Bug Spray Is Toxic to Cats

Last Updated on April 13, 2020

Creepy crawlies seem to dampen the joys of summer every year. This is especially true at night when you have to worry about things like mosquitoes. Most people will opt to use some kind of insect repellent be it spray, cream, or a saturated accessory. While using these things responsibly shouldn’t cause any harm, it is important to know that almost all bug sprays (and insect repellents) are very toxic to cats.

Safety First

Using these sprays, creams, and other items whilst outdoors is the safest method of use. You do not want any of the chemicals being accidentally sprayed, dripped, or dropped near your kitty. It is best to use these items at a fair distance away from wildlife as well so applying them on your deck, in your driveway, or in your garage is best.

NEVER Apply Indoors

Many of the ingredients found in common insect repellents are considered toxic for your cat to inhale.

Toxic Ingredients to Avoid

Below is a list of toxic ingredients you want to avoid altogether. These ingredients can cause severe and sometimes long-term ill-effects to a cat. Be sure to read labels if you are purchasing a traditional bug spray from a store.

  • Amitraz
  • Acephate
  • Carbofuran
  • Chlorpyrifos
  • Diazinon
  • Disulfoton
  • Fenoxycarb
  • Fonofos
  • Malathion
  • Methomyl
  • Parathion
  • Permethrin
  • Propozur
  • Terbufos
  • Tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP)

Natural Does Not Mean Safe!

A lot of pet lovers will opt for more natural insect repellents which is a great idea in general but just because the label reads “natural” doesn’t mean it is safe. Many essential oils found in natural bug sprays and creams are mildly to severely toxic to cats. When looking for a more natural bug spray it is important to make sure it doesn’t include any of the ingredients below. If it does, which most do contain at least one, it is best to only use it outdoors.

  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Citronella
  • Citrus
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemon
  • Lemongrass
  • Pine
  • Sweet Birch
  • Teatree
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang Ylang

Bug Spray Alternatives

Here are a few ways to protect yourself outdoors without having to worry about accidentally poisoning your cat (or yourself!). All of these options are easy to use, easy to find, and relatively cheap.


If you want to use something that will be safe to use around your cat (and other pets) that actually works, look no further than lavender. Having potted lavender on your deck or patio is a great way to keep bugs away from your house. This works for mosquitoes, flies, moths, ticks, fleas, and even some spiders. To protect yourself on the go, mix some lavender essential oil in your favorite skin lotion or in a carrier oil like coconut, olive, or sesame and apply it to your skin. Never apply full strength lavender essential oil to the skin, it can cause irritation.

CAUTION! Do not apply lavender oil directly to your cat’s skin!

Tiki Torches

If you spend a lot of time in your backyard in the summer or have a swimming pool, getting some tiki torches is a great idea. This will keep night time (and even daytime) insects away from you without having to apply anything directly to your skin or clothes.

Citronella Candles

Citronella candles work the same way tiki torches do by keeping the insects away from you. It masks the smell of things like carbon dioxide and lactic acid we produce. You can use these on your deck, porch, or by your pool, but you never want to use them indoors. The fumes can cause nervous system damage in cats.

Bug Zapper

If you are not concerned with being completely humane to the insect population, investing in a bug zapper or two will do the trick. These are great for deck and porch areas you frequent at night. There are many different designs and sizes to choose from on the market so just go with whatever one is best for you. Be sure to check the reviews!

What’s your method for controlling the bug population? Did we miss any? Leave a comment below and tell us!

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9 thoughts on “Bug Spray Is Toxic to Cats”

    • Thanks for your comment. Yes, it can. A cat that already has medical health conditions is more susceptible to chemicals that can make its conditions worse. If you have concerns, be sure to speak with a vet!

      • >>>>>Yes, it can. A cat that already has medical health conditions is more susceptible to chemicals that can make its conditions worse.<<<<< I agree, but need science to prove it to them. Plus, Hyperthyroid cat acting even more crazy about food, than crazy normal, for Hyperthyroid cats. I guess I should have locked them up in the room their cat box is in, but he still sprays the floor boards.

