Is Lavender Safe For Cats?

Ingesting lavender is toxic to cats, so they shouldn't consume it in any form. Your cat also may experience problems with inhaling lavender essential oil and topical applications of lavender products.

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Last Updated: November 16, 2023 | 5 min read

cat sitting outside sniffing lavender

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Losing your furry friend through accidental ingestion or exposure to a toxic substance is entirely heartbreaking. To prevent this tragedy, pet owners must familiarize themselves with plants, foods, and products that are toxic to our companion pets.

Lavender is an aromatic, flowering plant native to Europe and the Mediterranean. You may enjoy lavender in your favorite sleepytime tea, and it’s also used medicinally for pain management, relaxation, and or treatment of skin ailments. With all these therapeutic benefits, you may wonder, “Is lavender safe for cats?”

Unfortunately, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) classifies lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) as toxic to cats. But is diffusion or topical application dangerous, too? We’ll discuss all this and more.

Is Lavender Toxic To Cats?

In herbalism, lavender is a relaxing, sedative herb beneficial when your nerves feel fried or you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest. Lavender is also carminative (relieves gas and bloating) and anti-inflammatory. People consume the herb in teas, tinctures, and other supplements to promote well-being.

While you might be tempted to add a bit of dried lavender to your kitty’s dinner to increase relaxation before bedtime (and to prevent twilight zoomies), this can actually be dangerous. Lavender is toxic to cats because it contains linalool and linalyl acetate. Felines cannot process these chemical compounds, creating poisonous levels in their bodies.

Felines who eat lavender may experience nausea, decreased appetite, and vomiting. Avoid feeding lavender to your kitty—no matter the lavender species:

  • Narrow-leaf lavender (Lavandula officinalis and Lavendula angustifolia)
  • Spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia)
  • Lavindin (a hybrid of the two species)

Lavender essential oil is a concentrated form of lavender and thus will have a higher chance of toxicity. All lavender products will have varying toxicity levels depending on their dilution and your pet’s exposure to the product.

What To Do If Your Cat Eats Lavender

If your feline does eat lavender, consider it a medical emergency. Your pet should be taken to the nearest emergency vet for treatment. You may also call the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at (888) 426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661. Both services are available 24/7; however, they both charge a consultation fee.

APCC charges a $95 consultation fee, but a portion is covered if you’re enrolled in their pet insurance. The Pet Poison Helpline charges $85 per incident fee. All follow-up consultations are included.

The vet or any poison hotline will likely ask you how much lavender your cat consumed and if they show any adverse effects. Make sure to note any changes in your cat’s behavior, no matter how small.

Symptoms Of Lavender Poisoning In Cats

Symptoms of lavender and lavender essential oil toxicity around cats include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Liver failure
  • Muscle tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Research has not yet determined a toxic dose for lavender plants or oils in felines, so cats may have different symptoms after consuming a quantity of lavender. Some kitties may also be more sensitive to lavender than others.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your cat will require immediate care if they show signs of lavender poisoning. Once you’re at the vet, your veterinarian will perform diagnostic procedures, including blood tests and urinalysis, to check for liver or kidney damage signs.

Your cat may be admitted for treatment that includes IV fluids and gastrointestinal decontamination to rid the body of toxins. Learn more about decontamination via the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. The vet will monitor your feline’s liver function if they ingest lavender essential oil. Depending on the bloodwork results, your cat may also require medications.

Is Lavender Essential Oil Safe For Cats?

Essential oils are highly concentrated and can be dangerous to pets, especially cats. Pure essential oils may be up to 100 times stronger than the oils in the plant itself. 

Essential oils are absorbed orally, respiratorily, and transdermally (through the skin). It’s the liver’s job to metabolize these compounds. But because felines lack the liver enzyme, known as glucuronyl transferase, to metabolize and eliminate essential oil compounds from their body easily, these concentrates can rise to toxic levels and become deadly. It’s like a slow poisoning that’s only recognizable until it’s too late.

As mentioned earlier, you should never let your kitty ingest essential oils, but what about other methods?

Can I Use Lavender Essential Oil On My Cat?

Yes, with many caveats, you can use lavender essential oil on your feline. The most important rule you must remember is always to dilute essential oils when using them topically. Other guidelines are as follows:

  • Use 3 to 5 drops in an 80-90 percent dilution before application (For example, 1 drop of essential oil for 5 drops of carrier oil.)
  • Use essential oils in moderation.
  • Never use essential oils on or near your cat’s eyes, nose, paws, or genitals.
  • Rub oils onto your hands and then stroke your pet’s fur.
  • Discontinue use if your pet shows signs of distress (biting, rubbing their face, drooling, etc.)

In his book “Essential Oils for Pets,” researcher and herbalist Alexander Huffington recommends one drop of lavender essential oil in at least two teaspoons of base oil. Huffington also recommends using hydrosols as a safe application for cats.

Also called floral waters, hydrosols are automatic, water-based products produced through the steam distillation of plants. Hydrosols contain the water-soluble portions of plants, giving them unique therapeutic benefits. Hydrosols are far less concentrated than essential oils, with fewer safety concerns.

While professionally-made hydrosols use special equipment to create a steam distillation process, you can also make a hydrosol at home. Gaia Herbs has a great tutorial for making hydrosols at home.

Consider using lavender hydrosols for any of the following:

  • Anti-itch
  • Calming/Relaxing
  • Flea repellent
  • Tick repellent

Can I Diffuse Lavender Around My Cat?

Popular essential oil company Aura Cacia says lavender diffused at a low dilution is safe and enjoyable for our furry friends. If you choose to diffuse lavender essential oil around your cat, make sure your pet can roam freely while diffusing the oil. Never lock your pet in a room while a diffuser is running. If your pet doesn’t enjoy the scent or it irritates their respiratory system, they will move to another room.

Watch for signs of respiratory stress, including labored breathing, panting, and fainting. Stop distillation immediately if your feline shows any of these symptoms, and contact your vet directly.

Our Personal Experience With Cats Around Lavender

“I have two cats, about 11 years old. They do not like the scent of lavender. This goes for personal products, sprays, essential oils, and even the plant. I like the smell of lavender and often use it as aromatherapy. My cats will actively avoid a room where I have sprayed lavender. While they do not have a volatile reaction, they seem to avoid being near the scent.

I usually have a few lavender plants on the porch and in the kitchen, as they can help deter flies and bees. My cats never try to chew or even sniff these plants. Other houseplants like ferns, spider plants, and even cut flowers I must keep out of reach or behind closed doors. Lavender plants, however, will be left alone. So, to me, this shows they do not like lavender.”

Danielle DeGroot, LYC writer and cat owner (over 30 years of experience)

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Cats Like The Smell Of Lavender?

Your kitty may or may not like the smell of lavender. If you choose to diffuse lavender or spray it around your home, ensure your feline friend can move away from the scent if they don’t like it.

Can Lavender Kill Cats?

Lavender is mildly toxic to cats and can cause gastrointestinal problems. Ingesting lavender essential oil increases the risk of making your furry friend sick and causing severe liver damage. If left untreated, lavender toxicity could cause liver failure and death.

Final Thoughts

Is lavender safe for cats? While ingesting lavender in any form is unwise, lavender can be used topically on pets and in the air. Are you curious about the safety of other plants/essential oils for cats? Read our articles on lemongrass and oregano. We also cover popular human foods that are safe for cats.

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