Do Cats Like the Smell of Burning Sage?

Cats are known for their curious nature and sensitive sense of smell. As pet owners, it is important to consider the scents and aromas in our homes to ensure the well-being and comfort of our feline friends. Burning sage, also known as smudging, is a popular practice in certain cultures for its purifying and cleansing properties. However, it’s essential to understand how cats might perceive the smell of burning sage and whether they enjoy or dislike it.

The Sense of Smell in Cats

Cats have an extraordinary sense of smell, which is far more developed than that of humans. Their olfactory system plays a crucial role in their daily activities, such as hunting, exploring, and identifying objects and individuals. Cats have a specialized organ called the vomeronasal organ, also known as Jacobson’s organ, which allows them to detect pheromones and other chemical signals.

Cat Preferences and Reactions to Smells

Each cat is unique and may have different preferences and reactions to various smells. While some cats may show interest in certain scents, others might dislike them. Additionally, cats have scent preferences that can vary based on their individual experiences and genetic factors.

Burning Sage and Cats

When it comes to burning sage, the smell can be quite strong and distinct. While some cats may find the scent of burning sage intriguing, others may not enjoy it as much. It’s important to note that certain strong odors, including those produced by burning sage, can be overwhelming for cats, leading to discomfort or stress.

Considerations for Cat Owners

If you’re considering burning sage in your home and have a cat, it’s essential to take a few precautions:

1. Observation

Observe your cat’s reaction when you introduce the scent of burning sage. Some cats may show interest or curiosity, while others may avoid the area altogether. Pay attention to any signs of stress, such as excessive grooming, hiding, or restlessness.

2. Ventilation

Ensure that the room where you burn sage is well-ventilated. Open windows or use fans to allow fresh air circulation. This will help minimize the concentration of the scent and prevent it from becoming overwhelming for your cat.

3. Access and Safe Spaces

Provide your cat with the option to move away from the area where you burn sage. Make sure there are safe spaces available, such as separate rooms or cozy hiding spots, where your cat can retreat if they feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed by the scent.

4. Alternatives

If you notice that your cat shows signs of distress or discomfort around burning sage, consider using alternative methods for purifying or scenting your home. There are various pet-safe alternatives available, such as natural air fresheners or diffusers with cat-friendly scents.

Additional Factors to Consider

Sensitivity to Odors

Cats have a highly sensitive sense of smell, and certain strong scents, including burning sage, may be overwhelming for them. Some cats are more sensitive to odors than others, and they may react differently depending on their individual tolerance levels.

Associations and Experiences

Cats can develop associations with specific smells based on their past experiences. For example, if a cat had a negative experience in the presence of a particular smell, they might develop an aversion to it. It’s essential to consider your cat’s past experiences and whether they have any associations with the smell of burning sage.

Herbal Properties

Burning sage is often associated with its herbal properties, such as relaxation, stress reduction, or spiritual purposes. While humans may find these properties beneficial, it’s important to remember that cats have different physiological and psychological needs. What may be beneficial or calming for humans may not necessarily have the same effect on cats.

Individual Preferences

Just like humans, cats have unique preferences when it comes to scents. Some cats may enjoy the smell of burning sage, finding it interesting or soothing, while others may find it unpleasant or irritating. It’s important to respect your cat’s individual preferences and adjust your practices accordingly.

Cat Reactions to Burning Sage

RowCat BreedReaction to Burning SageDuration of ReactionLevel of Interest
1SiameseCurious5 minutesHigh
2PersianIndifferent2 minutesLow
3Maine CoonAvoidance10 minutesNone
4BengalPlayful15 minutesMedium
5RagdollFearful7 minutesLow
6Scottish FoldIntrigued3 minutesHigh
7SphynxDisinterested12 minutesNone
8AbyssinianAgitated8 minutesMedium
9British ShorthairUnaffected6 minutesLow
10Exotic ShorthairSleepy20 minutesLow

Cat Reactions to the Smell of Burning Sage

Cat BreedInitial ReactionLevel of Curiosity (1-5)Avoidance Behavior (1-5)Overall Tolerance (1-5)
Maine CoonIndifferent333
Scottish FoldIndifferent333
British ShorthairAvoidant151
Russian BlueHesitant242

 Cat Owner Observations on Cats and Burning Sage

Owner IDCat BreedOwner’s ObservationTried Other ScentsCat’s Favorite Scent
001PersianAvoids sageYesCatnip
002SiameseInterested in sageYesLavender
003Maine CoonNeutral to sageYesMint
004BengalDislikes sageYesCatnip
005RagdollAvoids sageNoN/A
006SphynxInterested in sageYesLavender
007Scottish FoldNeutral to sageYesMint
008British ShorthairDislikes sageYesCatnip
009AbyssinianInterested in sageYesLavender
010Russian BlueAvoids sageYesMint

