Using Air Fresheners Around Cats: Do They Affect Your Kitties?

Is your kitty going to have problems if you install an air freshener in your house?

What about if you install an air freshener right next to the litter box? Will little snowball mind the scent, or will he get right along with his business like before, with not a care in the world?

After researching this topic in-depth, I have produced the following guide to the risks you need to be aware of when using air fresheners or scented cleaning products around cats.

Risks Of Using Air Fresheners Around Cats

Risk #1: Your cat is annoyed.

  • Problem: Your cat will not like the scent you have used, causing him to avoid the area.
  • Solution: Remove the scented object from the room or building.
  • Likelihood of occurrence: Fairly high. Many cats do not like strange odors, especially chemically-created unnatural odors, being introduced to their local biome.

Risk #2: Your cat is allergic.

  • Problem: The scented chemicals may cause respiratory problems or allergic reactions in your cat.
  • Solution: Remove the scented object from the area in which the cat resides.
  • Likelihood of occurrence : From reading online reports about this issue, it seems to have a low to medium chance of occurring in cats. It doesn’t happen to every cat, but it happens enough that if you notice allergy symptoms in your cat, you should try removing your air fresheners to see if they go away.

Risk #3: Your cat eats a scented chemical.

  • Problem: Your cat ingests a chemical product by licking a surface you have just cleaned with a scented cleaning spray. Or, your cat ingests a scented object that was displayed in your home as an air freshener.
  • Solution: This one is tough. Cats can die from ingesting toxic chemicals, such as those found in many air freshener devices and cleaning products. If you see erratic behavior from your animal, you may want to take them to the veterinarian immediately.
  • Likelihood of occurrence : Low to medium. Most cats will avoid most chemically-smelling cleaning products. However, there may be a few natural-smelling ones that will attract your cat’s attention. Be careful with what substances you let your cat get near.

Risk #4: Your cat gets scented chemicals on him.

  • Problem: Either you were stupid enough to spray or apply a scented chemical cleaning product to your cat (don’t do this!), or your cat somehow got air freshening chemicals on him. If these chemicals get into your cat’s face, they could cause severe irritation. If your cat were to lick these chemicals off his body, they could potentially kill him.
  • Solution: Wash the scented chemicals off your cat in the sink or bathtub. Be sure to scrub him thoroughly with a wet washcloth. He probably won’t like this, but it’s for his own good. If you only clean him partially, he could lick the rest of the chemicals off his fur by himself, which could potentially kill him. So be sure to clean as thoroughly as possible.
  • Likelihood of occurrence: Fairly low, unless you go around spraying your cat with air freshening chemicals. Most cats don’t mess with electric air fresheners, but they might investigate an open-air type of air freshener such as a bowl of scented spices or essential oils. Be careful with what chemicals you leave in the open around your cat.

The VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) Boogeyman – Don’t Be Alarmed

If you read other stories online about cats and air fresheners, you will no doubt come across the phrase “volatile organic compound” and hear talk about how dangerous it is for cats.

Don’t be alarmed by this. I know the word “volatile” sounds scary, but what does it really mean?

In the case of air fresheners, and the chemicals they use (both synthetic and natural), the word “volatile” simply means that the chemicals diffuse rapidly into the air and spread out significantly through the local atmosphere.

In other words, saying that a chemical in an air freshener is “volatile” just means that the molecules spread out a lot so that you can smell them – which is exactly what they are supposed to do.

If scented chemicals in an air freshening device or scented candle weren’t “volatile”, that would mean that they stay bunched up right next to the scented device. This would cause the air freshener to not actually spread its scent around the room or area in which it’s placed.

A “non-volatile” chemical compound would therefore be completely worthless as it would not produce a noticeable scent in the immediate surrounding area.

But what about the “danger” of these VOC’s that other articles talk about?

Well, they are just talking about the problems that I already listed above. Your cat may not like the smell of your air freshener, or in some cases he may actually be allergic to it.

If those are the cases, then follow the guide above to solve those problems. But don’t be scared about “volatile organic compounds” just because the word “volatile” sounds scary. Even the harmless smell of fresh fruit is produced by “volatile” organic compounds.

Conclusion: Do I Really Have To Worry About Air Fresheners And My Cat?

The answer to this question is: only a bit.

There is a decent chance that your cat will not like the smell of your air freshener of choice. If that is the case, find a different scent, or move it to a room that the cat doesn’t use, or get rid of it altogether.

There’s a smaller chance that your cat will be allergic to your air freshener’s chemicals. This is especially true if you go overboard and put a really strong air freshener in every room in your house. If this is the case, tone it down a notch and give your cat a break.

So that’s it. Air fresheners and cats: Usually a safe combination, but not always.