Aroma Therapy and Your Cat
>>Health IssuesAromatherapy? No, we're not talking about lighting
> Aroma Therapy and Your Cat courtesy of L. Morningstar
candles and simmering potpourri for your kitty! Classically,
aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils. Essential
oils are extracted from the flowers, leaves, stems, roots, seeds
and bark of many different plants, and while their most
obvious property is that they are aromatic, it is these "oils"
which act as the plant's immune system- fighting off bacteria,
viruses, yeasts, molds, and other insects.
But there's a big problem here; and that is that cats cannot
tolerate or metabolize essential oils. Their use can lead
to symptoms of toxicity or even death. Why can cats not
tolerate the oils? There are several reasons. The major one is
that they cannot metabolize them the way that dogs or humans
can. (they also cannot metabolize certain herbs or allopathic
meds, either) This means that they are not efficiently excreted
by the body and can build up to toxic levels.
Symptoms of toxicity include vomiting, dizziness, clumsiness,
lack of appetite and lack of energy. The next one is that cats have
very thin, delicate skin. This means that essential oils can be
absorbed more rapidly into their skin and enter the bloodstream.
Cats also dislike strong odors and generally keep away from
strong scents- even highly diluted essential oils.
I have run into several instances where cat owners almost killed
their cats even by using just one drop of essential oil on their
paws or belly, or diffusing them in the area where the litter box
was located. Neither the owners or the vets knew what had
happened- they just thought it to be a "mystery poisoning"
which could not be detected. Luckily, their cats spent several
days at the vet receiving fluids, and did not suffer any
permanent health problems as a result.
I am sure that many instances such as this happen every day,
as there are many cat products out there which do contain
essential oils. Shampoos, coat sprays, ear cleaners, rechargeable
flea collars and herbal dips. Many companies refer to essential
oils as "oil" (as in "Clove oil") or "herbal oils". Please read
labels carefully and pass on the word about the potential dangers
of essential oils for cats- too many people are unaware of the
What is safe, then? A by-product of essential oil production
is "hydrosols" (also called "hydrolats") Hydrosols are what
is left after the essential oils are distilled from plant matter.
Basically, the plant matter is put in a still, on top of a mesh
screen, and there is water below which is heated to steam. The
oil phase of the plant matter is taken from the plant with steam,
condensed and moved to another container (this is the essential
oil). You are then left with the steam itself- which has passed
through the plant matter and is now rich with the water soluble
parts of the plant's chemistry. This steam condenses, and you
are left with the hydrosol.
If you want to use aromatherapy for your cat, hydrosols are
your only safe option. Hydrosols are wonderful because
cats CAN tolerate them with no problems, no toxicity. They
can be spritzed on the cat for deodorizing or flea and tick
control, used as ear cleaners or calming agents. They are not
concentrated as EO's are and do not require the careful
thought and dilution which essential oil use does.
Hydrosols are delicately scented, and are excellent for the skin.
They have strong anti-inflammatory properties due to high
levels of carboxylic acids. They are also soothing and act as
gentle antiseptics. They are so gentle that even a human baby
can be bathed in a bath of hydrosol. They are excellent for
use for puppies, cats and kittens and rabbits and ferrets. They
are also believed to carry the vibrational energy of the plant,
working in subtle ways on the emotions, as the Bach Flower
You can easily mix and match various hydrosols for various
uses in caring for your cat. Hydrosols have similar effects
as the herbs themselves do. For instance, Roman chamomile
hydrosol is very soothing and excellent for skin healing.
Lavender hydrosol is good for burns, or for calming a cat.
Rose hydrosol is great for sensitive skin, rashes, irritations.
You can blend hydrosols together and form delightful smelling
blends which you can use rest assured that they are perfectly
safe for your cat. I guess I am saying that there is no way you
can make a mistake with hydrosols! Hydrosols are inexpensive
in comparison to essential oils- so you can "play" with them
and come up with your own recipes. For instance, an ear
cleaner might contain lavender and roman chamomile hydrosol,
while a calming spritz might contain rose, lavender and neroli
(orange blossom) hydrosols. Any hydrosol can be used as a
deodorizing spritz spray for your cat or in your home.
The most useful hydrosol of all is Witch Hazel Water. It is an
anti-inflammatory whose power parallels that of topical steroid
preparations. Why use steroids when you can use witch hazel?
Just make sure you get it in a formula with no ALCOHOL
added. You may have to search, but it does exist.
Other hydrosols are Rose, Neroli, Rosemary, Roman
Chamomile, Linden, Myrtle, Lavender, Geranium and Bay
Laurel. Hydrosols are best kept refrigerated, unless you add
a touch of vodka to the bottle to help preserve it. Vodka is
all natural, does not sting as isopropyl alcohol does, and is a
wonderful preservative, toner and astringent- not to mention
antiseptic. Hydrosols should be kept in tightly closed bottles,
away from heat and direct sunlight.
Make sure you are getting a "hydrosol" or "hydrolat" or
"steam distillate waters". Some companies add synthetics to
water and sell it as "Rose Water" or "Orange Blossom Water".
Sometimes they add Essential Oils to the water as well and sell
it as a floral water. But this is not good- you don't want the
Essential oils- you want the steam distillate waters - the
An excellent source for high quality hydrosols is Original
Swiss Aromatics, in San Rafael California (415-479-9121).
When you buy hydrosols, try to get them from a source
which you trust, which deals in therapeutic grade essential oils
for aromatherapy purposes. They will most surely carry high
quality, authentic hydrosols.
For those of you who want to use hydrosols and aromatherapy
but are not yet ready to go out and buy the hydrosols and
blend products yourself, I have an entire line of hydrosol based
products for cats. They can be found at www.aromaleigh.com,
or you can call me toll free at 877-894-2283, if you have any
questions or would like to receive a catalog.
Kristen Leigh Bell
President, Aromaleigh Inc.
Holistic Aromatherapy for Canines, Felines and Humans
Member, National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy
Courtesy of Faith Starlight via Everley Pritchard
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