Essential Oil and Liquid Potpourri Poisoning in Cats.

Cats dislike eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, and peppermint. Essential  oils, including oil of cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree (melaleuca), wintergreen, and ylang ylang, are poisonous to cats. Both ingestion and skin exposure can be toxic.

Cats are particularly sensitive to essential oils as they have a decreased number of certain liver enzymes necessary to effectively metabolize these oils. Additionally, very young cats and kittens, and cats with liver disease are more sensitive to their effects. Liquid potpourri and some essential oils can also irritate or burn the skin and mouth.

Cats are fastidious self-groomers, so if these products get on their skin, they will often be ingested.

What are the signs of essential oil or liquid potpourri poisoning?

Signs may include:

  •  fragrance or scent on hair coat, skin, or breath 
  •  difficulty breathing
  •  difficulty walking or uncoordinated gait
  •  drooling
  •  lethargy or weakness
  •  muscle tremors
  •  pawing at the mouth or face
  •  redness or burns on the lips, gums, tongue, or skin
  •  vomiting (you may note the smell of essential oils in the vomit)

If you believe that your cat has ingested or come in contact with essential oils or liquid potpourri, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680), a 24/7 animal poison control center, immediately. The sooner you seek treatment, the better the prognosis and outcome for your cat.

Please note:

  •  Do not induce vomiting or give activated charcoal to your cat. This may worsen your cat’s condition.
  •  Put the product packaging in a sealed container and take it with you to the veterinary clinic.
  •  If any product is on the skin or fur, quickly wash it off using a liquid dishwashing detergent.

How can I prevent my cat from being exposed to essential oils and liquid potpourri?

Keep essential oils and liquid potpourri products out of reach of cats at all times. Curious animals may want to investigate the sweet-smelling liquids, so never leave opened essential oils or simmering potpourri unattended. In addition, consult a veterinarian before using any essential oils or other herbal products on your cat. Concentrated essential oils should never be applied to a cat.