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Cats and essential oil safety

myrtle copy

Myrtle

I recently helped Vicki Rae Thorne with an article about cats and essential oil safety. You can find the article here, and it appears in the July 2011 edition of Animal Wellness Magazine. Vicki canvassed many opinions, and it’s an excellent piece, though I will say that I am not quite as concerned as it might appear. It’s true that cats are missing an enzyme (glucuronyl transferase) that humans do possess, and which is important in the metabolism of many essential oil constituents. Therefore, there is a theoretical risk of increased toxicity to cats.

Menthol, for example, is primarily metabolized (in humans and rodents) through glucuronidation, and toxicity testing shows that menthol is 3-4 times more toxic to a cat than a rat (Opdyke 1976). We don’t know for sure that the greater toxicity to felines is because of the missing enzyme, but it’s very likely. But, while 3-4 times is a significant difference, it’s not a massive one. I certainly don’t advocate dousing your cat in large quantities of neat essential oils – ever. And cats are quite susceptible to toxicity from nutmeg oil and tea tree oil. But, a small amount of any essential oil, and a moderate amount of most, will not harm your cat.

In 1995 a Japanese film crew came to my house in Brighton England, to film me and my cat Myrtle. It was for a Japanese tv show about famous people and their cats, but the focus was clearly on Myrtle, not me. And, I guess you did not have to be an A-list celeb to be classed as “famous” (though aromatherapy is more popular in Japan than in the US, and with my father-figure status…I’m just saying…)

The shoot with Myrtle was difficult. She was not a very social creature even with her family. At one point she hid under a bed, and my two (then little) girls decided to jump up and down on the bed, to “encourage” her to come out. The film crew’s focus went down to floor level in order to film Myrtle steadfastly staying where she was, with the mattress bouncing up and down on her head. This went on for some time.

Somehow Myrtle survived a further 13 years and when she passed away she was replaced by Ziggy. Ziggy is a Maine Coon, a breed of cat ideally suited to cold climates. Maine Coons have long hair, even between their toes, and long, bushy tails. So, not exactly perfect for Southern California weather, but when we got him as a kitten he didn’t look especially hairy! I have never used essential oils on Ziggy, because I have never had a reason to. I did use tea tree oil on Myrtle once, when she had an infected puncture wound. I squeezed out the pus, and dripped one drop of tea tree oil into the hole. I repeated this treatment over next two days, and she healed up fine after that.

Ziggy

Ziggy

However, an “overdose” of tea tree oil could be lethal to a cat. A total of 60 mL of undiluted tea tree oil was applied to the skin of three cats, as a treatment for severe flea bites (the cats had previously been shaved but there were no nicks) and to prevent further infestation. Later the same day, one cat was hypothermic, uncoordinated and unable to stand; one was comatose with severe hypothermia and dehydration, and one was trembling and unsteady. After intensive treatment two of the cats recovered and one died (Bischoff and Guale 1998).

The outcome is perhaps not surprising considering the very large amount of essential oil used, 20 mL on each cat. Given that a typical cat weighs 3-5 kg, this is equivalent to 4.0 – 6.6 mL/kg, although not all of it would be absorbed. The cat that died had elevated liver enzymes, suggesting hepatotoxicity. Several cases of toxicosis have been reported when tea tree oil was applied dermally to dogs and cats. In most incidents the oil was used to treat skin conditions at inappropriate high doses. The typical signs observed were depression, weakness, incoordination and muscle tremors. Treatment of clinical signs and supportive care has been sufficient to achieve complete recovery within 2-3 days (Villar et al 1994). But perhaps the greatest aromatherapy-related threat to a cat’s health comes from pennyroyal oil. On the NOW Foods website you will find the following:

“Fun fact: Back in the days of yore, pennyroyal was also known as “pudding grass” for its use in a stuffing made of pennyroyal, honey, and pepper that was often used in hog’s pudding. Pennyroyal is a member of the mint family, and exudes a fresh, minty, herbaceous scent. While its scent is actually a bit more powerful than other mints, its therapeutic value is actually not as strong. Pennyroyal was used frequently by Ancients for a variety of ailments, and remains current in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, which recommends it for flatulence, intestinal colic, the common cold, delayed menstruation, and gout. However, its primary use in today’s world of aromatherapy is in pet care. Pennyroyal was a favorite of Pliny the Elder in the fight against fleas, and remains a favorite natural enemy of fleas to this day.”

