Camphor Toxicity in Cats

By Elizabeth Tumbarello

Image by, courtesy of Alessandro Valli

Despite their keen sense of observation, cats don't always make the best decisions. One minute Fluffy is napping lazily in the sun, and the next she has ingested camphor leaves or oil. Knowing whether this substance is toxic can save your cat's life.


Camphor is a common household cough and cold product. It also has uses in moth repellents and as a preservative for bug collections. It is a popular flavoring in Asian cuisine.


Camphor oil is derived primarily from the wood of the camphor laurel, or Cinnamomum camphora. The oil is found in smaller concentrations among other members of the laurel family.


In humans, camphor is considered toxic only at high doses. Cats are much smaller and have a unique metabolism, and small amounts of camphor are considered highly toxic to them.


Ingestion or prolonged exposure to camphor can have toxic effects on the liver, causing a backup of bodily waste known as bactericemia. Shortly thereafter, other organs in the body might begin to shut down, causing death if treatment is not sought immediately.

Expert Insight

If you suspect your cat has ingested parts of a camphor tree or camphor oil, seek emergency veterinary medical treatment immediately.

References (3)

  • "Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians"; Joanna Bassert, Dennis McCurnin; 2009
  • "Handbook of Poisoning in Dogs and Cats"; Alexander Campbell, Michael Chapman; 2000"
  • "Pet First Aid & Disaster Response Guide: Critical Lessons from Veterinarians"; G. Elaine Acker; 2008

Photo Credits

  • Image by, courtesy of Alessandro Valli
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