Are perfumes toxic to cats?

Are perfumes toxic to cats?
Are perfumes toxic to cats? Image: MikeB

More work is need by appropriately qualified scientists and veterinarians to answer the question in the title properly as there is a scarcity on information on this. But there is some available information on the internet and the general conclusion is that perfume can be toxic to cats. Certain perfumes containing allergens may cause asthma in some domestic cats. For instance, Dr. Crista DeJoia, HOV Staff Veterinarian says:

The incidence of feline allergic airway disease has increased steadily since the 1970s, probably due in large part to the increased manufacture and use of scented products.

Dr. DeJoia

And various kinds of phenols are used in fragrances as antioxidants and preservatives; for example, eugenol. I wrote an article about the toxicity of phenol to cats a little while ago.

Phenols can be toxic to domestic cats.

And the website (fragranceconservatory.com) that lists phenol as a potential ingredient of some perfumes says that, “phenol has been thoroughly evaluated and is commonly used in fragrances”. They add that, “this ingredient is one of the substances required by the state of California to be disclosed on ingredient listings and has a potential connection to serious health effects.”

The website PetPlace.com, which I understand is at least partly written by veterinarians, states that “cats are susceptible to organ damage from exposure to oils including perfumes. The feline liver has a tough time breaking down the toxins known as phenols. This can result in deadly build up if poisoned cats are not given immediate medical attention.”

A certified neuropath, Md. Minhajul Alam, says that there are many chemicals in perfumes. In fact, he says that there are 3000 different compounds! There are some dangerous chemicals in perfumes such as synthetic musks, phthalates, methylene chloride, methyl chloride, styrene, dioxane, titanium dioxide, resorcinol, propyl paraben, formaldehyde to name some. There is a long list! To humans, there is a potential wide range of varying adverse effects he says. These include asthma, lung disease and other breathing difficulties. There are other possible health problems.

Can perfumes cause health problems in people? To that question he states that, “Mass-produced perfumes may contain synthetic chemicals that are hazardous to human health and exposure which may lead to a range of health problems including allergies, lung disease, organ damage and even cancer.”

If perfumes can do that the people then obviously they might damage the health of domestic cats. I don’t know how serious this danger is or how toxic some perfumes can be to domestic cats.

We know that scented candles, air fresheners and other commercially produced fragrances used around the home can be toxic to cats. This has been well discussed and I have many articles on compounds and products that are actually or potentially toxic to cats which you can access by clicking on the links below.

Conclusion

I have to keep this post quite short because there simply isn’t enough information available to make the page comprehensive. This raises another issue: there should be good research available to the public written in plain English on the potential toxicity of perfume to cats. That said I get a clear sense that there is potential for harm to be caused by perfumes. I think they should be used with caution around cats.

For example, when they are applied to a cat owner and the spray goes into the air. If a cat is nearby at that time, it may make the cat sick and it may cause issues such as dermatitis and respiratory stress.

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Why is my cat wheezing?

Here are some reasons why your cat is wheezing. I would not normally write about medical issues because the veterinarian’s websites are tailored exactly for that sort of article but I have good reference books and therefore, despite not being medically qualified I can, I feel, provide a reasonable answer and some pointers. In the era of the coronavirus, some self-diagnosis of feline symptoms can help and, in any case, it is arguably the way veterinary care is going by which I mean remote triage.

Siamese cat wheezing. Siamese are predisposed to this condition.
Siamese cat wheezing. Siamese are predisposed to this condition. Video screenshot.


Wheezing is a whistling sound when a cat breathes forcefully both in and out. It indicates a narrowing of the bronchial tubes. A veterinarian will use a stethoscope to pick up deep-seated wheezes. In general, the causes include: feline asthma, lung worms, heart worms, tumours or growths in the bronchial tubes.

A sudden coughing attack combined with wheezing and difficulty breathing suggests feline asthma. Coughing is self-perpetuating because coughing irritates the bronchial tubes, drying them out and the mucous lining. Coughing is a reflex initiated by an irritant in the bronchial tubes. It may be smoke, chemicals, foreign objects, dust and food particles, for example. It might be a tight collar or growths in the bronchial tubes.

