CheapyKeen

Exploring ideas for affordable, sustainable, enjoyable living.

Cats and Essential Oils: Not Happy Together?

Last time I mentioned that essential oils are a handy item to have in your DIY toolkit. They can replace more dangerous synthetic perfumes and save you money BUT their use generally does not apply to cats.

They are not happy together.

Why? Cats have a funky metabolism. Their little livers are unable to detoxify many substances that are harmless to dogs and people because cats don’t make the enzyme glucuronosyltransferase.

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together...mass hysteria!

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!

In fact, it’s really kind of a pain when you want to care for your pets holistically, because it seems like practically everything you would do for your dog is wrong for your cat. Toxicity in cats can take years to show up, so Kitty might be going along seemingly healthy and then suddenly keel over. And we don’t want that (although the dog might beg to differ).

On our money-saving, DIYing path we are inevitably faced with people who tell us that we are (1) crazy, (2) dirty hippies, and/or (3) actually putting ourselves in danger. Many people are completely sold on the notion that because something comes in a pretty package and has years of marketing research behind it, it must be better and healthier than what you can make yourself. But in the case of cats, we really do have to take extra care and do our homework, lest in our glee over saving money and sticking it to The Man (marketers) we unintentionally murder Kitty.

The subject of essential oils and cats seems to be a contentious one. There are those who claim that all essential oils are poisonous all the time. There are others who claim that some are safe for cats provided they’re diluted a lot. Though I have infrequently used very diluted essential oils on my cat in the past, I don’t now because I’m not convinced by the claims on either side of the issue.

Claims about the dangers of essential oils for cats are basically as follows: Because esential oils are not truly oils but highly concentrated plant extracts, a cat might be perfectly fine cuddling up to, say, a lavender plant, and yet a lavender extract that’s 500 times more potent could be deadly. Some say that exposure to essential oils (even ones diffused by air for their scent) could even cause lymphoma in cats.

On the other hand, there are many people in the US who will tell you that all essential oils will kill humans if ingested. That is complete BS–some oils are commonly ingested in dilute form in Europe (peppermint, rosemary, lavender, inter alia), and clearly they’re not all dropping dead. My point here is that some people are both alarmist and ignorant and TV and the internet are the perfect tools for them to spread their nonsense. And of course one has to wonder whether essential oils can possibly be more toxic* than some of the stuff in pharmaceuticals, made-in-China cat toys, and grocery store shampoos and flea collars. There are lots of people who claim they’ve used EOs on their cats for years with no adverse effects.

This is one of those cases where you have to do your own homework, but it’s wise to err on the side of caution in using essential oils in your cleaning products if you share your house with cats. In particular, don’t use them if there’s any sign your cat already suffers from liver or immune problems.

*It’s well known that many essential oils are absolutely toxic to cats (citrus, tea tree, etc.)–I’m not debating that, only the ones that some claim are safe (e.g., lavender, cedar).

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Dog Wheelchair Odyssey

A week before his demise, our five-and-a-half-year-old St. Bernard, Dagda, suffered with hips that had deteriorated enough that he needed help to stand up but, once up, he could walk on his own, although he was a little wobbly and would sometimes fall down. My hope was that we could customize a wheelchair so that we could lift him into it and then he’d be stabilized enough to move around on his own. Dagda agreed, so I helped him post an ad on Craigslist. Lots of people responded…I hope that folks are as willing to donate used wheelchairs to needy humans as they are to crippled Saint Bernards.

Anyway, we got the chair and, due to Dagda’s unusual size, it required some additional modifications, compared to the web link that had inspired our quest. By the time we had it fitted to him, his condition had deteriorated substantially. His doctor thinks that he had a degenerative (spinal) disk disorder, in addition to the hip dysplasia. He could no longer shift himself from lying on his side (sleeping) to lying on his belly (Sphinx position) on his own. His steroid pills made him very thirsty, so he would cry at night and need to be propped up to drink water approximately once per hour. I slept on the couch next to him and helped him up many times every night during his last few days. He also lost control of his bladder and it turns out that puppy pads are no match for the amount of urine produced by a steroid-fueled 180-pound dog.

We did give him a chance to try out the wheelchair, but since it couldn’t help him with his nightly struggles, it wasn’t a viable solution for the long-term. It did work nicely, though, (with brakes on) for propping him up so we could give him a bath. See the pictures of Dagda in his wheelchair, below. This kind of chair may work well for dogs with hip issues only.

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Aquarium infested with snails? Miraculously coinicidental cure!

So, unless you’ve had an aquarium infested with snails, you probably won’t care, but if you’ve taken the time to read this far, then you might as well keep going and file this away so you can have something clever to share the next time you find yourself stuck in an awkward conversational pause with an aquariaphile.

Our freshwater aquarium was doing swimmingly until we got a free plant from one of Hubby’s coworkers. It was infested with snails. In short order, we had thousands of tiny snails and numerous big ones. The tiny ones would pile up on the backs of the big ones and careen around like they were in some slow-motion underwater version of a Wisconsin Dells waterskiing extravaganza. It was a nightmare.

We have fancy guppies, and they don’t eat snails, but we read online that another kind of fish, the clown loach, specializes in eating snails. So we bought one and it showed no interest in snails and promptly died. We took the dead one back and exchanged it for a big, healthy clown loach, and bought a bunch of sinking shrimp pellets, to supplement its snail diet.

Well, the big clown loach shows about as much interest in snails as the little clown loach did. However, the snails flock to the shrimp pellets like flies do to our side yard (or like our dogs do to the the kitchen garbage, which ultimately ends up in our side yard). Within an hour of dropping in a shrimp pellet, there is a pile of at least a hundred snails sitting on it. We just take the fish net and scoop them out. It’s amazing! Our tank is almost completely clear of snails after only a few days!

Aren’t you glad you read the whole thing?

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