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Can the use of a diffuser be considered safe when you have pets in the household?

Updated: Mar 6

Using a diffuser when you have pets can be safe, but there are considerations to keep in mind. Some essential oils can be harmful to animals, especially cats and dogs, as they may have a heightened sensitivity to certain compounds. Pets can also react differently based on their species, age, and health conditions.

Here are some general tips to ensure the safety of using a diffuser around pets:

  1. Research Pet-Friendly Essential Oils: Use essential oils that are considered safe for pets. Some oils, such as lavender and chamomile, are generally well-tolerated, but it's crucial to verify each oil's safety.

  2. Dilution: When using a diffuser, ensure that the concentration of essential oils is appropriately diluted. Strong concentrations can be overwhelming for pets.

  3. Ventilation: Ensure that the room is well-ventilated, allowing your pet to move away from the area if they find the scent uncomfortable.

  4. Observe Your Pet: Monitor your pet's behavior when you first use the diffuser. If you notice any signs of distress or discomfort, consider discontinuing use.

  5. Consult Your Vet: Before using a diffuser or specific essential oils, consult with your veterinarian, especially if your pet has pre-existing health conditions.

  6. Use Pet-Safe Diffusers: Some diffusers are specifically designed for households with pets. These diffusers disperse oils in a way that minimizes direct contact with animals.

Always prioritize the well-being of your pets, and if in doubt, consult with a veterinarian for personalized advice based on your pet's individual needs and health status.

Choosing the right Diffuser

Active Diffusers

Active diffusers emit particles of the oil into the air creating a light mist. These include humidifiers and vaporisers, glass nebulisers and ultrasonic diffusers. This mist may land on furniture, bedding or your pet's coat and be ingested while grooming.


Passive Diffusers

Passive diffusers include reed or evaporative diffusers, candle, or heat diffusers. They emit a less intense aromatic scent as there is no mechanism forcing the essential oil into the air.



If people want to burn or vaporise essential oils in their homes, it is always best to use dilute solutions in well-ventilated spaces; and of course, avoid the oils listed below where possible. As long as owners can prevent their pets from lying immediately next to or under the diffuser for long periods of time.

In conclusion, while both can be dangerous, active diffusers are the most concerning for our pets. [But] like with people, all pets are different — toxicity can also be species dependant.

Different ways pets can be exposed

It's not just the species of pet you have, but also the way in which they are exposed to the oil that can be critical.

Ingesting oils orally: Ingesting oils orally is a definite no-no. Compounds contained in essential oils can cause chemical burns to the inside of the mouth or the oesophagus, as well as cause toxicity when they make their way into the pets' body.

Inhaling oils: Inhaling essential oils can cause respiratory problems in pets as the small airborne particles can irritate the respiratory system. Pets with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis are at greater risk of developing respiratory distress.

"The Animal Poisons Helpline has received several calls regarding small dogs and cats that have become lethargic and unsteady on their feet after being in enclosed spaces with diffusers for prolonged periods of time."

Directly onto a pet's skin: Putting essential oils directly on the skin can cause chemical burns or irritation to the skin. It also increases the likelihood that the pet will ingest the oil as they will most likely lick it off. For birds, applying essential oils topically can result in death.


What about other types of fragrance?

Any artificial fragrance can be dangerous to pets. As the chemical ingredients could be toxic if inhaled, ingested, or lands on the skin. This includes fragrant candles, stick diffusers or plug-ins.

Passive diffusers are generally considered a safer option around the house with pets, but still recommends you chat with your vet prior to use.

What to look out for — Signs of essential oil toxicity

One of the greatest risks of essential oils to cats and dogs is respiratory irritation.

Respiratory irritation can present as:

  • Watery eyes and nose,

  • Throat and nose irritation/burning,

  • Nausea causing drooling and/or vomiting,

    • Breathing difficulties shown by labored breathing, increased breathing rate, 

  panting, coughing or wheezing.


 If you notice any of these, is to move your pet into fresh air, however if symptoms persist, or you're concerned, consult your vet as quickly as possible.



Cats – Toxic Essential Oils

Cats lack the essential enzymes in their liver to metabolize and eliminate the chemical compounds in essential oils.

Therefore, all essential oils have the potential to be toxic to cats. Oils are particularly toxic to cats include:


Cinnamon                                                  Lavender

Cassia                                                         Eucalyptus

Citrus (lemon, lime, orange)                  Peppermint

Clove                                                          Pine oils

Bergamot                                                   Spruce

Basil                                                           Tea Tree

Grapefruit                                                  Thyme

Geranium                                                   Wintergreen       

Oregano                                                     Ylang Ylang                                 



Dogs– Toxic Essential Oils

Dogs do not have the same enzyme deficiency, but they can still be at risk of irritation or toxicity due to the concentrated nature of essential oils.

It’s Best to avoid these essential oils below.



Clove                                                       Rosemary

Eucalyptus                                              Tea Tree                      

Garlic                                                      Thyme

Geranium                                                Wintergreen          

Juniper                                                    Ylang Ylang

Pine Oils                                                                                         


  For all our feathered friends, it is best to

  avoid the use of essential oils around them altogether.