The back label of NOW pennyroyal oil

The back label of NOW pennyroyal oil

Here’s another fun fact – using undiluted pennyroyal oil to treat your cat’s fleas could also kill your cat. We know that pennyroyal oil is toxic to the liver in both rodents and humans. We don’t know about toxicity to cats, but it can’t be any less toxic. Many websites do contain warnings about pennyroyal oil, and using dried, crushed pennyroyal leaves is perfectly safe. However, the fact that you can buy a 1 oz bottle of pennyroyal oil, and that neither it (see left), nor the above (related) website specifically tell you (a) not to use pennyroyal oil undiluted on your pet, nor (b) how much to dilute it for it to be safe, is worrying. (The reference to “aromatherapy” on the label is intriguing – what constitutes “aromatherapy use”? I certainly can’t think of a scenario in which undiluted pennyroyal oil would be safe.)

The rat oral LD50 value for pennyroyal oil is 400 mg/kg (Opdyke 1974) compared to 1,900 mg/kg for tea tree oil (Ford et al 1988) so pennyroyal is approximately 4.75 times more toxic than tea tree. Since 20 mL of dermally applied tea tree oil is lethal to a cat, then the probable equivalent lethal dose of pennyroyal would be 4.2 mL. I have little doubt that, in sufficient concentration, both essential oils will kill fleas, but there has been no published research on essential oils and cat fleas, dog fleas or human fleas. So we really don’t know what would be a toxic concentration to fleas, while being nontoxic to cats. My advice – tea tree oil is fine to use at up to 5% on cats, and pennyroyal at up to 1%. Whether these concentrations would repel or kill fleas I have no idea, but I would suggest not using pennyroyal oil as a pet flea treatment. Sensibly used, most essential oils are safe to use in pet grooming products.

References
Bischoff K, Guale F 1998 Australian tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil poisoning in three purebred cats. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation 10:208-210

Ford RA, Letizia C, Api AM 1988 Monographs on fragrance raw materials. Food & Chemical Toxicology 26 supplement, p407

Opdyke DLJ 1974 Monographs on fragrance raw materials. Food & Cosmetics Toxicology 12 supplement, p949-950

Opdyke DLJ 1976 Monographs on fragrance raw materials. Food & Cosmetics Toxicology 14 supplement, p471-472

Villar D, Knight MJ, Hansen SR et al 1994 Toxicity of Melaleuca oil and related essential oils applied topically on dogs and cats. Veterinary & Human Toxicology 36:139-142

By | 2017-01-02T22:53:09+00:00 June 14th, 2011|Safety|60 Comments

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  1. Lori Curry June 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    A great and most needed post. Thank you for myth-busting as well as accurate cautions.

    Of course the cats are adorable too!

    Lori Curry ~ Magellan’s Gift ~ Adventure & Discovery in Fine Soap!

  2. Joanne Ireland Acevedo June 20, 2011 at 6:09 am

    I have used a 2.5% tea tree olive oil blend for mite maintenance in my cats’ ears. When I lived overseas, tea tree e. oil was one of my staple supplies and I used it in many diverse situations, and one of them was to keep my cat’s ears free of critters. I applied the soln w/ a q-tip twice a week for 7 years. I also sprayed their coats once a week and gave them a rub down w/ a tea tree oil water solution. I used 3 drops of oil in a 250 ml bottle of water, sprayed their coats, and wiped them clean.
    One of those cats is now back in Canada at the ripe old age of 11. The other we lost to a dog attack.

  3. Julie Nelson June 23, 2011 at 2:18 am

    Hello all, great article and clarification. I have used essential oils on my cat for as long as we have had him (9 years, although he doesn’t appreciate it 😉 he has had a couple of nasty wounds and ticks can be a problem. I have used the essential oils neat (1-2 drops) and to date he is a very healthy boy. The applications are few and far between. Just sharing 🙂
    x

  4. Andrea Butje June 24, 2011 at 3:33 am

    I have had great experiences using hydrosols with my cats. For example, to support the healing of an an abscess Helichrysum italicum hydrosol has been very effective. I simply poured a small amount of hydrosol right into the infected area 3-4 times a day and it cleared up quickly.

