Are you looking to improve the smell of your home? Then you may be tempted to use a Febreze plug-in. But can you, should you, if you own a cat? Is this product safe to use around your feline? What about other scented plug-ins? Well, here are the answers to all of these questions and more.
So, are Febreze plug-ins safe for cats? Febreze plug-ins may be safe for a cat, depending on how and when it is used, the cat’s sensitivity, and if your cat doesn’t ingest or consume any. Generally, they are best not used around cats, or to consult your vet before using one, especially if your cat has allergic reactions or respiratory problems.
Put differently, there may be other ways you may want to explore first.
So with this in mind, let us continue to explore the toxicity of such a product, before turning to how to use them, if you did decide to proceed.
Are Febreze Plug-Ins Toxic For Cats?
Febreze plug-ins have not been found to be toxic for cats officially. However, the exact ingredients range by plug-in, and cat sensitivities can range. As such, the manufacturer’s instructions must be followed, along with keeping a close eye on your cat for any signs of an allergic reaction, such as an upset stomach, skin issues, or respiratory problems, if you do decide to use one.
What Organizations Say
According to the ASPCA’s list of poisonous household products, Febreze fabric freshener products are safe to use in homes with pets.
There were many rumors on the internet that Febreze caused pet deaths, with no evidence to back up these claims.
However, the ASPCA’s list does not specifically mention Febreze plug-ins – only fabric freshener products.
According to the AMVA (American Veterinary Medical Association), the rumors about Febreze’s products being dangerously toxic are false.
No research, medical records, or names have been found to back up these claims – most of which came from emails sent by pet owner websites.
In terms of the safety data on Febreze, Proctor & Gamble’s fact sheet states that this data “was reviewed by more than 100 scientists, doctors, safety experts, and veterinarians, and all have come to the same conclusion: Febreze is safe.”
How Febreze Works
Most home air fresheners mask odors by introducing other smells into your home. As these fragrance molecules permeate the air, we (and our cats) breathe them in, sometimes with harmful results.
However, Febreze works to block the odors thanks to aldehydes (substances that trap odor molecules).
The aldehydes in Febreze surround the odor-causing molecules and cause them to drop to the floor, making them less easy to detect.
As with any home care or other similar product, it’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
Ingredients in Febreze Plug-Ins
Here is a list of the ingredients in Febreze’s plug-in (referred to as PLUG on their website):
Linalool, Limonene, Linalyl Acetate, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Hydroxycitronellal, Lauraldehyde, Heliotropine, Dimethyl Heptenal, Cyclamen Aldehyde, Allyl Cyclohexylpropionate, 4-Dimethylmethylenecyclohexyl-Butan-2-One, Rose Ketone-4
And then again here is the ingredient list for their Ambi Pur 3Volution Air Freshener Plug in:
Linalool, Pentamethylheptenone, Hydroxycitronellal, Limonene, Citral, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Geraniol, Linalyl Acetate, Tetrahydrolinalool, 2.4-Dimethyl-3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Citronellol, Cyclamen Aldehyde, Ethyl 2, 2-Dimethylhydrocinnamal, Dimethyl Heptenal, Dihydro Pentamethylindanone, Nerol, Dimethylcyclohexenyl 3-Butenyl Ketone, Heliotropine, Citronellal, Allyl Cyclohexylpropionate, Delta-Damascone, 3-(P-Cumenyl)Propionaldehyde, Methylcyclopentadecenone, 7.7, 8.9.9-Pentamethyl-6, 6A, 7.8, 9.9A-Hexahydro-5H-Cyclopenta(H)Quinazoline, Isoeugenol, Methyl Isoeugenol, Lauraldehyde, (1-Methyl-2-(5-Methylhex-4-En-2-Yl)Cyclopropyl)Methanol, 4.7-Methano-1H-Indene-5-Acetaldehyde, Octahydro-, Eugenol, Methylundecanal, Methoxyhydratropaldehyde
As you can see, the ingredient list differs between products.
But either way, there are a lot of chemicals in them. A lot of unknown chemicals!
Now its highly unlikely that these chemicals will not have an impact on your cat, in some way or other.
Are All Scented Plug-Ins Safe For Cats?
Most scented plug-ins release a stream of chemicals into the air, which is not recommended for cats. Some plug-in models also present the added risk of a fire hazard. In most cases, these plug-ins are not safe for cats.
Dangers of Plug-Ins for Cats
Many plug-ins contain oils that can be toxic to cats if they ingest them. If your cat licks or bites the plug-in, she could ingest enough oil to make her ill, with fatal consequences in some cases.
Because cats have very sensitive noses (see below), they can find the scents from plug-ins overwhelming.
Think about what it’s like for you when you walk into a gym or another setting where several people are using aerosols like scented deodorants or hair sprays.
That’s what it’s like for your cat if you are using a scented plug-in!
Some cats can even get asthma attacks from plug-ins as well as other respiratory problems.
Finally, some air fresheners have a cord to plug them in, which your cat could chew on and cause an electric shock or a short circuit.
Short circuits can lead to sparks and potentially a fire.
Chemicals In Most Plug-Ins
Many plug-in air fresheners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
These carbon-based compounds remain in the air even after the spray evaporates and can cause significant damage to your cat.
Most plug-in air fresheners also include a chemical called naphthalene. Naphthalene can cause lung cancer in rodents, so it’s safe to say you won’t want it around your cat, either.
