Choosing Safe Household Products to Use Around Cats
Welcome to the “Healthier Cat Detox Series” Part One
Most commonly used household products are toxic for your cat, you, and the Earth
As a cat lover and caretaker, it’s important to avoid toxic household products and choose environmentally safe and natural products instead. Your cat’s liver and kidneys are already working hard to detox everyday toxins in carpeting, pressed particle board in furniture, vaccines, flea products, the air, etc. Studies show indoor air is much more toxic than the outdoor air!
Did you know that a cat’s sense of smell is 14 times stronger than ours? They have about 20 million nerve cells in their noses, compared to 5 million in ours! Wow! So just imagine if something is offensive or strong smelling to you, how much more intense it must be for your cat.
By choosing healthier options, you can reduce their exposure (and yours) to toxins. In turn, this will help keep their immune systems stronger and healthier.
(While I have provided links to products on Amazon, please realize that products may be out of stock or no longer sold on Amazon. I do my best to check the links every so often, but it’s impossible to check them daily.)
Top 5 Household Offenders to Your Cat’s Health
While there are certainly more than five household products that contain toxic chemicals, the following are my Top 5 of the most widely and frequently used. The more frequent a product is used, the more poisons are being poured into the air your cat — and you — breathe, as well as poured down the drains and into the waterways, where the poisons end up in our precious oceans.
#1 and #2 Household Offenders – Plug-In Air Fresheners and Spray Air Fresheners
Plug-in air fresheners are emitting chemicals 24/7. They require a carrier to disperse the scent into the air. That carrier is a chemical called pthalates. Pthalates are known to cause:
- hormone imbalances
- reproductive problems
The plug-ins leave a very thin oily film on everything nearby, including the floor your cat is walking on. And when cats groom, they ingest the residue of this oily film. In addition, the chemicals and synthetic fragrance are inhaled and are irritants to the lungs and nasal passages, so they really should be avoided around those with allergies and asthma.
Many spray air fresheners, even those labeled “natural” and “unscented,” also contain phthalates.
In addition, they contain 1,4 di-chlorobenzene (which is also an ingredient in toilet fresheners and moth balls). This chemical is carcinogenic. It attacks the receptors in the nose, and is used to eliminate your sense of smell. So, you are tricked into thinking there are no odors in your home. In addition, 1,4 di-chlorobenzene is the main ingredient used to make DDT, DDD and DDE. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be exposed to anything associated with DDT. Remember the Bald Eagles and DDT disaster?
What to Use Instead of Plug-in and Spray Air Fresheners
*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a very small commission if you purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). It is a great way to say thanks if you find my information helpful for you and your cat. I personally use or have used any products I recommend.
1. Keep the kitchen clean, take the trash out, and keep the litter box clean. This might sound obvious, but if you think your house smells bad, this might be the reason why.
2. Use an air purifier/ionizer. These ionize the air, freshening it like ocean air. The way it works is to draw positive ions to it. Positive ions are actually “negative,” such as dust, allergens, nasty odors, chemicals, pollen, mold, smoke, pet dander, and other airborne irritants.They then disperse negative ions, which are “positives,” creating the fresh air. I know, it’s kind of confusing. Some of them have UVGI technology which also kills germs, viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms that cause disease. They are a good investment, and you can check one out here and at the resource list at the end of this article.
3. Bamboo Charcoal Odor Absorbers/Eliminators. These little gems work better than baking soda to absorb odors. Bamboo charcoal odor absorbers also remove moisture from the air, shoes, and closets. You will want the ones that are non-toxic in linen bags. Check them out here and below in the resource list.
4. Use an essential oil atomizer or diffuser, buy pre-made sprays, or make your own sprays.
If you are compelled to add fragrance to your home, pure essential oils are a great replacement for synthetic air fresheners.
My experience with these started with a model that had only one setting–constantly on. In the living room centered in an 1,100 square foot home, it was way too strong. I got a headache, despite having used aromatherapy for more than 20 years. This would be way too strong for cats.
If you’d like to try a misting atomizer, choose one that has an intermittent setting. This gives short intermittent bursts of mist, so that the fragrance is minimized.
