Calming Aromatherapy for Cats
If your kitty is a little too bouncy, you could try aromatherapy. Plant and flower extracts can calm both you and your kitty, but you need to be very careful because some of them can be highly toxic.
If you’re an aromatherapy fan you’ll know that you shouldn’t apply essential oils directly to your skin. The most usual methods of use are in a carrier oil for massage, added to bath water or burned in an oil burner. You need to be even more careful with your kitty. Unlike you, your cat can’t metabolize essential oils, which means kitty can’t excrete them. The build up of plant extract in kitty’s body is likely to make her nauseous, go off her food and become lethargic, none of which you want. Also, your furball’s skin is thinner than yours, so she absorbs essential oils into her bloodstream much more quickly. Well-known aromatherapist Robert Tisserand believes it’s possible to use essential oils safely as long as usage is only occasional, and the oil is no more than 1 percent of the product. But other pet aromatherapists prefer to err on the side of caution with cats and stick to a safer method: hydrosols.
At the end of the distillation process that collects the essential oil from a plant, the leftover steam containing water soluble parts of the plant’s chemical makeup is condensed in a separate container to the essential oil. This is a hydrosol. Your furry friend can tolerate these because a hydrosol contains much lower levels of plant extract and doesn’t have such a strong smell. You can spritz your kitty with a hydrosol to calm her, to help prevent flea and tick infestations or clean her ears. Or spritz the room she’s in, although make sure it’s ventilated and you don’t overdo the spraying. When you’re buying hydrosols look for the best quality you can find and look for hydrosol, hydrolat or steam distillate water on the packaging. Some companies add essential oils to water and call it a hydrosol. This is no good for your cat.
Lavender is by far the most calming essence for your cat. Roman chamomile has a soothing effect — like chamomile tea — and is also useful for keeping your kitty’s skin free from rashes. Aromatherapy often blends several oils together and you can do the same with hydrosols. Kirsten Leigh Bell suggests blending rose, lavender and neroli (orange blossom) to make a calming, delightfully scented smell. Lemon balm is another sedative, although citrus oil is not recommended by Susan Wynn and Barbara Fougere in their book, “Veterinary Herbal Medicine.” Hydrosols are a lot less expensive than essential oils, so experimenting with blends is more affordable.
Oils to Avoid
The more commonly available oils you must avoid for your kitty are listed as basil, clove, oregano, tarragon and teatree. Wintergreen oils, such as birch, are also toxic, and the more unusual varieties, such as pennyroyal, tansy and thuja, are no-nos according to Wynn and Fougere.