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Do Cats Like Lavender – Safety Concerns & More

As a cat owner, you may have wondered what plants are safe to have in your home and garden. After all, you want your kitty to be secure and happy in their environment. As lavender has long been linked with relaxation in humans, you may have considered getting a lavender plant. In doing so, you have probably wondered; do cats like lavender? 

Generally, cats do not like lavender. Cats find the scent of lavender unappealing, and it is considered a natural deterrent.

In this article, we will explain whether cats hate the smell of lavender or if lavender has a calming effect on cats. We will also discuss whether using lavender candles and essential oils are appropriate in a feline home before examining if lavender plants themselves are safe for cats.  

Do Cats Hate The Smell Of Lavender

Some cats do hate the smell of lavender. The scent of lavender can irritate a cat’s sensitive nasal passage and olfactory system.

A cat’s nose is much more sensitive than ours. A cat’s sense of smell is said to be 14 times stronger than that of a human. This is because cats have 200 million scent receptors (humans have 5 million).

Cats have more of the scent receptor responsible for distinguishing different scents (V1R) than dogs. Cats have approximately 30 intact V1Rs compared to a dog’s 9.

Cats use their noses all the time to maintain their safety. They can detect subtle differences between smells and use that information to detect threats.

You may have observed your cat ‘breathing’ through their mouth. This is called the ‘Flehman Response.’ 

When using the ‘Flehman Response,’ your cat is trying to focus and read a particular scent that they have picked up by filtering the scent through their vomeronasal organ. The vomeronasal organ gives sensory information in high definition. 

With all of these super-sensitive receptors in a cat’s olfactory system, the pungent smell of lavender can not only be irritating, but it can mask the scent of a threat. Therefore, some cats do not like lavender because it makes them feel unsafe. 

Does Lavender Have A Calming Effect On Cats

For the cats that dislike lavender, the herb does not have a calming effect on them. It can have the opposite effect on some cats.

Lavender contains linalool and linalyl acetate. These compounds are toxic to cats because cats do not have the enzyme to process linalool and linalyl acetate. 

As cats use their nose to detect danger, they may be able to smell that lavender is potentially dangerous to them and will avoid lavender if they can.

However, the lavender plant itself poses less of a threat to cats. This is why you will see some cats asleep or next to a lavender bush. If this is the case, it is feasible that the lavender plant is exuding a calming scent to the cat. Some aromatherapists believe minute amounts of lavender can be calming to cats.

If you would like a plant to calm your cat, consider valerian or catnip. However, be advised that catnip can also stimulate cats, as well as relax them. 

Before you administer any aromatherapy to your cat, consult a veterinarian to ensure that you will not be doing more harm than good.

Can I Burn A Lavender Candle Around Cats

It is generally not recommended to burn any candles near cats. However, if you wish to burn a lavender candle, you must take every precaution and monitor your cat for signs of discomfort. 

Candles pose hazards at the best of times. Cats are notoriously curious creatures, and a candle should be kept well out of reach to avoid burns, singed whiskers, or a house fire.

Burning a scented candle, such as lavender, could irritate the delicate olfactory system of your cat. As mentioned, some cats are more sensitive than others to lavender. 

If you want to burn a lavender candle, be sure to keep it well away from your cat. If you are unsure about using a paraffin candle, opt for a beeswax or soya wax candle. But, primarily, monitor your cat for signs of discomfort and extinguish the candle if need be.  

Is Lavender Essential Oil Safe For Cats

Lavender essential oil is not safe for cats. Lavender essential oil is up to 2,000 times stronger than a lavender plant. 

Both the ASPCA and the RSPCA list lavender as toxic to cats. Do not use any essential oil on your cat as the high concentration of linalool and linalyl acetate is toxic to cats.

If you have lavender essential oil on your hands and then pet your cat, you will transfer residue to your cat’s coat. Your cat will then consume that residue when they groom themselves. Additionally, cats have thin skin, and they will absorb the lavender essential oil. 

Vaporizers and aerosols pose issues for cats as they inhale the lavender droplets and absorb the toxins into their systems. 

Whether vaporized or consumed, lavender essential oil can cause gastrointestinal upset, liver damage, drooling, loss of appetite, lethargy, and respiratory issues. 

Depending on how much has been consumed, gastro symptoms can be seen within three hours. Liver and kidney damage will be seen after blood tests have been conducted. 

If you believe you have transferred lavender essential oil to your cats’ fur, bathe your cat in clean water. If you think your cat has inhaled lavender essential oil fumes, ensure that they have fresh air to breathe, well away from the lavender product. 

Should your cat exhibit any of the symptoms of lavender toxicity, you should seek advice from a veterinarian immediately.

Are Lavender Plants Safe For Cats

Lavender plants can be unsafe for cats. The lavender plant itself will cause nausea when ingested. Flowers and leaves of lavender plants still contain toxins for cats. A considerable amount would need to be consumed to cause serious injury.

With that in mind, if you think there is a chance your kitty might decide to have a snack on a lavender plant, it is best to remove the plant well out of Kitty’s way.

Things To Consider  

As with anything, very young, elderly, or sick cats are more vulnerable. While a little bit of lavender may not harm your healthy two-year-old cat, you may not find the same if your other cat is sick or elderly. 

Lavender essential oil is not the only essential oil to pose a health risk to your cat. If you cannot keep any essential oils away from your cat, it is best not to have any in your home. 

If your cat is sensitive to lavender, you may also want to avoid skin topicals that contain lavender. Wearing these products may stop your cat from approaching you.  

Do not be alarmed if you see your cat doing the ‘Flehman Response.’ This is a natural reaction and does not hurt or alarm your cat in any way. 

Many modern scented candles are made with paraffin wax. Studies have been inconclusive in confirming whether indoor air quality is affected when burning paraffin candles, but it is possible the chemicals released could irritate your cat. 

If you have decided to remove all traces of lavender from your home because you are concerned about your cat, remember that potpourri often contains dried lavender. 

If you are ever in doubt about using lavender products in your home, consult a veterinarian.