Allergic reaction

A sudden swelling of the face, ears, lips and eyelids can be caused by a hive-like allergic reaction called urticaria. The head may look out of proportion to the body. The eyes may be swollen shut. It might be caused by an inhalation allergy or a food allergy or, indeed, by bites and stings. One of the symptoms may be wheezing and including diarrhoea, vomiting and respiratory distress.

Feline asthma-feline allergic bronchitis

This is caused by a hypersensitivity to environmental allergens. It resembles bronchial asthma in people. It affects about 1% of all domestic cats. Siamese cats are slightly predisposed to it. Some cats show severe respiratory distress and others have a chronic history of coughing and wheezing. There may be a requirement for urgent veterinary care. An acute attack begins with difficulty breathing followed by wheezing and coughing. The cat may sit with the shoulders hunched or they lie down with mouth open while straining to breathe (see photo above). The gums may be blue due to lack of oxygen. This is called cyanosis. Two other conditions produce a similar reaction namely pleural effusion and pulmonary oedema.

Cat, Alvin, developed asthma through passive smoking
Cat, Alvin, developed asthma through passive smoking. Photo: The Scottish Sun.

Urgent and immediate veterinary care is required to ease respiratory distress. Sometimes veterinarians treat this condition with epinephrine and sometimes cortisones and bronchodilators are used during an acute attack. The doctors say that antihistamines and cough suppressants should not be used because they may interfere with the cat’s natural ability to clear secretions. Hospitalisation of asthmatic cats may be required to remove them from the allergens in the environment and to sedate them. They may be given supplemental oxygen.

As mentioned, I’m not a veterinarian. I am simply referring to reference books. I hope that these notes provide you with a pointer as to what to do next.

Video

Note: videos on this site are typically made by people other than me and held on YouTube servers or the servers of other businesses (not the server storing this website). Sometimes the videos are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened I apologise but I have no control over it.

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Can cats have asthma? Yes, almost 1 million do in the US.

Cats can have asthma, and it is caused by a hypersensitivity to environmental allergens (a substance that causes an allergic reaction). The disease in cats resembles bronchial asthma in people. It affects about 1% of all domestic cats (just under 1m in the US). It is believed that Siamese cats may have a slight predisposition to the disease. Sometimes suffers have to bear severe respiratory distress at which point they are taken to emergency services at a veterinary clinic. Sometimes cats have a chronic history of wheezing and coughing.

Feline asthma inhaler
Feline asthma inhaler/ Image in public domain (words added).

Hairball problems can also cause coughing so this condition needs to be distinguished from feline asthma. It may be brought on seasonally and asthma may be exacerbated during these times.

Asthma attacks may be triggered by exposure to inhaled carpet deodorisers, various sprays, kitty litter dust, and tobacco smoke. A leading cause of asthma may be heartworm but in many cases the cause is unknown.

The attack begins with sudden difficulty in breathing including wheezing and coughing. The muscles surrounding the bronchi suddenly contract and the bronchial tubes are dramatically narrowed. As the cat exhales the wheezing is heard.

A severe attack may cause the cat to sit with her shoulders hunched or she may lie chest down with her mouth open trying to breathe. The mucous membranes turn a bluish colour because of a lack of oxygen in the blood. This is called cyanosis.

Two other conditions produce similar signs and symptoms: pleural effusion and pulmonary oedema. See your veterinarian about all these conditions. This is a note no more because I am not a veterinarian. You should be aware of that.

Your need to take your cat to a veterinarian as a matter of urgency to relieve bronchial spasm and to ease the difficulties with breathing. An emergency treatment that may be used is epinephrine. An acute attack will be eased with bronchodilators such as terbutaline and cortisone. The veterinarians say that antihistamines and cough suppressants not be used. They interfere with a cat’s ability to clear her own secretions, they say.

