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Are Diffusers Safe for Cats to be Around? Facts & FAQ

It may surprise you to learn that cats can’t see that well. Compared to our optimal 20/20 vision, felines come in at 20/200. That means they need to be close up to something to make out what it is. Instead, their sense of smell is their most important sense. You may wonder if diffusers are safe to use around them. The short answer is yes and no.

You must consider the following:

  • Type
  • Content
  • Access
  • Usage

Our guide will explain what you need to know. Learn what diffusers are safe for your pet and which ones you should avoid. Let’s begin by putting your cat’s olfactory world in perspective.

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Cats & Their Sense of Smell

Cats navigate their world through scent. They are better-suited than we are to rely on this sense so heavily. The number of odor receptors that an animal has in the tissues lining their nasal cavities is an excellent indication of how well-developed their sense of smell is. When we smell something, it sends a chemical signal to our brain to identify it.

Cats have about 200 million receptors. We humans have 5 million.

close-up of nose and mouth of a cat
Image Credit: Photographerivanova, Shutterstock

Felines and other animals have another card up their collective sleeves with their vomeronasal or Jacobson’s organ. This structure is found on the roof of a cat’s mouth. Its primary function is to detect pheromones. These are chemical signatures that give felines another way to communicate, particularly during mating and marking.

If you see your pet with their mouth slightly open, they’re engaging in what scientists call flehmen behavior. Molecules in the air funnel into your cat’s mouth, where the Jacobson’s organ can decipher the chemical compounds. This information tells us that felines have a highly developed sense of smell. So, you might wonder if strong odors might seem too overwhelming to them.

Types of Diffusers

A diffuser acts as a medium to disperse essential oils. You’ll see several types, which can influence the safety factor. Many, such as candles, water, or electric devices, use heat to speed up the process. There are also nebulizers and reed diffusers. The objective is to control the release so the scent will last the longest time for the best value.

The operative phrase is the dispersal method. Anything involving a flame or heat carries a burn risk. Keeping your cat from getting too close to it is essential. The reed type might seem safe because it’s just relying on the movement of the essential oil up its length. However, the concentration of the content can pose an issue, both for pets and people.

Content in the Diffuser

What is inside of your diffuser is the next part of the answer. Essential oils are concentrated volatile compounds responsible for what you and your cat smell. While you may associate citrus scents with cleanliness, it’s more likely to deter your kitty than attract them. That’s why you often find repellent products with these aromas.

It’s also worth mentioning that citrus oils are toxic to both cats and dogs and have the potential to cause nervous system problems. So, if your pet might not like the oil and it could hurt them, why would you use it in your and your kitty’s home?

Fortunately, there are diffuser products that are safe for felines and can even help with behavioral issues. They contain synthetic pheromones that can calm stressed pets and reduce aggression among cats. They are welcome additions to your home because of the potential health benefits that they offer.

Electric Essential oils Aroma diffuser
Image Credit: Denise E, Shutterstock

Access to the Diffuser

Access is an essential thing to consider, especially with kittens. Curiosity will drive many pets to explore new things in their home, even if it isn’t the safest for them. If a cat finds the scent pleasing, there’s a risk of them ingesting a toxic amount if they can get inside of it.

Of course, there’s a simple fix for that issue: Keep the diffuser out of reach of an inquisitive feline.


Cats have a keen sense of smell. They use it to mark their territory — including you — and help them feel secure. Remember what seems like a refreshing scent to you can come across as a smelly gale to your pet. Our suggestion is to limit the use of a diffuser and perhaps avoid placing it in the room where your cat sleeps.

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Final Thoughts

It’s essential to view questions like this one from your cat’s perspective, given the importance of smell in their world. Maybe a better compromise is to crack open a window and let fresh air come into your home. Your kitty will appreciate all the new scents that they can pick up, and this provides them with mental stimulation too.

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Featured Image: Kristi Blokhin, shutterstock