a maine coon looking at incense smoke

Is Incense Bad For My Maine Coon?

In 2018 the incense market in the USA was 128 million dollars but by 2025 it’s projected to be 281 million.

Incense is clearly popular and growing.

The Maine Coon is a popular breed of cat, one of the most popular in the world.

It’s inevitable that they will meet in a household more than once.

Is that a good idea, and does it pose a risk to the Maine Coon.

Is incense bad for your Maine Coon?

Incense produces smoke, air particulates, and puts carcinogens into the air when sticks are burned. Ideally, you should not use them with Maine Coons around. You can mitigate the effect on your Maine Coon by using good quality sticks, providing plenty of ventilation, and keeping them out of reach.

Many homes benefit from a little incense therapy every now and again.

Smell is a very evocative sense and can make us relaxed, or heighten our senses to danger.

This is true for all animals in the animal kingdom.

Animals interpret things differently and what smells good for you might not be thought of that way by your Maine Coon.

That works vice versa.

There are many factors at play that allow a Maine Coon owner to gauge whether incense in the house will be truly harmful, as it will depend on the scent, the way the scent is created, your individual cat, and the airflow in the space.

Smoke is bad for any animal’s respiratory system but in the open air, it’s only truly dangerous downwind.

If you do want to light up incense sticks around the house, it’s incumbent to know the potential dangers so you don’t end up deliberately injuring your cat.

a maine coon picture with incense

What Is Incense?

Incense is a product that when burned is designed to leave fragrant aromas.

This is typically in the form of a joss stick, which is an elongated combustible material embedded with particular scents.

A number of plant extracts and binding substances are combined from barks, resins, and flowers.

There are many varieties of incense materials, all differing by quality, including

  • Cinnamon 
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender 
  • Lemon Grass 
  • Patchouli 
  • Sandalwood
  • Vanilla

As a stick is introduced to a flame, the combustible material ignites and the smoke that’s produced carries the scent.

Charcoal and wood are typical binding agents.

Is Incense Toxic To Your Maine Coon?

Incense has been around for millennia, and as such, houses can have rooms with an incense stick in many places.

While you get a lovely smell to the house or apartment, the smoke produced isn’t without consequence.

You may well get mental health benefits but your Maine Coon will probably not.

A lighted incense stick will fill the room with aromas, but there are negative side effects.

What might be a mild smell to you can be very overpowering for a cat.

Your Maine Coons nose is much more sensitive than yours and can trigger headaches, even respiratory problems.

Some medical experts say that smoke, including that from incense sticks, is a leading factor in the cause of asthma in cats.

Carcinogenic Compounds In Incense

Although quality varies in incense sticks, there is a natural mixture of ingredients that when burned form an aerosol of particulate matter.

Some of these compounds are known to be carcinogenic, which is the scientific way of saying it causes cancer.

Numerous studies have been done which conclude that there is an increased risk of cancer the more incense you burn.

Smoke from incense has been linked to a number of problems, but the carcinogenic compounds include

  • polyaromatic hydrocarbons
  • benzene
  • carbonyls

These are just in the smoke.

The effect is more profound if the cat ingests some, by particulates sticking to the fur before that cat grooms itself.

a maine coon picture with incense

Can You Burn Incense Around Your Maine Coon?

Yes, it’s certainly possible to burn incense around your cat as long as you use good judgment.

Stay clear of burning hundreds of sticks in a stuffy room, and think more about doing it occasionally in a well ventilated room.

As a preference, try and stay away from the ones containing essential oils, there’s a bigger problem with toxicity.

Quite a lot of Maine Coon owners will burn incense occasionally without much danger.

Obviously make sure your cat doesn’t get to the burning stick and knock it over, so keep it away from well-known cat routes around your house.

If your cat has some form of asthma then it’s probably a good idea not to burn it at all.

How You Can Enjoy Incense With A Maine Coon Around

Maine Coons are curious and they do quite like heights so if you put those two together your incense stick will likely get a bit of investigation.

An obvious thing to do is burn the incense in the room and keep your Maine Coon out for a few hours.

The cat may complain, especially a Maine Coon as they like to know what you’re doing but it is an option.