One I like is by NOW brand, and it’s held up for over two years for me. What I like about this model is the wide base and low profile, which makes is less likely to be toppled over by cats running across tables. 🙂 It’s got a timer, which can be set to 1, 2, or 3 hours. It can run up to 8 hours on continuous setting and 16 hours on intermittent setting. LED lights show through the dark-colored band of meshwork. The lights can be off, rotating, or fixed on one color. It comes with a thorough user guide.
Even running on the intermittent mode, essential oils can still get too strong, and you don’t want to run it for too long. Maybe 30 minutes at a time should be sufficient. Add only 1-2 drops of essential oil. Trust me, this will be enough. The NOW diffuser’s user guide gives essential oil recipes. However, most of the blends are just too heavy and strong scented for use with cats. Below, I’ve listed some oils that are lighter and milder.
It’s not the most attractive diffuser, it looks like a spaceship. Yes, there are a lot prettier ultrasonic oil diffusers. Most have a small diameter base and are taller, which are easier to be knocked over by kitty cats. When we have cats, style must override appearance. Am I right? See the NOW diffuser here.
The mini fan-operated diffuser is much more mild as far as scent, quiet, and takes little space. They run on batteries, and some can run on a USB charger. You place 2-3 drops of essential oils on the included pad and the scent is dispersed by way of the fan blowing over the pad. I loved this diffuser at first. I would take it to work. But, it ended up rattling and became very annoying. I’m not sure if this is a common problem.
Premade Air Fresheners
Air Scense is a deliciously scented spray air freshener made of pure essential oil of orange, lime, lavender or vanilla. It’s non-aerosol, and contains no pthalates or synthetic fragrance. The use of citrus essential oils with cats is controversial. The lavender or vanilla scents might be safer to use. However, I have used the orange scent in the past with care. Don’t: spray over your cat, spray a lot at once, or use in an unventilated room.
Many essential oil companies also make spray air fresheners. One well-known brand is Aura Cacia. Be sure to use pure essential oils. AVOID “fragrance oils,” which are synthetic and toxic.
Make your Own Sprays
Buy a 4-ounce aluminum or glass spray bottle.
Fill 3/4 full with purified or distilled water.
Add 6-8 drops of an essential oil. Shake well before spraying, because the oils will separate from the water.
Choosing Essential Oils
Another factor to consider is the essential oil itself. Some scents are way stronger than others. Milder, lighter ones are better to use around cats.
Try cypress, fir needle, orange, lemon, lime, lavender or peppermint.
Any one of them mixes well with lavender. Any of the citrus mix well together, but then again, you might want to avoid citrus with cats, since it’s controversial.
PLEASE NOTE: I do not recommend the continuous use of essential oils around cats. There is much controversy around cats and essential oils, mostly because not enough studies have been done. Some cats are okay with them, some not. If you notice your cat suddenly starts sneezing or wincing her eyes, she’s probably sensitive to the oil(s). Cats lack a liver enzyme to process and excrete the compounds in essential oils. (Another one of those special unique characteristics of a cat!) But spraying into the air or toilet occasionally will be okay. Don’t spray on or over your cat, as they can then ingest the oils during grooming.
The fan-operated diffuser that I mention above is not dispersing actual molecules into the air that can enter a cat’s nasal passages or land on their bodies. It is simply blowing the scent off the pad into the air. Whereas, a diffuser is dispersing droplets of molecules into the air, much like using the oils in a humidifier. With the fan diffuser, the scent lessens over time to barely any scent. I’ve actually left mine on all day by accident while gone at work. Upon returning home, there was just a very light and pleasant scent in the room.
As mentioned above, I also own the NOW ultrasonic diffuser. I use the intermittent setting and run it 15-30 minutes, use only 1-2 drops of essential oil, and always with windows open. When you re-use the same water/essential oil combo over several days or a week, the scent becomes weaker. At that point, you could run it longer than 30 minutes.
***I think the main thing we should take into consideration here is that we are most likely — at some point — going to want to use something to make our homes smell better or just to enjoy a pleasing scent for therapeutic reasons. Chemical air fresheners are far more toxic to cats — and to us — than pure, natural essential oils. And chemical air fresheners, by their very nature, are not truly therapeutic, i.e., healing, whereas essential oils do have healing properties.