Sometimes asthmatic cats may have to be removed from an allergic environment and hospitalised for sedation. An oxygen cage may be used to provide a cat with supplemental oxygen.

Are siamese cats prone to asthma?
Are Siamese cats prone to asthma? It is said that they are.

Feline asthma is a chronic condition. The attacks recur. They can be controlled with maintenance doses of an oral corticosteroid. Cats can become dependent upon it and therefore the medication is usually given every other day.

The drug might be tapered but this can cause an immediate relapse. If pollen causes the asthma, and therefore it is seasonal, a cat may only need medication during that time.

In America a high percentage of asthmatic cats are treated with inhalers such as Aerokat (and its subsequent brand-name). The most commonly used inhalant drugs in the US are albuterol (a bronchodilator) and steroids such as fluticasone (and subsequent names). If the cat suffers with a concurrent mycoplasma infection antibiotics are needed.

It goes without saying that it is useful to minimise exposure to allergens if you can isolate them and a HEPA filter in the house may assist in reducing symptoms.

Sources: Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.

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Cat noisy breathing. Causes.

Noisy breathing in domestic cats indicates an obstructed airway. The airway that I’m referring to is the passage through the nose (or mouth), the back of the mouth, down the trachea (windpipe) and into the bronchail tubes of the lungs. If there is an obstruction in this airway breathing might be noisy and the classic reason for an obstruction is an upper respiratory disease either viral (cat cold or flu – herpes virus perhaps) or bacterial (bacterial pneumonia). Another reason might be a physical obstruction.

Feline airways
Feline airways. Base drawing in public domain (deemed) and image annotated by MikeB.

Distorted nasal passages

I have to mention right away the purebred Persian cat. The modern version of this cat breed with their characteristic flat face is likely to breathe noisily because their flat face distorts the airways from the nose to the back of the mouth. Flat-faced cats and dogs are known to have breathing difficulties. It’s one of those contentious points which feeds back to whether breeders of companion animals should be allowed to create inherently unhealthy animals such as the flat-faced bulldog and the flat-faced Persian cat. So that’s the first reason, if you are living with a modern, highly selectively bred, fancy looking Persian cat they might have noisy breathing for the reason stated. Note: owners of flat-faced animals don’t mind about the known health problems when adopting but they might mind later on.

Croupy breathing

I’ve mentioned upper respiratory infections which can cause noisy breathing in any animal because the infection obstructs the airways. Croupy breathing refers to obstructed breathing caused by an infection of the upper airway otherwise known as a “croup”. The sound is a characteristic barking cough. The larynx i.e. voicebox and the windpipe and bronchial tubes might be swollen due to the infection.

Panting

A cat owner might confuse noisy breathing with panting which is also more noisy than normal. It is, however, a normal cooling process and is used a lot more in dogs. A cat might pant after exercise or when stressed, indeed frightened, when perhaps travelling in a car to their veterinarian. Or a cat might have overheated and could be suffering from heat stroke, a very serious condition.

Wheezing

Wheezing is a form of noisy breathing. It’s a whistling sound which occurs on the in and out breaths. A veterinarian would say that it indicates a narrowing in the bronchial tubes which are below the trachea and in the lungs. They are referred to as airways or bronchi.

Feline asthma

I think this is rare but it will cause a range of symtoms including difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing and hacking, rapid breathing, coughing or hacking, and open-mouthed breathing. Link to feline asthma.

P.S. This is probably an incomplete list. Please consult a veterinarian.

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Can cats cause asthma in people?

Yes, domestic cats can cause asthma in people. It seems that asthma is often caused by an allergic reaction to cats and about 10% of people are allergic to cats and studies suggest up to 40% of children with asthma develop symptoms when exposed to cats. So, my reading of this is that allergic reactions and asthma overlap and can be part and parcel of the same health issue.

The allergic reaction is caused by the allergen in a domestic cat’s saliva called Fel d1. A lot has been written about it. Clearly, some families do not keep a cat because their child has asthma but apparently 25% of families choose to keep their cat. Families can do lots of things to minimise an allergic reaction to a cat.

