Is Peppermint Oil Safe For Cats? What Are The Dangers Of It?
It so happened one Christmas that the author’s dog was a little, well, the polite word is “flatulent”. He, perhaps, had more leftovers than was really good for him and holiday visitors just couldn’t resist those big brown eyes. I decided to see if feeding him a peppermint candy cane would silence this little problem. I crushed the cane up to make sure it had no pointy bits. Troubles gobbled it right up and his loud and smelly ailment was eased.
While this is good news for dog owners, cat owners must remember that a cat is not a dog. A cat’s system is very different from a dog’s. If you find peppermint fixes Fido’s flatulence and fleas, you may fancy that following fairly with Fluffy is feasible. This factor is false. If your cat has flatulence problems you should read this article about solving this problem.
What is Peppermint?
The plant known as Mentha piperita is a hybrid of watermint and spearmint. And is cultivated throughout the world. It has a high menthol content and thus the oil is high in menthyl acetate. The high concentration of pulegon makes it popular as an organic pesticide.
Traditionally, it is used medicinally to treat minor ailments such as irritable bowels and topically to relieve itches and muscular aches. In aromatherapy, it’s used to enhance memory and alertness. In the language of flowers, it symbolizes hospitality and wisdom. Show wisdom and hospitality to your cat by not subjecting them to peppermint.
The menthol activates cold-sensitive receptors in the skin. Where humans might feel a slight, localized chill, a cat will feel a spine tingling freeze. Don’t subject Kitty to this. Cats don’t need peppermint and they don’t even like the smell, flavor or even touch of it. It is useless at best and deadly at worst to subject your cat to peppermint.
Peppermint and Fleas
The type of flea that feeds particularly on cats, Ctenocephalides felis, is smaller than the dog flea and may be more difficult to notice. It is also a voracious flea that can suck a kitten dry until the poor thing dies of anemia. It is also prolific, a single female laying as much as fifty eggs per day. This can quickly lead to a very itchy and uncomfortable cat.
Peppermint oil is often used as a natural flea killer that attacks the flea’s nervous system, subjecting them to a long and painful death. (Don’t you just weep for the little bloodsuckers?) Keep in mind “natural” doesn’t mean “safe”. Even poison ivy can be called natural.
Peppermint oil simply is not good for cats in any form. It must not be ingested, inhaled or applied topically. Many cats express dislike for the smell of peppermint and may not even want it. If your cat has a mild flea infestation, a comb through with a stiff comb dipped in water and non-toxic liquid dish detergent could fix things.
Your veterinarian can suggest medications, both topical and oral, that will help your cat. To further deter flea infestations, you can have your furry friend wear a collar treated with flumethrin and imidacloprid.
Why Peppermint is Bad for Your Cat
People love the smell of peppermint. It reminds people of merry Christmases and freshly brushed teeth. Your cat does not share your sense of smell. She has twice as many olfactory nerves as you do. The smell of peppermint is overpowering for her and with very good reason. Inhaling peppermint can cause Kitty to develop aspiration pneumonia.
They may try to rid the inhaled oil from their system by coughing and sneezing. If your cat coughs and sneezes to the point her breathing is laboured and she has a fever and increased heart rate, take her to the vet immediately.
A cat’s skin is very thin and delicate. Rubbing anything into their skin can get it easily introduced to the bloodstream. Add to this the fact that cats often lick themselves can mean anything applied topically can quickly become introduced orally. Peppermint can affect your cat’s gastrointestinal system, but not in a good way.
The liver and central nervous system can be adversely affected. If your cat is drooling, has no appetite or lethargic to unresponsive, she may be experiencing a bad reaction to peppermint and needs to go to a veterinarian right away.
Alternatives to Peppermint
Essential oils such as peppermint are high in phenols that cats cannot metabolize properly. While peppermint is not exactly toxic, a little bit can go a long way. Sometimes too long. If peppermint is used at all it should only be under a veterinarian’s observation. Even then, chances are good that your vet will recommend another more practical cure for what ails Kitty.
Listen to your veterinarian’s instructions. She will tell you what is in your cat’s best interests. Not only will cures be suggested, but you can learn how best to care for your cat so that she won’t need a cure to begin with.
Rosemary and lemon grass are natural and harmless to cats, but many cats despise the smell. If your cat wouldn’t mind being misted, mix one part water to one part apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz Kitty with that. A half teaspoon of brewer’s yeast at a mealtime can help. If your cat will tolerate the smell of eucalyptus, a bit of this can convince fleas to go elsewhere.
If Kitty is making embarrassing little toots, make sure first there’s not a more serious underlying problem. Otherwise, this minor problem can be safely treated with activated charcoal and yucca schidigera and making sure Kitty doesn’t eat what she’s not supposed to. If Kitty has a mild skin irritation or a hairball problem, a tiny bit of coconut oil might prove helpful. No more than a quarter or half teaspoon per day is recommended.
Keep in mind that what might work for yourself or a dog might not work on the more delicate system of a cat. Subjecting your cat to peppermint brings only discomfort, illness or even death. While it may be tempting to use peppermint as a natural fix for ailments such as stomach pains, skin irritations and fleas there are other viable options.
Peppermint should not be administered to cats in any form. If your cat has been exposed to peppermint (say, she got really curious about that one aromatic ornament on your Christmas tree) she needs immediate veterinary care. Take care of your cat by making sure she only eats healthy food, gets plenty of exercise and isn’t exposed to parasites. Some natural cures may be good for your cat, but peppermint most certainly is not one of them.
- Mentha piperita (peppermint). Herro E1, Jacob SE. Dermatitis. 2010 Nov-Dec;21(6):327-9.
- Final report on the safety assessment of Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf, and Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Water. Nair B1. Int J Toxicol. 2001;20 Suppl 3:61-73.
- The temperature sensitivity of the furred skin of cats D. R. Kenshalo J Physiol. 1964 Aug; 172(3): 439–448.
- Pneumonia Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine