Frugal Home Remedies for Cat Health Problems

Beware when using frugal home remedies for cat health problems. Some are good and some can be toxic. Theoretically, I support the use of home remedies for cat health problems but the Internet can mislead and what are purported to be natural and safe home remedies might in fact be dangerous for your cat.

Tee Tree Oil Plant

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

If anyone has some good tips on home treatments/remedies for cats please leave a comment

The more you read about the cat’s metabolism the more you become aware that the cat can be extremely sensitive to natural products that we consider to be entirely safe.  We really can’t be careful enough when deciding to treat our cat at home in order to save on veterinary bills and also of course to try and minimise the use of conventional medications which are also toxic.  All medications are arguably poisonous but the benefits usually outweigh the detriments.

The trouble is, we do not know how many people employ home remedies to try and cure their cat of an illness but I know that webpages containing advice about home treatments are popular therefore my guess is that a lot of people avoid going to the vet to save money and use home treatments instead.

We don’t really know how successful these treatments are. We don’t know how many home treatments resulted in cats becoming ill because of the treatment and not because of the original illness. The Internet does not help us on this. The Internet can provide conflicting information or the information is rather misleading.  Sometimes the best information can in fact be found in the comments below an article about a home treatment because these are from people with first-hand experience.  I advise people to read comments.

“Do not use tea tree oil on dogs! Two days ago I put about two drops of tea tree on a sore on my Boston terriers neck. This was evening time. In the morning he woke up with paralyisis in his rear legs and was shaking.” states that tea tree oil should not be ingested and only used externally and only in diluted form. It is too tricky to ensure that this advice is complied with when treating cats.

I was drawn to writing about the subject of so-called safe home treatments for cats when I bumped into an webpage about frugal home remedies for treating cats with worms.  The treatment included using pure tea tree oil on your cat. The advice was to dab a small quantity of the oil on your cat. The author says it will kill all the fleas on your cat as well as the eggs.

My research indicates that this lady’s advice is potentially dangerous to a cat.  It is easy to fall into the habit of passing on what appears to be reliable advice on the Internet about home treatment without thoroughly checking whether the advice is sound or not.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil was at one time, and possibly still is, promoted as a useful home remedy for cat health problems. Apparently, it is a colourless or pale yellow oil.  It is promoted as a home treatment for cat skin problems and to control external parasites. The oil is used in lotions and shampoos at diluted levels which are considered safe by manufacturers. It works on humans and larger animals apparently but cats and kittens are not humans.

It is quite clear to me that there have been some fatalities due to the application of tea tree oil when amongst, other things, trying to control fleas in kittens.

Incidentally, it isn’t only about cats. It is said that tea tree oil is safe for use on dogs but when you read comments about the use of this naturally occurring oil on dogs you see an alarming number of cases where the dog has been paralysed by the application of this oil.

Then again, some people say it works very well on dogs. It may be to do with the concentration of the oil used. That said, you have to conclude that this product is potentially very dangerous and unless you know exactly what you’re doing it should not be used and because most people don’t know exactly what they’re doing when treating their cat or dog at home the commonsense conclusion is that tea tree oil should not be used for home treatment on cats or dogs.

At one time, there appears to have been irresponsible marketing of tea tree oil by manufacturers, reports Sarah Hartwell.  The manufacturers based their claims on anecdotal evidence which related to horses and people without considering the cat’s special metabolism and the cat’s poor ability to metabolise certain substances.

Sarah Hartwell reports that tea tree oil contains upwards of 38% terpinen-4-ol.  She says that datasheets on this substance indicate that it is harmful when swallowed and that it is used as solvent in products such as plastics and oil-based paints etc.. It is absorbed rapidly into the body and has toxic effects upon the human’s central nervous system.  This ties in nicely with the fact that it can paralyse dogs.

The active ingredients in tea tree oil are “cyclic terpenes” (similar to turpentine!)

Manufacturers, of course, want to sell products so they will downplay negative aspects of their products.  When the negative aspects of the product are fairly mild it may be acceptable to do this but when they can be severe it is irresponsible to market a product in this way.

I don’t want to go into heavy scientific details about tea in oil.  I simply conclude that on my understanding, it is unsafe and should not be used.

A list of the chemicals contained within this oil is rather perturbing. “Natural” does not necessarily equate to healthy or safe.

