Are Lavender-Scented Products Harmful to My Cat?

Our expert shares the real deal on essential oils and how they react with cats.

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Q: I’m a CAT FANCY subscriber and have read numerous articles and books that say all lavender-scented products are toxic to cats and should be avoided. Now I see aromatherapy products for cats, including some with lavender scents. Is it OK for me to use lavender-scented hand lotions? What’s your advice?

A: Many essential oils — including lavender oil — are toxic to cats and should never be given to cats orally or applied topically, in my opinion. These products can be rapidly absorbed through the digestive tract or through the skin, and then travel to the liver where they are metabolized. The feline liver is deficient in many enzymes, and it might be unable to metabolize these compounds properly, which leads to toxicity. If cats even inhale some of these oils, it can lead to problems because the oils can get absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream and then to the liver. 
I doubt that a lavender-scented hand lotion has enough lavender oil to cause problems for your cat, especially because the smell is not wafting through the apartment where the cat can’t avoid breathing it. However, avoid petting the cat directly immediately after using lavender-scented hand lotion to avoid possibly getting it on the cat’s fur and becoming ingested during grooming.

Dr. Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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Are Lavender-Scented Products Harmful to My Cat?

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Reader Comments

Jennie    Ft Lauderdale, FL

8/8/2014 8:06:42 PM

I use glade levender room freshness in my wall sockets is that harmful to my cats

Roberta    Allentown, PA

7/2/2014 9:05:21 AM

I just took my cat to the vet because his becoming listless, not eating, not even recognizing ME, coincided with my becoming involved in very high grade essential oils, specifically lavender. I didn't make a connection until I started thinking: what changed in our environment to make the cat act like this? Then looking at the net, I realized that essential oils could very well be the culprit. The vet was highly suspicious of the oils, but reserved judgement until cat's liver blood work comes back tomorrow. He said to NEVER apply essential oils to cat. I didn't apply the oil directly to cat, but I did to myself and my husband. The cat, who normally sleeps with us, no longer does. I'll keep you posted, but I locked up my essential oils and am airing out the house. These were top of the line oils, by the way.

Ashley R.    Matawan, NJ

5/8/2014 6:32:17 AM

I just came across this article by googling cats and lavender oil. Someone gave me lavender oil for my eczema that I have on my hands. I applied it this morning after the shower. Shortly, after I got dressed and pet my cat. As I pet her, she started licking my hand. When I realized that I just put oil on them I pulled it away. Could that be enough lavender oil exposure to harm her? Should I be worried? Thanks.

Denise    Springvale, ME

8/19/2013 8:06:01 AM

I personally don't use essential oils. I was told if you take lavender buds and soak them it makes lavender water. They suggested to either put some of the lavender water on a paper towel and dab around their face and neck area or spray some on their coat with a spray bottle. Any insight on this would be greatly appreciated. Sinceely, Denise Novak

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