Is Lavender Safe For Cats?

Key takeaway

Lavender is toxic to cats, so they should not consume it in any form, including essential oils or the plant itself. Signs of lavender toxicity in cats include diarrhea, vomiting, and weakness. However, your cat may also experience respiratory symptoms when inhaling lavender essential oils, including coughing and wheezing.

Lavender is toxic to cats, especially when consumed. Keeping lavender plants and essential oils away from your cat can prevent accidental poisoning that can be life-threatening. 

Lavender is a popular plant because it emits a calming, floral odor. Lavender is also known for its medicinal and therapeutic properties, being used in herbal remedies for thousands of years. Lavender oil is one of the most popular essential oils, especially for diffusers and bathroom products, because the calming scent can promote relaxation. But, while you may love lavender and use it regularly in the bath, you might wonder if it can give your cat the same types of benefits. 

Unfortunately, the lavender plant and essential oils are toxic to cats and can lead to severe symptoms. This article will discuss the safety of lavender for cats, what to do if your cat consumes lavender, different lavender products, and how you can protect your cat. 

Can Cats Eat Lavender?

Lavender is toxic to cats and causes issues such as nausea and vomiting

Cats should never consume lavender because it’s toxic and can cause nausea and vomiting.Lavender plants contain linalool and linalyl acetate, which are poisons to cats because they can’t process these compounds.2 Lavender essential oils have higher concentrations of lavender with a higher level of toxicity. Oils are more potent, allowing them to be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, which can also be toxic to cats. 

Cats are more sensitive to lavender oil than humans, causing severe GI issues, nervous system depression, and liver damage when consumed. Cat toxicity can occur in several ways, including ingestion of the plant, inhalation of essential oils, or dermal absorption and ingestion of essential oils.2 Therefore, cats should not eat any part of the lavender plant or essential oils. All lavender products have varying levels of toxicity depending on how much they’ve been diluted and the cat’s exposure to them. That being said, cats should never ingest any lavender product. 

What To Do If Your Cat Eats Lavender

Call your emergency vet or ASPCA if your cat ingests a poisonous plant

If your cat eats lavender, it’s a medical emergency, and your cat should be taken to the nearest emergency vet for treatment. You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435. Signs of lavender and other essential oil toxicity in cats include: 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Changes to heart rate
  • Liver failure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Muscle tremors

If your cat is vomiting or experiencing any other signs of illness, contact a vet immediately. Unfortunately, specialists have not determined a toxic dose for lavender plants or oils, so cats may react differently after consuming any amount of lavender, and some cats may be more sensitive to lavender than others.

If a vet diagnoses your cat with lavender toxicity, they’ll likely be admitted for support treatment that includes IV fluids to help the body expel the toxin. Depending on your cat’s blood work, they may also require medications. 

Is Lavender Safe For Cats To Smell?

While lavender ingestion is the main cause of toxicity in cats, it’s best to keep your cat away from lavender plants and any lavender products, including essential oils. Of course, many lavender products are of varying levels of toxicity. If you use lavender essential oils in a diffuser, your cat should be able to spend some time in the room far away from the diffuser, but that’s not always safe. Because diffusers create droplets, a cat can accidentally ingest small amounts of lavender oil from a diffuser. Additionally, cats may rub up against lavender plants and groom themselves afterward, inadvertently consuming lavender. 

Since essential oil scents can be too strong for your cat, they may not approach a diffuser with lavender oil in it, but it’s always better to keep your cat safe by keeping lavender oils, plants, and other products away from them.

Do Essential Oils Help Heal My Cat?

Essential oils have been used for centuries as medicine, but is lavender oil safe for cats? Unfortunately, no. Lavender can be used to help cats in many ways, but it must be from a trusted brand and advised by your veterinarian. Always talk to your vet before using lavender essential oils or any other essential oils on your pet. 

That being said, lavender has some uses in pets, including cats. Since it has a natural calming property, it may be able to help anxious cats stay calm. Unfortunately, aromatherapy in humans and cats hasn’t been studied extensively enough to determine if it’s worth the risk for your cat. Benefits of lavender for cats that have been reported include: 

  • Insect repellent: Lavender is an effective insect repellent and may be able to repel fleas on cats. However, many types of flea repellent products on the market are designed for cats that are much safer. 
  • Improve mood: Lavender essential oil may improve your cat’s mood by reducing anxiety when diffused safely. 
  • Anti-inflammatory: Lavender has natural anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce pain in cats from inflammatory diseases and bruising. 

While lavender may be effective at improving your cat’s health in some ways, there’s no reason to use lavender on or near them because there are more effective, less toxic ways to ensure your cat’s health and wellness. Therefore, there’s really no need to use essential oils on your cat. In addition, even though you’re not feeding your cat lavender, it can still harm them. For example, if you’re using lavender essential oil on your cat for arthritis, they may groom themselves, licking the lavender off their legs or paws, and become poisoned. 

