Is Incense Bad for Cats?


If you have been stressed lately, your friends or a quick google search will suggest burning incense. This plant material that produces a fragrant scent has been praised for generations for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Religions like Hinduism and Buddhism have a special liking for incense since burning it is believed to act as a doorway to spirituality. However, as a cat parent, your four-legged kids are a priority. It is, therefore, reasonable to also be curious whether incense is bad for cats. So, below is all you need to know about how incense affects cats.

Yes, Incense is Bad for Cats

Emergency Vet USA warns us that although incense has a relaxing effect on humans, it is dangerous to cats. Burning incense releases smoke that a cat will inhale. When the tiny particles in the smoke settle in a cat’s lungs, nose, and airway, it can result in respiratory problems. If your cat is asthmatic, the reaction will be immediate, and you will notice coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes. Even if your cat does not already have asthma, he is likely to develop it with your continuous burning of incense. Some cats are so sensitive that they will react by developing skin dermatitis. If you are bent on burning incense while your cat is still within the house, you can take some measures. Ensuring that your pet is in another room while you enjoy your fragrance is one way of protecting him from inhaling dangerous fumes. Go a step further and open the windows to ensure a lot of fresh air is circulating within the house. Since pets, especially cats have a nose for certain smells, you should also keep your incense sticks out of their reach. To the felines, the sticks are toys, but you know better. You should know that incense has been linked to cancers in humans. So you are risking your cat’s life and yours too whenever you burn incense. According to The Guardian, a 12-year study completed in 2008 backed up previous research indicating that incense smoke has cancer-causing chemicals that lead to DNA mutation in human cells. Allegedly, burning incense produces so many airborne particles 20 times higher than what you would find on a busy road. As a result, one of the researchers was concerned that incense is sold without a warning label yet used widely. Thus, he insisted on enlightening the public on how incense smoke is a carcinogen.

Essential Oils are Not Safe Either

Now that you know incense is bad for cats, you might be tempted to use essential oils, which also have a reputation for creating a soothing effect. They are used in aromatherapy because inhaling diffused oils causes the particles to travel from the olfactory nerves in the nose to the brain leading to a sensation that depends on the essential oils used. Unfortunately, the essential oils are dangerous to cats. According to VCA Hospitals, essential oils and liquid potpourris are made up of chemicals which are absorbed through the skin or orally. Tea tree oil is among the most hazardous essential oils because it is metabolized by the liver. Therefore, using tea tree oil around the home, even on other pets is not recommended because cats could lick it off the fur when grooming them. Since cats do not have enough enzymes required to break down the chemicals, they are prone to liver disease triggered by the use of essential oils. Even the slightest amount is dangerous. Some of the signs that your cat has essential oil poisoning include lethargy, pawing the face or mouth, difficulty when breathing, and uncoordinated gait. Some of the essential oils found to be toxic to cats include citrus, rose, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, sandalwood, tea tree, thyme, and eucalyptus. According to Outward Hound, the few essential oils that will not harm your furry friend are chamomile, lavender, and frankincense. However, there are conflicting reports. Some sources still claim that rose oil is safe and lavender is toxic. You should, therefore, always consult a veterinarian before diffusing any of the essential oils if you have cats in the house.

Everything in Moderation

It is crucial to understand that even if some essentials oils are recommended as alternatives to burning incense, they can also become toxic at some levels. For instance, cinnamon sticks have been classified as safe to ingest, touch and inhale. However, Wag Walking published that exposing your cat to a high concentration of cinnamon makes him susceptible to poisoning. The reason given is also regarding the lack of liver enzymes to metabolize the chemical compounds in cinnamon. Additionally, cinnamon can trigger skin irritation when a cat’s skin comes into contact with it. The main symptoms of cinnamon skin allergy are rash irritation, burns, and redness, whereas inhaling it results in breathing difficulty, coughing, and wheezing. If your need for burning incense is to eliminate foul smells in the house, you can use much safer methods. Besides simmering a few cinnamon sticks, you can opt for an air purifier. The air purifiers may not add that fragrance you were going for, but you will rest assured that none of your pets are being exposed to irritants. Air purifiers have the advantage of clearing the air of any unpleasant odors. They can also get rid of fine particles in the air, which could irritate your cat’s respiratory system. All the same, if you still want a pleasant smell lingering in your home, perhaps an air freshener will sort out the problem. Not all air fresheners are safe; hence, the one that comes highly recommended is the Febreze Heavy Duty Air Freshener. It is flaunted as being made from 100% natural products and has double the odor-eliminating power of regular Febreze.

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