  5. Marla Bosworth June 30, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Great post, Robert. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Sabine Haller July 2, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Hello

    this article is missing a warning about Citronella, which is highly toxic to cats! Apparently ok for dogs though. One of the reasons for NEVER using a dog flea treatment on a cat (the other way round is fine).

    Good article though.
    Cheers

  7. Robert Tisserand July 2, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Sabine, there seems to be a general agreement that cats don’t like the smell of citronella oil, and so they won’t go somewhere that smells strongly of citronella. When I offered my cat citronella oil to smell he pulled back very strongly, and that’s unusual for him. However, toxicity I don’t know about. There’s one report on the internet about a cat that was “bathed in citronella oil” and had to be put down http://tinyurl.com/3jbr92a, but I have no idea whether it’s true. I could not find anything about cats and citronella oil in the scientific literature. And, even if that report was true, it would not mean anything unless we knew much oil was used.

  8. Sue Olmos July 27, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Most of the caterwalling (like the pun?!) about oils & cats is the result of either 1) poor quality oils or 2) uninformed lay users or 3) both! There are now many qualified veterinarians using Young Living essential, therapeutic grade oils with cats and kittens and no side effects. Many cases are now documented and techniques have been published that highlight how to use ANY of the YL oils either neat or diluted depending on condition and/or age. Most of the warnings come from areas that do not have the access to higher quality oils. In those cases…yes…use caution. But when you can try and use the YL products, do so. They could be a life-saving opportunity for you.

  9. Sheryl December 26, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Is cedar oil safe for cats? There’s a product out that claims to be safe and non-toxic for cats but assume there is cedar in it since the first half of the product’s name is cedar. Not sure if I can mentin the product or not, I was just wondering about cedar though and if it’s toxic. Supposed to be used to repel/kill fleas.

  10. Robert December 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Sheryl, do we know which type of cedar oil? Doesn’t matter too much, as there’s no reason to believe any type of cedarwood oil is toxic to cats.

  11. ian brealey March 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Great article Robert. I remember as a child the family siamese cat going mad for mint in the garden. Nepata Cataria is a member of the Lamiaceae. The nepatalactone is thought to give cats a sense of euphoria. Not aware of a similar effect on humans though of course we do love our mints!

  12. Ting Chen March 19, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I don’t know if you know the Lavender oil is also an unsafe oil to cat, it might cause the Renal Failure.
    I am working on looking some safe essential oil for my friend, she want to use it but worry it will cause health problem to her cat. It almost drive me crazy. I can find the unsafe list, but I cannot find the safe list.
    Thank you for your article and the link.

  13. Robert Tisserand March 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Ting – I have never seen a “safe” list for cats, but I would also think about how much essential oil is being used. There is certainly no reason that lavender oil would cause renal failure.

  14. melody March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Sheryl and Robert:
    I believe you are referring to Best Yet by Cedarcide, a product of Texas Red Cedar oil. I have used it on my cats, goats and horse with great effect. I usually brush my cat and then spray some of the oil in my hands and rub it into his fur. He does not care for the smell but it seems to dissipate reasonably quickly. My one kittie who had beautiful fine long orange and white fur would attract a lot of dirt in the summer (we are out in the country) and that was the only drawback.
    My other cat is a stray who visits frequently. He refuses to stay in where it is warm and has arrived with congestion several times. Again..although he does not like the smell, I am having great success getting him stronger with a wee bit of frankincense placed on a back paw. A bit of lavender at night has also helped him to stay in and rest a bit longer. I have offered the bottle of breathe for him to sniff…which he does and licks his nose…but does this have too much menthol for him? I want to help him clear his lungs.

