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You’ve just set up a new lavender diffuser in your home, anticipating the calming scent to fill each room. As you take in the soothing aroma, you spot your cat recoiling from the diffuser, mouth agape. It suddenly strikes you – do cats actually enjoy the smell of lavender? Or is your beloved pet repulsed by it?
I’ve been there too, fellow cat parents. To us, the scent of lavender is a comforting aroma that holds a special place in our daily lives, making it all the more bewildering when our cats seem to cringe at the fragrance. This unexpected reaction might even have you reconsidering your choice of scent!
But worry not, I’m here to shed light on the mystery of cats and lavender. In this article, I’ll be exploring whether cats take pleasure in the smell of lavender, why their scent preferences may differ from ours, and if it’s safe to keep your home smelling like lavender with your furry companion around. Also, I’ll discuss other scents that cats tend to love and loathe, and how understanding these preferences can help you create a more comfortable environment for your kitty. Stay tuned to find out all you need to know!
Do Cats Like the Smell of Lavender?
As a human, you may find the floral fragrance of lavender soothing and calming, associating it with relaxation and tranquility. However, the olfactory experience is markedly different for cats.
The primary reason for this significant disparity lies in the biological differences between the human and feline olfactory systems. These differences mean that cats perceive smells much more intensely than humans do, with certain aromas potentially causing discomfort or stress.
Cats generally do not appreciate strong, pungent aroma of lavender. Lavender belongs to the mint family, which includes other plants like rosemary and sage that cats also tend to dislike. It’s important to note that lavender’s effect on cats extends beyond just discomfort or dislike. Lavender oil, like many essential oils, can be toxic to cats if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.
Why Do Cats Dislike Lavender’s Smell?
Cats have a more sensitive olfactory system compared to humans, which makes them particularly reactive to strong and potentially irritating scents such as lavender. Furthermore, certain compounds found in lavender are believed to be mildly toxic to cats, leading to aversive behavior.
Therefore, the lavender’s intense aroma is not only overwhelming but also perceived as a potential threat, causing a distaste for the scent in our feline friends.
Keen Sense of Smell
A cat’s sense of smell is fourteen times stronger than a human’s, allowing them to pick up on a myriad of scents that our comparatively dull noses would never notice. Vomeronasal or Jacobson’s organ, located in the roof of their mouth, plays a huge role in their interaction with their environment, especially regarding smell. In addition, cats have around 200 million scent receptors compared to approximately 5 million in humans.
Among the myriad of smells that cats encounter, lavender stands out as a particularly troublesome aroma. The scent of lavender, while often soothing and calming to humans, can be overwhelming and unpleasant to cats. This aversion is due to the chemical composition of lavender, which contains compounds like linalool and linalyl acetate, known to elicit adverse reactions in cats.
The scent of lavender activates neural pathways communicating with the amygdala and the hypothalamus and can cause stress or discomfort in cats. The level of aversion increased with the concentration of the scent, reinforcing the idea that the overwhelming potency of lavender is the primary cause of this reaction.
In summary, the strong smell of lavender can cause both neurological and physical discomfort in cats. While lavender tends to be a universally disliked scent among cats, there may be outliers who show no adverse reactions to it.
Mild Toxicity of Lavender for Cats
This aromatic herb is popular among humans for its calming properties and vibrant purple flowers. However, it is far from a favorite among the feline population. A significant reason for this repulsion stems from lavender’s mild toxicity in cats. This fact is often unbeknownst to many cat owners.
In the realm of feline physiology, the components of lavender that are mildly toxic are linalool and linalyl acetate. These compounds are present in both the plant and its essential oil. When these compounds are inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through a cat’s skin, they can lead to a variety of health problems. Cats’ instinctual aversion to the smell of lavender is an evolutionary protective mechanism. It alerts them to the potential harm that could befall them upon contact with these compounds.
The prevalence of lavender in various household products poses a subtle risk to our feline companions. These products range from air fresheners to cleaning supplies. It’s crucial for cat owners to be aware of this risk. They should ensure that their pets are not exposed to high concentrations of lavender.
Is Lavender Safe for Cats?
The aroma of lavender acts as a natural repellant for cats. For instance, planting lavender in your garden can deter neighboring cats from disrupting your floral displays.
Lavender in its plant form is generally safe for cats, but certain derivatives and concentrations, particularly essential oils, can be potentially toxic.
The main component of lavender that poses a risk to cats is linalool, a naturally occurring terpene alcohol found in many flowers and spice plants. It is this substance that gives lavender its characteristic scent. Lavender oil also contains a compound called linalyl acetate. Both these compounds, while fragrant and soothing to humans, can be harmful to cats.
