Are Household Fragrances Bad for Pets?

Most of us already know that synthetic perfumes and fragrances are bad news. But if you have pets in your home, it’s doubly important to make sure that you’re not using any kinds of scents that could be harmful to their health. And here’s the kicker: For some pets, even the most innocuous of fragrance items—things like all-natural essential oils—can cause harm.

Here’s what you need to know about many common household fragrances and what you should look out for if you have furbabies (or featherbabies) in your home.

Close Contact

First, let’s talk about how fragrances pose an added risk to your pets. The first, and most often overlooked, factor is that your pet is likely to come into much closer contact with fragrance products during the course of his or her day than humans do. Think about it: That scented carpet powder you use before you vacuum? Your cat lies around in it all day long. The fabric deodorizer you spray on your sofa? Your dog literally sleeps on it.

Now, the word is still out on whether or not artificial fragrances, which have been linked to cancer, can pose a serious risk for humans. But they pose a potentially even bigger risk to pets:

“Whether the chemicals are inhaled or absorbed through the skin, though, they’ll make their way into your pet’s blood and, from there, to all the tissues and organs throughout the body,” writes All Pet News. “And because these artificial fragrances have been linked to serious health problems, such as cancer, in humans, they can do the same to your pets.”

Dangerous Scenarios

Another thing to consider is that pets can come into contact with these fragrances in a variety of ways. For example, it wouldn’t be crazy to assume than an inquisitive puppy might rifle through a bowl of dried potpourri, or that a curious kitty might take a closer look at a scented candle. These kinds of activities put your pets at risk of touching powerful undiluted scented essential oils (at best) and even getting burned (a worst-case scenario).

Birds and Fragrances

Finally, the fragrance concern can be taken to a whole other level if you have birds in your home:

“A bird’s respiratory system is very dynamic and transports oxygen much more efficiently than does our own respiratory system or that of other mammals,” reports Bird Tricks. “The breathing apparatus that is so advantageous to a bird in the wild puts them at risk in the human environment.”

This is why you’ve probably heard of the phrase “canary in a coal mine.” Canaries were commonly used to detect the presence of toxic gasses because their respiratory systems could tolerate a much smaller amount of poisonous gasses than those of humans. This means that birds’ respiratory systems are particularly fragile, and cannot be relied upon to handle strong artificial fragrances.

What Kinds of Scents to Use Around Your Pets

So, how can you make your home smell nice while still keeping your beloved pets happy and healthy? That’s really going to depend upon the kind of pets that you own.

For dogs and cats, candles scented with 100 percent pure essential oils will probably be fine, but you should take great care to keep them away from any area where they may pose a risk to your pet. Even a coffee table that your dog could potentially bump into would not be a good idea.

If you have dogs and cats, it’s a good idea to avoid fabric sprays, carpet sprays and potpourri altogether. You can make all-natural room deodorizers, but take care not to overuse them—your pets will be irritated by the essential oils and non-stop scents. Dogs and cats tend to spend a lot of time in close contact with the fabrics in your home, and thus shouldn’t be exposed to fragrances of any kind for long periods of time (even essential oil-based fragrances, as essential oils can be irritating to the skin).

If you have a bird, you should avoid burning scented candles (even natural ones) at all costs, unless you have a large living space and your bird is located on the other end of your residence.

The best bet for scenting your home with a bird friend is using a simmer pot. Simmering some cloves, herbs and citrus fruits on your stove top can provide a lovely scent that’s completely harmless for your pets. Bird owners can also get away with using an essential oil diffuser, but it is recommended to use only 100 percent pure essential oils and to keep them relatively well-diluted, so as not to irritate your pet’s respiratory system.


Yvonne T
Yvonne T28 days ago


Hannah K
Past Member 4 months ago

Thank you

Ellen J
Ellen Jabout a year ago

Good to know. I am sharing. Thanks.

Sonia M

Interesting article with important and useful info.Thanks for sharing

Sandra Vito
Sandra Vitoabout a year ago


Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla1 years ago


Jim V
Jim Ven1 years ago


Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Telica R
Telica R1 years ago

Thanks for sharing