Reed diffusers can cause chemical burns in cats

Please be aware that reed diffusers can cause chemical burns in cats. I’m writing this story as a warning to cat owner’s who use reed diffusers to scent the air. Having done some research, I’d like to share the story of a cat named Dewey, pictured…


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Reed diffuser
Reed diffuser

Reed diffusers are sticks inserted into a liquid used to make a room smell good. In other words, it would likely cover any lingering cat odors. Dewey had the misfortune of knocking over a cinnamon reed diffuser a few weeks ago. His owner cleaned him up quickly, thinking everything would be fine. They believed the cinnamon just stained his skin, when in reality it was burning and destroying cells everywhere the spill had touched Dewey.

According to his family, it took one to two weeks for the damage to show up. Dewey had chemical burns over a good portion of his belly and on his back legs. The damage was so severe that Dewey had to be put under anesthesia to debride his wounds (surgical removal of dead skin/tissue). He spent five days at the vet, and this has run up an expensive vet bill. His family says the photo here was made several days after treatment was started. His condition at the time of his first vet visit was much worse.

The danger in cinnamon comes in the form of cinnamaldehyde, which gives cinnamon its flavor and odor. If you Google the term, you’ll find plenty of information on this seemingly innocent natural deodorizer. Cinnamaldehyde is also used as a fungicide. One bit of advice I found helpful came from the I Love Dogs forum and stated

“As far as other non-cinn scents, many oils, synthetic and essentials are very skin safe, but you need to know what the base oils are in the reed kits.”

For those who enjoy the aroma of cinnamon, there are many homemade recipes on how to make a safe product to use in a diffuser.

This article is important, not just to cat owners, but to those who have children. It would be easy for a child to knock over a reed diffuser, and could prove disastrous, should a child get the chemical on their face or in their eyes.

It’s a shame we must learn the hard way that just because something is touted as natural doesn’t mean it comes without risks. Be sure to study up on anything in your home that your pets will be around. We have to be smart consumers, and protect ourselves and our pets. We also have to act quickly, should something like this happen. I think the majority of us have learned to pay an emergency visit to the vet at the first sign of an emergency.

Have any of the readers dealt with any skin conditions on their cats that were caused by something you believed was safe? Please educate us in the comment section. Personally, I lost four cats to mothball poisoning many years ago when a neighbor put them under their home. My cats drank from a puddle that formed after it rained and were dead within a few days.


33 thoughts on “Reed diffusers can cause chemical burns in cats”

  1. I just saw a picture my son posted on Facebook of his cat, Koko. In the background I could see a reed diffuser. I immediately sent him a reference to the cat that got burned with the diffuser liquid. I hope he removes that stuff, and takes seriously what can happen. Koko is alone most of the day, so she’s even more vulnerable.


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