Safe Scents for the Home

By: Shawnda McCollum

Orange peels, cinnamon sticks and cloves create a wonderful, safe, fall scent for your home

It’s the time of year when those of us in the Northern Hemisphere start hunkering down for winter. We spend more time indoors and look for ways to cozy up the house as the temperatures drop outside. For many, that means burning candles, using wax melts, plug-ins, or diffusing essential oils (EO’s) or other scented products. Unfortunately, this is not the safest choice for our furry family members.

While there are very few articles specifically mentioning ferrets, there are many that cite issues for cats. Personal experience by our own admin members and a notation on the American Ferret Association website supports the idea that ferrets are very similar to cats in how they metabolize essential oils…i.e.: they don’t. Unfortunately, cats and ferrets lack an enzyme necessary to metabolize and flush these toxins from their bodies. Instead, the chemicals are stored in the liver until they reach toxic levels, resulting in liver failure.

Foster in his prime

Before I discovered the Holistic Ferret Forum, I used my EO diffuser and Lampe Berger often, scenting my home with essential oil blends I combined myself. I’m an asthmatic and often have reactions to candles, plug-ins, sprays, and body products and have had no issues with EO’s, so I mistakenly thought they were “safe”….and they generally are….for Humans.

As a result of my own lack of knowledge on the subject, I unknowingly exposed my ferrets and cats to toxins, and even though I stopped once I discovered more information on the issue, it was too late for my first ferret, Foster. He was diagnosed with liver failure in July 2017 and went to the rainbow bridge on Sept. 1, 2017 as a result. There is little worse than watching your pet waste away and struggle with a condition that you may have been able to prevent. I was devastated, and started looking for safer alternatives so I could still celebrate the seasons with the scents I love, while not compromising the health of my pets.

The first key to making your home smell good is to keep it clean. Pets (and particularly ferrets) have a natural odor. This odor can be lessened with a balanced raw diet, regular litter scooping/changes, thorough washing of all bedding weekly, and using non-toxic cleaning solutions (see recipe below) to wipe down surfaces. You can also sprinkle baking soda on your carpets overnight and vacuum thoroughly before allowing your fuzzies to roam in the morning.

I now buy pure beeswax candles or pour my own. The natural scent of beeswax is lovely and fans purport that beeswax candles actually clean the air while they burn. My Lampe Berger is still in use to “purify” the air, but only with 91% isopropyl alcohol and no added scents.

I also simmer lovely combinations on the stove and will share some of my favorite combinations below.

Simmering Pots

Orange Spice

Slices of orange or orange peels (citrus scents may be offensive to cats, but they’re unlikely to be dangerous)
A cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon
Whole or ground cloves
Whole or ground nutmeg

Lemon Rosemary

Lemon Slices (I often use the remainder of the lemons after juicing them for a recipe)
Vanilla Extract
Rosemary sprigs or dried rosemary

Apple Cinnamon

Sliced Apples (I often toss the cores in after using my apple slicer to make people-food)
A cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon
Whole or ground cloves
*ginger may be added to any of the above as well

Cleaning Spray

A natural cleaning spray can be made by filling a jar with citrus peels and covering with white vinegar. Leave the solution soak for a couple of weeks…you can even shake it periodically. Pour over a strainer to remove the peels and fill a spray bottle halfway full with the vinegar. Add 1/2 tsp dish soap and fill the rest of the bottle with water. Shake gently and spray away!

This cleaner can also be made without the citrus peels…the vinegar scent dissipates quickly after use.

*as with all cleaners, let the surfaces dry thoroughly before reintroducing your pet to the area and don’t use the cleaners directly on your pets.

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