can cats taste spice?
Cat Food and Hydration

Can Cats Eat Spicy Food?

Cats love to experience new tastes that are rich in flavor, especially food that’s being enjoyed by humans. How about spicy food for cats? Well, it is no exception to the rule because it has a very distinct scent. Spicy food is also usually meat-based, making it particularly enticing to felines.

Can cats eat spicy food? Gastrointestinal and digestive issues can occur when your cat eats foods that are spicy due to the capsaicin found in spices. Health complaints can include an upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting. You must keep spicy meals away from cats. Also, a cat’s tongue will not process the complex flavor of spice.

Despite the facts that spicy foods can be toxic and dangerous to cats, some felines still enjoy sampling these foods. This may be due to imitating humans, or a genuine quirk of certain pets. Whatever the reason, feeding spicy food to your cat shouldn’t be encouraged.

Can Cats Taste Spicy Food?

According to Plos One, cats can detect bitterness. Unfortunately for our feline friends, they are unable to process spices. This means that a delicately balanced curry will be lost on them.

Mammalian biology tends to rely on a, “use it or lose it” philosophy. It is believed that cats lost the ability to taste sweetness because they never needed to. Felines are obligate carnivores, meaning they need meat to survive.

Wild cats would have no encounters with sugar, and thus their tastebuds evolved to ignore it. This ability to taste bitterness presumably remained as a survival mechanism. Many bitter-tasting wild plants can be deadly.

Much like sugar, cats would not have encountered spiciness during their evolution. The very idea of hot and spicy food is a very human tradition, after all. This means that cats do not experience the varied tastes of a finely-spiced meal.

While a cat doesn’t experience the taste of spice, they can still experience the impact. The heat associated with spicy food usually stems from chilies in the recipe.

These chilies contain a compound named capsaicin. When we bite into a chili, the capsaicin is released. This binds itself to the mouth, in precisely the location that registers pain. This is why a particularly hot chili will leave eyes streaming and noses running.

The same reaction happens to cats when they eat a chili. The only difference is, they’re not aware of what they’re letting themselves in for. Your cat cannot taste the flavor of the chili.

Once your cat tastes capsaicin, they are unlikely to return for more. If they even smell it, they’ll likely stay away. Capsaicin is an ingredient of cayenne pepper, which some people use as a cat repellent. Sadly, this doesn’t always stop a curious cat from learning the hard way.

What Happens When a Cat Eats Spicy Food?

It’s not just their mouths that will be impacted when a cat eats spicy food. This cuisine can also wreak havoc on their digestive tract.

This is primarily down to capsaicin. This particular compound has made itself known in your cat’s mouth. The pain that follows will encourage your pet to swallow, or spit the hot food out.

If they choose the latter option, your cat will experience no further ill effects. If they swallow, however, they will find the capsaicin irritating their throat and stomach lining. The result of this will be vomiting and diarrhea until the chili finally passes.

There is also the risk of dehydration when your cat eats spicy food. Felines rarely drink, and often live on the edge of such a condition. The consequences of eating spicy food will eliminate traces of fluid remaining in their body.

Why Do Cats Like Spicy Food?

According to National Geographic, Chinese tree shrews are the only animal with a taste for chili. If they cannot taste spicy food, and it hurts them, why do some cats like it? That is a mystery that science has been unable to solve.  

You need to consider that cats eat with more than just their mouths. The smell of food is just as crucial to a cat as the taste. Felines may decline favorite meals if the scent is somehow off.

Spicy food often has a very strong, and unmistakable, scent. This will capture your pet’s imagination. If you are enjoying the meal, this makes them increasingly determined to join in.

In addition to the smell, spicy food has an appealing temperature. We don’t mean the hot taste. Instead, we refer to the temperature that the food is served at.

Cats do not like cold foods that are straight from the refrigerator. Very few spicy foods fit this criterion. Equally unappealing, however, are piping hot dishes straight from the oven.

Well, spicy food is usually hot enough. Few spicy meals will burn your mouth in terms of taste and temperature. This can create an appealing sweet spot for a cat.

Think about the texture of spicy food. More often than not, it will be tender and meat-based. If you have ordered an Indian takeout, for example, it will often feature lamb, beef or chicken. These are all staples of a cat’s diet.

Even a dish such as a chili con carne will involve delicious, moist and warm meat. This will remind your cat of their prey in the wild, and encourage them to eat.

What Spicy Foods are Safe for Cats to Eat?

In reality, there is no such thing as a spicy food that’s safe for cats. You’re really best keeping your pet far away from any such dish. Accidents will happen, however.

It’s possible that your cat will help themselves to leftovers, abandoned on a kitchen table. If your cat is under the care of a petsitter, they may allow them to lick their plate clean. If your cat wanders outside, they may even feast directly from takeout containers in the street.

Let’s take a look at six popular spicy dishes, and how dangerous they are to felines.

Can Cats Eat Curry?

