Is Peppermint Oil Safe For Cats – How to Keep Cats Safe

30. Is Peppermint Oil Safe For Cats1
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Does cat safety apply to peppermint essential oil? Unfortunately, it is not because cats can become toxic from some essential oils. They do not metabolize or eliminate them in the same way that humans do, which makes them particularly vulnerable to the phenolic compounds present in some essential oils (PDSA, 2020).

Why Do Cat Owners Try Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy and essential oils are understood to have many beneficial effects for humans and are used both topically as dietary supplements and as air fresheners.

Some cat parents swear by the effect that essential oils have on them and assume that the benefits will be the same for cats.

In humans, peppermint oil is used to alleviate muscle or stomach pain, clean teeth, and deter insects.

Advocates of essential oils for cats claim they can have a beneficial effect on:

  • Digestive system disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation
  • Teeth and gum health
  • Skin condition, shedding, and hairballs
  • Flea and insect infestations

While it may be true that essential oils can have these effects on humans, cats are different.

Is Peppermint Oil Toxic To Cats?

Cats are very sensitive to peppermint oil. While humans can safely digest peppermint oil, cats lack the liver enzymes to break down the phenols it contains. Phenols are organic compounds that are similar to alcohol but have a higher boiling point and resistance to breaking down. They are typically strong-smelling and make up the active ingredient in many essential oils, such as peppermint oil.

Without the enzymes required to break down phenols, cats exposed to peppermint oil can experience:

  1. Liver damage
  2. Breathing difficulties
  3. Wobbliness and seizures
  4. Digestive issues

Many essential oils—peppermint included—are actually toxic to felines.

Is Peppermint Oil Safe For Cats? What Are The Risks?

Peppermint oil is, quite simply, not safe for cats. And if you’ve already tried using peppermint oil on your cat, you’ve learned that cats despise the smell as well.

Your cat’s olfactory receptors are 14 times more powerful than your own. While you may find peppermint refreshing, evoking memories of Christmas, your cat does not share your fond affection for the oil. She’ll be overwhelmed by it.

Just smelling the aroma can cause your kitty to develop difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, and aspiration pneumonia.

Peppermint oil, like many essential oils, contains phenols and phenolic compounds. Cats are very sensitive to phenols, whether exposure comes via inhalation or ingestion.

In this respect, cats and dogs are quite different. Unlike dogs (and humans), cats lack important enzymes in their livers which help eliminate toxins like phenols. When your cat consumes peppermint oil, it may upset her stomach, harm her liver, and negatively impact her nervous system. In cats, ingesting essential oils with phenols can even lead to liver failure and death.

Understanding The Issues Surrounding Cats And Essential Oils

Dogs and cats have a heightened, more sensitive sense of smell than humans; thus, many fragrances are potential irritants. Where humans have around 5 million odor sensors, a cat’s odor sensors pass 200 million. Their sense of smell is said to be 9-16 times better than ours. You may notice cats seem to sense peppermint may pose risks for them since most find its smell repellent.

Cats do not possess the same enzyme we use in our livers to break down certain constituents, found in essential oils. For this reason, then, the concentration of chemical concentrations remain high in their systems, leading to such issues as breathing conditions, weakness, skin irritation, and more. You might be thinking, “I don’t plan for them to drink the oil,” and assume all is well, but consider some of the ways essential oils might be introduced to their system, even inadvertently.

Diffusers theoretically cause difficulties that you may not conceive of. If we consider how they work, usually oil is placed into water. But if you think back to your physics lessons, you will recall that oil and water don’t mix. Therefore as the oil diffuses, it remains in its original state rather than having been diluted, as it would have been, if you had used a carrier oil. As droplets are introduced into the air, the droplets can land on your cat.

Imagine a droplet of essential oil landing on your cat’s coat and then your cat grooming himself. This one drop, followed by the act of cleansing himself, might cause issues, especially if he were in that environment for an extended length of time because then, it could happen repeatedly.

Even reed diffusers and evaporators could present the same risk if used in rooms your pet spends a lot of time in.

30. Is Peppermint Oil Safe For Cats2

Is Peppermint Oil Bad For Cats In Spray Or Diffuser Form?

You may think that it’s safe to use peppermint oil as long as your cat doesn’t eat it.

This is false logic as using peppermint oil sprays or diffusers can also harm your cat, namely by your cat:

  • Licking a patch of fur—Peppermint oil sprays and diffusers may release tiny droplets of the oil into the air. Some of these may land on your cat, and your feline may be tempted to lick the affected spot to get rid of the matting or smell. Even tiny amounts of peppermint oil can cause a toxic reaction
  • Absorbing oil through the skin—Cats have relatively thin skin that will absorb peppermint oil if it is allowed to remain in the fur. Even though you may think you have been circumspect and checked your cat for any signs of contamination, the effect may only become evident a day or so later, by which time you will need to get your cat to the vet as quickly as possible

Cats are also highly curious when it comes to trying new food and may want to investigate essential oil bottles while you are not looking.

The good news is that most cats shy away from the smell of peppermint, so it is unlikely that they will take a speculative lick. For complete peace of mind, you should make sure all the products in your household that contain peppermint oil are kept well away from prying feline eyes.

Cats And Essential Oils: What About Other Essential Oils?

Are all essential oils bad for cats? Not quite. But it’s crucial for you to be aware of the most toxic essential oils if you have feline friends living under your roof.

Essential Oils Toxic To Cats

When diffusing essential oils, there are some that pet owners should never use around their cats. That’s because diffusers emit microdroplets of essential oils into the air, and your cat could inhale or ingest them after the droplets land on their fur.

Wismer advises that you only use an essential oil diffuser in a room completely separated from your cat. However, she notes, if your cat has a history of breathing problems, you should avoid using a diffuser at all.

This list contains many common essential oils that are toxic to cats, but it’s not exhaustive. Ask your vet before using any essential oils around your cat.

  • clove essential oil
  • thyme essential oil
  • cinnamon essential oil
  • oregano essential oil
  • lavender essential oil
  • ylang ylang essential oil
  • citrus essential oil
  • wintergreen essential oil
  • pennyroyal essential oil
  • peppermint essential oil
  • sweet birch essential oil
  • eucalyptus oil
  • tea tree oil (note: tea tree oil, sometimes called melaleuca oil, is also poisonous to humans if ingested)

One other important note: many of these oils are also used to make liquid potpourri, which should also not be used around cats.

Is Peppermint Essential Oil Safe For Cats – Conclusion

Is peppermint essential oil safe for cats? No. If they happen to come in contact with peppermint essential oil somehow, you can remove them from the room if it’s being diffused or add some carrier oil to try to dilute it down. Both olive and sunflower oil are options for your pet. After applying the carrier oil, add a little shampoo to try to wash it off. Continue to monitor the situation and, if need be, visit your veterinarian. Take your bottle of oil with you so they can accurately check toxicity rates for you.

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