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Are Candles Safe for Cats? How to Keep Your Pets Safe

Est. read time: 4 min.

Whether you’re celebrating a holiday, setting the mood for a meditation session, or soaking in a hot bath after a long day, there’s a good chance that candles pop up in your routine from time to time. But be sure to keep your family’s safety in mind—including your pet’s. So, are candles safe for cats? Find out why you should avoid certain types of candles when you have pets at home.

brown tabby cat sniffing a candle - are candles bad for cats?
Photo by Laurene Gicquel on Unsplash

So, are candles bad for cats and dogs?

The short answer is, it depends on the type and placement of candles. This is as true of burning candles as it is of diffusing essential oils, burning incense, and so on.

Avoid paraffin candles

Before you light a candle at home or purchase one, make sure it’s not made of paraffin wax. When it comes to paraffin candles—or typical low-quality, mass-produced candles—we should be asking, "are candles bad for you" alongside "are candles bad for cats and dogs?" This is because paraffin candles aren’t healthy for any of us, two-legged or four-legged.

Paraffin wax is made from petroleum as a by-product of making gasoline. The American Lung Association warns against burning paraffin candles. Studies by air quality engineers and testing by the EPA have confirmed that burning these types of candles can emit toxins and dangerous chemicals in measurable quantities into the air.

Watch for fire hazards

It goes without saying that you should never leave open flames unsupervised. Yet even if you’re in the same room as your pets with lit candles, beware of potential accidents. Make sure you place burning candles out of your pets’ reach. This is trickier with cats, who like to explore higher shelves and ledges. 

Furthermore, make sure lit candles that are out of reach aren’t sitting on unsteady surfaces or coverings such as a tablecloth that could accidentally be snagged by your passing cat or dog. Learn more about fire safety with pets.

Are candles bad for cats and dogs? Yes, if your pet has asthma

We can agree that paraffin candles are bad for everyone in the household. But even if you’re using a cleaner organic candle, you’ll want to avoid burning candles at all if you have pets with asthma, bronchitis, or other respiratory issues. This includes brachycephalic pet breeds (short noses and/or flat faces) like Persian and Himalyan cats, or French Bulldogs and Pugs.

Signs of your pet’s sensitivity to candles

Even if your cat or dog doesn’t have respiratory issues, keep an eye out for the following symptoms that may indicate your pet has a specific sensitivity to candles:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Itching
  • Skin redness or rashes
  • Respiratory distress (labored breathing, fast breathing, panting, coughing, or wheezing)

Tips for burning candles in a pet household

open book and pen next to lit candles

Use organic wax candles

There are a lot of better options for candles than those made of paraffin wax. Opt for organic wax candles, such as candles that are made from soy, beeswax, vegetable wax, or coconut wax. Not only are these candles better for you and your pet, they’re better for the environment!  

Avoid overpowering scents

Cats and dogs typically experience odors more intensely than humans do. Sometimes our pets dislike smells that we find pleasant—such as the case with cats disliking citrus—and vice versa. Keep this in mind when it comes to choosing scented candles to burn. Learn more about which surprising smells cats hate.

Add a protective cover or shield

Make your candles even less accessible to your pets by placing them in a glass shield or protective covering of some kind.

Burn in a well-ventilated space or a room your pet doesn’t have access to

If you must burn candles with your pets around, make sure it is in a well-ventilated area. Crack a window if you have to (as long as there’s a safety screen in place!). 

Or, go flameless

The best all-around option for safety is to use flameless candles. These battery-operated candles still provide light and joy—but without the health risks.    

So, are candles safe for cats and dogs? As long as you are responsible about which types of candles you burn, where you burn them, and your pet’s specific health needs, you should be able to burn candles with no added worries!

Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash


brown tabby cat sniffing a candle - are candles bad for cats and dogs?