If you simply have to have an incense stick burning occasionally, here are a few things to think about.

Keep The Incense Away From The Cat

This is the easy option.

You could try a different room, only in the bedroom, and not allow the cat in there, or keep the cat out of the room in question temporarily.

You could place it high up shelves where a cat wouldn’t normally patrol.

You could even burn the sticks when the cat is outside.

Ventilation Is The Key

If smoke is the hazard, then like anywhere else, make sure the room is well ventilated.

Open windows, fans, or even just keeping doors open to allow for natural airflow.

There are plenty of options, just make sure the smoke particulates don’t hang around in the air.

If it’s in a room where you naturally close the door, make sure the cat is on the other side.

Quality Over Quantity

While everybody wants a bargain, it’s easy to overlook the idea that quantity isn’t always matched with quality.

Mass produced incense sticks use dipped incense which utilizes charcoal and sawdust which doesn’t burn as cleanly.

Quality incense sticks often use raw ingredients and a bamboo stick which produces a cleaner burn and less particulate matter.

Cheaper quality often means that carcinogenic chemicals are produced on the burn.

The better quality of incense burns better and is, therefore, healthier for both you and your Maine Coon.

a maine coon picture with incense

What Can You Use Instead Of Incense?

Consider a wax warmer, although keep it on mild as they can put carcinogens in the air as well.

At least it reduces the flame risk.

Small scented candles can also be used but watch that flame and keep the room ventilated.

Essential oil diffusers can be another option but stay away from the chemically laced ones.

Anything directly burning is less good for your health, and that of your cat.

Alternative Scent Options For Your Maine Coon

Living with any breed of cat might produce a smell or two that you occasionally want to mask.

Especially if they are indoor Maine Coons.

Good quality cat litter can often take away the smell that everyone fears the most.

There are a few other methods though.

Non-Toxic Air Freshener

While most air fresheners aren’t particularly dangerous otherwise you wouldn’t be able to buy them, heavy use can put liquid droplets on your cat’s fur.

Which can then be ingested.

Skin contact with normal air fresheners can cause skin irritation, which are designed for humans, not cats.

Air Purifier

Thinking laterally, you don’t have to put a new smell in the air but remove and purify the current air.

Air purifiers are designed to clean up the air in your home.

As an extra piece of good news, the quality purifiers have good filters in them that remove particulate matter from the air.

They catch pollen but work well for other particulates, including burnt joss sticks.

a maine coon looking at incense smoke


Incense can bring a more relaxing atmosphere and handles responsibly won’t be a great danger to your Maine Coon.

The smoke from cheap incense sticks can pollute the air, and put carcinogenic chemicals into the atmosphere.

So prolific incense use from cheaper quality brands in closed rooms will produce toxic effects, but good quality in well ventilated rooms is fine.

Especially if it is more infrequent.

The easy short answer is that incense is bad for cats, and that’s true, but good judgment can mitigate those effects.

If your cat has asthma then it’s not a good idea, nor should you use them frequently in enclosed spaces.

Your Maine Coon will move away if it’s in distress, but you should attempt to mitigate the effects as much as possible, and that might just include not using them at all, preferring an alternative.

Are essential oils bad for a Maine Coon?

Recent evidence has suggested that essential oils can be toxic to cats. This is true whether ingested, applied to the cat’s skin, or simply inhaled. Consistent exposure can lead to liver damage, and potentially be fatal.

Is Potpourri bad for a Maine Coon?

Strong potpourri is more an annoyance and irritating than harmful. The danger with potpourri is if your cat mistakes it for food. Potpourri is dried flower petals, herbs, spices, and essential oils which are not designed for consumption.

Are scented candles bad for your Maine Coon?

Whether scented or not the main danger with candles is your Maine Coon will knock over a flame. The scent might be harmful or be in a well ventilated area but the fire risk is something much more dangerous.

About the Author


My name is Ann and I have been looking after and breeding cats since 2013. I am currently the proud ownder of Alita, a female Maine Coon to whom I've dedicated this site. She has had 2 litters and is around 3 years old. We share adventures and stories together.

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