Using lavender oils in a diffuser may be safe for your cat as long as they don't try to lick the diffuser or the mist that comes out of it. However, since you can’t watch your cat at all times, it’s not worth having lavender oil in your home where your cat can get it. 

Lavender Oil Vs. Lavender Plant

Much like the lavender plant, lavender oil is not safe for cats, especially if they ingest it, because it’s the most toxic form of the plant. However, while you may never feed your cat lavender oil, you may have an essential oil diffuser in your home and wonder if it’s safe for your cat. 

Is lavender oil safe for cats when diffused? Lavender oil in a diffuser is diluted with water, so they have lower levels of lavender. However, even though diffusers send a light mist into the air, your cat can still find ways to ingest it when you’re not looking. Additionally, lavender oil in a diffuser enters your cat’s respiratory system. Although there is no known safe level of exposure to lavender oil mist, cats are incredibly sensitive to scents and aerosols. At the very least, a diffuser may cause lung irritation, coughing, and even breathing problems. If your cat is coughing, consider moving the diffuser into another room or turning it off completely. 

Cats can ingest lavender oil from a diffuser by licking the air being misted or when droplets fall from the top of the diffuser. Additionally, the lavender oil can end up on your cat’s fur, which can cause toxicity when your cat grooms itself. 

Can I Burn Lavender Candles or Essential Oils Around My Cat?

Lavender candles and essential oil diffusers are considered safer for use around pets because they contain more diluted essential oils. However, you should still be careful because your cat could find a way to ingest essential oils from a diffuser. As long as the diffuser is kept out of reach from your cat or in another room entirely, they should not have any adverse side effects. Candles are also safe, as long as they’re kept away from your cat. Since candles have an open flame, you should monitor them throughout the day to prevent your cat from accidentally burning themselves. Additionally, always blow the candles out before leaving your home to prevent an accidental fire. 

Cats don’t like strong scents because they can irritate their respiratory system, so you may want to limit your cat’s exposure to any fragrances, including candles and essential oils. 

What Essential Oils Are Safe For My Cat? 

You should avoid using any essential oils on your cat’s skin or fur unless directed by a veterinarian because they can all cause adverse reactions. Inhalation and ingestion of essential oils can lead to respiratory issues and toxicity. Many essential oils are toxic to cats, while others are considered safer. However, you should keep all essential oils out of your pet's reach to prevent any potential reactions. Essential oils considered safe for cats include:

  • Chamomile oil
  • Jasmine oil
  • Rose oil 

Of course, cats should never ingest these oils. However, they may be safe for use in a diffuser for homes with cats as long as you keep your cat safe by keeping them away from the diffuser as it’s diffusing the essential oils. Because the mist can end up on nearby surfaces, it can end up on your cat’s skin and fur, causing potential poisoning or respiratory issues. So if you diffuse essential oils, always keep them away from your cat, and never put them directly on their fur or skin. 

Cat laying next to a potted lavender plant

What Do I Do If My Cat Sniffs Or Consumes Lavender?

If your cat eats a small amount of a lavender plant or walks into a room with a diffuser, monitor them for signs of toxicity. While some symptoms may be noticeable right away, others may take a few days, so you’ll need to continue to monitor your pet even if they seem healthy. 

If you want to ensure your cat hasn’t been poisoned, you can take them to an ASPCA poison control center or your nearest emergency vet for examination. 

Where Can I Buy Pet-Friendly Products?

While lavender may reduce stress in humans and animals, there are safer alternatives for your feline friend. Instead of trying to relieve anxiety with essential oils, you can consult a vet to learn more about pet-safe cat products. You can also check out Dutch’s online store for products that can improve your cat’s mood and help them feel calmer. 

Protecting My Cat

Lavender plants, essential oils, candles, and other scented products may seem like a great, natural way to make your home smell nice while promoting a relaxing environment. However, just because it’s natural, doesn’t make it safe for your cat. While most cases of lavender toxicity in cats are mild, it’s still not worth the risk. Instead, consider using other pet-safe products in your home that you don’t have to worry about your cat ingesting. For example, if you’re using lavender to keep your cat calm, you can try other natural plants like catnip. Additionally, there are many other safe houseplants for cats, so you can ensure your cat’s health by buying only cat-friendly plants for your home. 

Wondering how you can help your cat manage their anxiety? Ask a Dutch vet. If your cat has anxiety, a Dutch vet can help you find the right solution to help them live a healthier, less stressed life. 

References

  1. “Lavender.” ASPCA, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/lavender.

  2. Wilson, Julia. “Lavender Toxicity in Cats - Cat-World.” Cat, 28 Mar. 2022, https://cat-world.com/lavender-toxicity-in-cats/.