Are Candles Safe for Cats and Dogs?

Are Candles Safe for Cats and Dogs?

Your furry creatures are more than just pets, they are your friends and family members.  Ensuring that they are healthy and well are always at the forefront of your mind.  A question you might have is are my candles safe for my pets?  From my experience as an experienced candle maker I am going to give you my best advice for your furry friends.

Some candle scents and fragrances are safe and others are not safe to use around your cat or dog.  Watching your pet around the aroma of the burning candle is the best way to test their reaction.  If their behaviour changes, then it is safe to bet that they do not like the aroma and do not burn it again around them.  Always allow an "escape route" out of the room for your pet and observe if they choose to leave the space where the candle is burning.

I will tell you how you how to test your pets behaviour and what you can do for alternatives to candles below.  

white cat and small white dog sitting beside each other

Watch their behaviour

You know your pets better than anyone else.  With this in mind, observation of your pet and their behaviour is the key to knowing if your candles are bothering them or not.  When you first are lighting a candle, make sure your cat or dog has a way to leave the room if they so desire to do so. 

When you light the candle and as the scent begins to disperse through the room, if your animal leaves and goes somewhere different in the house, use this as an indication that the scent is bothering them. 

When I am making candles, my dog is often in the room with me because he is always by my side.  I always ensure that he is able to leave if he so chooses.  Sometimes he does start sneezing when I am weighing out the scents, but this is at a much higher concentration of fragrance load that is entering the air than in an individual candle.  When he starts to sneeze I put him outside until I have finished and then I air out the house before I let him back in again. 

He does not react this way to all scents though, I watch his behaviour and respond to his needs as necessary.  I encourage you to do the same with your animal, as you know their normal behaviour better than anyone else and can make the best judgement on whether the scent is bothering your furry friend or not.  

If your pet has a reaction or you suspect that they are having a reaction or dislike the scent because they chose to leave the room, try some of the alternatives listed below.

two cats and two dogs sitting in a row with a pink background

Alternatives to Use Around Your Pet

If you love candles but think your pet is not happy with the fragrance then burn unscented candles.  Unscented candles can come in a variety of different, shapes, sizes and waxes.  I recommend an unscented soy based wax in a container that your pet cannot easily knock over or burn the candle up high on a safe shelf.  

Try less complicated blends of fragrances such as lavender or French pear or vanilla.  There is less of a variety of fragrances mixed into these three scents and often it will be simpler to determine if the fragrance is going to be safe for your pet or not.  

Consider using candles that are fragranced with essential oils instead of fragrance blends.  If you choose a natural essential oil based candle like lavender you can be reassured that this should not have an adverse effect on your furry friend.  I have a variety of candles made from clean burning soy wax and scented with essential oils for sale on my website.  You can purchase them here.

Use essential oils in a diffuser or a candle burner.  If you choose this alternative, it is easy to know exactly what you are dispersing into the air and can choose specific oils that are okay for your pet.   

See below for more of a detailed examination of which scents or fragrances should be avoided around specific pets.

white dog and grey cat sitting together

Scents to Avoid

First it is best to know that candle fragrances are made up a a variety of different scents combined together.  This specific combination of scents make up the fragrance and thus the smell.  Candle fragrances are mainly synthetic unless it is a specific "natural fragrance" which is composed of essential oils, resins and other organic components.  Breaking the fragrance down into the scent components is how you are to know what is in it. 

I am going to be giving you a list of scents to avoid with specific types or breeds of pets.  It will be up to you to investigate the fragrance you are burning or going to burn around your pet to determine which scents make up the fragrance.  This information can usually be found on the candle makers or manufactures website.  If you are unsure, ask the place where you are purchasing from.  

The following information is from Dr. Janet Roark, DVM - the Essential Oil Vet.  She is a veterinarian and animal aromatherapist, check out her work for further information.


Avoid the following scents with birds:

  • Lemongrass
  • Clove
  • Cinnamon 


cats lack an enzyme in their liver that helps metabolize chemicals and are susceptible to toxicity from a variety of sources.

Avoid the follow scents with cats:

  • Herbal such as: basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary
  • Spices such as: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove
  • Tree scents like: birch, spearmint, wintergreen
  • Fennel
  • Tea tree
  • Peppermint

Citrus scents that contain d-limonene:

  • Bergamot
  • Dill
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon and Lime
  • Orange and Tangerine


There are some controversy and concern over the following scents:

  • Birch
  • Camphor
  • Tea tree
  • Wintergreen

rabbit and guinea pig in a green grass field

Pocket Pets

This includes but is not limited to chinchillas, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits and sugar gliders.

These pets should avoid scents that disrupt their ability to digest their food:

  • Cinnamon
  • Thyme
  • Tea tree
  • Oregano

If your pet has special circumstances such as bleeding disorders, seizures are pregnant or nursing it is best to talk to a qualified vet for further information.  


You can always save your candles to burn especially for you in a special room where your pet cannot access.  An example of this being your bedroom at night when you are reading and enjoy time to yourself.  That way you can enjoy your candles and not have to worry about your pet.  Always watch your animal and let their behaviour guide you in your decisions. 

Enjoy your candles and keep your pets safe!

Love Jes xo


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