#3 Household Offender – All-Purpose Cleaners/Disinfectants
Commercial all-purpose cleaners and disinfectants are full of chemicals, synthetic dyes and strong synthetic fragrances. A residue is left behind on countertops and stove tops. Your kitty will pick up this residue on their paw pads. And when cats groom, they ingesting the residue. Plus, they are inhaling the fumes.
As far as disinfectants, chemical companies use scare tactics to make us believe disinfecting is necessary on a regular basis. If we are brainwashed into thinking we have to disinfect everything all the time, the corporations make more money.
I think of disinfecting this way….
1) The toilet needs to be disinfected regularly.
2) Countertops really only need disinfecting when you have left out meat or poultry for several hours and salmonella has begun to grow and then you smeared the meat all over the counter (okay, I know you wouldn’t do that!). Seriously now, I’ve been preparing and feeding my cats raw food for over 15 years. The only thing I use to clean the cutting board and counters afterwards are hot water and dish soap. No one has gotten salmonella poisoning.
3) People are walking all over your counters with their shoes on, you need to disinfect.
4) There’s a cockroach party on your counters, you need to disinfect.
Get my drift? We might feel a need for regular use of a disinfectant on the bare floors, but what about the carpeting or area rugs? We don’t disinfect carpet and rugs on a regular basis, so why bare floors? Anyways, these products are leaving lots of residues and fumes that nobody needs to be ingesting or inhaling. A mild earth-, people-, and animal-friendly product will do the job just fine.
While I always recommend eco-friendly products, many of them have a pretty strong odor that just do not smell too safe to me. So, choose wisely. I’ve recommended a brand below.
Also beware that there are a lot of products with natural looking labels that tout being “earth friendly,” “natural,” etc. In marketing, the use of the word “natural” means the product can contain some natural sources along with synthetic ingredients and still be labeled “natural.” There is a popular line that is heavily marketed in grocery and health food stores–Mrs. Meyer’s Products. This line contains synthetic fragrance, and in my book, is way too strong of a scent to be using around our cats.
What to Use Instead of Toxic All-Purpose Cleaners/Disinfectants:
1. White Vinegar has antibacterial properties, softens hard water, and cuts through grease—use diluted 50/50 with water in a spray bottle.
2. Ecos (Earth Friendly Products company) is a line of natural, non-toxic, no animal testing products.
I love the Ecos All-Purpose Cleaner Parsley Plus. It has a nice mild, natural-smelling fragrance and does a great job of cleaning.
While the product label does not state that it’s concentrated, I find it to be super concentrated. Therefore, it can be diluted, making it even more economical.
The cleaner worked with a wet-dry vac on carpet to clean up a cat vomit mess that would have stained. No residue whatsoever. A pre-made raw lamb recipe didn’t sit too well with my cat Tiger. Mom kind of forgot that we tried this brand in the past with the same result. 🙁
Earth Friendly Products company, or “Ecos,” has been around since 1967. I recently started seeing the products more frequently and in discount stores Wal-Mart and Aldi here in San Diego, California for $2.38. This usually means that a natural-based company has sold out to a mega corporation that uses harmful chemicals, synthetic ingredients, and animal testing. But not this one! They remain family owned and operated.
They manufacture using Zero Waste Guidelines. In addition, they own and operate four carbon neutral plants to make their products. And, they have the highest amount of EPA certified “Safer Choice” products in the United States.
3. Seventh Generation is another line of natural, non-toxic, no animal testing products. They used to be my top recommended company, but Ecos seems to be a better brand with better ingredients. Seventh Generation makes an unscented all-purpose cleaner, yet it still has a strong odor. Their products are sold in Target, many grocery stores and health food stores.
4. Any Eco-Friendly Dish Soap. Use this in a ratio of 10% dish soap to 90% water in a squirt bottle or spray bottle. I know an eco-friendly cleaning service that uses this formula along with small amounts of essential oils added. Some essential oils that disinfect are lavender, tea tree, lemon and thyme. Be very light handed on the Tea Tree oil, as it’s very strong, and one of the top oils to actually avoid around cats.
