Is Lavender Safe For Cats? Keep Your Pet Out Of Trouble!

Lavender is one of the most popular substances on earth, and you can find it in many forms. This plant’s beautiful purple flowers and its fantastic fragrance make it a great addition to any house. Who doesn’t love aromatic therapy with lavender oils after all? The question is, is lavender safe for cats, or is it toxic?

Wild cat is sitting in lavender field

You may already know that lilies and daffodils are toxic to cats, but what about lavender? Although studies have shown that lavender decreases anxiety in humans, unfortunately for cats, it is dangerous. Bummer, right? This gorgeous plant is a big no-no for felines, especially in essential oil form. Keep reading to find out all you need to know about any household lavender if you want to keep your furry friends safe!

The most dangerous form of lavender for your cat

Most of us love lavender so much that chances are you have more than one form of it in your home. Unfortunately, certain forms of the plant are more dangerous to your cat than others. Lavender essential oil is perhaps worse for your cat than the plain plant. Although they vaporize easily, and we love using them in diffusers, that also means that they absorb quickly if ingested or rubbed on the skin. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the problem for our friends is that their livers don’t have the necessary enzyme to metabolize the essential oil, while humans do. 

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals states that the lavender plant contains linalyl acetate and linalool, 2 compounds toxic to cats. You can also find these in other flowers like bergamot. Long story short, lavender, in any form, can make your kitty very sick. The good news is that it isn’t lethal in most cases and can be treated effectively if you act fast.

Causes of lavender poisoning

Cats can get sick when they eat lavender, but is it the only cause of poisoning? They can also become ill from licking lavender essential oil diffuser sticks or even licking your hand if you’ve just rubbed lavender essential oil on something.

Electronic aromatherapy diffusers, humidifiers and sprays are tricky. Wondering why? Though the lavender concentration that comes out of these is pretty low, it can still cause irritation or respiratory distress, depending on how close your feline is to the device. What’s more, if any droplets land on cats and they start grooming themselves, they may accidentally ingest lavender oil that way.

small kitty in bathtub having a bath with lavender essential oils

Symptoms of lavender poisoning

Here you’ll find the most common symptoms of lavender poisoning. If you notice any of these, contact your vet as soon as possible, or even better, take your kitty to a vet clinic. If your kitty eats a large quantity of a lavender plant, you’ll notice the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If your cat gets affected by lavender essential oils or liquid potpourris, they may burn your cat’s skin and mouth. Ingestion of these oils can cause:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Uncoordinated gait
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Pawing at mouth and face 
  • Muscle tremors
  • Redness and burns on skin, lips, gums and tongue
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Liver failure
  • Low heart rate

How to treat lavender poisoning

If you think your pet has lavender poisoning, the ASPCA recommends contacting the animal poison line to get immediate advice or take your cat to your vet ASAP. Once the vet knows how bad the poisoning is, they will offer the cat the most appropriate treatment

  1. In most cases, it includes supportive IV fluids that help rehydrate the animal. 
  2. If your feline has suffered chemical burns from eating lavender essential oil or potpourri, it may not be able to eat normally. In that case, your vet will insert a feeding tube into its stomach to get nutrition until the burns have healed. The doctor will also give an anti-vomiting medication and other medicines that protect and coat the cat’s stomach.
  3. If the cat is in pain, it may receive pain medications appropriate for cats and antibiotics.
  4. The vet will also give medicines that protect the liver to prevent any liver damage.

closeup to male vet holding a grey cat

Lavender in your home: Protecting your cat

It can be very enticing to diffuse some lavender to bring calming energy into your home, right? Unfortunately, it may not be the best choice for your feline friend. Here are the best ways to protect your cat from lavender poisoning

  1. Keep lavender out of cats’ reach. This is both for fresh and dried lavender sprigs that your pet could nibble or consume. Prefer cat-friendly plants like oat grass, catnip, and grow herbs like liquorice root, valerian, and cat’s claw.  
  2. Lock up any lavender oil and skincare products you want to use. You should keep them in a locked cupboard that your feline can’t get into. Also, don’t let your cat lick diffuser sticks or even your skin after applying any lavender skin products. 
  3. Avoid using topicals containing lavender to keep your pet safe. Find other more safe alternatives to uses as insect repellents or perfumes.
  4. Avoid having around your house lavender essential oils or sprays. You should use these with extreme caution, or even better, don’t use them at all. 

black and white kitty looking at the camera, standing besides a vase with lavender

Other toxic plants and oils to avoid

Did you know that many other plants and oils are toxic to cats? Here is a list of the most common ones you should avoid to keep your feline safe. These are high in salicylates or phenols, the reason behind their toxicity

  1. Lilies
  2. Basil
  3. Clove
  4. Daffodils
  5. Laurus nobilis
  6. Melaleuca quinquenervia
  7. Mountain savory
  8. Oregano
  9. Tea tree
  10. Thyme
  11. Wintergreen
  12. Melaleuca (tea tree oil)
  13. Pine oils
  14. Cinnamon oil
  15. Ylang Ylang oil
  16. Peppermint oil
  17. Citrus oil
  18. Eucalyptus 

Pet-friendly alternatives to choose from

Do you love having essential oils around your house and do you even know how to make your own? The good news is that there are a few ones that are safe to use for your cat. They include:

  1. Cedarwood oil
  2. Lemongrass oil
  3. Rosemary

If you have any concerns or questions about using essential oil for your cat or diffusing in your home around your pet, it’s best to consult your veterinarian.

Sleeping cat on a massage towel
You can find lavender everywhere — in soaps, kitchen cabinets, sachets, herb gardens and even medicine chests. We humans just cannot seem to get enough of this aromatic, beautiful plant. Unfortunately, you now know that it can pose a threat to our beloved felines. Follow our instructions and keep lavender away from cats to avoid putting your pet’s health at risk. If your kitty comes in any contact with it, contact your vet as soon as possible. Remember, in the past, cats were worshipped as gods. Your cat knows that, but you should also keep it in mind and protect your beloved friend!

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