Allergy to cats
An allergy to cats brings on symptoms which are pretty generic and therefore it can be tricky to know what caused them. Illustration: PoC.

Relevant study on peanut allergy

I don’t want to rehearse all the usual cat allergen stories but make a point about densensitising kids to allergens. There is an interesting story on a slightly different but linked subject in the Saturday’s edition of The Times newspaper. It concerns children with a nut allergy; a potentially very dangerous health issue of great concern to their parents.

A study has been conducted which was published in Lancet Child and Adolescent Health. The study entailed the gradual desensitisation of children to a peanut allergen over a period of 2.5 years. They found that 58% of participants given peanut protein could tolerate at least 3 to 4 peanuts compared with 2% of those given a placebo. In other words, these kids were desensitised by gradually giving them peanuts in very small stages.

This begs another question which is that rates of peanut allergies have soared in recent decades. Apparently our grandparents are mystified by the phenomenon of kids being allergic to peanuts. We read about it on the media often. It is suggested that the reason why, in the modern era, kids are allergic to peanuts is because they’ve not been exposed to peanuts as babies.

People with severe allergies either to peanuts or any other allergen identify the protein allergen as an invader and the immune system overreacts resulting in it attacking the body itself. This causes the symptoms of the allergy, such as in the case of an allergy to cats which are a runny nose, itchy eyes et cetera. In the case of a peanut allergy the reaction can be so severe it can kill the child.

Some studies have found that if the baby sleeps with a cat it can help desensitise the baby to the feline allergen. It’s about exposure to the allergen at a young age, as I understand it.

In respect of an allergy to the peanut protein, if the child’s mother does not eat peanuts in pregnancy and avoids peanuts as a first weaning food it increases the chances of their child’s first encounter with peanuts being via the skin rather than the gut. A child’s gut is primed to tolerate new proteins but the skin is not. Therefore under the circumstances described the child may develop an allergy to peanuts which may treaten their life.

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What can be done to help an asthmatic cat to breathe?

I’m going to answer this question even though I’m not a veterinarian because I can refer to a very well-known book in my possession. No doubt, you will understand that you need to seek immediate veterinary attention if your cat is suffering from respiratory distress or a bronchial spasm.

Feline asthma inhaler
Feline asthma inhaler

Epinephrine can be used in an emergency. Bronchodilators such as terbutaline and cortisone are also effective during an acute attack. Two medications which should not be used are antihistamines and cough suppressants because they interfere with the ability to clear secretions.

An asthmatic cat may have to be hospitalised for sedation and to remove them from an environment which contains an allergen or allergens which caused the asthmatic attack. Vets may provide supplemental oxygen in an oxygen cage in acute cases.

Being a recurrent condition it needs to be controlled with maintenance medicine such as oral corticosteroids. It’s given every other day to avoid dependency. Some cats respond well when the drug is tapered off while others suffer an immediate relapse. These cats require lifelong medication.

Sometimes cats respond to certain pollens at certain times of the year and therefore need medication at those times.

Many asthmatic cats are treated with inhalers such as Aerokat. Prescribed medicines are administered by the cat breathing through the inhaler mask. The most commonly used inhalant drugs are fluticasone and a bronchodilator called Albuterol.

If the cat has a bacterial infection as well then antibiotics will be needed. Preventative action is sensible, obviously, and can be achieved by minimising exposure to the allergens that cause the asthma. Cat owners can install a HEPA filtered air purifier in the house which may prove useful.

The source of this information comes from the well-known book Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, pages 305-306. Obviously what I written here is simply information which may prove somewhat useful. I’m doing it because I need to keep producing pages to support the website. However, I passionately support the need to go to a good veterinarian when required and this is one of those cases.

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Can cats get asthma from smoke?

