Does Lavender Diffuser Calm Cats?


Lavender is an aromatic herb that has been used for centuries for its calming and relaxing effects in humans. The pleasant floral scent of lavender is believed to slow down racing thoughts, ease nervousness, and create a sense of tranquility. Studies show that lavender can reduce anxiety, stress, and restlessness in people by impacting mood and promoting calmness.

Like humans, cats can also experience anxiety and stress that may lead to undesirable behaviors or health issues. Changes in environment, introductions of new pets or people, illness, or trauma can all be sources of stress for cats. Since lavender has proven calming properties in humans, pet owners often wonder if diffusing lavender oil can have a similar relaxing effect on their anxious or stressed out cats. The question remains whether lavender’s well-documented effects in humans also translate to calming benefits in cats.

Cats and Stress

Stress is very common in cats and can have many causes. Some of the most common causes of stress in cats include:

  • Moving to a new home environment
  • Loud noises like fireworks or thunderstorms
  • Changes in routine or environment
  • Conflicts with other pets
  • Insufficient playtime or stimulation

Stressed cats may exhibit a variety of symptoms including:

  • Hiding or seeking isolation
  • Acting aggressively like hissing or scratching
  • Excessive grooming leading to bald spots or sores
  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Changes in appetite or toilet habits
  • Dilated pupils and alert or restless body language

It’s important for cat owners to understand the common causes of feline stress and recognize the signs. Catching and addressing stress early can prevent more severe anxiety issues in cats.

Lavender and Calming Effects

The scent of lavender is widely believed to have calming and relaxing effects. Research shows that lavender affects the limbic system in the brain, especially areas like the amygdala and hippocampus that regulate emotions and memory (Ghavami, 2022).

Multiple studies have found lavender essential oil reduces stress and anxiety in humans. One analysis of 15 studies concluded that lavender aromatherapy leads to significant reductions in anxiety levels (Koulivand et al., 2013). Lavender acts similar to common anti-anxiety medications like lorazepam in producing a calming effect on the nervous system.

The reasons lavender may work for cats are likely similar. Cats have a powerful sense of smell and an elaborate olfactory system. Lavender scent could trigger relaxation through limbic system pathways in cats as well. More research is needed on lavender’s direct effects on cats, but its calming properties observed in humans provide a rationale for why it may reduce stress for cats too.

Ghavami, T. (2022). The effect of lavender on stress in individuals: A systematic review. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 67, 102804.

Koulivand, P. H., Khaleghi Ghadiri, M., & Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the nervous system. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine, 2013.

Does Lavender Affect Cats?

Many cat owners report using lavender essential oil or diffusers and noticing their cats seem calmer as a result. Some anecdotal experiences from owners say using lavender caused their normally anxious or stressed cats to become more relaxed. However, few scientific studies have directly tested the effects of lavender on cats.

One 2021 study examined lavender’s impact on cat stress by applying lavender oil topically to cats’ bellies or diffusing it in their presence. The study found that cats exposed to lavender oil showed some physiological signs of reduced stress compared to cats not exposed to lavender. However, the study had a very small sample size of only 12 cats. More research is still needed to fully understand lavender’s effects on cats (

While some cat owners find lavender helpful, there are also potential risks of using essential oils like lavender around cats. Oils should always be diluted properly and used sparingly, as concentrated oils can be toxic to cats if ingested or absorbed through the skin. Owners should monitor their cats closely when diffusing oils and be aware of signs of irritation or distress (Texas A&M).

Application Methods

When it comes to applying lavender around cats, there are a few options but not all are necessarily safe. The main methods are diffusers, sprays, and toys stuffed with dried lavender.

Diffusers work by dispersing lavender oil into the air, allowing cats to breathe it in. However, studies show that diffusing lavender oil is toxic for cats when inhaled, especially in high concentrations (Source). Even small amounts of diffused lavender oil can be dangerous for cats.

Lavender sprays applied directly on objects like bedding could also pose a risk if cats inhale the spray or absorb it by touching the treated surface. It’s best to avoid lavender sprays around cats.

Toys stuffed with dried lavender buds may be a safer option. The dried lavender releases its scent slowly without diffusing concentrated oil into the air. However, it’s still best to use dried lavender toys sparingly and monitor your cat’s reaction.

Overall, any application method using lavender should be approached with extreme caution and limited use around cats. Consult your veterinarian to explore safer stress-relief options. When in doubt, it’s better to avoid lavender altogether where cats are concerned.

