Does Peppermint Oil Pose a Danger to Cats?


The purpose of this article is to explore whether peppermint oil is safe for cats. Peppermint oil has gained popularity in recent years for its invigorating scent and therapeutic properties when used by humans. As a result, some cat owners may consider using peppermint oil around their feline companions or even giving it to them directly. However, it’s important to understand that peppermint oil can be toxic to cats when used improperly.

Peppermint oil contains menthol, which is known to be poisonous to cats when ingested or inhaled in concentrated amounts. Even small amounts applied topically can be absorbed into a cat’s skin. Peppermint oil should never be given internally to cats. In certain situations, exposure to peppermint oil can cause significant health issues for cats. By reviewing the potential risks and proper usage guidelines, cat owners can make informed decisions about whether and how to use peppermint oil safely around their pets.

What Is Peppermint Oil?

Peppermint oil is an essential oil extracted from the peppermint plant (Mentha piperita). It contains menthol, which gives it a strong minty aroma and flavor. Peppermint oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties (1).

The oil is extracted from the leaves and flowering tops of the peppermint plant through a process called steam distillation. This method uses steam to extract the essential oil from the plant. The menthol content is what distinguishes peppermint oil from other mint oils. Peppermint oil contains 50-70% menthol (2).

Peppermint oil has been used for health purposes for many years. It has applications in food, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and aromatherapy. Some of the main components of peppermint oil are menthol, menthone and menthyl acetate (3).


Uses of Peppermint Oil for Humans

Peppermint oil has a variety of uses for humans. Some of the most common uses include:

Aromatherapy – Peppermint essential oil is popularly used in aromatherapy. The menthol in peppermint oil triggers cold receptors, creating a cooling sensation on the skin that is both energizing and relaxing ( Peppermint oil can be inhaled, applied topically, or used with a diffuser.

Flavoring – Peppermint oil is popularly used as a food flavoring. It provides a minty flavor and cooling sensation. Peppermint oil can be found in candies, chewing gums, ice creams, and more (

Skin Care – Peppermint oil is added to some cosmetic products like soaps and shampoos for its skin cooling effect and pleasant scent. Some people also dilute and apply it topically to soothe skin irritation or itchiness.

Supplements – Peppermint oil capsules are sometimes used to aid digestion. However, evidence on its efficacy is limited (

Can Cats Safely Ingest Peppermint Oil?

No, cats cannot safely ingest peppermint oil. Peppermint oil contains menthol, which cats lack the liver enzymes to properly metabolize (1). When ingested by cats, even small amounts of peppermint oil can be toxic.

Ingestion of peppermint oil by cats can cause a number of dangerous symptoms, including muscle tremors, difficulty walking, agitation, lethargy, anorexia, hypersalivation, rapid breathing and heart rate (2). Peppermint oil ingestion can also cause hypothermia and liver problems in cats.

Some common household products that contain peppermint oil and should be kept away from cats include:

  • Essential oils
  • Candles
  • Potpourri
  • Tea tree oil treatments
  • Mint dental products

Even small ingestions can be dangerous, so it’s important to prevent access to any products containing peppermint oil. Always keep these products sealed and stored safely away from cats (3).




Topical Uses of Peppermint Oil on Cats

Some owners are interested in using diluted peppermint oil topically on their cats for potential benefits like repelling insects. However, there are risks to be aware of when using peppermint oil topically on cats.

Peppermint oil can be irritating to a cat’s skin, especially in undiluted form. According to the ASPCA, undiluted peppermint oil should never be applied to a cat’s skin as it can cause chemical burns. Even when diluted, peppermint oil still carries a risk of skin irritation in cats.[1]

There is also a danger if a cat grooms or licks peppermint oil off their fur after topical application. The phenols in peppermint oil can be toxic to cats when ingested, even in small amounts. For this reason, the ASPCA advises avoiding using peppermint oil topically on cats.[2]

If owners still wish to try using peppermint oil topically on a cat, extreme dilution is required for safety. A maximum of 1 drop of peppermint essential oil per ounce of neutral carrier oil is recommended. Application should be limited to a small area of fur, avoiding sensitive areas. Owners should monitor the cat closely and discontinue use if any irritation develops.[3]

Using Peppermint Oil Around Cats

Peppermint oil should be kept out of reach of cats. According to, cats can be sensitive to the menthol in peppermint oil and exposure can cause respiratory distress.

