How to Calm Your Cat with Aromatherapy

Edit Article Aromatherapy involves the use of particular scents derived from plant sources to treat a wide range of conditions. If your cat is anxious because of an upset stomach or a long car ride, you might find aromatherapy very helpful. Scents like lavendar, cardamom and spearmint can be used to treat your cat’s stress or anxiety. However, many essential oils are toxic and potentially fatal, so you will need to follow strict safety precautions.

Choosing an Essential Oil

  • Use lavendar to calm your cat.Lavendar is well known for its calming and sedative effects in humans. You can also use this oil to induce calm and relaxation in your cat. If your cat gets anxious before or during travel, for instance, you could treat the anxiety with some lavendar essential oil.[1]
  • Use cardamom to reduce nausea.If your cat is prone to nausea during long car rides, for instance, you could try cardamom. Cardamom is one of the few safe and effective essential oils for cats. Like any essential oil, remember to diffuse it in a carrier oil such as vegetable oil.[2]
  • Try spearmint for gastrointestinal issues.If your cat is anxious or experiencing stress because of stomach problems, you might try spearmint. Dilute the spearmint oil in a carrier oil, such as vegetable oil, and give your cat the opportunity to smell it.[3]
  • Find organic and unsprayed essential oils.Since any pesticides on the plant used for the oil will end up being highly concentrated in a non-organic essential oil, it makes sense to find organic or unsprayed essential oil products. Look at the label to see if there is any organic certification. If you are unsure, ask the retailer about the purity of the oil and whether it is organic.[4]
    • The terms ‘therapeutic’ or ‘clinical grade’ are unregulated in the essential oil business.
  • Verify the quality of essential oils.Find a reputable dealer who knows the business and specializes in essential oils, since they are mostly likely to offer you good advice on the quality and purity of essential oil products. Unfortunately, there are no standards of quality or purity for essential oils. You need to do your research on the brand and find a reputable dealer.[5]
  • Avoid any essential oils with polyphenoloic compounds.Since your cat’s liver is unable to handle polyphenoloic compounds or ‘phenols’, you should avoid essential oils with this substance. For instance, you should avoid giving your cat cinnamon, oregano, clove, wintergreen, thyme, savory and birch oils, which contain this substance and are nicknamed ‘hot’ oils. If someone tries to sell you on the benefits of hot oils for yourself or your cat, remember the danger that these oils pose to your cat.[6]
    • If you do not know whether an essential oil contains phenols, you could ask an aromatherapist or consult with your veterinarian.
  • Don’t let your cat access tea tree or melaleuca oil.Although tea tree oil is useful for a variety of human skin conditions and respiratory conditions as well as household cleaning, it is very dangerous for your cat. In fact, tea tree oil contains terpenes, a substance that is toxic to both humans and pets.[7]If you use tea tree oil for health or cleaning, you should make sure it is inaccessible to your cat.[8]
    • If your cat accidentally ingests tea tree oil, you should take them to the veterinarian. It may take up to 72 hours to treat poisoning from tea tree oil.
    • Symptoms of ingesting tea tree oil in toxic amounts may include vomiting, seizures and muscle tremors.
  • Avoid peppermint and lemon oils.Citrus based oils should be avoided, since cats are often alergic or sensitive to these oils. If you use a citrus based oil in a household essential oil diffuser, you should make sure it is inaccessible to your cat.[9]Avoid the following essential oils, which are toxic for your cat:[10]
    • Lemon
    • Orange
    • Tangerine
    • Mandarin
    • Grapefruit
    • Lime
    • Bergamot
    • Pine
    • Spruce
    • Fir

Determining Your Cat’s Interest

  • Give your cat the choice of whether to use essential oils.Since cats are very sensitive to essential oils, it is best to give them the choice of whether to use them. Give your cat the opportunity to experience an essential oil but do not force it on them. You want to give them plenty of autonomy, such as opportunities to smell the oil or walk away if they are uninterested.
  • Get your cat comfortable with the essential oil.Apply the essential oil to your body and let your cat get used to the smell. For instance, if you want to use lavendar to calm your cat, you could start using a lavendar-based soap. You could also apply a couple drops to your neck or arm and let your cat smell you for a few days prior to administering it.[12]
  • Hold the essential oil dilution six inches from their nose.Using a spray bottle or a small bottle of essential oil diffused in vegetable oil or another carrier oil, hold the essential oil mixture six inches from your cat’s nose. Wait and observe their behavior. If they show signs of interest in the oil, you should go ahead and begin administering the essential oil. Signs of interest include:[13]
    • Your cat licks their lips
    • Sniffing the spray bottle
    • Sniffing and then returning to the bottle

Administering the Essential Oil

  • Dilute the essential oils.Start by dilluting the essential oil in a carrier oil. Given the strength of essential oils and your cat’s sensitivity to them, you will want to dilute the essential oil by 80-90% In a clean glass jar, pour the required amount of carrier oil. Then, add a few drops of essential oil. Mix the oils together. Finally, add a few drops of the mixture to the water in your essential oil diffuser.[14]
    • For the carrier oil, use a cold pressed vegetable oil.[15]
    • For instance, you could use one drop of essential oil in 25 ml of carrier oil.[16]
    • You could use three drops of essential oil and 75 ml of carrier oil.
  • Leave out a dish or diffuser of difused essential oil.In a small water bowl or diffuser, you could leave out some diffused essential oil, such as lavendar. Make sure you diffuse it by 80-90% in vegetable oil. Then, put one or two drops of the diffused oil mixture into the container. If your cat feels like it, they can smell the container of essential oil and experience its calming effects.[17]
    • You can find essential oil diffusers for under $40. Consider the size of the diffuser and try to find one that will not fall over easily, since your cat could knock it over.[18]
    • Remember to make sure your cat has access to fresh water.
  • Apply essential oil to their body.Using diffused essential oil, apply a few drops to their paws or to their fur. Since they will be stuck with the smell, you should make sure they actually like the smell of the essential oil.[19]
    • If you are sure they like the smell of the essential oil, you could put a few drops of the diffused oil on your hands and then pet your cat. Give them a relaxing massage with the oil and hopefully they will calm down.[20]
  • Offer an escape route.Never give your cat the feeling of being stuck with a certain oil or smell. If you are leaving the house, do not leave your cat in a closed room with an essential oil diffuser. They need the autonomy to be able to walk away from the source of the smell, in case it has adverse effects on them.[21]
  • Be careful not to get any oil in your cat’s eyes or ears.If you are petting your cat with some essential oil, be careful not to let any fall into their eyes or ears. Your cat’s eyes and ears are very sensitive and they will be very unhappy if you get oil in them.[22]
    • If essential oil gets in their eyes, you should take them to the veterinarian.
  • Use an essential oil for two weeks at a time.Essential oils are a short term solution that is useful for calming your cat once in a while, but should not be relied upon exclusively or for a very long time. If your cat has been very stressed out, you can use them for a couple weeks. If you want to use them for a longer period, you should consult with your veterinarian.[23]
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