Essential Oils Allergy in Cats

Essential Oils Allergy in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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.

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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






12 Years


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0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Hello, Thank you so much for this information. I was going to start experimentin with essential oils fir my headaches and my boyfriends skin allergies. If I mixed a few drops of sone if the ones listed above and we use it in a carrier oil or lotion would that affect our cat? Thank you!

Sept. 24, 2018

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10 Months


4 found this helpful


4 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Rash, Itchy, Red, Sometimes Hot...
We’ve been dealing with what we think is a cat allergies since December of last year. our cat has a skin condition, it’s very red and inflamed and spreads under her arms down her belly on her ears and a little on her nose mouth and hip. With our vet we’ve been trying to determine if it’s a food allergy or an environmental allergy. We don’t think it’s a food allergy. But I can’t say that I’ve been diffusing essential oil‘s the entire time. I’ve use lemongrass and peppermint and lavender, all of which I’ve read now are toxic to cats. Do you ever see is skin break out as an allergic reaction to the oil’s?

March 17, 2018

4 Recommendations

Allergies to essential oils are a lot more common than people think and if they are diffused in the air they are inhaled as well as settling on the skin and fur; I would explore the possibility of an allergy to essential oils by removing the diffusers and not using them for a few months (it can take a while for symptoms to lessen in severity in these cases), if there is an improvement in symptoms you can try to use the diffuser again to see if they symptoms return. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 17, 2018

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