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Can Cats Eat Hot Sauce? Health Facts & FAQ

Knowing what your pet can and can’t safely eat is part of your responsibility as a pet owner. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, cats have their own mind. Sometimes they eat things that they shouldn’t, and smelly human foods are common culprits. Cats can be attracted to hot sauce due to its strong smell, but is it safe for them to eat? The short answer is no, it is not healthy for cats to eat hot sauce. While a small lick isn’t likely to hurt them, it can irritate your cat’s mouth and offers absolutely zero nutritional benefits for them.

Eating hot sauce in large quantities can make your cat sick. Let’s explore why hot sauce isn’t safe for cats and what to watch for if your cat does eat it.


Do Cats Enjoy Hot Sauce?

The primary purpose of hot sauce is to add flavor to food. The smell of hot sauce is often attractive to cats, but do they like the taste? Cats don’t always taste food because they like it. Sometimes they do so purely out of curiosity.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their primary food source is meat. Meat isn’t a naturally spicy food, and cats don’t crave “spice” or “flavor” in their meat the way that humans do. Since cats rely on meat for survival, their taste buds are built to accommodate their diet. While humans have over 9,000 taste buds, cats have only a few hundred. That said, the only flavor that cats can’t taste is sweet. They can taste sour, bitter, and salty.

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Can Cats Taste Hot Sauce?

Given the repertoire of a cat’s taste buds, it is quite likely that they can taste the flavor of hot sauce, but probably not the way that humans do. Even if your cat can taste hot sauce, they will not likely enjoy the spiciness.

Hot sauce is made spicy by a chemical called capsaicin. This chemical can cause mouth irritation in cats that consume it. This phenomenon is true for humans too, but for most people, a much higher quantity of hot sauce is required for it to cause irritation.

Most of the time, the burning sensation that they experience in their mouth is enough to stop cats from eating hot sauce in large quantities. If their mouth becomes irritated, most cats will assume that the food is bad and stop eating it.

cat lick the floor
Image Credit: Jake Pause, Shutterstock

Is Hot Sauce Toxic to Cats?

Hot sauce provides no nutritional value for your cat, and it isn’t safe for them to eat either. A small lick isn’t likely to cause any significant harm, but a large amount of hot sauce could make your cat very sick.

The reality is that large quantities of hot sauce make humans sick too. Overconsumption can lead to stomach upset, nausea, indigestion, and a burning sensation and irritation throughout the digestive tract. These symptoms are caused by the capsaicin, and it affects cats in the same way.

Overeating hot sauce will cause your cat to have digestive issues and general irritation of the stomach. The reason it’s dangerous for cats is that it takes a much smaller quantity of hot sauce to make them sick than it takes to make a human sick. Cats also have more sensitive stomachs. Again, this means hot sauce will have a stronger effect on cats.

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Hot Sauce Ingredients That Are Toxic

Commercially prepared hot sauce often contains ingredients like onions, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes for flavor. Some of these ingredients can be dangerous for cats.

Garlic and onions, in particular, are toxic to cats. Eating these can cause serious health damage or even death if consumed in large quantities.

Assorted hot sauce bottles on a table
Image Credit: iSAWcompany, Pixabay

What Happens to a Cat That Eats Hot Sauce?

If your cat only had a small lick of hot sauce, it’s unlikely that anything will happen, but it’s important to watch for changes in their behavior or symptoms of toxicity. This is especially true if you are unsure how much hot sauce your cat may have consumed or whether the hot sauce contains toxic ingredients.

Since your cat probably can’t digest hot sauce properly, they are likely to experience digestive issues, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain

Depending on the ingredients in the hot sauce, cats can experience more serious problems, like being lethargic or becoming uncoordinated and stumbling around. If your cat exhibits these symptoms after eating hot sauce, we recommend contacting your vet or local animal emergency department for assessment and possible treatment.

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Final Thoughts

Sometimes, no matter how diligent you are, cats get into things that they shouldn’t. It’s important to make sure your cat doesn’t have access to hot sauce, but if your cat’s curiosity gets the best of them, watch closely for symptoms of toxicity. Luckily, most cats are deterred by the mouth irritation that they experience with a small lick. As always, if you are concerned about your cat eating hot sauce or they are experiencing symptoms, contact your veterinarian for advice.

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