mammals. This allows for quicker absorption into the bloodstream. Second, cats are unable to metabolize the compounds found in essential oils. This will lead to a toxic buildup within their bodies. This toxic buildup can lead to liver damage. 

It is best to avoid using essential oils in your home and you should never put any product containing essential oils directly on your cat. Be sure to read labels carefully and avoid products such as shampoos and cleaning products that have these oils in them.

Diagnosis of Essential Oils Allergy in Cats

It is very important that your cat be diagnosed quickly when they are suffering from essential oils allergies. If you suspect your cat has come into contact with essential oils and is having an allergic reaction, contact your veterinarian for an emergency appointment. 

Do not induce vomiting if you suspect your cat is having an allergic reaction, this can worsen their condition. If your cat is vomiting, collect a sample to take with you. Also, bring any products that you have used that may have caused the reaction. 

Your veterinarian will do a full physical examination of your cat, paying close attention to the smell of their coat, skin and breath. A complete blood test and urinalysis may also be performed to try and determine the exact cause of your cat’s illness. 

Once the diagnosis of essential oils allergies is diagnosed in your cat, your veterinarian will begin quick and aggressive treatments to limit the damage done to their liver.

Treatment of Essential Oils Allergy in Cats

Your veterinarian will begin by treating any symptoms that have already developed from your cat’s exposure to essential oils. Supportive care may also be given in the form of intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy. A feeding tube may be necessary if your cat has ingested essential oils and burned your cat’s mouth or esophagus. 

During treatments your veterinarian will do blood tests to see if the liver and/or kidneys have been affected. Anti-vomiting medications may also be used along with medications that will protect the stomach and liver. Antibiotics will be used to keep any bacterial infections from occurring. Pain medications may also be used to keep your cat calm and from suffering.

Recovery of Essential Oils Allergy in Cats

Recovery will depend on the essential oil that your cat has come into contact with and how quickly treatments can begin. Some essential oils are more toxic than others. Early detection and supportive care will give your cat their best chance of recovering from essential oils allergies.  

Be sure to keep all essential oils out of the reach of your cat. Read labels of household products and avoid those that use essential oils. Do not use any shampoo, especially on your cat, which contains essential oils.

Essential Oils Allergy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

6 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

lower lip swollen

My cat was exposed to diffuser in room for about two hours and a day later has rodent ulcer on lower lip. Could it be from the essential oils? How would I treat it?
Thank you.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
486 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. I'm not sure which oil you were using in the diffuser, as some are more toxic to cats than others. Unless Justice actually came into contact with the oil, it is unlikely that it caused the rodent ulcer, as the oils tend to cause respiratory issues due to inhaled oil droplets more that immune conditions. Diffused oils and cats are not always a good combination, however, and it would be best to research which oils are safe for them to be around. As far as the swelling on Justice's lip, it would be best to have her seen by your veterinarian to determine whether the lip swelling needs treatment, and what it might be caused by. I hope that all goes well for her.

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12 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargy, poor appetite

12 y/o, 17 lb, white and carmel color cat exposed to essential oils times one month. Is there any treatment at home I can do to help without taking to vet (no money)? The most often used was lavender and frankensense x 30 min at night in small diffuser. Less often used was oregano, peppermint, lemon and tea tree oil in larger diffuser.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
486 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, without knowing what might be going on with Toby, I cant recommend any home remedies for him. He may be showing signs of exposure to essential oils, as cats are quite sensitive to them and they can develop significant lung disease, but he may be showing signs of a systemic disease. Your veterinarian will be able to examine him, suggest any tests that might be necessary, and come up with a treatment plan for him. I hope that he does well.

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