  15. Peter Geekie May 7, 2012 at 3:11 am

    Robert – I have worked with essential oils and essential waters for over 40 years, primarily in humans but latterly with animals. My own research and the findings of the limited clinical trials that have been carried out are, without exception, that many of the common oils applied without veterinary knowledge can and are fatal to cats. Cats have particularly sensitive livers and kidneys are do not take kindly to the hydrocarbons and alcohols present in the terpene content of many essential oils. Personally I am of the opinion that unless it is absolutely essential and there is no option, that a cat is treated with the oils or waters then why take the chance of killing your pet ?
    Essential oils have a very important place in human medicine and are without equal in many instances but no product is a panacea for all ailments and we should respect that.

  16. Sue Apito May 15, 2012 at 8:32 am

    I was shocked to see a company which markets a line of pet cleaners – have a whole line of products made with essential oils – specifically for cats. I hope other readers of this Blog will consider joining me and posting on their website or Facebook comments. http://www.eco-me.com/collections/diy/products/cat-care-refill-essential-oil

    Even if these products are not linked to toxicity in cats, their customers are the “DIY” folks (that is who they market their products to) and so will see “OH…essential oils for cats…I can do that!” and not bother to do any research on safety.

  17. Terri Sidell May 28, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Dear Robert,
    Thank-You for your article on essential oils. What about Shea Butter or coconut oil? Can they cause adverse reactions if used on cats?
    Sincerely,
    Terri Sidell

  18. carine Harris June 25, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Hello Robert, thank you for your article, I was aware that essential oils can be very potent, but i was wondering about just plain water and white vinegar to repel fleas in cats and dogs…I have dipped my cats in a sink full of water with a splash of white vinegar after washing them and it seen to help with the skin allergies. My dog and my whole house get a spay of a few drops of citronella oil diluted in water twice a day to repellent the fleas. it seams to help also.

  19. Robert Tisserand June 25, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Hi Carine – sounds good to me!

  20. Suzanne Jones July 8, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you for the article. There is so much conflicting evidence arround. I am currently undertaking Operation Repel Flea and know that the little blighters hate Lavender EO. I am using Lavender EO in a water spray on the soft furnishings and did use a tiny bit on the cats between the shoulder blades where they are unable to lick. It has improved things slightly.

  21. Lyndsey C July 30, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Hi, Robert! Thank you for the informative article. My housemate and I are currently dealing with a pretty bad flea infestation and are trying our hardest to deal with it using natural means. We heard that red cedar wood oil is a good flea killer and repellent. We have sprayed down most of the house, but after reading about cedar oil’s possible toxicity to cats, I am reluctant to spray my kitty directly. Our mix has about a half ounce of cedar oil diluted in alcohol and water, about equals amounts of all three liquids. I’m also hydrating the dry patches of skin and irritated areas of her body with cococonut oil. She has lots of scabs from constant scratching and I’m pretty sure she has dermatitis from all of the flea bites, as some of her fur has been falling out. What are your thoughts on this situation? Any suggestions and/or input you or anyone else might have would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  22. robert July 31, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Lyndsey,

    That’s difficult, because using any essential oil becomes slightly more risky if your cat has skin lesions. Although there is masses of anecdotal evidence, there is little solid research on essential oils and fleas. One study found linalool to be effective, and it’s not likely to cause skin problems or cat toxicity. Linalool is a major constituent of rosewood, coriander seed and lavender essential oils. You could try mixing one of these with the cedarwood, equal parts. I would not spray your cat with 33% alcohol though. For direct application you could try 1 part essential oil to 19 parts coconut oil (5% essential oil), and don’t use more than 5 mL of the oil mix (1 teaspoon) at one time.

  23. Joanna January 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Hello, Is patchouli oil safe for cats? I have seen it in some pet oils.

  24. robert February 2, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    There are no likely problems with patchouli oil and cats, especially in the small amounts used in grooming products.

  25. Debbie February 6, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Hi Robert, my Nan used to make a soap containing Neem Oil & Citronella oil, for ridding her cat of fleas, she swore by this, and the cats never came to any harm. Now I have a cat of my own, that sometimes picks up fleas, I am thinking of doing the same, what do you think?

  26. robert February 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Debbie, I think you have answered your own question: “the cats never came to any harm”. So long as you don’t massively increase the quantities, your cat should be fine.

