Are Scented Candle Fumes Toxic to Cats?

This article was previously published in the Purrington Post. It is focused on cats, however quite obviously the deadly toxins from candles applies to not only cats, but dogs, birds, ferrets…humans! Please read and share. Super important Need To Know stuff here.

The Appeal of Scented Candles

Who of us haven’t indulged in the pleasure of scented candles in the home? They can infuse a room with delicious fragrance, or add a romantic ambiance to a meal and of course make bath time more relaxing and luxurious.  Sales of scented candles have soared in recent years as they have come to represent the ultimate expression of ‘me’ time.

As such, scented candles are a favorite indulgence of many households, but did you know that their fumes are as toxic as cigarettes? Burning low quality commercial candles in your home can cause serious illness to you, your family and your pets.


The Dangers

The problem is that most commercial candles are made of paraffin which comes from petroleum, and therefore it’s neither sustainable nor environmentally-friendly. Paraffin is the final residue left from refining crude oil. It’s made from the sludge in the bottom of a barrel of oil which is then bleached by adding dioxin and other poisonous chemicals and then texturized with a chemical called acrolyn. And afterwards, stearic acid, a byproduct of the meatpacking slaughterhouses, is added as a hardener.

Adding insult to injury, many paraffin candle manufacturers also add animal fats to give their candles a more textured or rustic look.

Would you burn animal fat in your home?

Most of us would answer an emphatic “No!” or “Yuck!” to that question, but like something straight out of a horror movie, you might react in horror to realize that you probably are burning animal fat in your home when you burn paraffin candles.

Tamar from I HAVE CAT says…

“I was shocked to learn that not only is burning candles bad for your health and that of your pets, but that they often contain animal fat! This is particularly disturbing to me given I’m a vegetarian.”

Paraffin wax has become the leading wax for use in cosmetics, food and candle manufacturing because it’s cheap and readily available.

Paraffin candles cannot be scented with natural essential oils because the petrochemical rich wax will break them down. This has forced the candle industry to create petroleum-based fragrances that are more compatible. When these fragrances are added to the mix, a lot more soot and chemicals are released. This creates a further negative effect on our health. The toxins released by some of these petroleum-based scents can be even worse than the wax itself!


The Health Risks

When you burn paraffin candles, you might as well be inhaling diesel fumes. Studies by air quality engineers at The Florida Department of Health found that the fine particulate matter collected from candle emissions was similar to that of diesel engine exhaust. Soot, in high levels, can be seen rising from the offending candle. But, even a visually clean burning candle could still emit significant quantities of other chemicals into the air.

The American Lung Association has warned that burning paraffin candles can emit toxins (in measurable amounts) into your home’s air. Testing by the EPA has confirmed that those candles, and the smoke and soot they give off, contain several dangerous chemicals in significant quantities.

The toxins released into the air from a burning candle affect everyone in the household, including your pets. The effects on your pets are magnified because they are smaller and can’t process the toxins as quickly. Not to mention the fact that pets are usually more sensitive to smell than we are, so that festive, light gingerbread scent we’re enjoying is likely overwhelming to your cat.

Close-up Angry Black Cat with Yellow Eyes on White

No one knows for sure if paraffin candles cause cancer, but there are at least 4 cancer-causing chemicals associated with paraffin candles.

The EPA lists these chemicals on their website:

1) Benzene (EPA classification as Group A, known human carcinogen)
2) Carbon Tetrachloride (EPA classification as Group B2 probable human carcinogen)
3) Trichloroethane (EPA classification as Group C, possible human carcinogen)
4) Toluene (EPA classification as Group B2 probable human carcinogen)

It might shock you to learn that after burning just a few paraffin candles in your home, the overall effect on the quality of the air in your home could be worse than the air in major cities like Los Angeles!

Did you also know that emissions in the home are estimated to stick around for up to 10 hours after extinguishing a candle?


Not only is your health affected, but the health of your children and pets as well.

This is a serious problem considering that air borne soot can penetrate the deepest areas of the lungs and the lower respiratory tract. People who burn paraffin candles may be exposing themselves to inflammatory agents and carcinogens which may lead to increased risk of cancer, neurological disease and acute aggravation of existing respiratory diseases such as asthma.