5. Bon Ami and Barkeepers Friend cleansers.
These cleansers can be used along with any of the products listed above, items #1-4, to clean scum from the bathroom sink and tub. They also do a great job to shine your stainless steel sinks, pots, and pans without harmful chemicals found in other name brand cleansers.
10 Ingredients to Avoid in Cat Food
That Make Your Cat Sick and Unhealthy
#4 Household Offender – Bleach
According to Collective-Evolution.com: “the most obvious danger of Chlorine Bleach is printed clearly on the label. It is a heavily corrosive material capable of irritating the eyes, skin and respiratory tract often by simply inhaling the gases it emits. Inhalation has been noted to deteriorate the lungs and esophagus lining in addition to scarring of the respiratory tract.”
When mixed with ammonia, which is found in other cleaning products, the fumes produced are even more lethal and potentially fatal. Some side effects of the fumes of bleach and ammonia mixed together are headaches, nose bleeds, neurological disorders, shortness of breath and chest pain.
Did you know that bleach actually breaks down the fibers in clothing, causing them to fall apart sooner?
What to Use Instead of Bleach:
1. White Vinegar
2. Baking Soda
3. Oxygen-based whiteners – unscented formulas
4. Hydrogen Peroxide
5. Some eco-friendly companies make safe whiteners for your laundry, and these are typically hydrogen peroxide based.
#5 Household Offender – Fabric Softener and Fabric Softener Sheets
Did you know that fabric softener residue stays locked into your clothing? And that your skin absorbs the residue? Fabric softener and fabric softener sheets contain petrolatum wax and leave a thin oil layer on your clothes. This ingredient is what makes your fabrics feel soft. The fabric softener sheets leave wax on the inside of your dryer, plus the synthetic fragrances are chemically based.
I knew someone whose friend was doing a body detox. As his body detoxed, the smell of fabric softener was emanating from his body. If you use chemical fabric softeners, you might be so used to the smell that you don’t realize you might smell like a walking bottle of fabric softener. The same goes for perfumed laundry detergents.
Please do not ever used chemically scented laundry products on your pet’s bedding. This could give a cat headaches, allergy-like symptoms (sneezing, or runny, watery eyes). In addition, the strong scent gets on their fur, and they ingest residue during grooming.
Here’s a list of toxic chemicals used in fabric softeners that can be absorbed into the skin, permanently lodged in clothing fibers, and pollute the waterways and ocean:
Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders
A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list
Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled
What to Use Instead of Fabric Softener:
1. White Vinegar OR Baking Soda. Adding ½ cup of baking soda or ½ cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle to soften the water and your items. Do not add them together! They react together and fizz up.
2. Wool dryer balls. Wool dryer balls by Heartfelt are effective in drying your laundry faster, reducing static and wrinkles, and softening your fabrics. I use them, and they are great! But, I also do not fully dry my clothing in the laundry, especially synthetic fabrics. Instead, I hang dry them to 50% dry, then finish up in the dryer on the low setting. Heartfelt are felted (which last longer than non-felted) and are pure New Zealand wool, no fillers.
3. Don’t dry synthetics in the dryer—they are the culprit in static electricity; instead hang-dry.You could hang dry them halfway, then place in the dryer on low to fluff and remove wrinkles.
4. Use nothing. I know, this can be a tough one. But seriously, consumers have been brainwashed into thinking we need fabric softeners and all kinds of other heavily perfumed products to wash our laundry. And since synthetic fabrics have so much static electricity, we are looking for products to tame it. This makes fabric softener very tempting and an easy sell. Try any of these several alternatives that are much healthier for everyone.
Resources For You:
>>> Before you head over to do some shopping, please let us know in the comments below — what were you most surprised to learn about in this article? Got any tips to share? Thanks!
Then be sure to come back over here so you don’t miss any of the Healthier Cat Detox Series:
Part Two: Best Food and Water Bowls for Cats
Part Three: No More Shots–The Cat Vaccine Hoax
Healthy Life Cat Coach
Calico Cat Photo courtesy of: giesje/pixabay.com