Toxic Air Fresheners and Cats

Last Updated on October 24, 2021 by Jenny

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Originally published May 20, 2016 Bath and Body Works Wallflower Plugin Air Freshener Toxic for CatsThere has been a lot of talk and research lately about whether air fresheners are safe for cats. When a cat is sick or abnormally smelly, a pet owner might look for the cause in everything from food and water issues to pesticides, plants, cleaning products, or air fresheners. These last few possibilities are an often-overlooked source of harmful toxicity, but they can be dangerous to pet’s health in both the short and long term. Read this horror story about a Ragdoll Cat that lost its life because of a Bath and Body Works Wallflower Plugin Air Freshener. Here are some facts to consider about air fresheners and cats, as well as some alternatives to try in your home:

Toxic Air Fresheners

You might be asking can air fresheners harm cats? Or can cats be allergic to air fresheners? It’s an important question. While air fresheners might seem like a good way to make your house smell nice, particularly around a cat’s litter box, air freshener toxic chemicals can cause serious health problems for your cat. The chemicals irritate the mucus membranes and breathing passages of your kitty, and they can cause even more serious long-term problems if they contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are carbon-based compounds that remain in the air of your home even after a spray evaporates. Some of the long-term effects of exposure to VOCs include liver or kidney damage, cancer, and nervous system problems. Short-term effects include vomiting, breathing issues, dizziness, and eye/mouth/nose irritation. Some of the other household sources of VOCs are lemon, pine, or citrus scented cleaners and certain types of wood furniture. Other risky everyday substances include toilet cleaners, laundry detergents, carpet cleaners, drain cleaners, and antifreeze. Potpourri oils can also be a dangerous from of air freshener – a cat might rub against a leaky bottle or spill the bottle on themselves, which can result in both skin irritation and internal problems if the cat licks the oil while grooming itself. If your cat has been having health problems and you think that an air freshener or a household chemical is the culprit, contact your vet immediately. All of the commercially produced air fresheners can be bothersome to cats, but particularly the plugin variety. All of the commercially produced air fresheners can be bothersome to cats, but particularly the plugin variety. Click To Tweet

Signs of a Toxic Reaction to Air Fresheners in Cats

Air freshener toxic to cats:

Toxic air fresheners can cause different reactions in your cat, depending on the interaction between the cat and the toxic compound. For instance, if you’ve sprayed a room freshener that is toxic for your cat in the same room where your cat is, you might see low-grade symptoms. air freshener toxic to cats However, if you have a leaking air freshener and your cat licks the area where it spilled, then you may witness a much more violent reaction. Here’s what you can expect. The low-grade symptoms may include coughing, sneezing, tearing up, nasal discharge production. These occur when the cat has minimal contact with the toxic substance. The cat immediately becomes distressed, which is visible in its behavior. If you notice this, you should try smelling your cat. If it has come into contact with a toxic compound from an air freshener, then the smell should still be present and it might help you figure out what is happening to your cat. Even if the symptoms are mild, you should take your cat to see a veterinarian because there may some tests that the doctor needs to run to see if the toxic substance has affected the cat’s liver or kidneys. An eye exam is also required, as well as a demagogical examination of the area that has come in contact with the toxic compound. The more severe symptoms you might notice in the cat are vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or lack of appetite. These symptoms may be difficult to link to a toxic exposure especially because they might appear hours or even days after the cat has come into contact with the toxic chemicals. If you do notice any of these symptoms in your cat, keep in mind that exposure to toxic compounds from air fresheners could be a possible cause. Try smelling your cat’s paws and face, as these are the likeliest contact areas. Depending on how much of the toxic air freshener the cat has gotten into contact with and how long ago this happened, the smell might be weaker or stronger. For symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea to come up, the cat has most likely ingested the toxic substance. For symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea to come up, the cat has most likely ingested the toxic substance. Click To Tweet If you notice that your cat displays these symptoms, check any air fresheners you might have in your home. Check for leaks or spillage to see if this is the potential cause of the symptoms. Then, you should take your cat to the vet for a check-up. This is the best possible course of action because these general symptoms could get much more severe quite rapidly in the case of toxic exposure and prolonging the visit to the vet might mean that you arrive too late for anything to be done for your cat.

