Do Cats Like The Smell of Burning Sage? : (Do They HATE it?)

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Welcome, Crazy Cat People!

Sage is a herb that is burned for several reasons such as cleansing the home of negative energies and for its health benefits in humans but ”Do cats like the smell of burning sage and is it okay to burn sage incense around cats?”

I did some of my own research to answer your question.

In general, cats don’t like strong smells. They have 200 million odour senses in their nose and their sense of smell is 14 times stronger than ours so your cat may not enjoy the same smells as you do. Monitor cats when using sage to see their reaction and never use around cats with respiratory issues.

Later in this post, we look at the benefits of sage for cats, whether it is okay to burn sage around them and some safer alternatives.

So keep reading to find out more.

Is sage Incense bad for cats?

Incense smoke is generally not recommended around cats. Cats are more sensitive to smells and smoke inhalation could irritate asthma in cats and cause headaches. If using sage incense make sure there is adequate ventilation in the room and that the cat can escape outside or to another room if needed.

Humans have burned sage for thousands of years for its numerous health benefits. It is said it may help relaxation, soothe stress and dissipate negative energy within the home.

Burning sage in a new home is often called smudging which is a cleansing ceremony.

I have to admit that this is something I have always done when I move into a new home as it cleanses the previous emotions and energies of the people who have lived in your space before you.

You may or may not be spiritual but I guess if you are reading this and you want to burn sage then you most probably are.

When conducting a sage ceremony you would ignite the dried leaves in a bowl and then blow out the flame which will then allow the sage to smoke. The smoke is then wafted around the room including the corners. The windows are then opened to allow the smoke to leave the home, taking away any negative energy with it.

If you have ever burned sage one thing you will notice is that it has a very strong smell! Cats have a sense of smell that is 14 times stronger than humans they also have 200 million odour senses in their noses compared to humans that have around 5 million according to this post by paws Chicago. So the first thing we need to think about is how strong that is going to smell to our little feline friends?

I am NOT coming out till she gets rid of that awful smell!

If you are going to use sage to do a smudging ceremony chances are this is not something you are going to be doing regularly unless you feel the need to cleanse yourself and your home every day which is highly unlikely!

I tend to smudge my space with sage a couple of times a year and mainly after a spring clean! So I would say that this is okay compared to someone who may burn incense daily which would be forcing your cat to breathe in that smoke all day every day.

However even when burning sage infrequently you should still take precautions to lessen any associated health problems.

NEVER burn sage or incense if your cat already has respiratory issues or asthma, this is asking for trouble, instead, find alternative ways to cleanse your space.

Cats with pre-existing conditions will find incense smoke unbearable so please make sure you don’t subject them to any smoke.

Other precautions to take when burning sage around your cats include

  • Use adequate ventilation, when burning sage windows should be open anyway to let the smoke leave your property
  • Monitor your cats while using sage to make sure they are not wheezing or have watery eyes
  • Ideally have the cats out of the room completely
  • Make sure if the sage is left on a table or surface that it is covered so your cats don’t have access to it, they may end up knocking it over which could burn your cat and at worse cause a house fire
  • If your cat cannot go outside then make sure they have access to other rooms while you are using sage in case they want to escape

So there we go, if you must use sage then use it very infrequently and always take precautions and remember that daily burning of incense is certainly not recommended.

Benefits of sage for cats?

Cats are safe to eat and chew sage, there is nothing within the plant that would attract them to the herb such as with catnip that contains nepetalactone which is a compound that stimulates cats senses causing a ”high”.

Before we go any further I just have to say that if you don’t know much about catnip then this post I wrote may be worth a read, I look into what catnip is, how much to put in a toy and how it gets our cats high!

Even the ASPCA classify sage as being safe for cats and non-toxic.

So if your cat wants a nibble on some sage then let them. There are medicinal benefits of sage for humans however there is not enough research to say that cats get the same health benefits from this herb.

If you spot your cat chewing on sage in the garden then they may be doing this for the same reasons that they chew on cat grass to help dislodge hairballs or to aid with their digestive system and it can provide a good source of fibre for cats to aid in elimination.

