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Can Cats Eat Spicy Foods? Vet Approved Facts & Info

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

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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.

Though a little bit of spicy food is not going to upset your feline, it is not recommended for them either. 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 some very impressive senses, but taste is not one of them. This is mainly because they are obligate carnivores. Therefore, their taste profile is mostly adapted to recognizing amino acids (the building blocks of protein) from the vertebrate prey they hunt, and isn’t good at discerning between other flavors.

On the other hand, herbivores have to be careful about the different foods they eat, so they typically have more robust taste buds. Cats have evolved to identify meat as “good” or “bad” for them, and specialize in this aspect only. This is also why most cats are notoriously picky about their food and don’t mind eating the same foods for extended periods of time.

That being said, cats do have some taste bud receptors to recognize a spicy flavor. Therefore, 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 to them, 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 to the same degree that we would, it can irritate their skin and the inside of their mouth (this also includes their tongue and gums). 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.

  • Garlic, onion, shallots, and all other plants in the allium family contain thiosulphates. This is a toxic compound that will damage your cat’s red blood cells. For this reason, you should avoid all plants from this family. If you see them on the ingredients list for any spice, you shouldn’t feed it to your cat.
  • Turmeric isn’t necessarily dangerous to cats. However, it is safe to say that from an evolutionary standpoint, there’s no reason to add this herb to your cat’s diet. Some pet parents claim that turmeric has health benefits, but none of these benefits have been definitively proven by research. 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 them 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, garlic, shallots, 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.

If the food your cat ate has some ingredients that are toxic or that you aren’t sure of, it’s best to take your cat to the vet. It isn’t advisable to wait until adverse signs show up, as the longer you wait, the longer the recovery process is likely to be.

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While your cat probably shouldn’t eat a whole plate of spicy food, a little bit is most likely not going to be a problem. Usually, when cats do sample some spicy food, it’s out of curiosity, not nutritional necessity. There are some spices commonly used in spicy food that can be dangerous, like onions, garlic, and nutmeg. Therefore, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian if you notice your cat eating spicy food. Most reactions to spices can be treated effectively if they are caught early enough.

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