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Can Cats Eat Jalapeños? Is It Healthy for Them?

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	Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM Photo

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM

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

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Jalapeños are a tasty, spicy pepper that people enjoy in a variety of dishes and are prepared in lots of different ways, such as raw, sauteed, and pickled. These peppers may be an enjoyable food item for people, but what about cats? If your cat takes an interest in a jalapeño pepper, should you let them try it?

Here’s what you need to know about letting your cat eat jalapeños.

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Can Cats Eat Jalapenos?

sliced jalapenos on chopping board
Image Credit: Zemiya_Negra, Pixabay

While jalapeños are not toxic to cats, it’s not a good idea to allow your cat to eat them. Cats’ lack of specific receptors on their taste buds leads them to taste flavors differently than we do. With this in mind, if ingested the peppers can cause irritation to your cat’s mouth or nose. If they manage to get jalapeño oils on their paws and then touch their face, it can also cause irritation and pain in the eyes.

Are Jalapeños Healthy for Cats?

Jalapenos contain capsaicin, which is the chemical that gives them their spiciness. For cats, capsaicin can lead to severe gastrointestinal distress. For most cats a few bites of a jalapeño may be unlikely to cause notable symptoms. That said, it doesn’t take very much capsaicin to upset a cat’s digestive tract.

Capsaicin consumption in cats can lead to nausea, vomiting, gas, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea. In situations with large consumption, your cat may need hospitalization with IV fluids to support hydration and get their gastrointestinal symptoms under control. Some cats may even experience wheezing or difficulty breathing due to capsaicin consumption, in which case they should immediately be seen by a vet.

Serious side effects from capsaicin consumption are relatively rare in cats, though, likely because most cats don’t eat much of the offending food item. Most cats don’t appreciate the smell of jalapeños and are unlikely to eat them, which also decreases the risk of this occurring.

Should My Cat See a Vet for Jalapeño Consumption?

green jalapeños in a wooden basket
Image Credit: RamsayMedia, Pixabay

If your cat eats small amounts of jalapeños or chews on a pepper, there is little cause for concern. In most situations, a vet visit won’t be warranted for jalapeño consumption. If your cat begins experiencing nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea and they are unable to keep down food or fluids, then it would be beneficial to get your kitty to the vet. Most of the time, these symptoms will be mild and will quickly resolve on their own, but some cats may require additional support.

If you’re unsure if your cat needs to be seen by the vet or not, it’s best to give them a call. Your vet will be able to walk you through the symptoms and serious issues you should watch for and get your cat to the vet for. Your cat’s vet is your best resource of information if you are ever unsure if you should be concerned about your cat’s condition.

Other Things to Consider

While the risks associated with jalapeño ingestion are relatively low for multiple reasons, you should always keep in mind that jalapeños are often served alongside food items that are of greater concern for your cat.

Garlic and onions are toxic to cats, and their consumption can lead to anemia and other serious medical conditions. Salt is a common ingredient in many dishes, and overconsumption of salt can lead to fluid retention, elevated sodium levels, and other dangerous conditions.

Other moderately concerning ingredients you may see served alongside jalapeños include vinegar, which may cause oral and digestive irritation, sugar, which can cause stomach upset and may lead to obesity over time, and cheese, which can lead to diarrhea and abdominal discomfort.

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In Conclusion

jalapeños are non-toxic food for cats, but they are not healthy or safe for cats to consume. The capsaicin in jalapeños can cause mild to severe digestive issues in cats, and in some cases, it can cause wheezing and difficulty breathing. Most cats will not attempt to eat a jalapeño because they don’t like the smell of them, but some cats are a little too curious for their own good and may try to get a taste.

In most situations, your cat will be fine to be monitored after consuming a small amount of jalapeño, but you can always discuss this with your vet to ensure your cat is safe and healthy. In serious situations, your cat will need veterinary intervention. Keep in mind that there are multiple ingredients often served alongside jalapeños that can cause mild to life-threatening symptoms in cats.

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Featured Image Credit: Brett_Hondow, Pixabay

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