Is Burning Incense Bad for Cats?

is burning incense bad for cats

There is a lot of debate about whether or not incense is bad for cats. Some people say that it is, while others claim that it is perfectly safe. So, what is the truth? In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of using incense around cats and try to answer the question once and for all.

Is Incense Smoke Bad for Cats?

According to veterinarians, incense smoke is bad for cats. The smoke can cause problems such as asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory issues. It can also aggravate existing conditions and make them worse. In addition, the smell of incense can be very overwhelming to cats and may cause them to become agitated or stressed.

Cats have a more sensitive respiratory tract than humans. According to, incense smoke could make your cat sneeze, cough or have watery eyes.

Therefore, it’s really not worth it to use incense around your cat. Why would you want your beloved pet to suffer?

Why are Cats so Sensitive to Smoke?

a cat grooming itself

Cats are more sensitive to smoke than some animals due to their tendency to self-groom. This can mean either incense smoke or cigarette smoke.

When there’s smoke in the air, either from incense or cigarettes, it leaves tiny particles everywhere. On the floor, on furniture, on walls, etc. If you’ve ever noticed discolored yellow walls in a smoker’s house, that’s part of the residue from smoke.

According to, cats get this residue and particulate matter in their fur and then lick it off while grooming.

This can put many cats at a higher risk of oral cancer.

A cat’s respiratory system consists of a delicate nose and small lungs, which put them even at more risk if they’re around incense sticks. So if you’re wondering: is incense bad for cats? The answer is a resounding yes.

Some cats are more susceptible to asthma than others. As in humans, an asthma attack can be deadly, so it’s best to reduce a cat’s exposure to harmful smoke much as possible.

What are the compounds in an incense stick that make it dangerous for cats?

According to Wikipedia, the basic ingredients of an incense stick are bamboo sticks, paste (generally made of charcoal dust or sawdust with joss/gum/tabu powder from the bark of certain trees), and perfume or fragrant ingredients. These ingredients are solvents of perfumes and oils that are ground up to create a masala.

After the base paste has been applied to the bamboo stick, it is immediately rolled into the masala while still moist. It is then left for several days to dry.

Many different combinations of pastes and masalas are used in order to create all the different types of scents that are in today’s market for incense sticks. Some fragrances may be more robust than others, while some will be more mild which helps create a more soothing environment.

When these materials are burned, they release dangerous substances into the air. These substances can be very harmful to cats.

Some of the harmful compounds that can be found in incense smoke include:

  • Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is produced by the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing materials (such as wood). It is extremely toxic to animals and humans alike.
  • Nitrogen dioxide is an irritant gas that is also produced when incense burns. This chemical can cause breathing problems, coughing, wheezing, and other issues in cats.
  • Benzene is a toxic chemical found in many types of incense smoke that is harmful to humans and animals alike. It is known to cause cancer, anemia, bone marrow damage, and other serious health problems.

Other possible effects from inhaling incense smoke include:

  • Allergic reactions such as rashes, hives, and asthma attacks
  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
  • Headaches
  • Nausea

So is incense (like Frankincense) bad for cats? The answer is unequivocally yes. As a cat owner, it is not worth the risk to expose your cat to these harmful substances. If you want to enjoy the smell of incense, try burning it outside or in a well-ventilated area. If you must burn incense inside, be sure to keep your cat away from the smoke and do not let them breathe it in at all costs.

If you must burn incense, keep it far away from your feline friends.

incense sticks burning and smoke curling

This could mean burning incense in a room your cat never visits and putting a towel under the door so your cat isn’t exposed to the fragrant smoke.

You should also put an air purifier in the room where you are doing your incense burning so it clears the air of harmful particles. You don’t want the smell to permeate your entire house.

Also, keep windows open to bring fresh air into the room and leave them open until the smell dissipates entirely. Good ventilation is key if you really want to use incense sticks.

Taking these steps will help your cat avoid respiratory problems and discomfort.

What are the drawbacks of breathing incense smoke?

Incense is bad for cats, but is it also harmful to a human being?

Unfortunately, yes. Incense contains several toxic chemicals that can cause health problems if inhaled over long periods of time. These compounds include carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The smell of incense is also very strong. It is not pleasant to breathe in a lot of incense smoke, and it can cause headaches and nausea.

According to Healthline. com and the Environmental Protection Agency, prolonged exposure to burning incense can increase your risk for a variety of illnesses, including cancer, asthma, inflammation, heart disease and contact dermatitis.

Why do people use incense?

Incense is often used to create a relaxing or meditative atmosphere. It is also sometimes used to cover up bad smells or as part of religious ceremonies.