Another study by Dutch scientists, where they measured the air particles in churches that burned candles for up to nine hours at a time, found 10 times as many damaging free radicals (molecules that can cause cancer) in the air inside the churches as they did in the air beside a highway.

Alternatives – A Breath of Fresh Air

All is not lost. There are plenty of safe options.  For example, Sandie Lee from PawedIn says…

“If you want a welcoming scent in your home, try simmering cloves and cinnamon sticks in a small pot of water. It’s all natural and no harm will come to Kitty…just be sure to keep on eye on the water level so it doesn’t completely boil away.”

If you prefer candles, the increasing popularity of organic wax candles presents us with a healthy and environmentally friendly alternative. Look for candles made from bee’s wax, coconut wax or even soy wax (preferably organic).

Sure, they’ll be a bit more expensive, but they’ll burn clean and generally burn much longer than paraffin based candles. Plus they’ll be safe for your health and the environment.


Some of the surprising benefits of bee’s wax or coconut wax candles include:

  • Burn with no toxins, carcinogens or choking soot
  • Burn up to 50% longer than paraffin candles
  • Cruelty-free, contain no animal fats
  • Non-toxic, biodegradable, derived from a renewable resource
  • Better for the environment
  • Use no nasty chemicals to release fragrance

Our Recommendation

As lovers of cats and having a weakness for scented candles, we recommend a product called “Paw Melts” that are fragrant melts made from a blend of 100% certified organic waxes. They smell magnificent, come in 12 scents are completely safe for your cats, family and the environment.


What’s even better is that they come in the shape of a paw to symbolize the love and inseparable bond between us and our fur babies!
Check them out here =>


We hope this helped you make ‘scents’ of the need to choose carefully before burning just any candle or melt in your home!  The health of our loved ones depends on it.

About the author

Kimberley Koz


  • This has been a most interesting and informative post. We thank you for sharing. I gave up on scented candles a few years ago after seeing what burning candles did to her ceilings in her house – black with soot, which was not easy to clean off either. So I guess your report does not surprise me after seeing the soot on my friend’s ceiling.

    • Yeah, me too! I’m now ultra sensitive to all smoke, but the scent of candles has always made me sniffle.

  • And then there’s the glooming pink butthole of doom exhibited when a cat stands near a candle with her tail up. Definitely better to have one that is organic!

  • I didn’t know this. Thanks for the information. I will get rid of all my candles and replace with ones that are better for us. Thanks again.

    • I’m thinking Life smells great with the windows open. No more scented thingys for my home. Thanks so much for stopping by, Caren.

  • guyz…total lee awesum grate post; thanx for sharin…..we wood like ta add pleez if we may; when de food servizz gurlz mom went ta paint de kitshun wallz…her discoverd a “film” on em….her waz like de H…..come ta find out de candlez had leeved a film oh sortz on de wallz & they kneaded a soooper good scrubbin ta get em…paint reddy ~~~

    🙂 ♥♥♥

    • A film? Oh that’s nasty. Yep, smoke does leave residue on things. Especially smoke from ciggy-butts. Pets lick their fur and ingest the carcinogens into their precious little bodies. But don’t get me started on that! Another topic, another time.

  • Pawsum posty. Mommy only has soy candkes scented with real essential oils. But she rarely burns them, cuz they’re very strong and she doesn’t wanna offend our tender nosies. Fanks fur da info. We’re sharin’ as too many peeps don’t know da dangers. Big hugs

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Raena

  • Thanks for sharing this info. The mom likes to burn candles but knows that they really aren’t safe for us cats so she’s stopped. She’ll check out these Paw Melts.

  • I agree that chemicals and strong odors from chemicals make us all sick. From perfumes to scented candles. I am very sensitive myself to them so don’t allow them in my home. I had a pet rat die from toxic mold that also caused my sensitivities to manifest so no longer can I handle just about any scented product and won’t subject my animals to them at all.

    • Juliea, I’m sincerely sorry that your rat died so tragically. I lost two cats to toxic mold in my home air handlers. I’ve never enjoyed candles, as my husband and I have asthma, and also I have cats with respiratory problems. I go with the plan that, if its not good for me, it sure ain’t good for my fur babies! Thanks for stopping by.

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