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PSA: Your tea tree oil might be depressing your cats and dogs

PSA: Your tea tree oil might be depressing your cats and dogs

Today in lessons learned from the Twitter-verse: Tea tree oil is poisonous for your pets. At least according to user shaelynspacyyy.

In a thread posted on Jan. 29, Shaelyn shared her discovery after a trip to the veterinarian. She noticed her cat and dog “acting strange” and becoming “very lazy, sick and just not themselves.” Later on, she learned that these behaviors from her fur babies were caused by her tea tree oil diffuser.

The veterinarian informed her that tea tree oil, along with a list of other pure oils, is toxic to cats and dogs. This list includes cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, wintergreen, and ylang ylang.

When other Twitter users suggested that maybe it was just the brand of Shaelyn’s oils that was bad for her pets, another Twitter user called spacek1tten was quick to spell out why they were wrong.

She explained that the aforementioned list of pure oils was toxic to pets because “oils from plants have phenols.” She goes on to say that this chemical compound can “poison your furry friends because their bodies lack the enzyme needed to break them down.”

We double-checked the science behind it (because we know it’s hard to trust something said by strangers that spell spacy with three Ys and kitten with the number one as a letter), and the science checks out.

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A study from the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association lists a decade’s worth of data on incidents of tea tree oil toxicity in cats and dogs. It writes:

“Tea tree, or Melaleuca alternifolia oil, does have toxic potential, depending on the circumstances of exposure. Clinical effects that may occur following dermal exposure to significant amounts of tea tree oil include loss of coordination, muscle weakness, depression, and possibly even a severe drop in body temperature, collapse and liver damage. If the oil is ingested, potential effects include vomiting, diarrhea and, in some cases, seizures. If inhalation of the oil occurs, aspiration pneumonia is possible.

There you have it. If you’re keeping a pet at home, please keep the fragrant oils out.


Header photos courtesy of and

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Writer: ANTHEA REYES © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.