Is Incense Bad For Cats?

To feel good in our houses and apartments, it is common to use incense or candles to scent the atmosphere. But what impact does burning incense around cats at home have? Is incense bad for cats?

While incense has a soothing property for humans, it is harmful to the cat. Not only can the chemicals harm the pet, but there is also a chance of burning.

Is Incense Bad For Cats

If you are not convinced yet, we request you to go through the article and find out why incense is not a good idea around cats.

What Is Incense Made Of?

Basically, incense is a preparation based on aromatic resins of vegetable origin. It is mixed with oils of different essences, flowers, or vegetable substances, giving off balsamic smoke and aroma when burning.

The most common resins are those of myrrh, cedar, copal, or frankincense. And the aromas and essential oils are hundreds by tens: sandalwood, rosemary, lemon, and lavender. Its most widespread format is that of the traditional wand, but we also find cones, pure resin, or spirals.

It has been manufactured this way for millennia. However, because its use has spread and to lower costs, it is common to use mineral or synthetic oils and other substances. And that is where the problems begin for cats.

Incense and Cats: The Impact of These Products on Health

Smoke is not harmless. Whatever the source of the smoke, it usually leaves traces in the body. When it originates from products made from synthetic substances, it can be as harmful as tobacco smoke. 

To date, there are only very few studies carried out to verify whether this smoke is harmful to the health of cats. The South China University of Technology published the latter. The tests have been carried out on animals; therefore, they are definitely bad for cats.

The work carried out by this university shows that the smoke particles are so tiny. They are absorbed and penetrate the lungs very easily, even more so in closed places or with little ventilation. 

The smoke contained a wide range of cytotoxic and genotoxic agents, as well as mutagenic components. All of them are related to the development of cancer.

Is Burning Incense Bad for Cats?

Never leave burning incense unattended when you have a cat in the house. The flame is a potential fire hazard around cats, especially if it is within reach of your kitten. Make sure they are not easily accessible on coffee tables or side tables. Place the candles far off the ground, so your cat doesn’t accidentally hit one. Most people are aware of this, but it is a good reminder.

Can Burning Incense At Home Become Toxic For Cats?


There are two kinds of incense:

  • Some are made from a resin of vegetal and aromatic origin mixed with natural or vegetable oils and, 
  • Some are produced synthetically. 

The health control exercised on this product is quite sloppy. So if you can verify for yourself that it is natural incense, the better.

How to Distinguish Natural From Synthetic Incense?

Synthetic incenses are the most toxic. Try not to expose your cat to their smoke for more than three hours in a row. It is always advisable to ventilate the room after use. 

Both are potentially toxic, but the one carried out with artificial products is estimated to be even more so. Natural oils and resins are burned in natural oils; but, nitrogen derivatives, coal dust, aromatic hydrocarbons, artificial colors, and aromas are burned in synthetic ones. 

To differentiate the poor quality from the good quality (more natural and artisan), there are some keys:

  1. The country of origin

Those from China, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Indonesia are usually the worst, also the cheapest. They can be found both of good quality and of poor quality, riddled with artificial compounds. So you will have to look at the label and the price. Lastly, the best are usually those from Japan, Nepal, and Tibet. They are relatively good for your pets, including the cat.

  1. The fragrance. 

The natural ones are more subtle, and the artificial ones more penetrating. Also, your cat will be more relaxed around the natural one than the synthetics.

  1. The color. 

The artificial ones usually have more colors, while the natural ones usually have no color. These colors are somewhat harmful to your cat’s skin and fur.

  1. The smoke.

If the smoke is dark, it is likely synthetic incense. This dark substance is called ‘creosote.’ It is the result of a mixture of chemical material such as acrolein and aldehyde. If, on the contrary, the smoke is clear, the incense is made with plant products.

  1. The certification. 

Although it is not a product subject to strict sanitary controls, you can find incenses with ecological certifications. They are definitely have lesser effects.

Incense Vs Candles: Is Candles Better Than Incense?

Not really. 

If there are animals or small children in the house: candles cannot be left unattended! When they are off, they can be bitten by cats. Cats, intrigued by the odor and strange buttery texture, can easily grope to chew them. 

When they are lit, the danger is double. The candles produce a narrow and high heat fireplace. Cats can burn themselves even from a distance. 

In addition, there is also the danger of liquid paraffin that can stick to the hair. And this can cause very serious burns to our little four-legged friends.

Essential Oil for Cats: Alternatives for Incense

Generally, it is not recommended that an essential oil be ingested orally since it has a very narrow therapeutic margin. On the contrary, the route of application that is most often used is topically.

Essential oils should always be diluted for application. They are so concentrated that they could otherwise be irritating. They are generally diluted in other vegetable oils (rosehip oil, sweet almond oil, or wheat germ oil, for example).

The most important thing to keep in mind is that our pets’ sense of smell is much more developed than ours. Therefore, the same proportions should not be used, but you must dilute the essential oil much more.

What type of proportion should be used then? 

This question must be answered according to each animal as well as the symptoms it presents. Therefore, before applying aromatherapy, you must have the advice of a holistic veterinarian.

Also, before buying, be careful since some of the essential oil can be toxic for cats.

Here is a list of the oils that are better to avoid if we live with a cat. But our recommendation, as always, is that you consult an expert before using any essential oil. Make sure that it does not pose any risk to your little feline.

  • Birch
  • Basil
  • Bergamot (Bitter Orange)
  • Nail
  • Cinnamon bark
  • Wintergreen-Thyme
  • Lavender
  • lime
  • Lemon
  • Melaleuca / Tea Tree
  • Mint
  • Orange
  • Oregano
  • Pine tree
  • Pennyroyal
  • Grapefruit
  • Sage
  • Tansy
  • Thuja
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen
  • Any other oil that contains phenol

How To Use Incense and Candles To Save Your Cat?

You already might’ve understood that we hugely discourage the use of incense or any kind of scented burning products. But if you need to use it or even have it in the house, you must take some precautions. 

Here are a couple of tips for using these products to help keep you and your cat safe while reducing scent.

1. Reduce the Wick 

Make sure to cut the wick whenever the candle is not in use. Hold the candlewick about 1/8 inches. This will ensure that the glass candle holder stays clean and helps prevent soot.

2. Keep out of the reach of your kitten

Be sure to keep the incense out of reach. For example, if your cat likes to climb the counter, chances are you need to find a different place for your incense.

Put the incense on a smooth flat surface and also prevent low places. Larger cats can unintentionally beat things together with their tails. 

3. Never leave the incense Unattended

Never leave your home while using incense.

An open fire can be harmful, so make sure these incense are lit under supervision for the cat’s sake and yours.

4. Blow out them correctly 

Always make sure your candle or incense is extinguished before leaving an area, which means no shine or embers.

To extinguish your candle, use a blow or a blowout. Never try to use water to put out the candle, as a glass container could break and the wax could splash. In case of incense, break the tip.

Final Words

We often hear from cat owners, is palo santo safe for cats or, is incense bad for cats? Our article’s summary is incense is not only bad for cats but also humans, whatever the type is.    So, it is better to avoid it altogether. Instead, you can use cat safe candles or essential oils. But as we always say, try to contact an expert as these are a very serious matter for your cat’s life.

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