Is it Okay for Your Cat To Be Around Lavender?

Making sense of conflicting advice.


Lavender oil may reduce anxiety in cats.

…the majority of cats do not like lavender and will avoid it where possible. 

Cats are very soothed by the scent of lavender.

Research has shown that lavender, especially in essential oils, is dangerous to cats.

The answer? When it comes to whether cats enjoy the scent of lavender, some do and some don’t. And because cats are cats, your pet may like it on some days and not others. A quick review of lavender and felines on the Internet leaves most pet owners scratching their heads. No wonder so many are confused about whether cats like lavender and whether it is even safe for them.

The safety issue is more complicated — and more important, especially because lavender is in so many household cleaning and beauty products these days. You don’t want to expose your pet to anything that might harm him. Here’s the skinny.

Safe versus risky

Cats do not have the enzymes needed to process certain compounds in lavender if they ingest it. Results can range from stomach upset to central nervous system problems and liver damage if high enough amounts are consumed. That said, if you check the ingredients in commercial cleaning and beauty products with lavender on their labels, you will generally find that it is buried way down on the list, indicating that it’s too diluted to have impact.

But face, hand, and body lotions purchased in boutique grocery stores or other upscale markets may have higher concentrations of lavender—its essential oil specifically. It’s okay to have such products in the house. You just don’t want to let your pet lick or rub against you when the lotion is newly applied so she can’t take it into her system. Lavender essential oil is the most potent form of the plant.

You might also want to forgo making your own cleaning sprays from recipes on the Internet that call for a seemingly innocent mix of dish soap, water, and lavender essential oil. The amount of the oil recommended for homemade cleaners is greater than that found in commercial products. If you spray the product into the air or on surfaces and the mist inadvertently ends up on your cat’s coat, she could potentially ingest harmful amounts when self-grooming.

Also problematic: releasing lavender into the air through a diffuser. The ASPCA recommends keeping lavender-scented diffusers in a secured area that your cat can’t access.

Finally, lavender plants and potpourri made from the plant are dicey as they contain lavender in its purest form, and your cat may rub against the plant or even nibble on its blossoms and leaves — or stick her nose into potpourri and sample some. Liquid potpourri is as pure a form of lavender as essential oil. Best to find another plant that you enjoy and potpourri made without lavender in any form.


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