Most cats do not like the smell of lavender. In fact, some people plant it in their garden as a deterrent for roaming neighborhood cats. It is unclear why they do not like lavender, but some have theorized that it must be genetic, the way some cats are attracted to catnip.
There are some cats that do not mind the smell of lavender, they may even come towards the plant and sniff or rub against it.
No matter what your cat’s reaction to lavender is, remember that it is toxic to ingest for all cats.
If you want to learn more about the effects of lavender to cats, keep reading.
Is lavender safe for my cat?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), lavender plants are toxic to cats. Specifically, linalool and linalyl acetate which the cats’ bodies cannot process due to the lack of the necessary enzymes. Cats can become sick just from licking a lavender plant and not fully ingesting it.
Lavender in its essential oil form has the highest toxicity levels. They can be vaporized and inhaled or absorbed quickly into the skin, resulting in acute toxicity. Cats are especially sensitive to oils and they can experience gastrointestinal upset, depression of the central nervous system, and liver damage when significant quantities are ingested.
Causes of lavender poisoning
When a cat eats lavender, it can get sick. Do not leave lavender sprigs throughout your home.
In many households, lavender plants can be found on window sills, indoor spaces, and gardens. Make sure they are out of your cat’s reach. The same applies to dried lavender spikes in potpourri.
Cats can also get sick from licking lavender essential oil diffuser sticks, or even your hand if you have just rubbed lavender essential oil on something. There is no established toxic dose for lavender oil, as it depends on the cat’s sensitivity to it and route of exposure.
Aromatherapy diffusers and humidifiers are tricky because though the concentration of lavender is fairly low, it can still cause respiratory distress depending on how close your cat was to the device.
If droplets land on the cat and it starts grooming itself, it can still ingest lavender oil that way. Avoid using lavender essential oils in diffusers if you have one. Stick to oils from plants that are not toxic to felines and do not place the diffuser where the cat can reach it.
Signs of lavender toxicity in cats
Symptoms of lavender toxicity include, but are not limited to:
- Drooling or excessive licking
- Decreased appetite
- Staggering, stuporous behavior
- Slow breathing, asthma, aspiration pneumonia
- Erratic heartbeat
- Liver failure
Your cat may experience gastrointestinal symptoms rapidly, within the first three hours of exposure or ingestion. Liver or kidney damage can take several days before it can be traced in blood tests.
When inhaled, essential oils can cause aspiration pneumonia. It is a lung infection in which the cat’s lungs become inflamed due to the inhalation of foreign material. It happens along with regurgitation or vomiting.
How to treat lavender poisoning
If you think your cat has come into contact with a lavender product, remove as much of the product by bathing your pet with warm water and cat shampoo.
If your cat is showing respiratory changes such as rapid breathing or coughing after contact with a lavender product, move the cat to a different room with fresh air and contact the vet.
If you suspect lavender poisoning, bring the cat to the vet for a thorough examination and treatment. Especially if you think your cat has inhaled or ingested the lavender product.
Upon lavender toxicity diagnosis, your cat may need to be admitted for blood tests and IV fluid administration. Depending on the findings, administration of medications can help calm the gastrointestinal upset and help heal the liver and kidneys.
How to protect you cat if you have lavender in your home
1. Keep lavender out of the reach of cats
Fresh and dried lavender sprigs should be kept away from your cats. Instead, you can keep cat-friendly plants like catnip, cat grass, valerian, Cat’s claw, and licorice root.
2. Lock up lavender oil and lavender skin care products
If you use essential oil, skin care, or bath products that contain lavender, keep them all locked in a cupboard that your cat cannot get into. Do not let your cat lick diffuser sticks or your skin after you have applied any lavender products.
3. Avoid topicals containing lavender
Avoid using topical essential oils to avoid toxicity for your cat as much as possible.
4. Avoid lavender oils or sprays
Only use lavender-infused diffusers or sprays carefully, or better yet, do not use them at all. There are hundreds of other oils and scents that are safe for your cat. Cutting out lavender from your life is such a small sacrifice for the safety of your cat.
Some cats hate lavender because of the smell, while some are indifferent or even attracted to it. But lavender is toxic to all cats. The signs of lavender toxicity include drooling, excessive licking, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, slow breathing, erratic heartbeat, aspiration pneumonia, and liver or kidney failure.
If you suspect that your cat has inhaled or ingested lavender from a plant or lavender products, seek immediate treatment from a vet.
To protect your cat from lavender toxicity, keep any and all lavender products away from your cat. Do not use lavender essential oils in humidifiers or diffusers so they cannot inhale the vapor. If possible, dispose of all lavender plants and products in your house so you will not have to worry constantly.
Image: istockphoto.com / YasmineV