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Home > Cats > Why Does My Cat Like Icy Hot and Bengay? Potential Risks

Why Does My Cat Like Icy Hot and Bengay? Potential Risks

Woman is applying a pain reliever ointment on her hand close up.

Icy Hot and Bengay come in handy for pesky aches and pains. These topical pain relievers help soothe achy muscles with a simple application. However, for cat owners, you’ve probably noticed your cat having an interest in smelling these products—but why? The short answer is, they like the smell and taste.

Every cat owner knows cats do weird things at times, and taking an interest in your Icy Hot or Bengay can be one of them. Let’s explore the two reasons cats are intrigued by these products.


They Like the Menthol Smell

Ever heard of catnip? Of course you have—you’re a cat owner! But why is this relevant? Catnip is derived from the mint family, and menthol is derived from the mint plant. Menthol has a minty scent, and the smell is strong in these products, which will most definitely strike your cat’s curiosity due to the similar smell to catnip. If your cat goes wild for catnip, he’ll probably go wild for your applied Icy Hot or Bengay.

They Like the Taste

Cats are curious by nature, and any out-of-the-ordinary smell will attract your cat to investigate. Since the menthol smell is similar to catnip, your cat will like the taste and smell. These products will likely smell unlike anything else in the home, and your cat will think he must check it out.

Cute cat is smelling the woman fingers
Image By: PewChantana, Shutterstock

Are Icy Hot and Bengay Dangerous to My Cat?

Even though cats are drawn to the scent of these products does not mean it’s safe to allow them to lick them off you after applying the products. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),1 these products contain flurbiprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication that reduces inflammation for those living with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis pain.

These products also contain salicylates,2 another harmful ingredient to cats. Salicylates are found in aspirin and can cause damage to a cat’s kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. Cats cannot properly metabolize these types of drugs,3 making them more susceptible to poisoning.

What Are the Signs of Toxicity in Cats?

If your cat has licked any application of these ointments off you, ensure you monitor your cat for any signs of poisoning. These signs include:

  • Gastrointestinal irritation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Bleeding in the stomach/intestines
  • Vomiting (with or without blood)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark stools

Some cats may show no initial signs of poisoning, and it will depend on the dose the cat inhaled or ingested. If you notice any signs, call the Pet Poison Helpline right away.

sick white cat lying on the floor
Image By: Iryna Mylinska, Shutterstock



Even though it may seem cute to let your cat lick these medicines off you, it’s ill-advised due to potential poisoning to your cat. The risk to your cat’s health is not worth it, and you should keep these medications put away in an area your cat cannot reach.

Always keep the lids to these medications closed and sealed, and don’t leave them lying around where your cat can easily grab them and investigate. Wait until the menthol smell is gone before letting your cat around you after applying, and if your cat still shows interest, do not let him lick it off.

Featured Image Credit: Happy_Nati, Shutterstock

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