If a cat ingests a significant amount of lavender plant material, it may experience minor gastrointestinal upset due to the unusual substance in its diet. On the other hand, lavender essential oil, due to its concentrated nature, can be toxic to cats. The issue with lavender essential oil arises from the way cats metabolize or break down certain compounds.
When exposed to lavender essential oil, cats may exhibit symptoms:
- Difficulty walking.
- Uncoordinated movements.
- Excessive drooling.
- Muscle tremors.
- Rapid breathing.
- Depressed mood.
If you observe any of these signs in your cat after exposure to lavender essential oil, it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately.
In terms of passive exposure, such as diffusing lavender essential oil in your home, there’s ongoing debate. It’s generally recommended to use caution, as some cats may still react negatively even to airborne particles of the oil. Always ensure good ventilation and give your cat the opportunity to leave the room where the diffuser is located.
Odorous Plants that Cats Hate
Cats have an acute sense of smell that makes them particularly sensitive to certain plants’ odors. There are several plants whose scents cats find repugnant, which can be used strategically to deter them from certain areas:
- Coleus canina (scaredy-cat).
- Rue (ruta graveolens).
- Citrus plants.
Coleus canina or Scaredy-Cat is a perennial plant that emits a potent odor that is barely noticeable to humans but highly unpleasant to cats. The scent, akin to a skunk’s, is released when the leaves are touched or disturbed. Furthermore, the plant’s small, lavender-like flowers produce a mild irritant that can cause sneezing or discomfort in a cat’s nasal passages, further dissuading their approach.
Another plant cats detest is rue, or Ruta graveolens. Rue has a strong and bitter aroma that is considered unpleasant by many cats. This plant has been used traditionally for its medicinal properties, but its scent can effectively deter cats. However, rue’s sap can cause skin irritation in humans and cats, so it’s best to handle it with care.
Cats are also generally averse to the strong smell of citrus plants. The smell of oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits is too overpowering for most cats. The essential oils in these plants, particularly limonene and linalool, are toxic to cats and can cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested.
Lastly, the sharp, minty smell of pennyroyal, a member of the mint family, is also offensive to cats. Pennyroyal has been used in the past as a natural flea repellent. However, it should be noted that pennyroyal oil is highly toxic to cats and can cause severe health issues if ingested or absorbed through the skin.
What Plant Smells Do Cats Like?
Cats, known for their particular preferences, are often drawn to the scents of certain plants. These scents can stimulate their senses, mimic their pheromones, or even encourage their playful behavior. Here are a few plants that cats are known to enjoy:
- Silver vine (Actinidia polygama).
- Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis).
- Lemongrass (Cymbopogon).
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum).
Cats also enjoy the smell of silver vine (Actinidia polygama). This plant, native to Japan and China, contains several compounds that attract cats, including actinidine, a nepetalactone-like substance. About 80% of cats respond positively to silver vine, making it an even more effective feline attractant than catnip.
Another plant cats are fond of is the Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis). Similar to catnip, this plant contains actinidine, which cats find appealing. Valerian is often used in toys and treats as a cat attractant. But, like catnip, not every cat responds to Valerian.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) is another plant that cats may be attracted to because it contains citral, a compound also found in catnip. It should be noted, however, that while cats may enjoy the smell of lemongrass, ingestion can be harmful. Therefore, it is recommended to allow supervised sniffing only.
Lastly, the Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is known to attract cats with its enticing, sweet aroma and long, arching leaves perfect for batting around. Though non-toxic, overindulgence can lead to mild digestive upset, so it’s best to let cats play with these plants under supervision.
Conclusion: Most Cats Avoid Lavender
To sum it up, do our feline friends appreciate the aroma of lavender? Quite the contrary! Despite the delightful fragrance that lavender emits for humans, cats find it overwhelmingly strong due to their superior sense of smell. Furthermore, lavender has a mild toxicity that can cause harm to cats, prompting them to instinctively steer clear of it.
Therefore, you need to exercise caution when utilizing lavender, particularly in the form of essential oils, in the vicinity of cats. If you suspect your furry friend has come into contact with this potentially harmful plant, it’s vital to promptly seek veterinary care to optimize their chances for a full recovery.
For those seeking an odor deterrent for cats, consider the cat-safe options of vinegar, coffee, or rosemary. These alternatives can serve the same purpose as lavender without posing a threat to your cat’s wellbeing. If you’re aiming for a fragrant compromise between you and your feline companion, roses make an excellent choice as a mutually enjoyable scent.
Becca The Crazy Cats Lady is an experienced and knoweldgeable cat owner with years of experience caring for a multi-cat household. She curates, writes and shares cat content at https://CrazyCatsLady.com.