Other Symptoms You Might Notice If Your Cat Ingests Air Freshener

As mentioned above, the most dangerous situation is when the cat ingests air freshener. Whether it’s a solid air freshener or a liquid one packed with essential oils, if your cat eats it, then you are dealing with a medical emergency. The symptoms vary according to the specific substances that the cat has eaten. Moreover, you should keep in mind that air fresheners include much more than the primary substance that gives off the scent. They also include many other toxic ingredients that will worsen the effects. One of the major effects of toxic air freshener exposure can be seen in the gastrointestinal system. The cat will display excessive salivation, lethargy, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. In severe cases, there may be blood in the vomit or stool. If you notice this, then you have to get your cat into emergency care because it needs immediate medical attention. If the cat ingests an air freshener that is rich in essential oils, neurological symptoms may also appear. Aside from the gastrointestinal symptoms mentioned above, the large intake of essential oils can cause agitation, weakness, unsteadiness, and tremors. The cat will not be able to walk properly or at all. If you do notice neurological symptoms, try to get your cat to the doctor as quickly as possible because you are dealing with a medical emergency. If possible, take the air freshener with you to the vet clinic to show the doctor what the cat is likely to have ingested. This could save a lot of precious time in figuring out the best course of treatment.

Long Term Effects of Using Air Fresheners

Even using a mildly toxic air freshener in the house might be harmful to your cat. Immediate effects may not be visible, which gives cat owners no reason to stop using the toxic substances. However, after years of use, cats may develop asthma because of prolonged exposure. Even using a mildly toxic air freshener in the house might be harmful to your cat. Click To Tweet You will notice that the cat has difficulty breathing and that it is somewhat weaker and more lethargic than it used to be. You may also notice wheezing, coughing, or respiratory distress. Unfortunately, asthma is a chronic disease and even with treatment, the cat will remain with a sensitive respiratory system. Cats and plug in air fresheners don’t mix well.

Non-Toxic Air Fresheners

There are plenty of natural, non-toxic alternatives to air freshener for keeping your home smelling clean:
  • Baking soda – This can be great for eliminating odors anywhere in the house, particularly in carpeting, which is a place where you definitely want to avoid chemicals since your cat spends their time right on top of it.
  • Cat-friendly plants – Plants can filter the air in your home but double-check to see that they will not harm your cat if he or she decides to take a bite out of them.
  • Herbs and Seasonings – To do more than just neutralize odors, put a pot on the stove or set up a crockpot with seasonal herbs or other natural scents, including cinnamon sticks, cloves, or lemon or orange peels. They will make your house smell great and not irritate your pets.
  • Natural Oils – Try using an oil burner to burn natural oils such as lavender or vanilla. If you want to put oils around your home, first make sure that whatever you are using will not be toxic for your cat’s skin or digestive system in the event of a spill, or that the oil is secure and safely out of their reach.
  • Orange salt lamp Salt Lamps – These can be another way of naturally cleansing the air by giving off a slight negative ion charge. However, while this is a great alternative to toxic scents, be sure to keep it out of your cat’s reach, as licking or eating the salt lamp could be dangerously dehydrating.  I have two of these salt lamps in my house and my cats never bother them, but recently there was a huge scare about them on Facebook.
  • Essential Oils – Believe it or not, essential oils can be OK for cats.  Read our extensive interview about essential oils and cats with veterinarian Sarah Brandon.
  • Air Naturalizer – An air naturalized can drastically improve the quality of the air in your home by energizing it. It generates negative and positive ions, which give it the ability to break down pollutants, making the air cleaner. Read the air naturalizer in the full review.
Believe it or not, essential oils can be OK for cats. Click To Tweet

Dangerous Placement of Air Fresheners

Part of the problem with cats and air fresheners is that they are often in very close proximity to the source, which means they are inhaling or ingesting more of the chemicals than pet owners might realize. Avoid putting air fresheners anywhere near your cat’s food and water, and also anywhere in or around their litter box. Plug in air fresheners are toxic to pets in particular because they are right at nose level and can really affect a cat’s breathing. Plug in air fresheners are toxic to pets in particular because they are right at nose level and can really affect a cat’s breathing. Click To Tweet

Storage and Usage of Air Fresheners

Even if you are using safe products like some essential oils, these can still be extremely harmful to your cat if it ingests them. This is why storage is very important when it comes to potentially harmful substances. You should keep such products in a box or a drawer that closes so that your cat doesn’t have access to it. It is ideal to use something with a lock because cats love to explore and are very handy with opening doors, especially those you do not want them to open. This should be part of cat-proofing your house. Store your air fresheners, detergents, house cleaning products, body sprays, etc. in a place that is not accessible for the cat to avoid accidents. As for safe usage of air fresheners, keep in mind that they should not be unattended. Air fresheners that stay in the room when you are not there present a risk for your cat. They might leak or otherwise malfunction and your cat can come into contact with dangerous chemicals. It is best to use them when you are there to supervise everything. For instance, if you are using essential oils, use the correct quantity, and then store the oils away where your cat cannot reach them. Even if there are essential oils that are OK for your cat, they are still highly concentrated substances that become dangerous if the cat ingests them.

