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Can aromatherapy be used to reduce anxiety in hospitalised felines

02 April 2018
10 mins read
Volume 9 · Issue 3



Within veterinary practice, animals can feel anxious for a number of reasons such as exposure to novel environments, including unfamiliar sounds and smells, the feeling of lack of self-control or previous negative experience. As part of a holistic approach within human medicine, aromatherapy has been utilised in minimising pre-operative stress, reducing anxiety, as well as reducing post-operative pain.


The aim of this study was to assess whether lavender oil is effective in reducing stress in felines.


A total of 16 cats took part in the study at a veterinary practice. Eight cats were exposed to lavender oil through inhalation aromatherapy. The other eight cats formed the control group and where not exposed to the lavender oil. Each cat's behaviour was observed and recorded at 10 minute intervals over a period of 30 minutes and scored using ‘Kessler & Turners 1997 Cat Stress Score Chart’.


The results showed a statistically significant reduction in behaviours associated with stress and anxiety between the aromatherapy and control groups at each interval: admission (Mann-Whitney U test: w=89.5, n=8,8, p=0.02), 10 minutes (Mann-Whitney U test: w=96.0, n=8,8, p=<0.01), 20 minutes (Mann-Whitney U test: w=96.5, n=8,8, p=<0.01) and 30 minutes (Mann-Whitney U test: w=99.0, n=8,8, p=<0.01) suggesting that the lavender oil does have anxiolytic affects and this can evoke therapeutic responses in felines.

Aromatherapy uses essential oils extracted from herbs and plants, to promote psychological and physical wellbeing (Fayazi et al, 2011) with different aromas thought to possess different therapeutic properties (Cooper et al, 2011). Lavender oil is thought to possess calming and anxiolytic effects in humans (Perry et al, 2012), which can help to reduce anxiety.

Aromatherapy is one of the most common complementary and alternative therapies used by health practitioners in human medicine with many positive effects observed (Fayazi et al, 2011), although its efficacy still remains controversial (Francis and Stusdal, 2014).

Anxiety can contribute to an increased recovery time within a hospitalised patient and also impact negatively on the patient's emotional state (Ellis, 2015). Riccomini (2008) suggests that even the most confident of human patients can suffer with some degree of anxiety when hospitalised. Feline patients can be very highly stressed in the veterinary environment, by extrapolating human techniques can aromatherapy using lavender oil be utilised to reduce anxiety in cats?

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