  27. Andi May 26, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Hi Robert,
    Thank you for putting this info out there!
    I was searching for answers and here they are.
    My son brought home a stray cat. She was very friendly and obviously wasn’t not a wild stray. She was terribly thin and not as active as I thought a cat should be.
    We found a tick on her, so I mixed up some Purification oils that I use to repel ticks in the woods.
    It has citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, melaleuca, myrtle and lavandin oils in it. I mixed it with water and sprayed her coat.
    The next day, the cat was more lethargic than before, and died!!
    It appears from what I’m reading, that the cat died because it was so sick and not from any oils, but had to make sure.
    The vet (we took the body to be tested for rabies) said it was very jaundice.

  28. Jessica June 11, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Robert
    I don’t know what I was thinking. I put two drops of Citronella oil, Eucalyptus oil, and Cedarwood oil on the inside and outside of my cats collar. When I put it on him he started trying to lick at it like crazy. I took it off and decided to swab him with the oil and put the collar back on. That caused him to lick more frantically. At that point I looked up the side effects of the oils and found your article. I bathed him immediately with aloe and oatmeal shampoo. Will he be okay? I’m so worried. I feel like such a horrible cat guardian.

  29. robert June 13, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Hi Jessica, I’m sure you’re cat will be fine, though it’s certainly a good idea not to let a cat lick fairly concentrated essential oil.

  30. PeachezBee June 24, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    I am still confused about essential oils and cats…..My cats have fleas (which is crazy cuz they are indoor cats) but anyways I heard that I could mix cedar oil, tea tree oil, lavender, citronella, or sweet mandarin oil in some baby shampoo to make a safe all natural flea shampoo that I can use to bathe my cats…. Is the essential oils toxic in small amounts like that? Like a few drops in some shampoo? And if ok how many drops would you suggest? Thanx

  31. robert June 25, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    PeachezBee, you could use 20-30 drops of total essential oil per 1 oz of shampoo, and that will not be harmful to the cat, especially since most of it will be washed off.

  32. Thomas July 4, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Question: Is citronella toxic to cats, I heard that it can repel most cats because they are apparently disgusted by the scent, but if consumed I have no idea?

  33. robert July 9, 2013 at 1:47 am

    Thomas, this suggests that citronella repels cats:http://www.vetinfo.com/using-citronella-oil-cat-repellent.html But it seems to be saying that ANY strong-smelling oil is distasteful to cats. This I have found to be true with my own cat. He did not even show any interest in a catnip oil. There is no reason to believe that citronella oil is especially toxic to cats, but really it’s all about quantity. If a cat ingests a large amount of any essential oil it’s not good. For a cat, a few drops could be a large quantity.

  34. Katie Engler July 22, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Hi Robert, we have a cat that we just found out is dying due to a tumor in his stomach attached to his liver. They do not want to do surgery because they don’t think he will survive it. I was researching online and saw that orange oil reduced tumors in lab animals. would orange oil be safe to give our cat and how much of so? Thank you so much.

  35. robert July 23, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Hi Katie, I’m sorry to hear about your cat’s tumor. My advice would be not to try using orange oil. In most rodent tests, what is happening is that cancers are induced in some animals, and there is a much reduced tumor incidence in those given the oil – this is called a chemopreventive effect. It’s encouraging for researchers to see this, but it’s not the same as curing a pre-existing tumor. In human clinical trials with limonene or perillyl alcohol (constituents of citrus oils) really massive doses were used orally (smaller doses not effective), and virtually every patient had severe side effects of nausea & vomiting. Only a very small minority of patients saw any remission.

  36. Martha July 29, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    My cat loves to lick shea butter. I saw a question about it earlier, but I did not see the answer. I actually put a little on the top of my foot for her to lick while I am at the sink. Before that, she would lick Eucerin skin lotion off of my legs, so I quit using it (after about a year). Am I killing my cat?!

  37. robert July 30, 2013 at 1:14 am

    I must have missed the earlier question – no, shea butter will not harm your cat. Its fatty content is nutritious, and cats need fats as we do.

