ExcitedCats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Are Pepper Plants Poisonous to Cats? Common Houseplants Examined

Vet approved

	Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

If you’re a cat owner, you may be wondering if pepper plants are poisonous to cats. It’s always best to make sure any plant around your home is safe for your cat, especially if your feline likes to roam in your garden.

Pepper plants should be avoided or kept away from cats, where they can’t reach them. Bell peppers, or sweet peppers, aren’t toxic to cats. If a cat eats a piece of a bell pepper, that’s harmless. The risk comes from cats eating the stems or leaves of the bell pepper plant.

Chili peppers or other hot peppers should be kept away from cats completely. They should not eat the stems, leaves, or peppers of these plants. Read on to find out the reasons for this.

divider-catclaw1

Bell Pepper Plants & Cats

Bell pepper plants belong to the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. Nightshade plants contain an alkaloid called solanine, a chemical that acts as a natural insecticide in the plant to keep it safe.

If your cat chews and swallows a bit of a bell pepper plant, the solanine could potentially be toxic to them. Symptoms of solanine poisoning include lower gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Lethargy and loss of appetite usually follow. If you suspect that your cat has solanine poisoning, take them to the vet right away for treatment. They may need fluids to combat dehydration and medication to stop the vomiting. The symptoms can usually be controlled if treatment is sought quickly.

If you can, take a photo of the plant that your cat has eaten and bring it to the vet so they can identify it. Your cat’s condition will be closely monitored and treatment will be adjusted based on the severity of the symptoms.

Solanine poisoning is rarely fatal, but untreated symptoms can become dangerous for your cat and lead to other more serious issues.

a cat that feels sick and seems to vomit
Image Credit: chie hidaka, Shutterstock

Chili Pepper Plants & Cats

Ornamental, jalapeño, and other pepper plants can also be toxic to your cat. Solanine is in these plants and so is capsaicin. This is an alkaloid that gives hot peppers their heat. This chemical is an irritant that can cause a burning sensation in the mouth but also in any place where it makes direct contact with tissue. This is why you should never rub your eyes after cutting jalapeños.

One reason that capsaicin naturally occurs in these plants is to keep them safe from animals in the wild. Humans may find the burning sensation of capsaicin appealing, but it’s naturally used as a deterrent. Cats may take a nibble of a chili pepper plant and not want to take another. The plant will not taste good to them because it’s designed to keep animals away from it.

If your cat eats multiple leaves, stems, or peppers of a chili pepper plant, they will be consuming excessive amounts of solanine and capsaicin. This can cause pain to their mouths, lips, and mucus membranes, as well as gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea.

The effects of capsaicin typically occur quickly after a cat eats a pepper plant, and you’ll notice symptoms of distress right away. Watch for:

  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Decreased breathing rate
  • Shock

If you notice any of these symptoms, take your cat to the vet right away. Treating the symptoms and helping your cat flush the toxins from their system will be necessary right away for a complete recovery.

yarn ball divider

My Cat Ate a Pepper Plant! What Do I Do?

You don’t have to do anything right away. If you notice that your cat has chewed or bitten the leaves, stems, or peppers of a plant, they may not have consumed enough to become ill. Contact your vet for advice if you need reassurance. In the meantime, watch your cat for symptoms.

Your vet may want to see your cat for an exam just to make sure they’re not symptomatic and their vitals are normal. Medical treatment may not be necessary. If your cat eats a bit of this plant, there is no need to panic. Just be aware of the symptoms and know what to look for. If you notice that your cat is acting abnormally or showing any signs of being sick, take them to the vet right away.

veterinarian checks teeth of the maine coon cat
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

What Other Plants Should Be Avoided?

If you’d like to have a cat-friendly garden, you should avoid pepper plants, as well as the following:

  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Chives
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes

But this doesn’t mean you can’t grow anything! To make sure your cat is safe, fill your garden with these plants instead:

  • Basil
  • Cucumbers
  • Squash
  • Pumpkins
  • Carrots
  • Beans
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach

You can also grow your own catnip or cat grass! Your cat can have their very own plant, which can encourage them to leave your other plants alone.

Cat ball divider 1

Keep a Cat-Free Garden

If you have a cat that ventures outdoors but you still want to grow pepper plants or any other unsafe cat plants, you can try to make your garden unappealing to your cat or restrict their access to it altogether.

garden net_ArliftAtoz2205_Shutterstock
Image Credit: ArliftAtoz2205, Shutterstock

Use Scent

Cats do not like the smell of citrus. Scattering fresh or dried citrus peels on the garden ground may be a quick fix to keep the cats away from that area.

Dried herbs can also be scattered around the area to deter cats. Dried rue and lavender can be sprinkled over the ground. A few drops of lavender, lemongrass, or citronella oil may also work.

Use a Barrier

Perhaps the best way to ensure that your cat stays safe around your garden plants is to make them unable to reach the plants. You can cover the sides and top of your garden with chain link fencing or chicken wire.

Cover the ground with scat mats to make it uncomfortable for cats to walk near the plants. These mats don’t hurt the cats, but they won’t like the feel of them. You can cut these mats to fit your garden area. These mats require a bit of work because they have to be covered with soil, leaving only the spikes exposed. If they aren’t covered, cats can figure out how to simply move them out of the way.

cat paw divider

Conclusion

Pepper plants contain solanine, an alkaloid that naturally occurs in the plants to keep them safe from insect damage. Chili pepper plants contain high levels of capsaicin too. This is what gives peppers their heat.

Cats can become ill if they eat large amounts of either solanine or capsaicin. Consider growing different plants instead or creating barriers in your garden to keep your cat away from these plants.

If your cat does manage to eat a bit of a pepper plant, there’s no need to worry unless your cat starts showing symptoms of poisoning. If you notice these symptoms, take your cat to the vet immediately for treatment.

thematic break

Featured Image Credit: Nick Artman, Unsplash

excitedcatssmallsfeb2022