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Is Sandalwood Incense Safe for Cats? What You Need to Know!

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on July 12, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

woman holding incense

Is Sandalwood Incense Safe for Cats? What You Need to Know!




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

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Sandalwood incense is a common way for people to freshen up their homes and keep their living areas smelling nice. However, it isn’t safe to use around cats. Sandalwood oil is known to be toxic to cats, and the smoke from incense sticks can cause respiratory problems.

Fortunately, plenty of safe ways to keep your house smelling pleasant don’t involve sandalwood incense or other dangerous fragrances. In this article, we’ll explore the alternative options and explain why sandalwood incense is a bad idea around cats.

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Why Are Cats Sensitive to Essential Oils?

Essential oils aren’t always as harmless as they first appear, especially for pets. Cats are especially sensitive to essential oils due to their inability to metabolize them properly. Along with the risk of oral or skin irritation or burning, essential oils contain chemicals that must be processed by the liver.

Since cats have a much lower number of liver enzymes that are capable of metabolizing the oils, they’re more susceptible to bad reactions to the oils when they come into contact with them.

young woman with ragdoll cat on couch
Image by: rock-the-stock, Shutterstock

Are Incense Sticks Harmful to Cats?

Despite their relaxing aroma, incense sticks aren’t the best or the healthiest way to freshen up your house. The smoke and particulates released when you burn incense can cause respiratory problems when inhaled. These effects can cause health issues for humans and cats. Some cats are also more sensitive to smoke than others, especially if they have asthma or another issue with their respiratory system.

Some incense sticks contain chemicals or fragrances that are toxic to cats. Not only will they suffer from smoke inhalation, but they could also have a bad reaction to the essential oils or plant materials used to make the incense.

Why Isn’t Sandalwood Incense Safe for Cats?

Sandalwood incense is a bit of a double-edged sword. Beyond the dangers of incense, the sandalwood fragrance is also a problem for cats. If it’s ingested or gets on your cat’s fur, it can cause several health problems.

Signs of sandalwood poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Skin irritation
  • Unsteadiness
  • Low body temperature

If you think your cat is suffering from poisoning due to your sandalwood incense, take them to a veterinarian immediately.

Cat vomiting
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

What Other Scents Are Toxic to Cats?

Sandalwood isn’t the only oil that is toxic to cats. Several essential oils are commonly used for aromatherapy or to get rid of bad smells, and they should never be used around your cat. Essential oils that are toxic to felines include:

  • Citrus oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Clove oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Tea tree oil

Owning a cat doesn’t mean you can never use the oils. However, you should take caution if you do. Ensure that your cat is safe by limiting the use of the oils to one room of the house that’s well-ventilated and inaccessible to your cat.

Avoid using diffusers that can be tipped over by an inquisitive feline. The oils inside can end up on your cat’s paws or skin and be ingested. If you can’t keep your cat away from the diffuser, it’s best not to use one.

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Alternative Ways to Keep Your Home Smelling Nice

While sandalwood incense might be a fun way to make your house smell nice, plenty of other options are safer for you and your cat. These tips are good to remember when you own cats or any pet.

Air Purifier

Some air purifiers are designed with pet owners in mind and have filters that can absorb pet-related odors. Although air purifiers can be pricey, they capture and eliminate smells before they can linger and cling to your furniture.

While other odor-removal techniques rely on masking odors, an air purifier removes particulates that cause bad smells entirely.

air purifier in living room
Image Credit: Yuttana Jaowattana, Shutterstock

Baking Soda

Many pet owners swear by baking soda as a quick and easy method of deodorizing their homes. It takes more time to work than an air freshener you can spray around the room, but it also absorbs the odor rather than masking it.

It’s also non-toxic to animals, but precautions should be taken to ensure your cat does not eat it. Sprinkle some on the affected carpet or cushion, leave for 1–2 days, and then vacuum.

Cleaning Regularly

Keeping the house clean is a surefire way to tackle bad smells before they can set in. A foul odor can result from a build-up of cat fur on the carpet or a used litter tray left for too long. Sometimes, the bad smell results from your cat vomiting or another pet-related accident that leaves an odor clinging to the carpet or couch.

Cleaning up messes right after they happen, or at least as quickly as possible, will prevent the odors from lingering.

woman cleaning the floor
Image Credit: Piqsels


Many air fresheners aren’t safe to use around cats, and some cat owners assume that Febreze isn’t the best choice either. However, according to the ASPCA, Febreze is one of the few air fresheners that is safe for use around pets, including cats.

It can cause mild skin irritation or stomach upset if touched while it’s wet or ingested, respectively, but the fabric freshener is generally safe around animals.

DIY Scents

You can also freshen the air by making an air freshener. You don’t need a fancy setup, just a pot of water and something fragrant. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and add apples or vanilla. Some people use mint or cinnamon sticks, but cats dislike these smells, and they can also be toxic.

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Sandalwood oil and incense sticks are dangerous to use around cats and can cause minor to severe health issues, including breathing difficulties, for many felines. Combining the two products into sandalwood incense might be a convenient way to make your home smell nice, but it’s extra dangerous for your cat.

Not only will your cat be affected by the toxic properties of the sandalwood essential oil, but also by the smoke from the incense. To be safe, use air purifiers or baking soda to remove odors from your home, or you can make your own fragrances with cat-friendly items.

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Featured Image Credit: Use at your Ease, Pixabay

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