Updated: August 9, 2022 by Kristen Chapple
If you lived in ancient Greece or Egypt, you could get an audience with a king or pharaoh if you brought them cinnamon. As you probably know, spices were deemed very precious back then, with cinnamon being among the most expensive. While in Egypt, you could also notice that cats were most cherished animals in that part of the world. Egyptians regarded them as sacred and even awarded them divine status and treatment. So, would our pharaoh offer some cinnamon rolls to his cat? Would his cat risk getting sick because she gorged on an aromatic slice of cinnamon apple pie?
The short answer to the first question is: probably yes. Even though we have no way of peeking into the ancient menu of pharaohs’ cats, it’s safe to guess that they got the most precious foods there were. And cinnamon was definitely on that list. As for the second question, the answer is a bit less straightforward. Even though the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) doesn’t list cinnamon as toxic to cats, it’s not completely safe either.
In other words, if you haven’t fed it to your cat before, don’t do it in the future either.
Why Isn’t Cinnamon Safe for Cats?
Before I dig into potential dangers associated with cinnamon, let me state an important fact. In my experience, cats absolutely abhor the smell of this spice. Back in my early days of cat parenting, I was eager to give them a taste of almost anything from my own menu. I would do a routine 2-minute check about potential toxicity of the substance. If not toxic, I reckoned, it couldn’t possibly be bad. So, when I noticed my cat eyeing that pumpkin pie on the stove, I offered her a tiny slice. There are no words to describe the disdainful look when she sniffed it!
Obviously, I gave up before even trying to persuade her. And now I’m glad because of it.
While cinnamon works wonders with humans suffering from high blood sugar and bad cholesterol, it doesn’t have the same effect on cats. As we all know, feline organism is very different from human. They don’t suffer from the same diseases as we do. Whereas cinnamon won’t produce any good effect on your cat’s overall health, it can cause some harm. If your cat eats up a very small amount of it, chances are nothing will happen. But if he’s less finicky and more voracious than most of his cousins, he will be walking on the verge of trouble.
Most of the danger lies in the substance called coumarin. It can cause an allergic reaction. But even if it doesn’t, your cat’s system won’t be able to process it. For the record, even human body can’t process coumarin in large amounts. Imagine the damage it can do to your kitty’s tiny liver and kidneys. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that she will gobble down so much of it. But allergies are potentially life-threatening, and you shouldn’t take that risk.
As a long-time cat parent, I would definitely argue against experimenting with many different kinds of food, and especially spices. I said this many times, and I won’t tire of repeating it. Cats are obligate carnivores. If you feed them high-quality cat food, they won’t miss a single nutrient. Of course, there’s no harm in occasionally letting them nibble on your meal if it isn’t toxic. But it’s absolutely unnecessary, and can even cause harm in certain situations.
Now, if your cat somehow managed to ingest cinnamon anyway, keep an eye out for threatening symptoms such as regurgitation or bowel looseness. If that happens, it’s probably the coumarin. If you notice rash or itching, it’s probably an allergy. Either way, you should call your vet immediately.
And yes, I sincerely hope that our pharaoh decided against fully indulging in his cats’ gluttony. Even thousands of years ago, cats used to thrive on animal protein just like they do today. So, the royal furballs were far better off with a nice, juicy steak. Without any salt or spices, of course.