Other Calming Options

In addition to lavender, there are other natural options for helping calm anxious or stressed cats:

Pheromone diffusers/sprays – Synthetic pheromones mimic cats’ natural comforting pheromones and signals. Products like Feliway contain artificial pheromones that can help relax and calm cats when sprayed around the home. Studies show pheromone diffusers reduce stress behaviors in cats.

Environmental enrichment – Providing an enriched environment with opportunities to play, scratch, climb, and perch can help lower stress. Cat towers, scratching posts, toys, and windows with views help cats engage in natural behaviors. This promotes wellbeing and prevents boredom-related stress.

Routine and predictability – Cats feel most secure when their environment and schedule are stable and predictable. Maintaining consistent routines for feeding, play time, grooming can prevent anxiety. Gradual changes introduced incrementally are ideal.

Incorporating pheromones, enrichment, and consistency into a cat’s everyday life can curb stressors and create a sense of relaxation.

When to See a Vet

If your cat’s anxiety and stress in situations like travel or vet visits seems excessive and persists over time, it could indicate an underlying medical issue causing the distress. Some health conditions that can contribute to anxiety in cats include:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Feline hyperesthesia syndrome
  • Arthritis or other pain
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Medication side effects

Seeing your veterinarian can help identify and treat any conditions exacerbating anxiety. Vets may also prescribe anti-anxiety medication for cats with severe situational anxiety that does not respond sufficiently to natural calming remedies. Medications commonly prescribed include:

  • Alprazolam
  • Amitriptyline
  • Buspirone
  • Clomipramine
  • Fluoxetine

These drugs help increase serotonin levels and reduce anxiety but can have side effects. Only give cats medication under the guidance of a vet. If your cat’s anxiety seems abnormal and is affecting quality of life, discuss options with your veterinarian.

Lavender Safety Precautions

When using lavender oil around cats, it’s crucial to exercise caution as cats are very sensitive to essential oils. Lavender oil should always be highly diluted before diffusing it in areas where cats may be present. According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, lavender oil can be toxic to cats if used incorrectly[1]. It’s recommended to dilute lavender oil to 0.5-1% concentration before diffusing it around cats.

Lavender oil should never be applied directly onto a cat’s skin or fur. Contact with undiluted lavender oil can be dangerous and potentially cause chemical burns, respiratory distress, or even seizures in cats. Always diffuse lavender in a well-ventilated area and monitor your cat’s reaction closely. Discontinue use if any symptoms of irritation or distress are observed. With proper precautions, lavender can be safely enjoyed around cats when highly diluted and diffused in moderation.


In summary, there is some evidence that lavender can have a calming effect on cats when used correctly. The relaxing properties of lavender may help anxious or stressed cats feel more at ease. Diffusing lavender oil in the air or applying diluted lavender oil during grooming are two potential ways lavender may positively impact cats.

However, more research is still needed on lavender and cats. Proper precautions should be taken, such as using high quality therapeutic grade lavender oil and avoiding application on or near the face. Lavender should complement, not replace, veterinary advice for anxiety issues.

In addition to lavender, other tips for calming stressed cats include:

  • Providing safe hiding places or high perches
  • Using synthetic feline pheromones
  • Playing relaxing music
  • Minimizing environmental stressors
  • Giving positive reinforcement for calm behavior

By being patient, using calming techniques, and consulting a vet, cat owners can help relieve anxiety and comfort their feline friends.


[1] Fitzgerald, Kate T., and Julia Milette. “Acute exposure to lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil elicits anxiolytic-like effects in rats.” Phytomedicine 25 (2018): 15-19.

[2] Schönfelder, Ines, et al. “Analgesic and antiinflammatory effects of lavender essential oil massage on rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized, controlled clinical trial.” Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 24.12 (2018): 1187-1193.

[3] Görkem, Umut, and Füsun Ilhan. “Effect of lavender oil aroma in the evening on the stress level and sleep quality of hemiplegic patients.” Holistic nursing practice 33.1 (2019): 40-46.

[4] Lykkesfeldt, Jens, and Ole Andersen. “Absorption and elimination of essential oils in rodents after oral, dermal and inhalation exposure.” Toxicology Letters 305 (2019): 62-73.

[5] Chioca, Leandro R., et al. “Anxiolytic-like effect of lavender essential oil inhalation in mice: participation of serotonergic but not GABAA/benzodiazepine neurotransmission.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 147.2 (2013): 412-418.

Scroll to Top