So don’t worry if your cat has been eating sage they should be okay and it can have some benefits.

Can you burn essential oils around cats?

In general diffusing essential oils around cats is a much better option than burning incense which can create a lot of smoke. In a diffuser, the dose of oil is highly diluted. However, some essential oils may not be suitable to be diffused around pets so always check and always monitor your cat’s reaction.

When using a diffuser for evaporating essential oils the particles are broken down before they are distributed into the air so your cat is not inhaling any smoke or high concentrations of oils so this is a much better option.

Essential oils MUST NEVER be given to a cat in a raw form or applied to their skin as they just don’t have the correct liver enzymes to break down these oils.

A lot of essential oils are toxic to ingest for humans never mind your cat! So if this happens by accident then go straight to your vet.

One thing you need to be careful with when it comes to essential oils is that they vary in quality so much, we want to look for a quality oil that is organic, steam-distilled and contains no added chemicals. It may mean paying a little more than usual but it is worth it to make sure that the oil you are buying will not be harmful to you or your pets.

With a water diffuser, one of the good things is you can actually monitor how much oil you put into the diffuser when you use it and the smell is often very faint due to the dilution of the oils within the water, so you can monitor how much is going into the atmosphere. It is generally recommended for cats to use around to use 3-5 drops of the oil in the diffuser tank.

Always use common sense with what oils you choose and avoid any oils you wouldn’t diffuse around babies and children. More importantly, do your research and find out if the oil you want to use is safe for your cats. If it is a herb or plant that would taste hot in the mouth such as cinnamon then you may not want to burn it.

Monitor your cats at all times when diffusing the oil to test their reaction. It is quite common to see your cat pulling a face when they first smell it and grimacing, this is nothing to worry about this is them just taking in the new scent to their Jacobson organ which is a gland on the roof of their mouth so they can assess and process the new smell!

If they react by hiding away or they become fearful they may not enjoy or like the smell and also look out for sneezing and also watery eyes which may be an indication to not use that particular oil.

So maybe try another oil in the diffuser to see if they prefer that one instead.

When using the diffuser always use it in an open space, you want your cats to be able to retreat to another room if they don’t enjoy the smell. It’s best to have doors open and you may wish to open a window for a while too especially if the smell becomes overpowering.

Whatever you do, don’t leave the house especially if it’s the first time using a new essential oil around your cat, you need to be there to monitor your cat.

Though oils in a diffuser are okay to use around cats ALWAYS do your research and make an informed decision on which oils you feel better using and again don’t diffuse around cats with allergies and respiratory issues, anything we can do to reduce any stress on their respiratory system in these animals is always for the best.

If in doubt or your cat has any side effects from any oils being diffused, seek the help of a qualified veterinarian straight away.

Diffusers are pretty cheap to buy and if you feel this would be a safer way to use scents around your cat then take a look at this diffuser on Amazon! It is extremely quiet and has a couple of different mist settings enabling you to set the mist to low if needed.

What scents are OK for cats?

In general, in a diffuser a lot of essential oils are okay for your cat due to the dilution of the oils but some oils are known the be generally better than others these include –

  • Lavender
  • Copaiba
  • Helichrysum
  • Frankincense
  • Clary sage
  • Jasmine
  • Rosemary

This list is by no means the only smells cats will enjoy, I found this article by a great resource to find out more about essential oils and pets in general so you may wish to take a look!

Key takeaways : Do cats like the smell of burning sage?

  • Cats have a sense of smell 14 times stronger than yours, so if it smells strong to you, it’s very strong to them
  • Smoke from incense and sage may be harmful to cats especially if they have respiratory issues
  • If you do burn sage then make sure the cat can escape easily to another room
  • Open the windows to let the sage smoke out
  • Never burn incense daily while cats are around
  • An essential oil diffuser may be a better option

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Mark (The Crazy Cat Man)


Mark loves Cats, he is the Daddy to two little cats who you will see throughout his blog. He has a passion for Cat care and enjoys everything cat-related. You could call him the crazy cat man.

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