The majority of cat owners are aware that many things that are safe for people can cause sensitivity in their feline friends. Cat owners must be cautious when it comes to their pet’s diet, the cleaning supplies they use, and other factors. But is incense harmful to cats?

Yes, some incense is harmful to cats. While incense smoke in low concentrations may not have a significant impact on cats, prolonged incense smoke exposure or exposure to high concentrations of incense smoke can. It’s best to avoid burning incense around cats.

Don’t worry; we’ll go over everything you need to know about incense and your cats, why it might be unsafe, and safer options you can use.

What Is Incense?

Pressed onto a bamboo stick or molded into a cone or block, incense is created from plant materials and essential oils. It burns to produce a pleasant smoke that is frequently used for religious rituals, meditation, or just general ambiance.

Incense has been used for worship and prayer since ancient China, when it was first used. It was supposedly used by Egyptian priests to fumigate tombs and perform ceremonies. India, where it is a crucial component of the Hindu religion, is currently the world’s top producer of incense. The most well-known scents today still include cinnamon, frankincense, and sandalwood, which were all once basic scents.

Nowadays, people frequently use incense for religious purposes (Christians and Buddhists also use it in their rituals and services), as a way to ease stress and anxiety, as a sleep aid, and during meditation and yoga.

Is It Harmful For Your Cat To Burn Incense?

According to Preventative Vet’s experts, incense can be harmful for the following reasons:

  • Cats are more sensitive to strong odors because their sense of smell is 14 times stronger than a human’s. An extremely potent aroma is produced when burning incense, especially at the source.
  • Smoke produced by incense burning is bad for the respiratory system of your cat. The smoke may irritate your cat, causing it to cough or experience an allergic reaction.
  • Your cat is more likely to develop asthma if there is more smoke inside. One of the main causes of cat asthma is exposure to smoke.
  • Carbonyls, benzene, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons—all of which are thought to be carcinogens—are released when incense is burned.

The Reason Incense Is Bad For Cats

There are three main explanations for why incense use may be harmful to cats. Let’s start with the first (and most serious) problem: inhaling smoke.

Smoke Inhalation And Incense

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, burning incense not only poses a risk to you but also causes harm to your cat. In a 2001 report, they state that “Incense smoke can be a major source of particulate emissions in indoor air.” The respiratory system may become deposited with the particles released during incense burning. These emissions might have contaminants in them that have the potential to have a range of negative health effects, like mutagenic effects and airborne dermatitis.”

If that wasn’t alarming enough, remember that your cat is much smaller than you and that those particles will probably have a much bigger effect on their tiny lungs. Your cat may experience discomfort from inhaling these particles, as well as respiratory problems like congestion and sneezing.

Sensitivity To Smells

Humans really aren’t capable of understanding how cats use smell. Consider that humans only have 5 million odor sensors in their noses compared to the more than 200 million odor sensors found in cats. This will help put things into perspective. Their sense of smell is fourteen times more acute than ours.”

Therefore, even an aroma that seems strong and calming to you could be extremely potent for your little feline friend. There’s no need to put our furry friends through any discomfort so that we can burn incense, even though your cat is unlikely to experience any serious health issues from smell alone.

Risk Of Fire

However, you can’t constantly keep an eye on your cat and incense. You should always be aware of any open flames you have in your home. Even though burning incense poses a small fire risk, anything can happen when a curious cat comes into contact with an open flame. Particularly when you consider how much smoke an incense stick can produce. There’s a good chance my cat would swipe at swirly whisps of smoke to see what was going on since I know she would be intrigued by them.

When you think about how incense is burned, this becomes even more crucial. On a holder, it is typically burned in stick form. Cats are capable of breaking that stick and letting it fall to whatever is below. You can see the problem when compared to a much more robust candle (which still has its own issues).


Can Incense Allergic Cats Exist?

Yes and no: While some cats may be more sensitive to incense than others and certain incense ingredients can cause allergies in cats, not all reactions to incense are allergic reactions.

Your cat is more likely to experience a sensitivity to smoke than an allergic reaction. Additionally, while some toxic chemical reactions to incense smoke may resemble allergic reactions, they require entirely different medical care.

