Cases of Tea Tree Oil Poisoning
In the early 1990s, it was suggested that cats with nerve disorders were unable to tolerate Tea Tree oil and suffered ill effects from its use. It was recommended that the amount of the oil in a product such as a cat shampoo should not exceed 1% although even that small amount may be toxic to certain individuals. American cat owners were advised not to use Tea Tree oil at all on cats with diabetes, epilepsy, metabolic or neurological disorders or on young kittens whose immature livers may not be able to cope with it.
Cases of Tea Tree oil poisoning have since been reported to the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) of the US following external application of the oil to cats. In most cases, the oil had been used at inappropriately high doses, causing acute poisoning. Symptoms occurred 2 - 8 hours after topical application of Tea Tree oil products. Symptoms were depression, weakness, ataxia, lack of coordination, behavioural disorders and muscle tremors. Warning signs may include vomiting, dizziness, clumsiness, lack of appetite and lack of energy.
Treatment is by removing residual amounts of oil from the skin by bathing the cat in a non-insecticidal shampoo. Intravenous fluids and glucose may were sometimes required to strengthen the animal, to overcome hypotension and to aid renal elimination (elimination in the urine). Where the oil had been ingested (licked off through grooming) activated charcoal and a cathartic was required to decrease the amount of oil absorbed in the gut. It has been reported that cats treated for Tea Tree oil poisoning recovered within 2-3 days following treatment of clinical signs and supportive care.
There is no specific antidote for the adverse reactions caused by dermal (skin) overexposure to Tea Tree oil (or related essential oils). Basic supportive care is required, including monitoring of respiratory and cardiovascular functions, checking for possible hypothermia and providing additional warmth if needed.
Hopefully where you have applied the oil, the kitten will not lick at the fibers of the carpet?