The answer is yes, but it depends on the oil and the application. Some oils are more toxic than others; Tea Tree and Eucalyptus oil are the most dangerous to our feline friends. You may have seen the posts on social media about a lady and her cat, Ernie. Sue posted that she was using her diffuser with Eucalyptus essential oil in the bedroom to help with her head cold, and Ernie became unwell and ended up at the vet. I wondered what the validity of this post was and thought I’d look into it.
Eucalyptus or Tea Tree oil, in particular, are the most toxic oils for cats if they are exposed to large doses as cat’s livers lack the ability to properly metabolise some of the compounds found in this oil. There are several oils that can be a health hazard for your pet, but it depends on the oil (some are not natural and contain synthetics) the length of exposure, and the type of exposure. Applying some oils topically, especially if not diluted, can be highly toxic and if ingested by accident they can be fatal.
Most cases of essential oil exposure in pets involve the application of neat Tea Tree oil or Eucalyptus oil to the skin. This can cause cats to become lethargic and wobbly on their feet, they can also start to salivate and get tremors, if this occurs get them to the vet right away.
Beware of items such as reed diffusers, wax burners and scented candles which often contain a whole heap of ingredients, including perfume and other additives, keep them away from your pet, however most have only a little essential oil so are unlikely to be toxic in small doses.
Essential Oils that can be toxic to cats are:
Tee Tree (Melaleuca)
And any other essential oils containing phenol
If you’d like to know what the most common toxicologic causes for tremors in cats are take a look at this site ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Essential oils are listed but not which ones, nor do they mention how and why they can cause tremors.
In summary, if you have a cat be careful which oils you use, what the strength of the oils are and how much the scent fills your room or home without good airflow, and to be safe, don’t apply the oils listed above topically. If your pet is acting depressed, is off their food, seems lethargic and is not getting better after a day or so get them checked out asap.