Do Paint Fumes Affect Cats?

"I can't read. Does the label on this say 'VOC-Free?'"
i Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

When planning to paint a few rooms in your home, take your cat's health into consideration. It's unlikely you can talk Fritzi into wearing a mask to protect her from paint fumes. It's possible, though, that neither of you will need a mask, depending on what type of paint you use.

Depends on the Paint

All types of paint have an odor, but some paints emit toxic fumes in the form of gas. Once you dip your brush and start applying it to the wall, poisonous paint fumes hit the air. Some types of paint are safer than others, though. If you didn't turn into a label reader when you became a cat parent, become one now. Paint that is water-based is less dangerous than solvent-based paint. If you put some effort into it, you can find VOC-free paints. These types of paint have a low amount of volatile organic compounds or none at all, and are sometimes called eco-paint. You might end up paying more for a specialty paint that is VOC-free, but the health of your family -- furry and otherwise -- is worth it.

Negative Effects

If you've been blissfully painting away for a couple of hours and didn't notice your cat was napping in the corner, she may suffer some temporary effects from breathing paint fumes. Her eyes can become irritated in addition to her nose and throat and she may have problems breathing. She could become dizzy and nauseous and could possibly have an allergic skin reaction. Symptoms like these should go away once your cat gets away from the paint and breathes in some fresh air.

What About Dry Paint?

Once paint has dried, the toxic fumes disappear along with the wet paint smell. The odor and the gas that comes from paint is from the liquid in it. As the liquid evaporates, the fumes disperse and become less concentrated. When the paint is completely dry, the odor will be gone and the air will once again be safe for cats and people to breathe.

Protecting Kitty From Paint Fumes

Choosing a VOC-free paint will protect your puss during a paint fest, but you can take other steps too. Put a fan in the room and open a window to ventilate the area you're painting. This encourages 'air flow that will disburse the toxic fumes quicker. Cut down on paint-drying time by using a dehumidifier. Also, keep your kitty out of the room while it's being painted and afterward until it's entirely dry. That will not only keep her from succumbing to harmful fumes, but will also keep your curious cat out of the wet paint.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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