Diffusing low concentrations of peppermint oil in a well-ventilated area is unlikely to cause harm to cats. However, it’s best to avoid diffusing peppermint oil around cats as a precaution. According to, cats have a stronger sense of smell than humans and even ambient exposure can cause irritation.

There are some risks of ambient exposure to peppermint oil for cats. The menthol can be irritating to a cat’s sensitive respiratory system. Cats may experience breathing issues, coughing, sneezing or runny noses. Topical exposure can irritate their skin, eyes and mouth. It’s best to avoid using peppermint oil in any form around cats.

Signs of Peppermint Oil Poisoning

Peppermint oil contains menthol, which is toxic to cats if ingested or absorbed through the skin in large quantities. Owners should watch for symptoms like drooling, vomiting, lack of coordination, tremors, lethargy, and difficulty breathing, which can indicate menthol poisoning (wikiHow).

Menthol poisoning presents similarly to a wide range of conditions, so owners may notice nonspecific symptoms at first. However, as toxicity increases, cats may show neurological symptoms like wobbling, muscle tremors, and seizures. Gastrointestinal signs like excessive salivation and vomiting are also common.

If a cat is showing any symptoms of menthol poisoning, owners should call their veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center immediately. Peppermint oil toxicity can rapidly become life-threatening without prompt veterinary treatment. Cats may need medications, IV fluids, oxygen therapy, and other supportive care to recover (VetMeds). The sooner treatment begins, the better the prognosis.

Treating Peppermint Oil Poisoning

If a cat has ingested peppermint oil, quick action is required to treat poisoning and prevent lasting damage. Some steps to treat peppermint oil poisoning include:

Inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal may help absorb and expel some of the ingested oil before it is absorbed into the bloodstream (source). Vomiting should be induced within 2 hours of ingestion if the cat is alert.

Supportive veterinary care like IV fluids, anti-nausea medications, and monitoring of blood cell counts and liver enzymes. Detox treatments may be used in severe cases (source).

Prognosis depends on how much oil was ingested and how quickly treatment was administered. Small ingestions often recover within 2-3 days with treatment. Larger ingestions or delayed treatment can cause severe liver damage and secondary problems (source).

Safer Alternative Oils

There are some alternative essential oils that are safer for use around cats when properly diluted. According to PetMD, the following essential oils are generally considered safe for cats: cedarwood, chamomile, copaiba, frankincense, and turmeric. However, these oils should always be diluted before use on or around cats.

Cat-safe essential oils should be diluted to 0.5-1% for topical use. This means mixing 5-10 drops of essential oil per 1 ounce of carrier oil like coconut or almond oil. Oils should never be applied directly or undiluted on cats. When diffusing essential oils around cats, aim for a lower concentration around 0.5%. Always monitor your cat for signs of respiratory distress when diffusing.

It’s important to note that just because an oil is “natural” does not mean it is inherently safe for cats. Certain oils may still cause toxic reactions in some cats. Introduce any new oil slowly and carefully watch your cat’s reaction.


In summary, peppermint oil can be very toxic and dangerous to cats if used improperly. The main takeaway is that peppermint oil should never be applied directly on a cat’s skin or fur. It also should not be diffused or used topically in areas where cats spend time, as it can be toxic if ingested or inhaled in high concentrations. Always consult your veterinarian before considering using any essential oil in the vicinity of pet cats.

With proper precautions and care, peppermint oil can likely be used safely on occasion around cats. But it is critical to minimize exposure and monitor for any possible side effects. By being aware of the substantial risks involved with peppermint oil, cat owners can make informed decisions to protect the health of their feline companions. Provided it is kept completely away from direct contact or consumption, infrequent diffusing of small amounts of peppermint likely poses minimal risk. However, any appearance of respiratory distress, drooling, muscle tremors, or uncoordinated movement after exposure requires immediate veterinary assistance.

Awareness of the potential dangers allows for the safe, occasional use of peppermint oil in areas where cats are present. But alternative oils pose far less toxicity risk. When in doubt, avoid using peppermint oil around cats altogether. Their health and safety should always come first.

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