How do air fresheners affect domestic cats in the home?

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Air fresheners. Safe for your full-time indoor cats?

Joost de Gouw of the University Of Colorado Boulder last year found that half of the volatile organic compounds (VCOs) in the air in Los Angeles came from domestic products. He said:
Chemical products-cleaning products, personal care products, glues, inks, coatings, pesticides, et cetera-are now one of the dominant sources of VOCs in urban air. The one choice that people can make is to use less chemical products in their lives.

Something as innocuous as air fresheners may be harming our domestic cat companions. More research is needed. We need a study. However, scientists have called for pollution warnings on air fresheners because they believe that they could be the next diesel engine NOx scandal. It isn’t just air fresheners, we can include in this list deodorant and cleaning products. Evidence is mounting that they create indoor air pollution which can contribute to serious illness.

Products sprayed into the air may be breathed in by humans briefly, but they settle to the floor where they persist and are breathed in by cats and dogs. They’re also picked up on their paws and ingested when animals groom. – Laurie Cavanaugh Bobskill

How many of you by air fresheners? Or use cleaning products which are sprayed onto surfaces? What if you spray a strong cleaning product around the area where your cat eats because it’s messy there; does this have an impact upon your cat’s health? You don’t know and neither do I but the answer is “maybe”.

In the UK, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health are reviewing indoor pollution because of findings that VCOs can damage health. They can combine with outdoor pollution to create harmful particles.

This research is for the benefit of people, quite naturally. But we must include our pets because they breathe the same air as us, have similar (mammal) anatomy, and in America particularly there are many millions of domestic cats living full-time indoors. Their owners keep them indoors for their safety. But is it as safe as it could be?

We spend up to 90% of our time indoors. It’s inconceivable that the health effects of outdoor air pollution just occur because of the 10% of time that people spend outdoors. – Stephen Holgate, one of the review authors

In the past I have written about brominated flame retardants in furniture which can have an effect upon the thyroid gland of people and I would argue also cats. In schools where they use insecticides asthma is more common amongst the pupils.

I’m certain that many people will regard this warning as alarmist. It might be but surely it is sensible to take precautions. They can be easy to take. Simply stop using air fresheners and buy some flowers instead. Instead of using chemical sprays to clean a surface you can use water which is a solvent which will do most of the work that a chemical will do.

Liberally going around spraying chemicals around your house that are complex and react with other chemicals – you’ve got to weigh up the benefits of that. Are there not other things you can do, like buy a nice bunch of flowers?” – Stephen Holgate, one of the review authors.

The companies who make these products are lazy. They don’t want to make changes and incur the expense of that when they are making good profits in selling existing products. It’s up to companion animal owners, local authorities, federal authorities and charities concerned with cat welfare to speak up.

The world is waking up to air pollution outside the home. In the UK, I understand that every school in London suffers air pollution above legal limits jeopardising the health of the pupils with asthma and anxiety. A connection has been made between diesel particulates and anxiety in schoolchildren. The connection may be profound because there are mental health issues with too many schoolchildren.

It’s time to also be concerned with the air we breathe inside our homes.

We don’t want to continuously live through endless cycles of fire-fighting pollutants that we know about and could have done something about but didn’t.” – Stephen Holgate.

Note: I have decided that the photo is in the public domain and not protected by copyright.

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3 thoughts on “How do air fresheners affect domestic cats in the home?”

  1. Buy a good air purifier machine that uses a 2-filter system. A pre-filter and a HEPA filter. We have one that even has an ultraviolet light to kill germs and viruses as the air is being cleaned. Best investment this year.

    • Yes, agreed, Elisa. I don’t have one but I am considering it. I do believe that we should be more concerned with the quality of the air we breathe in our homes and that goes for our cat companions too.


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