  38. Jo August 9, 2013 at 2:03 am

    I have a home based soap making business and use only essential oils for fragrance. The house smells of essential oils all the time from curing soap and this is particularly strong on soap making days. I am thinking of getting a kitten. Could living with this constant scent be bad for him?

  39. Mikki August 9, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Please help me, I am so confused about everything I am reading on the web. I bought some linen spray, to spray under my covers and my cats sleep on the bed, but not under. Anyways, it has lavender oil (ingredients list: Purified spring water, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil, lavandula x intermedia (lavandin) oil, lavandula latifolia (spike lavender) oil.) So is this toxic to cats? Can I use it? Thanks

  40. robert August 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Hi Mikki – spray away! Linen sprays only contain about 1% essential oil, and those oils are anyway not especially toxic to cats.

  41. Jo August 16, 2013 at 12:24 am

    I’m guessing rereading the article that living with e oil scents in the air should be fine for a kitten/ cat as it would fit more with the small/ moderate amount? And I don’t use citronella or pennyroyal, although I do use some tea tree, citruses and mints…?

  42. robert August 16, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Jo – to the best of my knowledge – yes, your kitten should be fine. The worst might be tea tree, but some pet shampoos contain tea tree oil, and those pets are not harmed.

  43. Jo September 5, 2013 at 2:54 am

    Thank you. I will be extra careful re ventilation and keeping him away when using tea tree in particular. Thank you for all the useful information in the article and discussion.

  44. Jaco September 11, 2013 at 10:32 am

    My cat has these sticky clumps on her back and today she was twitching so I thought maybe it was fleas or something so I stupidly put 5 drops of neat eucalyptus on it then I checked online and it said it will kill her. She ran out of the house clearly annoyed after licking it and it took 2 hours for her to return. She ate lots and let us per her but she will not let us pick her up so I couldn’t get her in the cat box. I had to go to work and I am really worried that I have poisoned her as I couldn’t get her to the vet in time.
    Can you help me with some advice?

  45. robert September 13, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Jaco, I don’t think 5 drops of eucalyptus oil is enough to kill your cat. Hopefully she is now back to normal.

  46. Kazuko Tanabe D.V.M. December 4, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    To Mr. Tisserand,

    Please try to get information of gene defect on metabolic enzymes in feline species. They cannot metabolize various hydrophobic EO components completely. Few aromatherapists know that EOs are xenotiotics that should be excreted into breath, urine, feces, or sweat as soon as they are absorbed into the body of animals, including humans.

    Almost all feline species do not have sufficient metabolizing enzymes (CYP2C, CYP3A, UGT1A6) to eliminate EO components completely out of their body due to the gene defect. How can you say small amount of EOs is safe for cats? Your words have huge influence in the aromatherapy world. Cats are truly handicapped animals to live with us humans. I have been working very hard to save the lives of beloved animals from the adverse reaction of aromatherapy. I’m afraid you need more study before you express your own opinions.

  47. robert December 5, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    I agree that feline species lack UGT1A6. I said in my blog post: “It’s true that cats are missing an enzyme (glucuronyl transferase) that humans do possess, and which is important in the metabolism of many essential oil constituents. Therefore, there is a theoretical risk of increased toxicity to cats. Menthol, for example, is primarily metabolized (in humans and rodents) through glucuronidation, and toxicity testing shows that menthol is 3-4 times more toxic to a cat than a rat (Opdyke 1976). We don’t know for sure that the greater toxicity to felines is because of the missing enzyme, but it’s very likely.”

    Let me add that the absence of this enzyme will make it difficult for cats to metabolize phenols.

    I am taking your advice, and will do some more research on cats and the two CYP enzymes you mention. Also reports of EO toxicity in cats. It’s important to correlate actual toxicity data (if it exists) with metabolic data. Many humans are also defective in specific drug metabolizing (CYP) enzymes, but this does not always result in toxic effects from xenobiotics, because there are often alternative metabolic routes. And, there may only be problems of toxicity with elevated doses. Hence, my advice that small quantities are unlikely to be harmful.

