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Can Cats Eat Spicy Foods? What You Need to Know!

This is a somewhat tricky question – as what counts as “spicy food” can vary. Many substances can make food spicy. Some of them are okay for our felines, while others should be avoided.

Spicy food typically contains a lot of spices. Of course, there are many ways to make food spicy that doesn’t necessarily mean using many spices. Occasionally, you may use peppers, for instance.

Typically, a little bit of spicy food is not going to upset your feline. You really shouldn’t let them eat too much spicy food, though, as this can cause some problems. In this article, we’ll look at everything you need to know about feeding these felines spicy food.


Can cats taste spicy food?

Cats have heightened senses, but taste is not one of them. This is mainly because they are obligate carnivores, so they have little need to taste their food. On the other hand, herbivores have to be careful about the different foods they eat, so they typically have more robust taste buds. Cats eat dead things they have hunted – they don’t have to explore with their taste buds to ensure the food isn’t rotten or poisonous.

In general, cats cannot taste most spicy foods. They may sense a bit of spice, but it won’t be anywhere near what a human may taste. For this reason, your cat may not react strongly to spicy food at all. However, most cats can smell that something is spicy, so they may avoid eating it altogether.

Many cats will steer clear of some spice because it smells terrible. In these cases, you typically don’t have to worry about your cat eating it.

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Many spicy foods are flavored with capsaicin. This is a compound found in many different kinds of peppers. It is an irritant to most mammals. This is why your mouth gets watery when you eat spicy food; your body is trying to flush the capsaicin away. At the same time, it can also irritate your skin (which is why many people wear gloves when eating scorching wings).

Capsaicin can irritate our cats as well. While they typically won’t taste the spice, it can irritate their skin and the inside of their mouth. For this reason, spicy foods containing capsaicin should be avoided. Most spicy foods contain some capsaicin, but this isn’t always the case.

Other Herbs to Avoid

On top of avoiding capsaicin, there are a few other herbs you should avoid as well. Many of these are included in spicy foods and can be dangerous to our felines. Some of these are harmful in tiny amounts, so you must be careful when feeding your cat any spicy food.

  • Onions contain thiosulphates. This is a toxic compound that will damage your cat’s red blood cells. Technically, onions are poisonous to people as well. But we are so large that you would have to eat a lot of onions to become affected. However, our cats are petite, so they do not have to eat much at all before they begin developing problems. Most spicy food contains onions or onion powder.
  • Garlic can cause stomach upset in cats. Since cats are much smaller than us, it doesn’t take much for them to develop symptoms. For this reason, you should generally avoid garlic, though it isn’t as dangerous as some other herbs and spices out there.
  • Turmeric isn’t necessarily dangerous to cats. However, there has been a lot of back and forth in the cat community. In short, we don’t know. Some pet parents claim that turmeric has health benefits, but anything with positive benefits can also have side effects. It is best to avoid giving your cat too much turmeric, though an accidental bite here or there is likely okay.
  • Most spicy foods do not contain nutmeg. However, some do – especially around the holidays. Nutmeg contains myristicin, which can be toxic. Even at lower levels, nutmeg can cause stomach problems. A high level of nutmeg can be severe and cause seizures and high blood pressure.

What do I do if my cat ate spicy food?

If your cat snagged some spicy food from your plate, you probably don’t have any reason to fear. A bite or two will not hurt your feline; you don’t want to give her a whole plate. Your first step should be to figure out precisely what is in the spicy food. For instance, if you used hot sauce, read the ingredient list, so you know exactly what your cat ate.

If it didn’t contain onions or nutmeg, you are probably okay. We still recommend keeping a list of the ingredients or snapping a picture with your phone. If your cat ends up developing signs of illness, this can be helpful for the vet.

Spicy Chili
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For cats who accidentally consume onions or nutmeg, you will likely still be fine unless they ate a lot. Still, we recommend writing down precisely what they ate and keeping an eye on them. If they begin acting strange or develop signs of illness, call your vet. Be sure to tell them exactly what your cat ate, so they don’t have to waste time trying to figure it out.

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Spicy food isn’t hazardous

While your cat probably shouldn’t eat a whole plate of spicy food, a little bit is not going to be a problem. There are some spices commonly used in spicy food that can be dangerous, like onions and nutmeg. However, most spicy foods are not going to harm your cat profusely. In most cases, they are going to be just fine.

We do recommend watching your cat for signs of illness, though. Most reactions to spices can be treated effectively if they are caught early enough.

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Feature Image Credit: bellena, Shutterstock