Pure essential oils are harmful to your cat, Edmonton vet says

The essential oils that help you sleep or freshen up a space could be toxic to your feline friends, an Edmonton vet says.

Oils in diffusers are generally OK, but best to avoid altogether if there is a curious cat in the home

Curious cats are at risk to be poisoned by essential oils, an Edmonton vet says. (Regina Cat Rescue/Erika Gayle Photography)

The essential oils that help you sleep or freshen up a space could be toxic — especially when in concentrated form — to your feline friends, an Edmonton vet says.

Essential oils are concentrated oils from certain plants, like eucalyptus, peppermint and lavender, that are used for a variety of purposes including fragrance or muscle relief.

But the idea that the oils could be bad for cats surfaced when a woman, in a now-deleted post on social media, said her 16-year-old cat was poisoned by eucalyptus oil.

An Edmonton holistic veterinarian said essential oils can be dangerous to cats, but mostly when in their concentrated, bottled form.

"If you put eucalyptus on a cat, even a drop or two, you'd make them very, very sick," Dr. Kären Marsden told CBC's Radio Active Monday.

"Cats do not have the enzyme in their liver to break down these oils."

As a holistic vet, Marsden uses some essential oils on other animals. Dogs, she said, have the ability to be around essential oils without getting sick.

Marsden said there is no concern in giving a cat a piece of food with some rosemary leaves on it, but warned that rosemary essential oil that would make them ill.

The danger is greatly reduced when the oils are in diffusers, which use water vapour to disperse the oil into the air. It's only when the oils in their purest form that they are dangerous to cats.

If you've got kittens in the house, it's best to avoid essential oils, says holistic vet Karen Marsden. (Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter)

Still, the vet suggests that if you have a new kitten — or a particularly curious cat — it might be best to not have any essential oils in the house.

"If you have kittens in the house, just walk away from essential oils," she said. "No need to dance with the devil."

If you think your cat has ingested something toxic, Marsden said do not hesitate to take the cat to the vet.

"These are survivable — they just need fluids," she said.