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  • Writer's pictureJord

IS PERFUME SAFE FOR PETS? THE ULTIMATE GUIDE

Updated: Mar 5

a perfumer's pet cat
Meet Louis. =^-.-^=


Controls do exist to ensure safe human exposure to perfume. However, these don’t account for pets and their stark differences in physiology.

 

Poorly understood, and rarely prioritised from a legal or social perspective, is how perfume can impact the way our pets feel and perceive the world around them.

 

Pets can be exposed to perfume through inhalation, ingestion and topical means. This guide will cover how these means affect common pets, how to reduce your pet’s exposure, and whether pet owners can safely and ethically wear perfume.

 

Can I Wear Perfume Around My Pet?

Whether or not you can wear perfume around your pet depends on its species and health status.

 

You should generally try to keep your perfume usage to a minimum around them. This goes double if your pet is old, has breathing problems, or is immunocompromised.

 

Dogs

Dogs use smell to mark territory and communicate, arguably aspects of quality of life. While the odd light touch may be fine, a heavy presence of perfume in the air can impact this.

 

 

Dogs have 50 times more smell receptors than humans and an additional olfactory organ, called the Jacobsen’s organ, which helps account for an olfactory cortex 40 times larger than our own.

 

Dog noses are designed for continuous air intake, and dogs have a natural curiosity around unfamiliar smells.

 

This extreme sensitivity to smell means that a good spritz can be overwhelming to many dogs. This can take the form of agitated behaviour, allergic reactions, and respiratory problems.

 

Cats

You can but keep this to a minimum and avoid any perfumes containing phenols. Several plants used in perfumery can be toxic to cats, so scents containing these compounds should ideally be avoided as well.

 

Cat livers can be temperamental and have trouble processing these compounds. A buildup of these compounds can cause organ damage, poisoning and death. Other symptoms include breathing difficulties, watery eyes, confusion, nausea and dermatitis.

 

Cats can smell up to 14 times more acutely than humans, relying on scent to bond and mark territory. Overpowering perfume presents a similar interference with your cat’s quality of life in addition to their safety.

 

Cats rub against surfaces to mark territory

 

Mice, Rats & Rodents

Rodents, particularly rats, can be prone to respiratory infections due to exposure to soiled and dusty litter and poor cage cleaning.

 

Due to their small size, and highly sensitive noses, excessive amounts of perfume can be highly unpleasant and toxic for your pet rodent. This can rage from allergic reactions to breathing problems, stress and death.

 

It’s best to wear perfume very sparingly when around these little critters, and ideally not in the home or same room. Stick to light scents with a short longevity and low sillage.

 

Birds

Only in very scarce amounts and very rare frequencies of exposure.

 

Birds metabolise oxygen faster than humans so are very sensitive to air quality. A large concentration of perfume in the air can cause bird lungs to haemorrhage, drowning a bird in their own blood.

 

 

Reptiles

Reptiles have a similar respiratory system to humans but use a buccal breathing system. They are very sensitive to strong odours so it’s recommended to keep scent use to a minimum around your pet reptile.

 

 

Fish & Amphibians

The air pumps in fish tanks can introduce perfume particles into the water, which are then absorbed by fish through their gills. Fish can be very sensitive to environmental changes, and a buildup of these particles in their tanks can lead to poisoning.

 

Amphibians can breathe through their thin skin, making it easy for pathogens and toxins to transfer as well. It’s best not to handle amphibians at all, particularly while wearing perfume.

 

Horses

Horses aren’t as sensitive to perfume ingredients as smaller pets but perfume can cause allergic reactions in some horses.

 

It’s also worth noting that a horse can upset easily. Some dislike strong smells, likely owing to a heightened sense of smell.

 

If you haven’t yet bonded with your horse, or notice strong smells do agitate them, it’s better to go without a spritz of scent before approaching.

 

Can I Spray Perfume On My Pet?

No. Imagine that you’re a kid again, just minding your own business, then your parent just walks in and dumps a vat of fragrance over you. When you reasonably ask, “what the hell?”, your parent can’t understand you and just pats you on the head.

 

That’s what your pet can experience when you spray them with perfume. Some may like or tolerate it but the issue is that humans can’t tell. Our pets don’t benefit and can’t communicate consent clearly.

