Is Vanilla Essential Oil Safe For Cats?

Essential oils find many uses in the home these days. They have great medicinal benefits for a plethora of diseases and illnesses.

From promoting healthy sleep to alleviating pain and relieving headaches, essential oils can do them all.

 They are also utilized in cleaning agents and sprays for their disinfecting and aromatic properties respectively.

Unfortunately, not all essential oils are safe to use around pets.

If you have cats, dogs, hamsters, or reptiles at home, you have to vet everything you bring through the door.

Some of these oils have toxic properties that can endanger pets.

If you have cats, the stakes are even higher for you. The little creatures can be highly sensitive than other animals.

So, is vanilla essential oil is okay for your kitty? We’ll find out shortly.

What Is Vanilla Essential Oil?

Vanilla is arguably the most recognizable and popular flavor and scent across the planet. It is also one of the most sought after for its endless benefits.

Typically, pure Vanilla oil is an aromatic compound derived from the Vanilla plant that belongs to the orchid family.

The plant produces long seedpods called vanilla beans containing aromatic compounds.

Sadly, the process of growing the plant and extracting the essence is rather long and tiresome. Because of this, the vanilla scent is mostly produced with synthetic chemicals.

Vanilla Essential Oil Is Not What You Think It Is

Here’s a shocker– there’s no such thing as a vanilla essential oil.

The definition of essential oil is an aromatic compound derived from plants through extraction techniques such as cold-pressing, steam distillation, and an expeller.

What this means is that it has to be extracted physically—without any solvent.

 If you understand vanilla beans too well, you probably know that none of the extraction methods work with them.

The pods cannot tolerate the heat needed for steam distillation. On the other hand, mechanical pressing produces no oil.

So with vanilla essential oil, you are looking at a scent produced through the CO2 extraction process or via a solvent such as ethanol.

The oil is available in the following forms:

  • Vanilla Extract: This is the most common method where vanilla beans are soaked in alcohol and left for months to extract the flavor.
  • Vanilla Absolute: This one looks like essential oils but it is extracted through solvent extraction.
  • Vanilla Oleoresin: Although it looks like essential oil, Vanilla Oleoresin is a semi-solid resin derived from vanilla beans.

Is It Safe For Cats?

Cats and essential oils don’t mix very well. According to Pet Poison Helpline, these aromatic compounds have toxic substances that pose a risk to the health of your fur baby.

This is because they are absorbed into the body rapidly through the skin and metabolized in the lover.

Unfortunately, cats don’t have the right enzymes to digest some toxins in the organic constituents.

Additionally, kitties cannot handle phenols and phenolic compounds found in certain essential oils.

Although Vanilla is not an essential oil, it has the same properties as the rest of them.

The extract may be even worse as it has about 35% alcohol. Unless you get the pure form (which is ridiculously expensive), the oil may not be safe around your kitty.

Alcohol is highly toxic to cats. It affects their central nervous systems causing drowsiness, respiratory failure, incoordination, and even death.

Besides having some alcohol, vanilla oil may have other solvents or other compounds that may cause harm to a cat.

One of the biggest is Vanillin—the organic compound that makes up the oil. This is basically a phenolic aldehyde with functional groups being hydroxyl, aldehyde, and ether.

As mentioned, cats can be sensitive to phenols and phenolic acids. Since you don’t know whether yours is one of them or not, it is wise to not use anything with it around your pet.

The bottom line is that vanilla essential oil is not the safest oil for cats. Granted, your kitty can get away with small concentrations but why take that risk?

What if she’s sensitive around anything with alcohol and alcoholic compounds?

The best thing would be to use the oil when your kitty is outside.

Lucky for you, there are a few oils that some cats can tolerate including lavender, helichrysum, copaiba, and frankincense.

As long as you diffuse them in rooms with open windows or doors, your cat should be okay. If the scent becomes too strong for her, she can rush outside for some fresh air.

Parting Thoughts

There it is – the answer to the question of whether vanilla essential oil is safe for cats or not. As a cat parent, it is in the best interest of your fur baby to not use the oil around them. This means applying it topically, diffusing it, feeding it, and so on. Other oils are much safer. Use those instead.