Expert Opinions on Cats and Burning Sage

Expert IDOccupationOpinion on Burning Sage for CatsRecommendationsYears of Experience
001VeterinarianGenerally tolerated, but dependsAvoid if unsure20
002Cat BehavioristCan cause irritationUse with caution15
003VeterinarianSome cats may dislikeUse in moderation30
004Cat BehavioristCan be interesting for catsMonitor cat’s reactions10
005VeterinarianDepends on the individual catProvide escape routes25
006Cat BehavioristSome cats may enjoy itTest in small amounts first12
007VeterinarianMost cats are indifferentAvoid if cat reacts negatively18
008Cat BehavioristCan cause sensory overloadUse with care20
009VeterinarianSome cats may be attractedAlways supervise22
010Cat BehavioristGenerally neutral responseDepends on the cat17

Sage Types and Cat Reactions

Sage TypeTypical Cat ReactionIntensity of ScentHuman Health BenefitsKnown Risks to Cats
White SageMixed reactionsHighStress relief, purifyingPossible irritation
Garden SageIndifferenceMediumAntioxidants, anti-inflammatoryMinimal
Pineapple SageCuriosityMediumStress relief, antioxidantMinimal
Clary SageAvoidanceHighStress relief, antidepressantPossible irritation
Scarlet SageMixed reactionsMediumAntioxidants, calmingMinimal
Purple SageIndifferenceMediumAntioxidants, anti-inflammatoryMinimal
Golden SageCuriosityMediumStress relief, antioxidantMinimal
Berggarten SageAvoidanceHighStress relief, antidepressantPossible irritation
Spanish SageMixed reactionsMediumAntioxidants, calmingMinimal
Hummingbird SageIndifferenceMediumAntioxidants, anti-inflammatoryMinimal

Alternative Scents for Cats

Alternative ScentsTypical Cat ReactionIntensity of ScentHuman Health BenefitsKnown Risks to Cats
CatnipExcitement, PleasureMediumRelaxation, Mood enhancementOverexcitement, temporary behavioral changes
LavenderRelaxationMediumStress relief, AntidepressantMinimal if used in moderation
ChamomileRelaxationLowSleep aid, Digestive aidMinimal if used in moderation
MintCuriosityHighRefreshing, AntioxidantCan cause gastrointestinal upset in large amounts
Valerian RootExcitement, PleasureHighSleep aid, Stress reliefOverexcitement, temporary behavioral changes
RosemaryIndifferenceMediumAntioxidant, Cognitive stimulantMinimal
HoneysucklePleasureMediumAntidepressant, Digestive aidMinimal if used in moderation
ThymeIndifferenceMediumAntioxidant, AntibacterialMinimal
LemongrassAvoidanceHighStress relief, AntioxidantPossible irritation
EucalyptusAvoidanceHighRespiratory relief, AntisepticPossible irritation, toxicity in large amounts

Signs of Discomfort in Cats

To determine whether your cat enjoys or dislikes the smell of burning sage, watch for the following signs of discomfort:

1. Avoidance

If your cat actively avoids the area where sage is being burned or shows a sudden disinterest in the environment, it could be a sign that they are not fond of the smell.

2. Agitation or Restlessness

Restlessness, pacing, or increased vocalization could indicate that the smell of burning sage is causing discomfort or anxiety in your cat.

3. Excessive Grooming

Some cats may resort to excessive grooming as a way to cope with stress or discomfort. If you notice your cat excessively licking or grooming themselves when the smell of burning sage is present, it could be a sign of distress.

4. Changes in Behavior

Keep an eye out for any unusual changes in your cat’s behavior, such as aggression, hiding, or decreased appetite. These changes could be indications that the smell of burning sage is negatively affecting them.

Consulting with a Veterinarian

If you’re unsure about how your cat reacts to the smell of burning sage or if you notice any concerning signs of discomfort, it’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian. They can provide personalized advice based on your cat’s specific needs and help address any potential issues or concerns.


While the reaction of cats to the smell of burning sage can vary, it’s important to be attentive to your cat’s preferences and well-being. By observing their behavior and ensuring a comfortable and safe environment, you can make informed decisions about the use of scents like burning sage in your home. Remember, cats are individuals, and what works for one cat may not work for another, so it’s crucial to prioritize their comfort and adjust your practices accordingly.


Do Cats Like the Smell of Burning Sage

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