Does Lavender Oil Relax Cats?


Lavender oil is an essential oil derived from the flowers of the lavender plant. It has been used for centuries for its pleasing aroma and proposed relaxation and calming properties. Lavender oil is frequently touted as having a relaxing effect on humans when used in aromatherapy. But what about its effects on our feline friends? Many cat owners have wondered if lavender oil can help relax anxious or stressed cats as well.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the evidence surrounding lavender oil and its potential relaxing effects on cats. We’ll examine studies conducted on lavender and cats, as well as anecdotal reports from cat owners. We’ll also cover proper usage and any risks associated with using lavender oil around cats. Our goal is to provide cat owners with comprehensive information to make an informed decision about using lavender oil as a relaxation aid for their cats.

What is Lavender Oil?

Lavender oil is an essential oil extracted from the flowers of the lavender plant (Lavandula angustifolia). It is made through a process called steam distillation, where the lavender flowers are placed in a still with steam. As the steam passes through the plant material it heats up and causes the plant’s essential oils to evaporate. The steam then cools and condenses back into a liquid that contains the essential oils. This liquid is lavender essential oil.

Steam distillation has been used for thousands of years to extract and concentrate essential oils from plants. It is considered the best method for maintaining the natural therapeutic benefits of lavender. The heat from the steam causes the plant material to release its aromatic compounds without damaging them. This results in a pure, high quality essential oil.

Lavender oil has many uses and benefits. It is known for its calming, relaxing scent and properties. The main components in lavender oil include linalool and linalyl acetate, which give lavender its distinctive scent. Lavender oil is commonly used in aromatherapy, skin care products, perfumes, and more.

Does Lavender Oil Relax Humans?

There is significant evidence that lavender oil has relaxing and calming effects on humans. Lavender oil contains many active compounds like linalool and linalyl acetate that interact with the limbic system, especially the amygdala and hippocampus, which are involved in controlling emotions and memory (Ghavami, 2022).

Multiple studies show lavender essential oil reduces anxiety, emotional stress, and restlessness in humans. A systemic review found lavender alleviates anxiety comparable to prescription anti-anxiety medication like lorazepam (Koulivand et al., 2013). Other studies confirm lavender oil benefits those with anxiety disorders and reduces physiological markers of stress (Malcolm & Tallian, 2017).

The relaxing effects of lavender are likely due to its ability to increase parasympathetic nervous system activity, which regulates rest and digestion. The scent of lavender may also activate limbic system regions in the brain related to mood, emotion, and memory formation (Ghavami, 2022).

Overall, research strongly supports the use of lavender essential oil as a natural way to promote relaxation and relieve stress and anxiety in humans.

Why Might Lavender Oil Relax Cats?

Lavender oil contains compounds such as linalool and linalyl acetate that have been shown to have sedative and calming effects in humans[1]. These compounds are thought to act on receptors in the brain that regulate mood and promote relaxation[2]. Because cats also have these receptors, inhaling lavender oil may have similar relaxing effects.

Specifically, linalool has been found to lower heart rate and blood pressure while also altering brain wave patterns to be more calm in animal studies[2]. Linalyl acetate also has sedative properties. When cats inhale these compounds from lavender oil, it is believed to help reduce anxiety and promote sleep.

Additionally, lavender oil has analgesic (pain reducing) properties that may help relieve discomfort and improve mood in cats[3]. By inhaling lavender oil and absorbing its active compounds, cats may experience relaxation through both physiological and neurological effects.

Studies on Lavender Oil and Cat Relaxation

There have been some initial studies conducted on using lavender oil to reduce anxiety and stress in cats. One study published in 2018 looked at using lavender oil aromatherapy for 16 cats in a veterinary hospital environment (1). The cats were exposed to lavender oil diffused in their cages for 5 minutes. The researchers found this led to significantly lower scores on a stress assessment scale compared to cats who did not receive the lavender oil.

Another study in 2022 examined anxiety levels in shelter cats who were exposed to lavender oil diffusion for 30 minutes (2). The researchers measured anxiety levels through behavioral observation and cortisol levels. The lavender oil was associated with decreased vocalization, hiding, and cortisol in the cats. However, the sample size in this study was small.

While early research shows promising results, more rigorous large-scale studies are still needed to definitively demonstrate lavender oil’s relaxing effects on cats. The existing studies had limitations like small sample sizes. Overall, there is initial evidence that lavender oil may help reduce stress in cats, but more research is required.


