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Is Incense Safe for Cats? What You Should Know!

Written by: Jordyn Alger

Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Is Incense Safe for Cats? What You Should Know!


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Incense can improve focus and relaxation while reducing tension, anxiety, and insomnia. It is often used in meditation and yoga, but what effect does it have on our cats? Is it even safe for them?

Unfortunately, incense is not safe for cats due to the smoke it produces. Smoke inhalation can harm cats, and too much exposure can lead to disastrous health consequences. Cats have a much better sense of smell than humans, and any scent from incense may overwhelm their senses.

Take a look at our guide below to learn which scents and diffusers should be avoided and how to keep your cat safe.


What Else to Avoid

Incense is not the only scent that is problematic for cats. Several substances can cause adverse reactions in your cat.

1. Scented Candles

two lit candles in a jar
Image Credit: LNataly, Shutterstock

Much like incense, the smoke and aroma from a scented candle may be overpowering for your cat. This is especially true if your cat already has respiratory issues like asthma. If your cat has lung issues and you notice they are experiencing more flare-ups when the candles are lit, they should be avoided in the home.

Other signs that your pet may be sensitive to candles include coughing, sneezing, irritated skin, and runny eyes and noses. Besides the scent and smoke, candles can also be dangerous if your cat can reach them. They could start a fire if they knock the candle on the floor.

2. Essential Oils

citrus essential oil
Image Credit: DariaHurst34, Pixabay

You shouldn’t use essential oils in your home if you have a cat. The essential oil diffusers can exacerbate respiratory issues that your cat may already have, and the oils can also threaten your cat’s health and safety.

Many essential oils are toxic to cats and contain chemicals that can only be processed with enzymes that cats lack. The chemicals are processed through the liver, but since your cat cannot adequately process them, it can lead to poisoning.

Even a single lick or a small drop on the skin can be enough to cause problems for your cat. If you believe your cat may have come into contact with essential oils, contact your vet and local pet poisoning helpline immediately.

Watch for signs of essential oil poisoning
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Lacking coordination
  • Tremors
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Redness of the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Fragrance on fur, skin, or breath

3. Air Fresheners

reed diffuser on the table
Image Credit: Enjoy The Life, Shutterstock


How to Safely Enjoy Incense

If incense is an integral part of managing your anxiety or insomnia, there are ways that you can use it safely without putting your cat’s well-being at risk. When burning incense, open windows in the room. Ventilation is vital to ensure that your cat is not inhaling the smoke.

Likewise, keep your cat out of the room where the incense is burning. Once you are done burning incense, store it in a secure location where your cat cannot access it.

Consider an Alternative

An alternative that requires relatively little monitoring is an air purifier. Air purifiers can even benefit your pet since they make the air safer and more breathable for you and your cat.

The sound the air purifier makes may bother your cat, but most models have settings that control the fan speed, and the lowest setting is unlikely to upset your cat. If your cat can’t tolerate it, you can move the machine to another room they cannot access.

cat paw divider


Although incense is unsafe for cats, there are ways to enjoy it without putting your feline friend in danger. Essential oils and air fresheners should only be used cautiously in areas your cat cannot access, while air purifiers may be the perfect alternative. With anything you introduce into your cat’s environment, monitor them for any adverse side effects and reach out to your vet for any concerns you may have.

Featured Image Credit: Denis Oliveira, Unsplash

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