        Easier said than done,
        We live in a rural Ag. community, with 1-Vet. business & friends with owner/1-most experienced Vet. & staff (- that spends time with customers ) which has suffered greatly because of COVID-19 & It’s Variants.
        They have had staff members get sick, thankfully recover, even had a former employee- I knew, that went to the Vet. Capitalist Prescription Industry committed suicide, last year.
        They have had veteran, stayed for years, Vets. leave for city practices, during last year (which is sort of a positive in that 1 was having to improve on her customer service/listening), only to be replaced with lesser quality Vets, which yes, are horrible. Understandable, our community/unincorporated jut one-negative (horrible environmental problems) is it is full of COVID-19 & It’s Variants deniers, and the Vets. had to travel a long way, but really sucks. The state I am in (thanks to parents-their friends/aunts & uncles unwilling to move) is a mess, probably the worse, with COVID-19 & It’s Variants.
        They are so crazy busy lately, they were out of stock for our Hypothyroid cat’s parasite med. (last Saturday), promised to call when it comes back in (hopefully, tomorrow or Thursday of this week) and we cannot get a hold of them by phone, have to leave messages to call back, which have yet, gotten a call back about, really have to drive to them (luckily, 15-Mins. a way for us).

        Knowing the above, I tried http://www.DuckDuckGo.org to search for it & spent time going through the information (none about effects on Hyperthyroid cats & bug spray, just side effects in general on us and other animals; at least I was able to start leaving the windows open) & sending E-Mails to the retired roommates from retirement & rehabilitation & teaching fields-they are educated & Dem. ’90+% Capitalist’ Party defenders to the hill (I am just have to vote for that party because of the state I live-in) & yet sliding down/self focused lives, made worse by COVID-10 & It’s Variants & before that rest of near, same problems, family/friends moved 100s of miles away*. I think since spraying stopped (sprays before goes to bed) I do not think has happened last two-nights, does not work (does not it those inside the walls) & only killed 3-cockroaches last 2-days (counting today).
        Even today, tried to call the Hyperthyroid Med. provider & talked with one of their pharmacist about it, said there are no studies/science about Hyperthyroid suffering (Meds. or not) cats & bug spray effects & what I found on the Internet was all he could provide me. Yes, today, I left another phone call for Vet. business to call us back, but will not have time for Vet. to talk to us or create & mail a letter to roommates.

        I do not know what else I can do, our NEW local commissioner (which by the way is a position that declaring what party one is a part is not allowed & previous good to an extent commissioner is now mayor of our county ) office always tells me to handle problems myself (which I have had to do multiple times, just recently, yet all except one, I have not received any communications back) & state agencies make it near impossible to get anything done- like trying to get our water tested -for free!- from underground aquifer (sp?), recommended by national department to do & had to give-up because refused to ever contact me back.

        *- One (becoming like the male roommate) has severe Asthma, and had troubles lately & her mother that was a smoker, but crazy about cleaning/appearance- hate people that care so much about appearance over functionally of concern for appearance & the other grew up with dominating his father that sprayed bug spray everywhere- cancer in family anyone & yet careless about cleaning after themselves, both are pro (even though it is ineffective) Raid spraying when see more than a couple of cockroaches, but not pro cleaning-up after themselves.

  1. This has to be the single most intelligent comment section I have ever seen in my life. Thanks for all the useful info! 🙂

  2. Hello! I am enjoying your website and appreciate all that you share. Out of concern, though, I want to mention that from what I’m noticing in other sources Lavender appears to be toxic to cats!

    • Thanks for your comment, Gemini’s Cat Butler. Lavender is a toxin to cats in a concentrated state such as essential oil when applied directly to a cat’s skin. This post addresses the use of lavender on human skin, not feline skin. You can safely use lavender oil and lavender scented products around your cat so long as it is not directly applied to their skin or digested. Lavender (the plant) is actually in the mint family, the same as catnip, and is considered otherwise safe for cats.

  3. For things that are safe, how about an ingredient that actually works – picaridin. Of the 4 alternatives you list, none have been shown by respectable labs to repel mosquitoes much. The smoke from a Tiki Torch works – but only if you’re enveloped by the black smoke, not just near it. And bug zappers kill moths, which are important pollinators!

    • Thanks for your comment. There is a lot documented on the items mentioned above, including scientific studies that show they do indeed repel bugs. There is no published evidence on whether or not picaridin is safe for cats, only dogs. Cats are quite different from dogs in terms of what chemicals they can and can’t tolerate this is why medicines used for them are vastly different from those for humans and dogs (often use the same medications in different doses).

      Here is one scientific study that discusses the use of natural repellents including lavender and citronella: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6189689/

  4. THANK YOU for the info of insecticides to avoid around cats. One note- bug zappers are useless with mosquitos…they are not attracted to UV light.


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