Anecdotal Evidence of Lavender Oil Relaxing Cats

While formal studies on lavender oil and cat relaxation may be limited, many cat owners report noticing a calming effect after using lavender oil with their cats. On forums and discussion boards, owners describe cases of anxious or stressed cats becoming noticeably more relaxed and peaceful after being exposed to lavender oil.

For example, one cat owner on Reddit shares how diffusing lavender oil helped their cat cope with the stress and anxiety of moving to a new home: “I started diffusing lavender oil to help my cat adjust after our move. She went from meowing all night to sleeping peacefully through the night.”[1]

Other owners mention using lavender oil sprays and rubs during vet visits or car rides to calm their cats. According to anecdotal reports, lavender oil helped make these stressful experiences more tolerable and reduced anxious or aggressive behavior in cats.

While anecdotal, these real-world experiences suggest that lavender oil may have a soothing effect for many cats. More research is still needed, but the positive reports from cat owners add to the evidence that lavender can help relax feline companions.

Potential Risks of Lavender Oil for Cats

Lavender oil can potentially be toxic for cats. According to the ASPCA, lavender oil contains linalool and linalyl acetate, compounds that can cause liver issues or even central nervous system depression in cats (ASPCA – Lavender). The essential oils that are most toxic to cats include clove, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, and sandalwood.

Lavender oil should always be diluted before use on cats. Undiluted lavender oil applied directly to a cat’s skin can cause chemical burns. Ingesting lavender oil can also be very dangerous and potentially fatal for cats. Signs of lavender oil poisoning in cats include lethargy, increased heart rate, breathing issues, and seizures.

Some experts advise avoiding lavender oil altogether for cats. Even diluted applications carry some level of risk. It’s best to consult your veterinarian before using lavender oil on or around cats.

How to Use Lavender Oil with Cats

When using lavender oil with cats, it’s important to use safe application methods and proper dosages to avoid potential toxicity. Here are some tips for safe use:

Diffusing: Add only 1-2 drops of lavender oil to your diffuser and diffuse for only 5-10 minutes at a time. Be sure to keep the diffuser in a well-ventilated area and away from your cat’s main sleeping area to avoid overexposure. Monitor your cat for any signs of respiratory distress.

Spritzing: Create a diluted spritz by adding 1 drop of lavender oil per ounce of water in a spray bottle. Lightly spritz this mixture around your cat’s bedding, carrier, or other relaxation areas. Do not spray directly on your cat.

Massage: For topical use, dilute lavender oil with a carrier oil like coconut or almond oil in a 1:10 ratio. Rub a small amount of this diluted oil gently into your cat’s fur or paws, avoiding sensitive areas like nose and eyes. Use only 1-2 times a week.

Aromatherapy: Place 1-2 drops of lavender oil onto a cotton ball inside your cat’s bed or carrier. Do not apply directly to bedding or toys. Monitor for any skin irritation.

It’s best to start with minimal applications such as 1-2 drops and increase slowly while observing your cat’s response. Always monitor for any signs of respiratory distress or skin irritation. Consult your veterinarian before using if your cat has asthma or allergies. Proper dilution and minimal use can allow lavender oil to be used safely with cats in relaxing environments.

Other Relaxation Options for Cats

There are additional alternatives to lavender oil that may help relax anxious or stressed cats. These include:


Synthetic pheromones like Feliway mimic cats’ natural facial pheromones and help create a comforting environment. Pheromone diffusers or sprays can be used in the home to reduce stress and promote calmness in cats (PetMD).

Toys and Playtime

Providing cats with stimulating toys and dedicating time for active play can help relieve anxiety and tension. Toys that allow cats to act out their natural hunting behaviors like chasing mice, batting balls, and pouncing on prey are ideal for stress relief (Zoetis).


Catnip contains nepetalactone which triggers a euphoric reaction when sniffed or ingested. This can help relax cats by inducing happy, content behaviors like rolling, rubbing, and head shaking. However, catnip does not have an effect on all cats.


Based on the available evidence, lavender oil may help relax cats in some situations but should be used with caution. The studies on lavender oil and cat relaxation are limited, but do show some promising results. Anecdotally, many cat owners report success using lavender oil to help calm anxious or stressed cats. However, lavender oil can be toxic to cats at high concentrations, so it’s important to use sparingly and not directly on cats. The safest approach is to use a few drops of lavender oil on bedding or diffused in the air. Lavender should not replace veterinary advice and treatment for anxiety issues. There are also other natural options to help relax cats, like pheromone diffusers and toys. In summary, lavender oil is one tool that may help calm cats in moderation, but there are risks to be aware of and it should not replace medical advice.

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