Therefore, even though you can’t completely rule out the possibility of an allergic reaction to your incense, your cat is more likely to experience other negative health effects from incense.

Can A Cat Die From Incense?

While it does occasionally happen, incense can be deadly enough to kill cats. Regularly burning incense may worsen your cat’s quality of life and shorten their lifespan due to long-term health effects, which is much more likely.

Therefore, while it’s unlikely that using incense will instantly kill your cat if it doesn’t already have a health condition or allergy, doing so can have a negative impact on their lifespan and general health.

Pet-friendly Ways To Make Your Home Smell Nice

You should be aware that using candles or air fresheners can be just as harmful to your cat as burning incense before making those substitutions. Avoid using artificial air fresheners whenever possible. Here are some recommendations for eliminating offensive odors naturally:

  • Dust often to avoid dust’s ingredients, which include dead skin, pet dander, pollen, dirt, and insect poop. Dust can naturally affect the air quality in your home and, if not controlled, can cause a musty odor.
  • Make use of baking soda to eliminate offensive smells from carpet and furniture. Sprinkle a little on the troublesome areas, wait 24 to 48 hours, and then thoroughly vacuum.
  • Use aromatic plants like lemon balm, sage, or rosemary. Even though these plants are not toxic, try your best to keep them out of the way of your curious cats and place them in sturdy containers.
  • Make use of an air purifier inside. These devices capture and eliminate unpleasant odors before they have a chance to permeate your home’s soft furnishings, such as the furniture, draperies, and carpeting.
  • Add vanilla, apples, or cinnamon sticks to a pot of simmering water.
  • To keep your cat’s scent fresh and remove dander, bathe her every four to six weeks.

Alternative Scents That Are Safe For Cats And Dogs

There’s a good chance that if you have cats, your house has some odors you’d like to cover up. Consider performing a few quick “housekeeping” tasks to eliminate and prevent unpleasant odors before searching for something to light or spray to mask the odor. Obviously, I’m referring to the sometimes inexplicable poop and pee smells festering in your cat’s litter boxes if that was too subtly stated. Therefore, I urge you to read through these “7 Ways to Reduce Litter Box Smell (and Messes).”

There are several cat-safe ways to add other pleasant aromas to your home once the unpleasant cat odors have been reduced.


The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center examined Febreze’s fabric freshener product and determined that it is safe to use around pets, despite rumors to the contrary. However, they do recommend following label instructions for use, never spraying directly on pets, and note that there could be some mild skin irritation if your pets come into contact with When it’s still wet, Febreze can cause minor stomach discomfort if swallowed. The aerosol air fresheners, which cause cats the same issues as many other brands of air fresheners, are not included in this discussion; rather, it only refers to the Febreze fabric fresheners.

Simmering Aromatics

Setting on a pot of simmering water and adding ingredients like cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla, or mint tea is a common trick for producing your own scents. Avoid using citrus, such as orange and lemon peels, as these can have a strong unpleasant smell that many cats find irritating or even stressful. 

Air Purifier

These gadgets can help remove any lingering odors from the air, even though they won’t add any new scents to your house. More good news for cats: higher-quality filters also assist in removing tiny airborne particles that might irritate your cat’s lungs (on that note, it’s also a good idea to routinely change your furnace and AC filters). You can either buy a sizable purifier or spread a few desktop purifiers around your house.


Try to limit the use of incense in your home to one room if you burn it as part of your spiritual or religious rituals. There must be adequate ventilation. When you can, open the windows. You should also consider purchasing a small room air purifier to remove any particles that may still be in the air after you’re done. And as much as you can, don’t let Kitty go in that room.

It’s also crucial to store the incense properly. Cats are naturally curious animals, so they might want to play with the sticks or ashes. Both can result in severe health issues if consumed. Please call your veterinarian right away if you believe your cat has consumed incense.

The good news is that cats and incense have coexisted for a long time. You can still reap the rewards of incense burning while also safeguarding the health of your favorite feline, provided you practice mindfulness and make a few adjustments.