Some short-term effects of exposure to toxins in certain plug-ins can include:
- Breathing problems
- Irritation in the eyes, nose and/or mouth
- Lack of appetite
Note: It’s worth knowing that many of these symptoms can appear days after your cat has come in contact with the toxic compounds.
Long-term damage is often fatal and can include:
- Liver or kidney damage
- Nervous system problems
Symptoms of toxic exposure can get worse quite quickly, so if you have any doubts, get your cat to the vet. You wouldn’t want the damage to be irreversible or even fatal. Indoor cats, in particular, are already exposed to many chemicals in the home from sources like dust. All the more reason to limit their exposure to chemicals as much as possible.
How Can You Keep Your Cat Safe From Scented Plug-Ins?
You can do several things to keep your cat safe from scented plug-ins.
Practical Tips to Keep Your Cat Safe
Here are our top tips for keeping your cat safe from scented plug-ins:
- Don’t use them. Consider what is causing the smells, and address that if you can. An open window is much preferable to chemicals. Or, if you must use plug-ins, keep them out of your cat’s reach (and preferably in another room).
- Choose plug-ins with natural ingredients. Avoid synthetic fragrances, and if you use essential oils, choose ones that cats can tolerate. Citrus or mint, for example, are cat repellents.
- Don’t use plug-ins that have strong smells. If you can’t smell it at all, that’s even better for your cat.
- Try an essential oil diffuser in a well-ventilated room. Keep windows open and use a light diffuser that spreads a scent using water (choose a scent that is hardly detectable).
Note: Never use air fresheners (whether plug-ins or sprays) if your cat has respiratory problems like asthma or other sensitivities.
A Caution from the ASPCA on Essential Oils
If you want to use essential oils, do so with caution and only once you have thoroughly researched your chosen oils and gotten your vet’s approval.
The ASPCA says that some essential oils can cause:
- Digestive system upset
- Liver damage
- Central nervous system depression (if enough oil is ingested)
- Aspiration pneumonia (from inhaling certain oils)
Different oils have widely varying levels of toxicity.
The ASPCA recommends not using oils where your pets can access them unless you supervise your pet or your vet has approved the use of your chosen oil.
Tips and Suggestions When Using A Febreze Plug-In Around A Cat
Although Febreze plug-ins are reported to be safe, it’s essential to take basic precautions around any unnatural fragrance or cleaning product.
Here are some tips on using a Febreze plug in around a cat, should you decide to do so.
Put the Plug-In on Low
Cat’s noses are astoundingly sensitive – if you were to put just one drop of blood in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, your kitty would be able to smell it!
Given their sensitive noses, make sure you put your Febreze plug-in on the lowest setting.
Even if the action of the plug-in causes the molecules to fall to the floor, some could still fall on your cat’s fur.
And cats, as we know, love to lick their coats to keep themselves clean. If some of these drops get on their fur, they could do harm.
Best to keep the plug-in on low and stay safe.
Make Sure Your Plug-In is Intact
Make sure there are no leaks or spillages around your plug-in that could cause harm to your cat.
If you notice this could be the problem, unplug the air freshener, discard it, and get your cat to the vet.
Keep Your Home Well-Ventilated
A well-ventilated home is healthier for everyone, including your cat.
Let any excess odors escape the room by opening windows or doors.
Note: If you have birds as well as cats, know that birds are even more sensitive to airborne chemicals because of their delicate respiratory systems. The best practice is to not use Febreze plug-ins in rooms where birds are present. If you must use a Febreze plug-in, remove the birds from the room. Once you have finished using the plug-in, ventilate the room fully before returning the birds to their place.
Watch Your Cat For Signs Of A Reaction
Some cats are more sensitive to certain substances than others.
If you see any new symptoms or problems in your kitty after using a Febreze plug-in, stop using it and take your cat to the vet, if needed.
Possible problems from a negative reaction to a Febreze plug-in could be:
- Watery or red eyes
- Skin irritation (maybe she’s rolled on the floor where some molecules have landed)
- Breathing problems (such as from inhaling ammonia-based compounds)
- Digestive issues
Try Smelling Your Cat
If you think your cat may have come in direct contact with the substances from a plug-in, you can try smelling your cat.
The smell should still be present and can help you pinpoint the source of your cat’s distress or other symptoms.
You can try smelling your cat’s face and paws, as these are the most likely contact areas.
The smell can be faint or strong, depending on how much of the toxic compound your cat has come into contact with and how long ago this took place.
When To Go To The Vet
If you notice any symptoms in your cat that you think might be connected to the use of a plug-in, get your cat to the vet for a check-up.
Even if your cat has mild symptoms, your vet may need to run tests to see if her liver or kidneys have been affected.
Your vet will also examine any areas where your cat may have come into direct contact with the toxic compounds (e.g., eyes and skin).
In an ideal world, our homes wouldn’t smell, and we wouldn’t even need to use a Febreze plugin altogether.
The problem is these plugins work well. They are relatively cheap to buy, effective, and they do smell good.
But if you have a cat, it is generally best not to use them. That’s all plugin brands, too, by the way.
While there have been no confirmed reports of toxicity of Febreze plugins for cats, they are chemical based by design.
So try other means first.
Or consult a vet first.
Or use them very mindfully, carefully, and with a lot of caution.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.