Can domestic cats get asthma from cigarette smoke? The answer is a resounding yes. Domestic cats are just as likely to be made ill by passive smoking as humans. In fact they may be more susceptible to it than humans. This may partly be because they groom themselves so fastidiously and therefore lick off and ingest the chemicals in cigarette smoke from their fur.

Case Example of Cat Passive Smoking

There’s an interesting article in The Scottish Sun today. Veterinarians say that people are too often unaware of the risks that smoking can have on their cat’s health. A PDSA vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan said that their vets and nurses regularly see the impact that smoking can have on pets with problems such as asthma and chronic coughing or fatal diseases such as cancers.

Studies highlight the fact that this is a serious matter. Cat owners should be more aware of it. One woman woke up to the hazards recently. Her name is Jackie Fox. Her cat Alvin developed asthma. Jackie has been a regular smoker for 20 years. She took Alvin to her vet at the PDSA.

Her veterinarian said that her smoking was making her moggy ill and that she had to change her smoking habits. For years she had been smoking inside the home. She smoked in the same room that Alvin occupied.

She said: “I noticed that he was really wheezy when breathing so I took him to PDSA and they told me my smoking could be affecting him. He is my baby so I was horrified to think that my smoking could be harming his health.”

She now smokes outside the home. She immediately saw him improve. Just in a few weeks he got better. Apparently, there is also a link between cigarette smoke and nasal and sinus cancers in dogs, especially long-nosed dogs.

Of course it isn’t just about cats and dogs. All pets are at risk through passive smoking. Another risk to domestic cats is that they may develop mouth cancers. Once again this would be due to their self-grooming habits when they ingest carcinogens through the mouth.

The PDSA have launched a new campaign for National No Smoking Day to highlight the dangers and to urge smokers to stop lighting up around their companion animals.

Other Articles

I have written about this before and you can read what I said by clicking on this link and this one if you wish. There are other pages: please use the search facility to find them.

A Bit about Feline Asthma (Feline Allergic Bronchitis)

Asthma is an hypersensitivity to environmental allergens. Feline asthma affects 1% of all cats. Siamese cats might have an increased risk. Asthma can be triggered by tobacco smoke which is an allergen. An acute attack begins by the sudden onset of difficulty in breathing accompanied by wheezing and coughing. The wheezing can be heard as the cat exhales. It can be heard by the naked ear. The cat may sit with his shoulders hunched. He may lie down with his mouth open straining to breathe. The mucus membranes may be blue. Immediate veterinary attention is needed to relieve bronchial spasms and ease the distress (Source: Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook).

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Are Siamese Cats Prone to Asthma?

Are Siamese cats prone to asthma? It seems that they might be according to an authoritative book I have on genetic diseases in purebred cats, which tells me that Siamese cats are over-represented as a breed in a ‘recent study’ of feline bronchial disease. The book was published in 1992 and therefore the study must go back to around that date.

Bronchial disease is an abnormality of the lower airways excluding disease primarily of the alveoli, interstitium, vasculature and pleura.


See Siamese Cat health problems in total.


Bronchial disease includes bronchial asthma and allergic bronchitis and acute and chronic bronchitis. Clinical signs are coughing, sneezing, wheezing, vomiting and dyspnoea. Some Siamese cat owners report that the signs are more common or re-occur during a particular season.

In the study, half the cats got better on their own and half required medication with bronchodilators, antibiotics or corticosteroids. The clinical signs are more likely to recur in Siamese cats.

As you can see it is rather technical. However, it is interesting to note that bronchial disease is apparently more common in Siamese cats according to this 1992 study.

A website, biology-online.org says that people can trigger asthma attacks in cats and feline asthma is not that uncommon. They say that it is on the rise as more house cats become indoor cats. This is perhaps a reference to house dust mites and cigarette smoke etc. and other products such as scents which have the potential to provoke an asthma attack in cats.

Reference: The book that I’m referring to is Medical, Genetic and Behavioural Aspects of Purebred Cats edited by Ross D Clark DVM and published by Forum Publications Inc, St Simons Island, Georgia Fairway, Kansas, USA.

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