Essential Oils

There are essential oils which may also be dangerous to cats.  Sometimes people put a drop of these essential oils on the cat’s paw or use a diffuser. Sometimes (we don’t know how often) they can result in the cat being poisoned but the cause of the poison often remains undiagnosed by a veterinarian.  This is where the veterinarian is obliged to treat the symptoms rather than get to the bottom of the problem.

Essential oils can cause health problems with cats (for example liver damage). These are: oregano, thyme, eucalyptus,  clove, cinnamon, bay leaf, parsley and savory ( ref: Sarah Hartwell).

Cedar Oil

In addition, cedar oil was, and still might be, marketed as a flea treatment in domestic cats but it is apparently highly toxic to cats.  It is toxic when absorbed through the skin and can be absorbed through the lungs if it is used in a diffuser.


One of the great problems for cat owners that we need to be reminded about when applying medication to the skin or fur is that the cat may and almost certainly will lick off the substance and ingest it. This transforms how the medication is being used. Also cats have a relatively thin skin and tea tree oil is readily absorbed into the body and the bloodstream. This makes it more dangerous.


On a positive note and in respect of aromatherapy for cats, hydrosols are apparently safe but is important to make sure that the manufacturer has not added essential oil to the hydrosol to make it stronger smelling. Hydrosols contain high levels of carbolic acid which have strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Martin Goldstein DVM a vet suggests a homemade cat flea treatment shampoo containing tea tree oil and ACV. The formula is: pet shampoo (8 ounce bottle) + 10 drops tea tree oil + 1 tablespoon of aloe vera. Shake well. Shampoo cat and wait up to 10 mins. Rinse with ACV diluted in water (1 tablespoon ACV + I pint of water) (ref:

I am not sure about this because it does not state how strong the tea tree oil solution is. To me, it looks potentially toxic to cats.

Vinegar is essentially acidic. Acids are toxic to cats. This means pH greater than 7. Apple cider vinegar has a pH of 4.50 to 4.75 so should be okay (ref: This needs to be checked because this is recommended for use as a cat ear cleaner and the skin of the cat’s ear is thin. Substances can pass into the bloodstream easily via the ears. I’d have thought this should be a cautionary observation.

Associated: cats ear infection

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.
Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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10 Responses

  1. Mallred says:

    Thank you for posting this addendum. I read the article a few days ago and it was not here. But came back and the mark through of the tea tree is in place with this article (link). I have made many mistakes myself with wanting to use home remedies. I have guilty mom syndrome now for doing so.I have a certificate for natural pet health care, and I use the training I received but I still go to the vet when it is beyond my scope of practice. It is very important to use our knowledge with care. I know just enough to be dangerous. I do not want to accidently kill one of my cats because I thought I knew what I was doing. So I defer to the experts (veterinarians) and I also do a lot of research and get a second opinion, because sometimes even Vets, just as doctors, get it wrong too. Essential oils are very strong medicine and cats cannot metabolize them. Dogs can to an extent diluted in a carrier oil 75:1 ( 75 being the carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil) one drop of essential oil. But there are oils like Tea Tree which are still too concentrated for their livers to filter out. I am glad you put this link into your page and I hope people will take the time to read it.

    • Michael Broad says:

      I absolutely agree with you Mallred. It is helpful for a cat owner to have health knowledge. It improves the welfare of their cat provided it is used wisely and when necessary in conjunction with their veterinarian’s skills.

  2. Recently my cat Mitzy developed a UTI. I noticed her straining to pee. I started home treatments with Uro Cleanse mixed in goat yogurt. I also mixed up a little ACV (unfiltered) with water. After a few days, she was better. I also ordered Fish Mox, as recommended in the book “Secrets of a Vet Tech”.

    Then a few days later, I noticed blood on her fur. I took her to the vet, because I could see that she needed something stronger to get rid of the bacteria.

    She was put on Clavamox and Buprenorphine for pain. In two days, she was back to normal, but still on the anti-biotic for 8 more days. The culture showed bacteria, and I’ll be taking her back for a re-check in a few days after she finishes the Clavamox.

    I have a great aversion to taking her to any vets, after my past experiences, and of course, the expense. So, I’ll always try home remedies first, and have a home remedy first aid kit for her.

    Many of us who have rescued cats aren’t in a good financial position. It was one reason I had decided not to have any more cats. And yet, I rescued Mitzy from the Death Chamber. The shelter said she was “not adoptable” as a previous feral.