  48. Kazuko Tanabe D.V.M. December 6, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Please do not make such important comments at a guess, Mr.Tisserand.
    Phenol derivatives can be toxic to every animal species, not only to cats.
    As far as Cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes are concerned, a certain enzyme
    can be substituted by other molecules as you suggest. These are the first phase
    liver enzymes, and there are so many molecules, as you know.

    However, as regards the second phase enzymes, such as UGTs, there is no
    alternatives. The UGT1A6 assumes a large role in metabolizing phenols, especially.
    Not only domestic cats, but also the majority of wild feline species do not have
    normal UGT1A6 due to defect on mRNA on the enzyme gene. This can be extremely fatal.
    One lick of a EO bottle cap killed a kitten. Just one application of a blend oil to a
    male cat caused central neurological disorder, and the cat is in a coma now.
    How can you say to Jaco that five drops of eucalyptus oil are not toxic?
    Incense for room fragrance causes vomiting in cats here.

    I would like your blog readers to visit our site to read the following statement.
    US Maryland University states that Aromatherapy is not safe alternative therapy
    even in humas. The liver metabolizing mechanism varies greatly depending on
    animal species. They have different livers. Feline species are real carnivore,
    and they are not tolerant of artificially/highly concentrated plant-derived organic compounds.

    http://www.animalaromatherapy.jp/statement.html

  49. robert December 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    It would be nice if you would stop accusing me of “guessing”! Perhaps you don’t know this, but the lack of UGT1A6 specifically means that cats cannot properly metabolize phenols. I am not guessing, I am stating a fact.

    If one lick from an EO bottle cap killed a kitten, I would be interested to see the report where this is detailed. Or should I just believe you?

    Who at Maryland State University has said that aromatherapy is unsafe for humans? And on what basis? Have you seen this summary from the University of Maryland Medical Center? http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/aromatherapy

    I have read the diatribe against aromatherapy that your link leads to, and would warn readers here that there is not a single citation in this rant against aromatherapy. You, who accuse me of guessing, don’t feel any need to provide evidence for your assertions. Your article full of misleading and incorrect statements, such as saying that essential oils are poisons on the basis that they are xenobiotics (in which case everything we eat is equally poisonous) that all aromatherapy research is worthless (quoting Maria Lis Balchin, a notorious aromatherapy skeptic). You seem quite concerned that preservatives are often added to hydrosols. Why? Would you prefer them to be sold unpreserved?

    You appear to be ignorant of the phenomenon known as synergy. It often differentiates natural complex medicines and single-substance medicines. I suggest you investigate this – there is a great deal of published research concerning essential oils and synergy. The research is not all about active major constituents.

    Your rant leaves few stones unturned. You bring up environmental issues, and you even try to provide evidence that France is not the birthplace of medical aromatherapy. What this has got to do with cats and essential oil safety escapes me.

    If you want to fully understand essential oils and drug interactions I suggest you invest in a copy of Essential Oil Safety Second Edition. You will see it at the top of this page.

  50. mark December 17, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    My sister had a flea problem and kids so she had a bottle of tea tree oil with conditioner and water diluted and she sprayed the dogs and put a tiny bit on two cats at the neck i asked what she was doing and she told me and i looked it up online and found out it was toxic so i rushed to wash it off of the cats and dog its been 3 hours they seem ok should i still be worried.

  51. robert December 21, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Hi Mark,

    Since the tea tree oil was diluted it’s probably fine anyway, and since you washed it off, definitely no problem.

  52. Ryry March 10, 2014 at 6:43 am

    I used citrus oil on my cat after a bath because he has fleas. It was diluted but I didn’t know cats couldn’t have citrus oil…something in my gut told me I should look into it right after I did it and I found out it was toxic! So 5 minutes later I have my cat 2 baths just to be sure I washed it all off but I don’t know how much he had licked off his fur in those minutes. He seems to be acting fairly normal but should I be worried?

  53. robert March 10, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Ryry, I think your cat will be absolutely fine. I don’t know how much you used, but citrus is not especially toxic to cats, and if you washed it all off, no problem!

