Be careful with cloves and cats this holiday season!

Guest post by Christina
is clove oil safe for cats
What cloves look like whole and ground.

How many people have heard that cloves can be used as a natural pest repellant? I personally have never tried it but a lot of people I know swear by it. Or are you decorating with cloves this holiday season? Have you gotten super into essential oils lately?

Is clove oil safe for cats? NO!

Here’s a little-known fact about cloves: they are harmful to cats! I found out from first-hand experience…

One day, when I was still living with my family, I noticed my cat, Sloan, acting really weird… she couldn’t stand up straight, she was drooling, and couldn’t jump onto the couch and she was generally acting like a drunk person.

My mom and I immediately took Sloan to the veterinarian.

They were pretty much useless because they couldn’t find anything wrong with her. They asked if she got into anything like cleaners or windshield washer fluid. We said no, so they were stumped. We ended up going home with some special cat food to try to feed her. Sloan wasn’t able to eat, drink or use the litter box. She just laid there, scaring the crap out of me.

My dad was walking around the house looking for anything that Sloan might have eaten and he spotted powdered cloves sprinkled by the back door. Ack! Is clove spice toxic to cats??

We did some research, and called the vet and asked: Is clove oil safe for cats?

We found that cloves have a numbing effect on pets when consumed. Doesn’t matter if it’s clove oil, whole cloves, or powdered cloves: It’s like a drug to them, and Sloan was high.

Sloan’s vision was impaired (she couldn’t walk straight), she had no balance (she couldn’t jump or climb) and she was numb (she couldn’t tell that she was hungry, thirsty or had to use the litter box). It’s bad for their liver and can cause symptoms like:

  • vomiting
  • difficulty walking
  • tremors
  • wobbliness
  • lethargy
  • coughing and difficulty breathing
  • weakness

This is a really big deal especially because essential oils (including clove oil) have gotten really popular recently, with folks using essential oil diffusers. I mean, we all love the aroma of lavender and eucalyptus oil. But ultimately it’s not worth an emergency trip to the veterinary clinic! I’m sticking to candles now, because it turns out that all these essential oils are bad for pets like cats and dogs:

  • eucalyptus oil
  • tea tree oil
  • cinnamon oil
  • citrus oil
  • oregano oil
  • pennyroyal oil
  • peppermint oils, including wintergreen oil
  • pine
  • sweet birch
  • ylang ylang oil

The good news is that my cat got better very soon.

She spent a lot of time laying down, but awake. So I’d mush up the wet food from the vet with some water and feed it to her on a plastic spoon. She loved the wet stuff and ate a lot of it. I also tried to make her drink a lot of water by putting it on a spoon and holding it right under her mouth.

I’m not sure how much of the powdered cloves she ate, or what would have happened if she was home alone… thankfully, she is fine and is still healthy and happy.

I fully support natural cleaning products and stuff, but now I make sure whatever I use is safe for pets.

Comments on Be careful with cloves and cats this holiday season!

    • Yes, I have learned that supposedly cats cannot process essential oils, so they sort of build up in their system. I’m still mystified, though as to why there is a natural flea product out there that includes both clove and peppermint oils that the company says is safe for both cats and dogs. They have both a home spray and a pet spray (that again, they say is safe for both). I confess, we do own these products and have used them in the past. *sigh* Fortunately, our cat has was fine.

      • I actually find this kind of thing happens a lot – for some reason, things that should be labeled for dogs only are plastered with pictures of cats and make you think that oh, perfectly fine! The fact of the matter is, dogs can tolerate SO much more than cats can, and it makes you super wary of stuff when you find that out.

        I’m also all for natural or holistic products, but it’s pretty scary.

        • Yes, the clove oil diluted with lots of water (about 1:5 ratio) is perfectly safe to spray on furniture even if you have cats. In my experience, however, it hasn’t helped too much with the fleas. I found that taking the cats into the bathroom, having my girlfriend soak them in Dawn and me sprinkling food grade DE on the floors and furniture and then vacuuming it up worked best.

  1. Remember, “natural” does not always equal “safe!”
    Many all natural things are very dangerous to cats, including onions, garlic, certain houseplants and cow’s milk.
    I would also be wary of “natural” flea repellants. The neck treatments from Frontline and Advantage are formulated especially for your pets and are properly dosed out. Check with your vet and keep them updated!

    • Exactly. Just remember our good friend Paracelsus: the dose makes the poison!

      And since plants can’t run away, they invented their own chemical defense mechanisms to avoid being eaten.

  2. Thank you for this!
    I’ve never had a cat , I’m aware of the usual suspects but its good to know these more unusual things.
    Our neighbor has a lovely cat who visits the from of our house, I’d be very upset if I accidentally hurt him!

  3. I once bought an ounce of valerian root to make a soothing tincture back when I was heavily into herbalism. (Boy did that stuff stink like poo, almost as bad as asofotedia) It was in a sandwich baggie on my kitchen table when I had to go out for some reason. When I got back home it was ALL OVER the table with two wacked out cats lying in the middle of the mess. They had ripped open the baggie and proceeded to roll the stuff all over the place. Turns out valerian is catnip x 20, kinda like very stinky cat MJ. It was the only herb I ever had trouble with the cats trying to get into. Strangely enough, they ignored real catnip.

  4. I found this and it is an old post but I find no evidence that cloves are an issue with cats or pets. ASPCA does not list them and they have the largest pet poison listings. As a common spice used in homes it would likely be listed if it was an issue. Cats can have a issues if they are feed clove oil for a long time. Clove oil is going to be much more concentrated than ground clove. A chemical eugenol may have a long term affect.
    Mint is toxic to pets but of course depends on how much is ingested. It is the only common spice I found that had an listings.

  5. Cloves aren’t harmful for cats if used correctly. I have used natural dewormers that contain cloves bud on many cats and dogs for years with no problems. I think your cat had a reaction because she ate too much powdered cloves that weren’t diluted.

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