    Although that was purely an emotional action, and not a rational one, I couldn’t allow her to be put to death, on my watch as a shelter volunteer.

    I got pet insurance, which was fairly cheap because she was still young, but then my income shrunk, and I had to let it go. I’d get it if I could afford it, but that doesn’t address my distrust of vets.

    I almost euthanized her last year because I couldn’t afford the bill for her ear infection, possibly caused by unnecessary anti-biotics. The kind vet saw my distress, and said they’d take care of the balance on the bill, since I’d already paid $200, and they wanted another $200. So, she escaped death twice.

    I don’t think that most people who have pets or children forsee how expensive it can be. It’s hardly a rational decision, where we look at our income and expenses to see if we can set up a health fund for an animal or child. I don’t know anyone who’s done this. How much should we set aside? $5,000-$10,000?

    A friend recently paid $3000 for an “exploratory” stomach surgery on a stray cat who was vomiting. She created a new debt with CARE credit, at 27% interest. The surgery showed nothing wrong, and the vet doesn’t have a clue about the problem. But now, she’s $3000 richer, and my friend is $3000 plus, poorer.

    Let’s continue to share what has worked and what should never be used, in home treatments. Since there are so many of us who truly can’t afford vet expenses, and are by nature “rescuers”, we have to rely on ourselves, as our ancestors did.

  3. Sandra Murphey says:

    Essential oils are very potent, and can be toxic when used on pets. With cats, never put anything on their body that can be licked off unless it’s harmless, like olive/coconut oil.

    The spot on flea solutions are put between the shoulders so that cat can’t lick it off. Even then, some cats react to the chemicals that are absorbed by the skin. Flea collars can also be problematic.

    Allergic reactions to flea dirt can cause major skin problems, so finding a solution is important.
    And the itching is very stressful, as we know.

    I don’t like using these products, but it’s the only thing I can do in my situation. A friend told me that she only uses half of the vial, and it still works.

    I had another friend who sprinkled flea powder in her bed! She woke up with a serious rash all over her body. It’s strange the things that thinking humans do….when they don’t think.

  4. Dee (Florida) says:

    Would cleaning is tricky, because you don’t want to cause more pain than already exists.
    Even peroxide can sting some.
    Plain gold Dial soap is the best there is for cleaning wounds (never the bacterial). A sponge soaked with water and rubbed across a bar of dial is easy to squeeze and gently wash a wound. It is very important to rinse thoroughly so the cat won’t have some loose stools for a short time from licking the area.
    Even emergency room doctors recommend only Dial for human cleansing and wound care.

  5. NANCY SCHWOPE says:

    No home remedies on my cats or dogs.But I do clean my cats ears with olive oil.

  6. Michele S. says:

    Don’t use Dettol or any other disinfectant which turns cloudy when added to water. This means it contains phenols and they are highly toxic to cats. Same applies to antiseptic creams such as Germolene. It’s always best to read the contents label of household products we use for hygiene or treating wounds before using them on or around cats.

    Minor wounds can safely be bathed with a mild solution of salt water. Around a teaspoon of salt added to a cup of boiled water which has been allowed to cool, makes a sterile solution safe for use on cats.

  7. Oker Geel says:

    Good article! Generally: keep cats away from herbs and essential oils! Most are poisonous and too little is known about how cats react towards herbs. I have been trying to find out about cats and herbs for a long time now. The problem is that there are almost no vets that are specialized in herbal treatment AND cats. In fact most vets did not have 3 yrs of extra education which is needed to become a cat specialist, so most are specialized in dogs and have no clue about cats, even if they say so (they will tell you “we’ve been treating cats for 30+ years” or something along those lines, but that is NOT a specialization in cats! That is trial and error.). From those cat specializing vets I know NONE that are specialized in herbal treatments at the same time. Until vets educate themselves, I’d say: stay away from home treatment with herbs on your kitties.

    • Oker, you make some very sensible points, with which I agree. There is a desire by quite a lot of people to use more “natural” remedies but often we don’t know enough about them and what we do know is anecdotal and the vets have no idea about them normally. Also “natural” does not mean there are no chemicals or side effects.

      The conclusion I came to was to avoid these natural remedies unless we are absolutely sure. Some people have first hand good experiences which is fine. I hope they pass them on in comments.

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