Eliminating the Need for Air Fresheners

Avoiding the need for air fresheners can be as simple as making sure your cat is healthy and their home environment is kept clean. Intestinal problems or a poor diet could be the cause of particularly smelly cat feces or urine, whereas a healthy cat should have a more neutral odor. In addition, keeping a litter box regularly cleaned will prevent unpleasant odors from forming and encourage your kitty to use the box more often – because no cat wants to keep returning to an increasingly dirty and smelly box. Be aware of what chemicals you are exposing both you and your pets to as you clean and freshen your house. A lot of what is out there can be surprisingly toxic, but there is a wealth of natural alternatives out there that are easy to find with a little research. Read this horror story about a Ragdoll Cat that lost its life because of a Bath and Body Works Wallflower Plugin Air Freshener. Has your cat ever had a reaction to an air freshener or household chemical? Where do you put air fresheners in your house? What natural alternatives do you use? Share here!

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What You Need to Know About Toxic Air Fresheners and Cats | Pet Health Warning Signs | Toxic Things for Cats | Things Toxic to Cats | Things That Are Toxic to Cats | How to Keep Indoor Cat Safe | Pet Safety | Cat Health Tips #cathealthtips #toxicairfresheners #thingstoxictocats What You Need to Know About Toxic Air Fresheners and Cats | Pet Health Warning Signs | Toxic Things for Cats | Things Toxic to Cats | Things That Are Toxic to Cats | How to Keep Indoor Cat Safe | Pet Safety | Cat Health Tips | Animal and Pet Supplies | Cat Tips More to read: Custom Cat Engraved Night Light 7 Touching Cat Loss Sympathy Gifts

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34 thoughts on “Toxic Air Fresheners and Cats

  1. Betty Jordan says:

    My mother in law used the plug ins for 13 years with two cats in the house. She had several of them in every room and almost all outlets were occupied by them. After she and my father in law passed away we inherited the house and both cats so we threw every single one in the trash. She also sprayed the house several times a day with room sprays because she smoked in the house and we complained about the smell. I know that smoking and room sprays are not good for cats either. One of their cats recently had to be put to sleep because she had a mass on her intestine. We don’t know if it was because of them or not but even after starting treatment on her she went downhill so fast, we couldn’t save her. We still have her sister with us who is a Ragdoll and she has always had breathing problems. She snores loudly when she sleeps and has suddenly developed other health problems. We’ve only had the cats for one year and lost one of them and I’m afraid we may be lose the other one at any time. I know some of their issues could come with being senior cats because the one we lost was 13 and the one we still have is 13 but we do wonder if it was the air fresheners that made them sick or made them worse somehow.

  2. Rabia says:

    I’ve been using a febreeze air freshener for my new kitten (4-5 months) because of the smell of the litter and he’s been sneezing/had a runny nose ever since he came and now I know why. Thank you so so much for this. I just hope it’s not too late. Do you think he’ll be fine if I just dont use air fresheners or perfume around him?

    • Jenny says:

      I hope so. God, I hate those products so much. I wish they were banned from the market – they aren’t any good for humans either. What litter are you using? Why does it smell?

      His sneezing and runny nose could be feline herpes – probably best to take him to the vet to have that checked out.

      • patty carl says:

        I’m curious about the glade air fresheners I spray in the air after I have gone to the bathroom to eliminate odors, My cat who is 13 throws up sometimes but for the most part it’s usually a hairball, but tonight he makes this howling noise before he vomits and throws up a big pile of bile, he’s sleeping now on the couch but I can tell he’s not feeling good can air fresheners that you spray in the air effect him?

  3. Patti Johnson says:

    SUCH A SUPER IMPORTANT & CRITICAL POST, Jenny honey! Glad to see you re-posted this today as a reminder to everyone of the dangerous toxicity of these products! THIS post CANNOT be re-posted too many times! TYSVM!! <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3

  4. Patti Johnson says:

    So glad you re-posted this one, Jenny! Such critical information to know! Thanks so much for reminding us about this and posting it again for new readers! 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

  5. pezjme says:

    Do not use Renuzit air fresheners around your cats. My cat died in under 24hrs cause he got into a cabinet I had a freshener open in and went to sleep. The fumes destroyed his organs before I knew he was in any serious danger. I thought he had ate a spider cause he always acted weird when he did. But unfortunately I was wrong and didn’t even think about the freshener till it was to late. The package says keep aways from kids and pets but does not say it could be deadly. They need to change their packaging to let owners know that these products can kill your animals.

