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A Cat’s Nose Knows Best

By Layla Morgan Wilde

As a holistic cat behaviorist and aromatherapist with over twenty years experience, I’d like to clear the air about using essential oils on cats.Since childhood, I’ve had a heightened sense of smell, which led me to a career as an aromatherapist and body-centered psychotherapist stretching from the late ‘80s until my move to the U.S. in 2001. My clinic and school in Toronto became a hive of activity with clients, students and feline assistants. My cats actively participated and our mutual interest in the sense of smell helped me to think like a cat. Merlin, (my cat who turns 18 this year) was the resident overseer. This was long before the brouhaha about the hazards of using essential oils on pets.All essential oils are molecularly complex, containing hundreds of naturally forming botanical chemicals. The essential oils potentially toxic for pets are also toxic for humans and should be avoided, such as pennyroyal. Most cats dislike citrus scents, which correlates with recent scientific data concerning some essential oils. Cats lack the liver enzyme glucuronyl transferase, making it more difficult to detoxify and eliminate some chemicals such as d-limonene found in citrus oils or phenols found in pine and thyme.It’s important not to throw the baby out with the bath water with inaccurate and alarmist information on the Internet. I side squarely with Robert Tisserand, considered the contemporary father of aromatherapy. He contends that in cases of feline hepatoxicity, the oils used were inappropriate high doses and says, “… a small amount of any essential oil, and a moderate amount of most, will not harm your cat.”I don’t recommend using essential oils on cats daily, undiluted, and never more than a 5% dilution. Animals in the wild, including cats when ill, will seek out medicinal plants. My cats forage freely in my herb garden and have never nibbled on anything toxic. If you’d like to use aromatherapy on your cat but have concerns, consult a certified aromatherapist.

Cats have 60 million olfactory cells in their nose, while humans have only 20 million. When a human goes into the garden and smells freshly mown grass, a cat will smell the grass; a scent trail from a mouse; perhaps some juicy snails; bird poop mixed in soil; the cat across the street and who knows what else. A cat’s superior sense of smell developed for survival and is intact from birth while a kitten’s sight and hearing are slower to evolve. A mother cat will lick its nipples so her kittens can follow the saliva scent to her milky teats.

World’s Best Cat Litter™ is proud to partner with the Cat Writer’s Association, Inc. for a special series of guest-written posts on how to keep your cat happy and healthy, and make your life more hassle-free.

Layla Morgan Wilde is a founding director and past president (1996-1998) of The Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists and founder of the registered Canadian charity, Annex Cat Rescue. Layla consults internationally as a life coach and holistic cat behaviorist, blogs daily at her award-winning website Cat Wisdom 101 and is the 2011 CWA Muse Medallion winner for best color photography.

Layla shares an antique farmhouse in Westchester County, N.Y. with her filmmaker husband and four cats.

You can visit Layla at:

As adults, cats continue to use their nose before consuming any food. Their noses sniff out more than dinner and use scent as a complex form of communication with other cats, animals and humans. Not only do cats have a better sense of smell than us, they have the bonus vomeronasal organ, located at the front of the roof of the mouth, to help them process and identify smells, especially those of a sexual nature. Whenever cats use this organ, they open their mouths in a grimace to “taste” the smell, called Flehmen response.

With a super-sized sense of smell, it’s no wonder cats turn their backs on a dirty litter box or strong, artificially scented cat litter. A cat’s nose knows best. Let them be the judge. While either litter is great on its own, our cats and I enjoy the best of both litter worlds by mixing the World’s Best Cat Litter unscented with their naturally lavender-scented to a blend I call “lavender lite”.