Choosing The Best Candles

PET CHECK BLOG - Candle in glass container

\\\ Pet-Friendly Candles

\\\ updated 26 September 2021


Choosing The Best – And Pet-Friendly – Candles

Candles have been with us for many centuries, being developed around 200 BC providing much needed light when night time drew in.

The invention of the modern electric light bulb during Victorian times saw the decline of candles as an everyday household item and became marketed for more special occasions. Their beautiful warm flickering glows adding spectacle and enhancing the atmosphere at special occasions.

Various religions around the world use certain styles and quantities of candles placing them in particular places within their places of worship and at events. Easter candles are the off-white pillar style and blessed and used during religious services and then used at other special occasions throughout the year.

Birthday parties simply aren’t birthday parties without candles placed as centre piece on a cake. The origin of this event is attributed to Greek times, but came into its own in Germany during the 18th Century.

Today candles remain as popular as ever, ranging in all kinds of sizes, colours, fragrances mixed with natural or synthetic ingredients poured into varying types of containers. They are a beautiful gift to give anytime of the year ranging in price from a British pound to hundreds.

So does it really matter what sort you buy and whether your best friend, your pet, would feel any discomfort?

What Are The Best Candles?

The ‘Do Nots’ When Choosing A Candle

Candles can be produced from a range of natural or synthetic ingredients.

A generalisation is that the cheaper the candle costs to buy, then it’s likely to be made from cheaper synthetic ingredients causing toxins that can be breathed in by humans and our millions of household pets.

The facts surrounding toxicity have been written about for a long period of time with vets and scientists concerned about the toxicity whilst associations representing candlemakers were disputing this. Read Huff Post.

The cheaper candles are generally made from paraffin wax, a by product of crude oil which gives off nasty toxins when burnt and breathed-in, such as toluene, benzene, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and acrolein. To make these candles smell nice, the dyes and scents added to the paraffin wax are made synthetically. These candles should be avoided for both yourself and particularly for any pet household as it takes far less time for pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits and other small animals, to become overwhelmed by smells and toxins. You’ll also notice the flame burns quite bluish-black when releasing these toxins into the atmosphere.

Paraffin based candles, can be referred to as mineral based candles, have been used since 1830 in UK homes when the Victorians introduced our modern day candle-making. The UKs Clean Air Strategy, introduced 2019, aims to reduce emissions inside the home, as well as outside, and warns about using candles made with a paraffin base and wicks that should be lead free, with no central metal.

Vets have for sometime been warning pet owners about the use of candles and the choice of candles to cause pets less irritation and to take care when these are alight, placed in positions to pose no risk to pets.

PET CHECK BLOG - Storm candles

Candles placed in enclosed containers with small ‘smoke’ holes are a perfect choice, ‘storm vases’ but ideally should be placed higher up on furniture, out of the reach of pets that can accidentally knock these over when rushing around the home and breath in the candle burning vapour.

It is the paraffin based synthetic candles to avoid buying, not just for your pet’s health, but clearly yours too.

Designer Brands

Luxury fashion and lifestyle brands now sell candles for several hundreds of pounds, where the excessive and usually non-recyclable packaging coupled with the clever marketing, with enticing written copy describing the candles, now often costs far more than the actual candle manufacturing.

It’s worth taking a good look at the candle ingredients before buying, because these are often not listed clearly when purchasing online and it is worth contacting the firms’ customer services to ensure you are purchasing non-synthetic natural candles for a pet-friendly household, particularly given the prices they may be charging.

Some designers offer fabulous shaped vases at extremely high premium prices then disappointingly fill them with paraffin based candle wax. Likewise, the burn time will be high and makes buying these candles an extremely expensive commodity.

The ‘Do’s’ When Choosing A Pet-Friendly Candle

According to latest PMFA Annual Report (2021) there are now an estimated 12.5 million dogs and 12.5 million cats residing in our homes in the UK. That’s an awful lot of pets to consider when buying candles for the home and which will be less toxic to them and yourself.

It’s best to try and buy natural ingredient candles to create a better, toxin-free environment. These are usually made from beeswax, soy, coconut wax, rapeseed wax, sunflower seed wax or vegetable based wax,

It costs more to use natural ingredients with pure essential oils used as the scents, however, there are reports that these will burn longer, and therefore, be just as good value as paraffin based candles and create a healthier atmosphere.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are derived from gorgeous flowers and plants grown all around the world providing a seamless supply of oils, some being prepared by hand, using traditional hand presses which release the oils from the petals and plants. This is a costly process taking time and many thousand petals are needed, during a precise growing season of just a handful of days, producing small amounts of unique batches of oils that can be used in candle making.