  6. Carole Schueneman says:

    Thanks so much Jenny for info. Knew a little about some house plants but nothing about air fresheners and especially snow globes. What a sinking feeling when I read Jingles’ story. My little guy is only 4 months old and how heart wrenching to think of it. Tks again for great info.

  7. milliesmom says:

    I absolutely love my essential oils and my diffuser, but have read that they too may be toxic to cats.. When I run the diffuser , it is in the guest room with the door shut. I’d sure like to hear it is OK to use it outside of the guest room. Please tell us what YOU hear from the experts.

  8. Teresa Reid says:

    Thanks so much for the heads up about the air fresheners! Know that these and other chemicals are very toxic to kitties and do my best to keep all these away from them. I’ve also read that the salt lamps are very toxic, but think it must be if they lick it and get too much sodium which can cause stuff like brain swelling and seizures. ♥♥♥

    • Jenny says:

      Huh, interesting – didn’t know that. My two have no interest in my salt lamps, and I have had them for years.

    • Donna Savoy-Carey says:

      I use air wick plug ins around my house. I wonder if these are toxic to cats by just the smell not by investing. All three of my cats have kidney disease, the youngest being only 8 years old.
      Thanks for your input.

  9. Patti Johnson says:

    Great post, Jenny! Such valuable and lifesaving info! Luckily, we have had no scares or issue as we don’t use any air freshener products in our home. We do use baking soda as a natural cleanser (along with grapefruit peels for sink scrubbing) and freshener throughout the house to leave a less toxic footprint. Have to be so careful as little paws can go everywhere (especially when you are asleep). 🙂 <3

    Big hugs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

      • Brenda Bridgett says:

        I only recently discovered, not only toxic to cats, but anyone with environmental allergies, or Asthma, are greatly affected by the Plug-Ins. I did notice when Luna was a small kitten, he sneezed lots, as did I.
        Thankfully, threw them all away.

  10. Ruth Marbert says:

    Can you tell me more about oil burners. I’m not familiar with this. I would like to try this and use lavender oil. Also can you recommend what brand and where to buy it?

    • Jenny says:

      Hi Ruth – I don’t know of any to recommend – I don’t use those in my house. You might just Google search, read reviews, etc.

    • Robin Thurston says:

      My gorgeous healthy 4 year old cat just,died,this week due to my using Lavender essential oil100% in a misting diffuser DO NOT use please, was abtraguc and,horrific event past 3 weeks and we are HEARTBROKEN,..there were no warnings

      • Teresa Reid says:

        Oh NO! My heart goes out to you and your family Robin. Am so very very sorry for the loss of your precious 4-year-old kitty. Thank you so much for reaching out to make others aware that something that seems so benign could and is so very dangerous even to the point of being fatal. God bless you and pray for your heart to heal soon from this tragic accident.♥

      • Robin Holbrook says:

        BEWARE OF MISTERS! I had no idea until a few months ago…right after I bought 3 new misters! When you use an essential oil in a mister particles of the oil are dispersed WITH the water. They land wherever including on your cat’s fur. The cat licks and ingests that oil particle. If they are grazers droplets fall on their food as well. You get the picture. These oils are also harmful to dogs, birds, and all other animals in the household. There ARE essentials that are safe for pets, however, and they can be used in misters. But I prefer using oil in a different way. There are fibrous rings available that you set on a lightbulb and place a few drops of oil upon. The heat releases fragrance but NOT the oil itself. Wax melts is another way to get fragrance that causes no harm. Making your own fragrance in a mini crock pot or sauce pan using oranges, lemons, cinnamon sticks, cloves, anise, and water and just letting it simmer is wonderful! Get a cheap frozen apple pie and bake it! Or -remade cookie dough and back up some cookies. Dab some oil on the inside of the roll of toilet paper. Buy or make a sachet to tie near your AC intake that will scent the whole house. Throw a sachet into your vacuum bag. These are just a few things you can do. ❤️❤️

    • Robin Holbrook says:

      Oil burners leave a residue. You will find a thin black coating near where the burner is placed. It’s like having a candle burning. Basically, it’s an oil lamp. You cannot leave it unattended! With pets it has the potential of being quite dangerous especially since the oil heats up. It isn’t a good option. See my long post with safer options below.

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