 

We should try to understand that our pets have a heightened sense of smell. We do not speak the same language so may fail to realise that smelling of perfume can be a distracting or overwhelming stressor in our pet’s day-to-day.

 

For many pets scent is a complex social and emotional tool, and that pets prefer to maintain and project a specific scent on the social scene.

 

Cats, rats and mice are fastidious self-groomers for this reason. You’ll often notice self-grooming pets clean themselves after you touch them. Or, from our perspective, get dirty again as soon as they’re bathed.

 

When you put perfume on self-grooming pets, you risk them ingesting the perfume and any ingredients that may be toxic to them.

 

None of this is to say that you can’t clean your pet. Just lay off the scent. Try to understand that your pet is a sentient being with their own unique personality, not an accessory.

 

Can Pets Ingest Perfume?

Pets shouldn’t ingest human perfume or pet perfume. This is because without proper research, the fragrance and essential oils in perfume can cause poisoning and organ damage. If you have different species of pet, like a cat and a dog, a perfume ingredient may be fine for one and lethal to the other.

 

Human perfumes are solely designed for topical use in the US and UK/EU, under safety legislation developed only for human physiology.

 

Pet perfumes aren’t legally classified as cosmetics in the UK or EU, so have no official safety standards to meet. Some pet perfume brands will claim to be safe, and some may be, but no official authority exists to verify these claims.

 

Animal testing was banned in the UK and EU in 1998 and 2013 respectively. Some pet perfume brands will claim to be gentle on animal skin or to test on humans instead, though this means nothing to the specific biology of your pet.

 

If your pet has ingested perfume, stay calm and call the vet immediately. Identify what your pet has ingested. In the meantime, avoid administering medication or inducing vomiting.

 

Positive Effects of Scent on Pets

Certain perfume ingredients can have a calming or stimulating effect for certain pets. For example, lavender can be used to calm dogs on long trips.

 

The key is moderation, careful iteration, and an effort to learn your pet’s particular preferences.

 

When introducing your pet to a new perfume or essential oil, start with a small amount and study your pet for signs of illness or discomfort. At the first sign of any issue, discontinue use immediately.

 

Keep scent levels as low as possible, even when you notice a positive effect, and use your perfume as a rare treat rather than an everyday tool.

 

Check your perfume ingredients for transparent labelling, and the ingredients against research into known toxins for your pet.

 

How Do I Reduce My Pet’s Exposure to Perfume?

Apply your fragrance lightly and carefully to reduce the level of your pet’s exposure. Rollerball perfumes and scent necklaces diffuse less scent into the air during application compared to sprays. This reduces your pet’s exposure while reducing perfume wastage.

 

If your perfume is strong, consider diluting it with alcohol or water. With the right amount, you can create a cologne or EDT from any one of our scents.

 

When applying perfume, ensure that your pet is not in the room. Open a window, and do not let your pet in this room until the smell has cleared.

 

To reduce the frequency of exposure simply wear your fragrance less. Perfume can last a long time so if you’re good at nursing a bottle, this can make your scents last longer and keep scents down. Keep your use to special occasions, occasional treat days or just before leaving the house.

 

While wearing perfume, limit physical contact with your pet. Keep the area well ventilated, and offer your pet an escape outdoors or to a quiet room.

 

Only serve food and water after washing your perfume off. Change and clean your pet’s water, toys and equipment regularly to prevent scent buildup.

 

Be careful to apply scents to areas your pet can’t physically access. For example, underneath clothing or on discreet pulse points. Such as the inner elbow or wrist.

 

Avoid spraying surfaces and furniture with perfume, particularly if you are a cat or rodent owner.

 

Monitor your pet for signs of illness, confusion, fatigue or agitation. If your pet gets perfume on their skin or fur, gently wash the area with soap and water. Don’t allow them to sniff or lick the area.

 

Am I a Bad Pet Owner if I Still Wear Perfume?

No, just be considerate and use your fragrance in moderation. Perfume use is okay but check the label and learn about your pet’s physiology.

 

Perfume can have a physical and emotional effect on your pets, so be mindful that your pet can’t tell you everything. Try to learn what works for your pet as an individual.

 

If you’re beating yourself up about your fragrance use until now, try to remember that no pet parent is perfect. Just do the best you can and try to learn from any mistakes and missteps.

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