• You are here:
  • Home

Is Aromatherapy Safe For Your Cat?

07 October 2011
Is Aromatherapy Safe For Your Cat?

CP has had increasing numbers of queries about complementary therapies for cats by volunteers and staff, including more recently the use of essential oils with cats.  

It is a common misconception that all natural products are safe, but this is simply not the case – some natural products are known to be harmful. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s Guide to Professional Conduct states:

“Treatment by acupuncture, aromatherapy, homoeopathy or other complementary therapy may only be administered by a veterinary surgeon who should have undergone training in these procedures. At present, it is illegal for them to be given by practitioners who are not veterinary surgeons.”

Most conventional licensed drugs themselves, as with essential oils and herbal treatments, are commonly derived from natural plants, but may have since been synthetically manufactured or purified and must go through various trials to ensure their safety and efficacy before they can be used to treat animals. While herbal treatments and essential oils or other extracts may well have therapeutic properties, they also have the potential to do harm. Many websites recommend the use of products in a similar way to their use in people and this is potentially very dangerous as different species can react to or process different chemicals in different ways and at different exposure levels. The use of complementary therapies is regulated in law and they should not be used in place of conventional therapies in CP cats to meet the Minimum Veterinary Standards or otherwise. If they are used additionally in CP cats, this should only be by a suitably trained veterinary surgeon.


Before considering any treatment for an animal and particularly when addressing a behavioural issue or stress, a vet will first consider whether there is not something about the environment or the management of the animal that can be improved or changed before resorting to a chemical or drug. Otherwise, the underlying cause may not be being dealt with. If a chemical treatment is needed, the vet will need to assess:

  • What evidence there is that it will work? Otherwise, why risk any side effects? Why risk lack of attention to general environment or management – if the owner perceives there is a quick-fix chemical instead to manage/hide the signs? Why spend the money on the chemical?
  • What evidence is there that the chemical is safe for use in that species and in that individual animal, dependent on its health, concurrent treatments and other concerns?

With specific regard to essential oils, there is a lack of scientific data on their safety or efficacy in all companion animals and cats in particular are known to lack certain detoxification pathways essential for the metabolism of some drugs and chemicals. This makes cats at particular risk of toxicity following exposure to some chemicals compared with people and other species. Different oils vary, meaning they may also contain other toxic compounds – some compounds found in some oils are certainly toxic to cats. The psychological damage a strong aroma from an essential oil can have on such a scent-sensitive and scent-dependent species as the cat is also unknown. The use of essential oils for cats through inhalation, oral administration or topical administration therefore carries potential risks. Safe doses of oils administered through the different routes are also unknown. Treatment by aromatherapy is an act of veterinary surgery, and as mentioned above, it is illegal for non-veterinary surgeons to give such treatment. Furthermore, the use of essential oils in liquid pot-pourris – which may also contain detergents – around cats is also inadvisable – the American SPCA Poison Control Center cites numerous reports of toxic exposure to liquid pot-pourris: www.aspcapro.org/mydocuments/zh-toxbrief_1299.pdf