Scented Cat Litter Made My Cat Sneeze

Scented cat litter makes my cat sneeze

Scented cat litter can be a cat health hazard. Do you use scented cat litter? Do you know what the chemical is that makes it smell nice to us. That’s the problem. Scenting cat litter is for the exclusive benefit of people and business. On a common sense basis, it is bad policy to add nice smelling chemicals to cat litter. What is nice smelling for us is not going to be nice smelling for our cat. Also cats like to smell themselves in cat litter. It is reassuring and, of course, it marks out the litter tray as place to pee and poop. It therefore encourages a cat to pee and poop in the litter tray. We know cats rub against us to make us smell like them and them like us – creating a family environment – scent exchange. Scent is very important to a cat and cats have a highly developed sense of smell, much better than ours.

What about the sweet smelling chemicals used? Apparently fragrance formulas are trade secrets. It is difficult (impossible?) to discover what the chemicals are that provide the fragrance. I think people need to know what they are breathing in when it is a chemical manufactured in a factory. People also need to know what their cat is inhaling. We know that fragrances are very common in household products made for people. People have got used to these scents although they can cause an allergic reaction, asthma, allergies and migraine headaches.

Perhaps we have become artificially used to the unnatural smell of scents which makes cat litter smell particularly bad to some people. This is the marketing ploy. Scenting cat litter is a way of selling more cat litter. It has nothing to do with the cat and I have story from VG (Valley Girl – a PoC regular) that highlights the potential health hazards of scented cat litter.


List of articles under heading “cat litter” on PoC (opens on a new page)


This is an extract from a recent instant message (IM) conversation we had:

VG:  I had a conversation with a neighbor who complained that her cat was sneezing all the time.  Tootsie had been doing that lately.  I looked at the litter I had bought, and turned out I’d bought a variation of a regular brand that had a fragrance.
VG:  I got rid of that and she stopped sneezing.  Don’t know if it’s the same in UK, but here if you walk down the “detergent” aisle, the scents are overpowering. They make me sneeze.  No wonder they made Tootsie sneeze (like really badly)
Michael:  is the sneezing due to the fragrance?
VG:  Yes, as far as I could figure.  As I said, accidentally bought a version with fragrance of same litter I’d used before, which (not fragrance) didn’t make Tootsie sneeze.  Once I figured it out (looking at the package) that I’d made a mistake, I went back to same w/o fragrance.  No more sneezing.  And, this was not minor sneezing.
VG:  no expert, but my guess is that she was having an allergic reaction to fragrance, which I myself found pretty overpowering.
Michael: Fragrances are for people. A cat won’t like it anyway because litter should smell like them.
VG: Actually, and this has been the case in the US for quite a while, people in workplaces are discouraged or outright banned from wearing strong fragrances, b/c of allergic reactions from other humans.  Sneezing fits included.
Michael:  The fragrant scents you can buy for rooms (electric plug in ones) have a bad reputation.
VG: I buy detergent and conditioners (those fiber sheets for dryers) that have no fragrance.  I sneeze when I walk down the detergent aisle.
VG:  Also, this particular neighbor has been away since we had the “cat sneezing” conversation, so I haven’t asked her about her cat litter.  But she was having a major complaining rant about the fact that the vets (turns out we have the same vets) hadn’t been able to diagnose why cat was continually sneezing, despite multiple and costly tests.  I wonder now if the vets thought of what would now be obvious to me- strong fragrance in cat litter, strong airspray or those electric plugins you mention.

An interesting aspect is that the veterinarian did not factor into his diagnosis a possible allergic reaction to the fragrance chemical in the cat litter.

The chemical composition of cat litter fragrances can irritate the sensitive lining of a cat’s nostrils. A cat may suffer an allergic reaction. We are constantly reading about allergic reactions in cats that cause mysterious symptoms such as skin problems.

Furthermore, a cat may well ingest these fragrance chemicals when she licks her paws after using cat litter. In addition a cat can refuse to use scented cat litter. As mentioned litter should smell like the cat using it.

There is no need to expose a cat to the potential health hazard of unknown chemicals. There are enough of them anyway in many homes – i.e. detergents and air fresheners. It makes sense to simply accept unscented litter and to clean the litter tray regularly, once or twice per day or as required.

I also makes sense to eliminate, generally, unnecessary chemicals from the home environment both for our health and the health of our cats. There are wider issues to consider too: environmental pollution. Why add to it?

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