Updated: August 6, 2022 by Kristen Chapple
Do you have a garden? If you have, chances are you caught your Fluffy chewing on some grass or plant. Culinary herbs that you may have, like rosemary or parsley can attract your cat as well. Some people think that cats know exactly what to nibble on to help their digestion or something like that. The truth is that they have no idea. While some of the plants are safe for them, others can be harmful even poisonous to our cats. Garden mint is a common plant in our gardens. If you wonder if cats can eat mint, you are at the right address.
There is no simple answer to this question as there are many different kinds of mint plants. And they contain different chemicals. So, the simple answer could be that some types are safe, while others can be toxic.
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Cats and Garden Mint
Let’s start with simple facts. Garden mint is toxic to cats, dogs, and horses, according to ASPCA. It is so because mint contains essential oils. When ingested, these essential oils trigger different reactions in your cat’s body. Most of them are not good. So, if your cat eats garden mint it can cause mint poisoning. Signs of mint poisoning are not specific. Vomiting, feeling nauseous and weak, and upset stomach, are the most common signs.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should freak out. Nibbling on a few leaves, probably won’t cause any discomfort. Your cat needs to eat large amounts of garden mint to reach toxic dosage. And cats are usually not very enthusiastic about eating a lot of herbs. Most of the times they will find mint fragrance repelling. But, if you have noticed that your cat has had a lot of mint, call your vet. If your cat has a liver condition or chronic disease, mint can cause liver failure. This requires immediate reaction and treatment.
As for treatment, in these difficult cases, your vet will decide the best approach, besides removing the stomach content. As for healthy cats, they usually don’t need any treatment. You just have to keep an eye on your Fluffy and give her or him some love. Cat’s body will eventually get rid of the toxin and she will fully recover. You should keep in touch with your vet, just to make sure you are not misinterpreting something.
This whole story was about eating mint leaves or other parts of the herb. However, extracted essential oils are very concentrated so you shouldn’t allow your cat to get a drop of it. It will likely cause poisoning. The procedure, however, remains the same.
Catnip and Catmint
I have already mentioned that there are many types of mint. Most of them contain essential oils that are harmful to cats, but usually in smaller quantities than garden mint. But, there are two types of mint that are perfectly safe and even attractive to cats: catnip and catmint. These two herbs are almost the same, except for the fact that catmint is a bit more decorative for your garden. They have the same effect on cats so I will continue to talk about catnip, but it will all refer to catmint as well.
So, what is the secret of catnip? While cats don’t like herbs, more or less, this one turns them into frenzied furballs! It is because of the natural chemical called nepetalactone (dare to pronounce it!). It somehow triggers the cat’s ‘happy’ receptors in the brain. Cats can be funny, but it is hard to beat the sight of a cat rubbing on the plant, pawing it, rolling and flipping over!
Even though they may chew on it, it is the smell that makes a cat go wild. Fortunately, it lasts up to 15 minutes. After that, it takes between 1 and 2 hours to ‘reset’ and be able to repeat the show. It is interesting though, that two-thirds of cats can experience this cat’s ‘high’ state of mind. One-third of cats can’t experience any of it. The genes that allow enjoying the catnip are inheritable. So, if your cat doesn’t react to catnip don’t worry. It is just bad luck.
Cat people love to share with their furry companions. Actually, we have an innate need to share with our loved ones. For some of us, cats make the top of the list or close to it. However, food is not something that we can often share with our cats.
As for mint, unless it is catnip or catmint, keep it away from your Fluffy . Garden mint and most of the other types of mint have nothing that can be good for cats. And in larger amounts they are toxic. On the other hand, catnip can be great fun for both your cat and you. And a tea made of catnip has effects similar to chamomile tea! So this is the herb that you can share with your feline companion. If you have a garden plant a catnip to enrich your partnership with your furball.