It may come as a surprise to see your cat drooling over your bowl of spicy pasta. Insatiable though many cats are, it looks pretty weird that they should like to try just about anything from your everyday menu. How about some spicy Chinese chicken? Your feline would definitely give it a try if it were up to her!
And that leads us to today’s question: if cats can eat spicy food at all? Those chili peppers, curry, onions or garlic aren’t food for faint hearted. As all of us know, cats definitely aren’t faint hearted. But does it mean that you are supposed to let them indulge in a hot pasta bowl that even makes you sweat?
To start with the obvious: cats’ ability to feel different tastes is very limited compared to ours. Whereas we have over 9,000 taste buds on our tongues, cats have as low as 500. It doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy food as much as we do. It just means they can’t diversify it – because they don’t need to!
All that matters for their sneaky little tongues is that their food is full of proteins, and they don’t even need that many taste buds to sense that. Those sensitive noses can sniff out everything they need. For all we know, they don’t mind if it’s spicy, sweet, bitter or sour.
So, those spicy chicken wings you ordered weren’t so tempting to your cat because they were spicy. They were tempting simply because they are chicken.
So, the short answer to your question is…
No. Cats Shouldn’t Eat Spicy Food
If you want your cat to be completely safe, don’t let her pick up your spicy leftovers. Whenever in doubt, refrain from feeding anything other than regular cat food. A nice, high-quality wet food should provide your cat with absolutely everything she needs.
All of us know that cats love and need meat and proteins, but it doesn’t mean you can feed them just about any meat. Processed meats like ham, sausages, salamis, pepperonis – all of them contain high amounts of sodium and many varieties are also spicy. Enough of a reason never to introduce them to Fluffy’s diet, if you ask me.
Why Is Spicy Food Bad for Cats?
Even though there is nothing inherently wrong with spiciness itself, most of spicy veggies, such as peppers, chives, garlic and onions, are actually toxic to cats according to ASPCA. Garlic can cause a disease called Heinz body anemia due to the damaged red blood cells.
The biggest problem here is that symptoms won’t appear immediately. Your cat might have trouble sleeping or a bad appetite, but can you really trace these symptoms back to her eating some garlic? It’s tricky and risky, and that’s why it’s best to avoid it completely. Head over to a blog post on why cats shouldn’t eat garlic. Onions can cause the same kind of damage to your cat.
Even if your spicy food doesn’t contain any of these toxic plants, it can still upset your cat’s gastrointestinal system, causing vomiting and diarrhea – which leads to further risk of dehydration. So, forget about ginger, curry, and other types of food that is officially non-toxic, but can still upset their tummies.
Also, keep an eye on that trash can, and remember to safely dispose of your meal leftovers. Those elegant animals love to scavenge through your garbage, so you’d better make sure there’s nothing potentially dangerous there.
Many pet parents have used spicy stuff to teach their furry kids (both cats and dogs) not to chew on things or jump to the counters or tables. Even though it may work in some cases, it’s far from harmless in my opinion – precisely because there are cats who won’t be repelled by spiciness. There are special devices for training, as well as different correction methods. Don’t solve one problem by creating another.
My Cat Ate Some Spicy Food. What Should I Do?
If you’re sure that Fluffy ingested a really small amount, there’s probably no need to worry. The fact that she licked some zesty food off your plate while you weren’t looking doesn’t automatically mean trouble. She probably won’t suffer any serious consequences. Just make sure to keep these types of food away from her in the future and that’s it.
However, if you notice symptoms such as loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea, lethargy, different or darker color of their urine, pale or yellow gums, you should definitely see a veterinarian. There is nothing you can do on your own, but the information on what exactly the cat ate could be pertinent to the treatment, so be sure to remember that and let the vet know.
If it’s urgent, you might consider calling the ACPCA Animal Poison Control Center to (888) 426-4435. They will connect you to an expert who will help you recognize the symptoms and tell you what to do before seeing a vet.