What do your guests smell when they walk into your home? As a cat owner, I never want my guests to think that my home “smells like cats”. However, I don’t want to use chemicals in my home that could harm my kitties or myself. When Febreze contacted me to tell me about their air freshening products, I had one big question on my mind. Is Febreze safe for cats?

Pet Owner Concerns About Air Fresheners

Image courtesy of Febreze

My cats are a part of my family. Keeping them safe is a big part of the responsibility that I took on when I adopted them. I want them to be as healthy and happy as they can be for as long as possible.

Air fresheners can bring up a lot of safety concerns for families with pets. There is a lot of information out there that claims that air fresheners are causing illnesses like asthma, putting toxins into the air we breathe, and harming our environment.
With our pets being so much smaller than we are, how are air fresheners affecting their health? What happens when our pets groom themselves and ingest the things that we’ve put into the air in our homes? Could air fresheners be the cause allergic reactions in our pets?

Febreze, part of The Procter & Gamble Company, as well as many other makers of air care products have been hearing the concerns of pet owners. In May, Febreze took part in a first of its kind summit to address the safety and science behind air care products. As an industry, they want to be more transparent and educate their customers so that we can make informed decisions about the products we choose for our homes and families.

4 Important Febreze Ingredients

Febreze has an extensive line of air care products for the air in your home, your fabrics, your car, and more. Both scented and non-scented varieties of their products are available. All products are water-based. The secret behind Febreze’s air care products lies in 4 important Febreze ingredients:

  1. Cyclodextrin
    Cyclodextrin is an odor trapping molecule that is derived from corn. It is shaped like a donut that traps odor molecules in its center. It is used for purifying other substances too. A prominent Northwestern University professor believes that it could be used to clean up contaminated water (like in Flint, Michigan). Read the whole article here.
  2. Citric Acid
    Love lemons? Citric acid is an odor neutralizer found in lemons and other citrus fruits. When citric acid combines with an odor molecule, it neutralizes that molecules PH so that it is more like that of water.
  3. Reactive perfume ingredients
    These odor converters not only take the bad odors out of the air, they change them into pleasant smells. Reactive perfume ingredients bind to odor molecules and change their chemical structure.
  4. Polymer Technology
    Fabrics can hold odor molecules deep inside them. Febreze’s polymer technology creates a DNA-like spiral that penetrates fabrics and attracts odor molecules to itself. These odor magnets can also release a fresh scent as they neutralize bad odors.

What ingredients are NOT found in Febreze? Phthalates, formaldehyde, and flammable propellants!

Pro-tip: When Febreze ingredients combine with odor molecules, they become heavy and fall to the floor and other surfaces. Vacuuming and wiping down surfaces after spraying Febreze into the air can help remove all those molecules from your home for good. It can reduce the amount of them on your cat’s paws and fur too.

What Does Febreze Do to My Cat’s Lungs?

What about my cat’s lungs? That is a big question that comes to mind when I think of air fresheners like Febreze. The answer is regarding the size of the particles used to create the Febreze products.

Scientists at Febreze are carefully monitoring Febreze ingredients to ensure that all the particles in the ingredients are too large to reach our lungs. Their safety range is 85 – 120 microns. Particles of this size will make it into the nasal cavity (which is how we smell things) of a human, dog, or cat, but are quickly cleared from the body. Birds are very sensitive to scent, so they should be removed from any room where you plan to spray Febreze (or other cleaning products), but they can be returned a few minutes afterward.

It takes a very small molecule to reach deep into our lungs or the lungs of a cat or dog. Medications, like inhalers, meant to reach deep lung tissues have particles that are less than 10 microns in size. The particles in Febreze are at least 8X larger than this.

Is Spraying Febreze Safe for My Home and the Environment?

Another safety feature built into Febreze sprays is their nitrogen propellant system. Many air fresheners that use a tradition aerosol can use a liquid hydrocarbon (like propane or butane) to propel their product out of the can. These liquid hydrocarbons are highly flammable (they are the same sorts of liquids you use to light your barbeque grill). Shaking the can causes the liquid hydrocarbon to become pressurized, it rushes to expand, and it pushes the spray droplets apart causing the whooshing sound associated with traditional aerosol sprays.

Febreze is different. All that is in a Febreze spray container is the water-based Febreze ingredients and compressed nitrogen (no toxic ingredients). Since over 70% of the Earth’s atmosphere is made up of nitrogen, the nitrogen poses no threat to the environment. Febreze sprays are non-flammable. In fact, in a demonstration that the Febreze scientists did in front of me at the P&G lab, spraying Febreze put out the flame on a candle.

Pro-Tip: Do NOT shake your Febreze container before spraying it. Shaking the container is not dangerous in any way, but as the Febreze ingredients mix with the nitrogen, it can make it more difficult to get all the product out of the container. Aerosol sprays, on the other hand, do benefit from being shaken.

Is Febreze Safe for Cats? Decide for Yourself.

The reason that Febreze invited me to come to their facility and talk to them about their products is that they want to be more transparent with their customers. They want people like you and me to have accurate information about their products so that we can make informed decisions about which products we will use and how we will use them.

Is Febreze safe for cats? Is Febreze safe for dogs? Febreze wants to make sure that you have all of the tools you need to decide if their products meet the needs of your particular family situation. They are committed to making all Febreze ingredients public (down to 0.01%) by 2019. All but the ingredients to the individual perfumes are available publicly now.
Where can I find a list of Febreze ingredients?

  • Febreze.com
    Febreze.com not only lists all of their ingredients but shows you what they are and how they are used here.
  • PG.com
    P&G is the parent company of Febreze.
  • SmartLabel.org
  • The Smart Label App
    With this app on your smartphone, just take a photo of a Febreze product’s barcode and a list of ingredients will pop up.

One last resource that may be helpful is the ASPCA. The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control database is extensive. They, along with your veterinarian, can help you determine if a household product will be a problem for your cat. According to the ASPCA’s Poisonous Household Products article, Febreze does not pose a threat to cats or dogs.

Do you think Febreze is safe for your pets?

Would a Facebook Live session with some of Febreze’s scientists help you with your questions about Febreze? Let me know in the comments below.