The Dangers of Pine Oil and Cats

orange cat by a window

Essential oils don’t usually go along well with pets, be they cats or dogs. They have the tendency to irritate the lining of the animal’s noses and mouths, and in some cases, they can lead to severe respiratory pathologies.

But while many essential oils are indeed hazardous for our feline friends, some might be an exception. Is pine oil in this category? Is it safe to use in your diffuser, or should you skip it to protect your cat’s health? We’re answering these questions and more in this post, so keep on reading!

Is pine oil safe for cats?

There’s only one answer to this question, and it’s a hard no.

Pine oil is never a safe alternative if you are a cat owner and you’d like to make your home smell nicer. To make matters worse, pine oil is not only a product that’s used for its fragrance, but it is also added as an ingredient to various cleaning agents, sprays, and solutions, which means that it can be very difficult to avoid.

But did you know that the problem with pine oil is not the additives or the way it is produced but the plant it is derived from, meaning the pine tree?

Pine trees naturally have chemical compounds called phenols in them, and these can wreak havoc inside a cat’s body either by producing damage to the animal’s lungs or by causing them to develop liver failure.

Not only is pine oil unsafe to use in any household where cats live, but it also puts the pets off very badly. This means that cats can become very uncomfortable either because they might begin showing clinical signs of malaise or respiratory distress but also because they simply hate the smell.

And while some pet parents whose yards are getting abused by wild animals and their neighbors’ cats might use such products as repellents, if they also let out their own pets, they’re also putting their health in danger.

Do cats like pine trees?

While the tree itself is less dangerous to cats because they don’t necessarily have an instinct to chew or even breathing in the smell of the needles, it is generally a good idea to keep them away from such trees.

However, for some pet parents, this might prove to be impossible as some cats really love pine trees and like to climb on them and even play with their branches. Apparently, this happens because cats are partially descended from a carnivorous ancestor called Proailurus, which just happened to be a tree-climbing species.

This is one of the reasons why most cats seem to love spending their time way up on the furniture or at the top of their climbing ensembles (cat trees), where they can not just supervise whatever’s happening on the floor, but they can also play while knowing they’re mostly safe from harm.

So, even though letting your cat play with pine branches or even climb on pine trees is not going to kill them, it’s probably not going to be the safest activity they could engage in – both in terms of the movements themselves and in terms of the natural oils coming from the pine needles.

We also advise against DIY-ing cat toys or cat trees from pine wood, if that’s possible.

Pine oil in household cleaning agents

The most widely known household cleaning solution that used to contain pine oil is Pine-Sol, but the manufacturing company has decided to eliminate it from the list of ingredients. The brand didn’t do this necessarily to protect pets but rather to reduce manufacturing costs.

So, if you are having second thoughts about using Pine-Sol for its sanitizing, cleaning, or disinfecting properties, just have a look at the list of ingredients and make sure that it doesn’t have any pine oil – but the chances that it does are minimal to none.

Another product that does contain pine essential oil is Pure Pine. This is a very effective disinfecting agent, usually capable of killing bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella spp, making it more than effective for your kitchen counter, for example. However, if you have a cat, it shouldn’t be used on surfaces that your pet tends to touch or walk on on a regular basis.

The Nyco Pine Oil Cleaner is another example of a product that contains pine oil. It can be used for cleaning and sanitizing a variety of surfaces, from plastic and glass to porcelain and metal – but it is unsuitable for households where cats live.

Final thoughts

So, is pine oil safe for cats? No. Cats can suffer from severe respiratory distress or could develop upper respiratory infections when being in contact with pine oil.

They can also develop liver damage after accidentally ingesting something containing pine oil as an ingredient (or grooming their bodies after stepping onto a floor that was cleaned with a pine oil-based cleaning agent).

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