Here’s a quick look at why some people burn incense:

  • Meditation – Incense is widely used in many cultures during meditation to help increase awareness and heighten senses.
  • Relaxation – Many fragrances help you relax and unwind.
  • Reduce Anxiety and Stress – Relaxing helps reduce heart rate and lower breathing. This can lead to a decrease in anxiety and stress that may be building up from your daily life.
  • Increases Focus – Burning an incense stick during a study session or while doing an activity that requires focus. Burning incense is less intrusive than having music playing making it perfect for working or studying.
  • Aids in Sleep – Burning certain types of incense can actually help with Insomnia.
  • Yoga – Yoga is a great activity that you can pair with incense to further reduce stress and anxiety.

Keep in mind that burning incense OUTSIDE is a great way to enjoy the scent without bringing harm to your cat’s lungs.

Alternatives to using incense that are healthier for a cat’s nose and lungs

As cat owners, you might have to give up your favorite habit of using incense. However, there are a variety of cat friendly ways to achieve the same effect that are much less dangerous.

Here is a small list of incense alternatives that you can try at home:

  • Essential Oil Diffuser – Essential oils are gathering popularity among people for aromatherapy. There are so many different types of oils on the market that make this item a popular alternative to burning incense. You can also find oils that are specifically meant to calm your cat down. These oils cause pleasant aromas and are less dangerous than incense.
  • Potpourri – is a concoction of dried herbs, flowers and spices used in potpourri bowls as air fresheners. Although you may use synthetic fragrances or liquids in your home, using natural ingredients is more beneficial for most cats.
  • Candles – are another alternative to using incense, however they come with their own set of risks. If not properly supervised, candles can become dangerous and cause a fire hazard in your home. The best way to use candles is to place them out of reach from your pets so that they are unable to knock them over or ingest the wax. Scented candles are a great increase replacement as they create a comforting scent.
  • Electric Wax Warmer – Unattended lit candles can be dangerous. An electric wax warmer is a safe alternative to a burning candle. These can be left unattended so you can benefit from the different scents and aromas a lit candle brings without the risk of fire.
  • Diffuser Sticks – Diffuser sticks are another popular way to have the fresh scent of oils fill the air in your home. Simply take a few reed sticks and stick them into the bottle until they absorb the oil, and then flip them over to reap the benefits.
  • Baking – Remember what grandma’s house would smell like when she’s baking cookies in the oven? Baking cookies or brownies can help give your home a delightful aroma as well as give you some treats to snack on for later. Don’t just limit yourself to baked goods, pot roasts and other oven dishes are great for giving your home a nice hearty fragrance.
  • DIY Essential Oil Sprays – Creating your own spray is very easy and can make your home smell great. Here’s a great recipe to make a homemade air freshener by Hello Glow that you can try for yourself.

Just because you have a cat does not mean that your house is doomed to stink. There are many alternatives to burning incense and other fragrances in your home that can make your health smell good without causing an impact to your cat’s sense of well-being.

Doing these simple things can help ensure that both you and your cat are happy and healthy.

Here are some good alternatives to incense:

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Signs of respiratory trouble in cats

If you suspect that your cat is having problems with its respiratory system due to smoke exposure or anything else, here is a list of signs to look for:


This is one of the more obvious signs. A sneeze is common when there is an irritant in the nose or throat. This symptom can be seen in milder cases as well as more severe cases.


Cat coughing is a common symptom and is often associated with other conditions, such as asthma or heart disease. However, it is important to see your veterinarian immediately if you notice your cat is coughing frequently in order to determine the cause of this problem.


Is another symptom of respiratory issues. Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound that is often heard during inhalation or exhalation.

Shortness of breath 

Is another sign to look for if your cat is suffering from breathing problems. Pets who are having trouble breathing will have their mouths open and will breathe much faster than normal.


Is a sign that is often seen in cats who are having an extremely hard time breathing. When cats gasp, they take quick, shallow breaths and open their mouths wide. This is an attempt to get more air into the lungs.

If your cat is exhibiting any of these signs, it is important to take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Respiratory problems can be a sign of many different diseases and conditions, so it is important to have your cat properly diagnosed and treated. Early detection is crucial in order to give your cat the best chance at making a full recovery

Conclusion on the question: is incense bad for cats?

There is a variety of different types of incense that is bad for pets. If you need to use incense in your home, be sure to avoid using fragrances containing naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene as they can cause feline asthma which can be deadly amongst cats.

Remember that burning incense is not the only way to enjoy a scent in your home. There are many alternatives such as essential oils, candles and diffuser sticks that will give you the same effect without endangering your cat’s health, whether that’s causing an allergic reaction, coughing, asthma or even more serious illnesses like cancer.

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