The oil is diluted with the natural ingredient making the fragrant wax base. Most manufacturers do not inform customers in what ratio the dilution has taken place, therefore some candles may smell less strong than others when comparing brands side by side. As essential oils are natural, there can be slight differences in their strength during growth and colour presence, which may show up when being manufactured from flowers or plants to oils.

Some of the essential oils are far better and safer in our environments for pets than others. For example, eucalyptus is well known to be a plant that is dangerous and life threatening for cats to ingest and other small pets, and likewise they particularly do not like to smelling the plant around the home and may avoid the area. Gardeners even go as far as planting it in their gardens, hoping to keep nuisance cats away, out of their garden.

Hanging candles from trees in glass jars is a perfect way to create ambience and be safe in the garden, as the image below shows.

Candles In The Garden

Lit candles flickering in the garden during a summer evening create a lovely ambience and being outside cause less toxicity problems to humans and pets, not burning in a confined space.

Using an essential oil and natural wax candle such as eucalyptus and soy may help to keep the evening gnats and mosquitos away as even these small animals do not like the smell of eucalyptus!

You may want to have wonderful aromas such as roses, rose essential oil natural wax candles would be perfect, however, this is allegedly extremely dangerous for cats and small pets to inhale when close by.

So What Are The Best Pet-Friendly Essential Oil Fragrances To Use In Candles?

Cats and small pets

What works well for dogs will very likely affect cats and most certainly for the 400,00 or so rabbits now kept in our homes and any other smaller pets so it’s important if you have a mixed pet household to take notice if your one of your pets shows signs of any discomfort and extinguish the candle(s) immediately, move your suffering pet to another room, watch for any worsening signs and contact your vet.

Cats shouldn’t be confined to the room where you have a candle lit. They must have access to leave.

However most candles made with essential oils and natural waxes are not safe for cats to inhale including many popular varieties such as lemon, bergamot, lemongrass, geranium, lime, cinnamon, mint, sandalwood, mint, pine, basil and many more.

There is much conflicting information as to what oils are and are not dangerous to cats but the ‘rule of thumb’ is generally most are. You can read more about cat toxicity from candle burning at PDSA.


Dogs can tolerate more aromas but still can react to certain essential oils. There is no information supplied by the PDSA with a definitive list of essential oil fragrances that are toxic and likewise much contrary advice between pet organisations, veterinary practices and candle makers.

What candles are made specifically for pet households?

This is tricky because to date we’ve only found one established dedicated supplier making candles for a pet-friendly household.

There are several new companies that have emerged particularly during the recent pandemic lockdown, 2020-2021, brought about by Covid-19 restrictions producing hand poured candles but with varying professionalism and information regarding products but all have one highly commendable consideration of trying to be as natural and organic as possible, using natural waxes and particularly marketing to the growing vegan market.

Improve not just the toxicity levels in your home for your pet but for yourself – look out for candle products made by companies that –
  • Test their products on humans
  • Made with no paraffin and petroleum by products
  • Preferably handmade locally, in Britain
  • Can authenticate their products with veterinary advice
  • Offer wicks that are organic
  • Offer information as to burn times
  • Offer a re-usable jar, vase, vessel
  • Sold with minimal packaging, with preferably no plastics, that can be re-cycled
Where to place candles around the room
  • If you’re in a confined area, it’s best that the candle is kept as far away from where you and your pet will be sitting, where you can view safely and appreciate.
  • Candles shouldn’t be placed at floor level near to pets where they can breathe in the toxicity, or where they can have access to the candle.
  • Candles are safer to burn in a partially enclosed vase or container.
  • Wax is dangerous for dogs, cats and small pets to chew on. Leave extinguished candles in safe places, out of reach of pets, particularly cats that love climbing onto bookshelves and cupboard tops.
  • Store unused candles like you store pet food, high up in cupboards, out of your pets reach.
  • Never leave an area unattended when your pet is near a lit candle.

ReminderIt’s important never to leave lit candles burning unattended. Pets can easily brush against these singing their coats, or worse, knock them over causing damage and a fire.

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