Birds are particularly sensitive to any inhaled fumes, they can become very sick or die even with low exposure to essential oils and artificial fragrances.

Here are some excellent recipes to discourage your pets from going to certain places.


CAT REPELLENT As a cat owner, you know there’s nothing better than cuddling up with your cat, especially after a long day at work. But there are some places you may not want your cat to be, like on your furniture. Not only will your furniture get covered with fur, but it can also become torn up by your kitty’s claws.

Because cats are unpredictable animals that like to jump and climb, it can be tricky to come up with a good way to keep them off your tables, chairs, beds, and other pieces of furniture. Here is a natural spray with essential oils that can do the trick. MOST IMPORTANT – Never , ever spray your cat with it nor where they sleep.

Recipe#1  Vinegar Repellent

  • I mix 2 oz apple cider vinegar and 2 oz water or any equal parts.

  • I fill a spray bottle with this mixture.

  • I test the spray on a small area of fabric first.

  • I spray the repellent where cats are unwelcome.

  • I replace the vinegar with citrus oil mixed with water for a pleasant scent.

To keep cats out of my space using the apple cider vinegar and water mix, I start by grabbing a spray bottle and combining equal parts of apple cider vinegar and water. This makes the preparation process really straight forward and economical. I make sure to test the repellent on a small piece of fabric to check it doesn’t stain.

Once I’m sure it’s safe, I lightly spray it around the areas where I want to deter cats. If I want a more pleasant scent, I replace the vinegar with citrus oil, such as 20 drops of orange or 20 drops lemongrass, mixed with 4 oz water, which also effectively repels cats with its strong smell. The beauty of this solution is that it’s quick to make, and I can use it generously in multiple locations.

Cotton balls soaked in essential oils can also be placed in the areas you want to keep off limits. Never spray essential oils directly onto your cat, as the oils can be harmful when absorbed through their skin.

Recipe#2  Citrus Essential Oil Repellent

  • 2 drops lemon essential oil

  • 2 drops orange essential oil

  • 2 drops lavender essential oil

  • 2 oz Distilled Water

Use a 2 oz spray bottle and mix water and oils together, apply the cat repellent to areas that you want to discourage cats from visiting. It works well if you have house plants that you want to keep cats away from. Be careful spraying the repellent on carpeting, curtains, or other fabrics because the oils may stain the material. Test it on an inconspicuous spot on the fabric to ensure that the spray won’t damage it.


Recipe#3  Citrus Peel Repellent

  • 2 cups (473 ml) water

  • 1 cup (96 g) orange, lemon, lime, and/or tangerine peels

  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) lemon juice

  • Lemon-scented dish soap

Add 2 cups (473 ml) water to a medium pot. Heat the water over medium-high to high heat until it comes to a boil, which should take 5 to 7 minutes. Because you’re boiling it, tap water is fine for the repellent. Once the water comes to a boil, add 1 cup (96 g) of orange, lemon, lime, and/or tangerine peels to the pot. Lower the heat to medium and allow the mixture to simmer for 20 minutes. 

Cat dislike citrus scents, so any combination of orange, lemon, lime, and/or tangerine peels that totals a cup (96 g) will work for the repellent. If the mixture begins to boil again, lower the heat. After the mixture has simmered for 20 minutes, take the pot off the heat. Let the mixture cool completely, which should take approximately 30 minutes, before transferring it to a spray bottle. 

If the citrus peels are in large chunks, you can strain them out of the mixture so it’s easier to pour into the bottle. After you’ve thoroughly mixed the ingredients, spray the mixture in any area of your house that you want to keep cats out of. You can apply it to floors, walls, and even furniture. To be safe, it’s best to test the repellent on an inconspicuous spot-on fabric-covered items to ensure that the ingredients won’t damage the material.


Recipe #1 Essential Oil Balls 

Do you want your dog to stay off of your furniture? Essential oils may be the answer! Here are some of the most effective essential oils to keep dogs off furniture: lavender, lemon, orange, lemongrass and peppermint. Each of these oils has a different scent that can repel dogs. If you’re unsure which oil to use, try placing a few drops of each on a cotton ball and placing it near the furniture. If your dog starts to get close, smell the cotton ball and follow its direction.

Recipe #2 Apple Cider Vinegar Spray features a strong scent and an unpleasant bitter/sour taste, so it should stop your dog from chewing whatever you spray it on. It also won’t hurt them if they give it a little lick. It’s my top choice.

Mix one part apple cider vinegar to five parts water in a spray bottle. Test on a small, hidden area to ensure it doesn’t damage the material. Apply the mixture to the furniture your dog chews or cat scratches. Reapply as needed. Avoid spraying directly on your dog or cat.

Recipe #3 Soap Repellent

Nobody likes the taste of soap. Yuck! And our dogs are even more sensitive to taste and smell than we are. Test a natural unscented soap bar on a small hidden area of the furniture. Rub the soap on the area your dog chews. Reapply once a week or so. Avoid scented or antibacterial soaps that may irritate your dog’s mouth.

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