  54. Niqi March 22, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Whenever my cat gets an eye infection I bathe her eye with a dilution of tea tree oil. I use 1 to 2 drops of tea tree oil in a small bowl of luke warm water, which I mix vigorously with my fingers and then with cotton wool I gently clean her eye area letting the water run into her eye. I usually do this twice a day and she is perfectly fine afterwards and usually by day 2 or 3 at the most her eye is better.

    Lately part of my cats gums were very inflamed looking and her breath has become very smelly. So I have been putting 1 drop of tea tree on the end of my finger and rubbing it onto that part of the gums, …well trying to anyway, it usually lands up somewhere in the mouth. She of course hates it but is otherwise fine. I been doing this once a day over 3 days and then having a few days break and then doing it again over another 3 days etc. She is 12 years old and very healthy except for the abovementioned problems.

    However now I have come across a lot of sites on the internet saying how toxic tea tree is to cats and that surprises me as that has not been my experience as long as the essential oil is diluted or in very small doses.

    I will carry on cleaning her eyes with tea tree if she gets an infection as it works wonderfully as apposed to the chemical ointment the vet gives you which doesn’t work half as effectively.
    I’ll err on the side of caution and stop applying it to her gums as I’m afraid that it could build up in her system as some of these sites seem to suggest.

    Also if I can put tea tree in my cats mouth and there is no adverse reaction except dislike, then maybe the other chemical ingredients in these pet shampoos and products etc should be investigated.

  55. michele March 27, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I had a cat who had reactions to flea powder at one point, and unfortunately a not so easy case to cure fleas. We used 5cc of pennyroyal in 4 oz of baby shampoo mix to shampoo the cat. that makes it in theory less than 5% solution if it was directly applied, which it wasn’t. once it was foamed up, we only used about 2 teaspoons total if that, the fleas jumped off into the water. i’m sure there was some residual left on the kitty, but likely little. we only had to give him about 2 baths to rid him of fleas. seemed none the worse for wear. I would likely use an even more dilute solution next time.

  56. robert March 29, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Hi Niqi, thank you for your comment. Your eye preparation is slightly risky, as the oil will not properly dissolve in the water, but it sounds like you’re making sure it’s dispersed as well as possible before using. One drop of tea tree oil in your cat’s mouth per day for 3 days – well, if your cat swallows all of that essential oil then it’s a significant amount. You could probably continue with this if the oil was diluted to 10% and then you applied one drop of that.

  57. robert March 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Hi Michele – to be honest, this is risky. 5 cc (5 ml) of pennyroyal oil would be more than a fatal dose for a cat if it was ingested. In one case, 30 ml was fatal for an adult human when ingested, and 60 ml killed a dog that weighed 30 kg when applied to the skin undiluted. I appreciate that you are mixing into shampoo at 5%, and not even using all of it. And, your cat survived, so clearly this was not fatal, but pennyroyal is specifically toxic to the liver. Yes, it is toxic to fleas, but be careful with your cat!

  58. Victoria April 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Niqi,

    Perhaps the inflamed gums and bad breath are related to administering Tea Tree Oil – internal organ damage can manifest as bad breath, amonsgt other symptoms. To be on the safe side, always get a diagnosis from your vet before administering any treatment.

    Hope this helps.

  59. Nayana Morag June 13, 2014 at 2:48 am

    Hi Robert, I appreciate you adding a common sense angle to the cat essential oils discussion, it is true that at the dangers of essential oils are greatly over-exaggerated. On the other hand, essential oils do kill cats when used improperly, and the dosages you are suggesting are high. I am contacted more often than I like by people who have applied undiluted eucalyptus or tea tree, or YL purification to their cats and the cat has become lethargic/comatose or is showing neurological symptoms, drooling and uncoordinated, several of these cases have been fatal. I encourage people to use hydrosols for cats, it is safer and more pleasant for the cat. Also, essential oils are not a very effective flea repellent (rapid dissipation), diatomaceous earth and neem oil are much better options.

  60. Olivia June 17, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Maybe the cat with the inflamed gums and stinky breath needs a teeth cleaning at the vet. At any rate the cat’s mouth should be checked out by your vet. One of my kitties passed away from a cancerous tumor of the gums…it developed rapidly.

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