Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is a popular herb that we like to plant in our gardens. The herb is commonly used as an ingredient in medicines, therapeutics, cosmetics, and aromatherapy.
The calming and refreshing scent of lavender is known to help people relax, reduce anxiety, and to sleep well.
You may ask yourself if this herb is so beneficial for humans, is lavender safe for cats too?
Unfortunately, lavender is toxic to cats.
Why is lavender toxic to cats?
Lavender is toxic to cats because it contains linlool and linalyl acetate (ASPCA). These two compounds are toxic to cats because a cat’s liver doesn’t have enzymes that could metabolize these substances, leading to toxicity.
Forms of lavender dangerous to cats
There are different forms of lavender that a cat could come into contact with. The most toxic form of lavender for a cat is lavender essential oil.
The reason why essential oils have the highest level of toxicity is that they have the highest level of concentration of toxic compounds. Another reason is that essential oils can also be absorbed through the organism very quickly.
The plain lavender plant itself is not that dangerous unless digested in a higher quantity. Chances are that if your cat licks or chews on it, it will most probably cause only light side effects, like a bit of vomiting or even no side effects at all.
How can a cat absorb the lavender?
There are many ways a cat can absorb lavender, which every cat owner should be aware of. The ways a cat could absorb toxic lavender are as follows:
1. Oral intake and absorption through the digestive tract. For example, when a cat digests a lavender plant or chews on the wooden sticks that are soaked with the lavender oil.
2. Topical intake and absorption through the skin. For example, when a cat is sprayed with a substance containing lavender.
3. Inhalation and absorption through the lungs and blood. For example, when a cat inhales lavender essential oil diffused by the household diffuser.
How to keep a cat safe from lavender
Because lavender is such a common ingredient in various household products and cosmetics, it’s essential to be aware of these household items and to make sure our cat doesn’t come in contact with them.
Household items with lavender to avoid
1. Lavender plants.
Although licking, chewing, or even digesting a plain lavender plant may not cause strong poisoning, it’s better not to leave the lavender plants around the house and tempt your cat to get in contact with them.
2. Lavender essential oil diffuser sticks.
If you have traditional essential oil diffuser sticks, a cat could lick them or chew on them. A cat could also accidentally touch them with her fur and then lick the oil off her coat when licking herself.
3. Electronic essential oil diffusers and humidifiers.
Although the concentration of lavender essential oil in electronic diffusers or humidifiers is lessened, it still poses threat to your cat.
In this case, the intake of the toxic substance may occur in two ways. Firstly, through inhalation and secondly, when the mist lingers on the cat’s fur, orally while grooming.
If you still want to use your essential oil diffuser and humidifier, make sure you choose essential oils that are safe for cats.
4. Lavender cosmetics and human skin.
Be careful with cosmetics that have lavender added to them. You could for example rub your hands with a lavender hand lotion and your cat could start licking your hands. You could also leave some trace of the lotion on the cat if you petted her. Then your cat could ingest some of the lotion when she licks her coat.
5. Lavender essential oil and human skin.
The same as we described the cosmetics above, applies to essential oils. Be careful with touching your hands with lavender essential oil and then rubbing your cat’s coat with them or letting your cat lick your hands.
Cat products with lavender to avoid
Symptoms of lavender poisoning in a cat
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the symptoms of a cat poisoned with lavender are nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite.
How to treat a cat poisoned with lavender
Luckily, in most cases when a cat gets in light contact with lavender, the consequences are not lethal and can be treated fairly easily.
If you saw your cat licking or chewing a bit on a lavender plant, don’t panic. Keep your cat under observation and if she starts displaying worrying symptoms then call a vet.
If some drops of lavender essential oil landed on your cat’s fur, then gently bathe your cat in warm water with suitable cat shampoo.
In case your cat ingested concentrated lavender essential oil or ate a bunch of lavender plants then call your vet or ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) immediately to get help.
Lavender and Cats – FAQ
Below are some of the most frequent questions that cat owners ask about lavender in relation to cats:
Do cats like the smell of lavender?
In general, the lavender scent is too intensive for cats to like it. The majority of cats will avoid lavender. As always, there will be some percentage of cats that like the scent and some that would be indifferent.
All in all, lavender does not attract cats and it may serve as a cat repellent. If you don’t want cats to enter your garden, plant a lot of lander and chances are that cats would avoid it.
What happens if a cat smells lavender?
If a cat smells a plain lavender plant itself, likely nothing will happen. If a cat inhales a greater quantity of lavender essential oil, i.e. the one that puffs out from the diffuser, then the substance can get absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and get to the liver.
Because a cat’s liver lacks enzymes that can deal with the compounds that are in the lavender essential oil, it leads to toxicity. A cat gets poisoned and starts displaying symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite.
Sources used in this article:
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