Curry is unsafe for cats. They’ll likely be drawn to such a dish by the smell, but it must be avoided.

Curry is often served with rice. This is essentially just empty carbs for your cat. More concerning, however, are the ingredients of the curry itself.

Onions, garlic and all number of spices will be found in a traditional curry. None of these will do your cat any good, and they’ll all do harm.

Can Cats Eat Pumpkin Spice?

If your cat has eaten something spicy, you may consider offering them pumpkin to escalate elimination. If you do so, ensure that it’s tinned pumpkin, not pumpkin spice.

Pumpkin spice may not even contain pumpkin. It will feature all kinds of unwelcome additions. These can include cinnamon and nutmeg. These spark allergic reactions in felines.

Can Cats Eat Pepperoni?

How about a slice of pepperoni? Surely if you’re eating pizza, your cat can have some of the meat? While felines are always interested in what you’re eating, many human foods are toxic to cats.

Pepperoni is often seasoned with garlic and onions. These ingredients are very bad for cats, attacking their red blood cells.

The very small concentration of such ingredients found in pepperoni may be harmless. All the same, is it worth taking the risk? There are many other types of meat available.

can cats eat curry?

Can Cats Eat Jalapenos?

Jalapenos are dangerous for cats, due to the capsaicin within.

Naturally, this may make it irresistible to your pet. Jalapenos have a strong smell, they’re chewy, and they’re a good size for cat mouths. This could mean your pet pinches one from your plate.

Stop them from eating at all costs in such an instance. What goes in will come out again, in waves. Your cat will have nothing to show for their experience but a burned mouth.

Is Chili Con Carne Poisonous to Cats?

Chili con carne isn’t poisonous, but it will badly upset your cat’s stomach.

We have already covered the risks of chilies in great detail. As with curry, any carbohydrate-centric accompaniment to chili con carne will be devoid of nutrition. Cats need a protein-rich diet.

Even red kidney beans can be dangerous for your cat if consumed in large quantities. They can be hard for your cat to digest, leading to gas and bloat. This is something you’ll be keen to avoid.

Are Cats Allergic to Spices?

A cat can be allergic to anything. Whether it’s food, plastic or even grass, seemingly innocuous surroundings can trigger a reaction in cats. Some spices are particularly likely to cause upset.

Cinnamon is a spice that can cause major difficulties for cats. As Wag Walking explains, this spice is nontoxic to felines. However, that changes when it’s consumed in large quantities.

A quick lick from a spilled teaspoon is unlikely to cause any damage. If your cat devours a spicy meal that’s spiked with cinnamon, however, they will feel the effects. If they happen across a cinnamon stick that you’ve used for baking, they’re likely to become sick.

The biggest problem with cinnamon is the presence of coumarin. Coumarin is a compound that is often used in rat poison. This will not harm humans.

In fact, coumarin benefits us by thinning the blood and managing blood sugar. In a cat’s tiny body, however, liver damage is possible.

The symptoms of cinnamon poisoning in cats include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Coughing, panting and wheezing
  • Slow, weak heart rate
  • Skin irritation if your cat’s skin is exposed to powdered cinnamon

Cinnamon poisoning doesn’t need to be life threatening, but it’s also dangerous to ignore these symptoms. If left untreated, your cat could experience complete liver failure in time.

Nutmeg is another spice to be avoided by cats, as the Pet Poison Helpline explains. The offensive compound in nutmeg is myristicin. This compound can cause severe abdominal cramps, hallucinations and an elevated heart rate.

Cats need to consume a great deal of raw nutmeg to experience these side effects. They will also clear them themselves up within 48 hours.

In addition to cinnamon, many spicy foods also contain ingredients that cats are sensitive to. Onions and garlic are the most notable. If eaten in large quantities, these foods can cause anemia in cats.

can cats taste capsaicin?

Spices That are Healthy for Cats

Humans use many spices for medicinal purposes, as well as in cooking. Does this mean that certain spices are good for cats?

Look out for some of the following herbs and spices next time you’re shopping. In small doses, your cat may benefit from exposure to them. Here are some examples:

  • Cat Thyme. Thyme is a staple herb in most spice racks. Cat thyme, however, is a germander that has a catnip-like impact on felines.
  • Licorice. Licorice spice can open airways, soothe allergies, boost liver function and ease arthritic inflammation. This is useful if your feline has weak and wobbly legs.
  • Peppermint, Rosemary or Chamomile. These ground spices can soothe itchy feline skin. Mix them with water, and rub on the impacted areas.
  • Goldenseal. This is an impactful spice for feline wound care.
  • Ginger. This spice can help with stomach upsets and nausea, if served in small portions.

Not all spices are bad for cats, clearly. It’s vital to understand the difference between a spice and spicy food. All the same, don’t rush into using a spice as a herbal remedy.

Spices That are Bad for Cats

Anything that involves capsaican is unsuitable for a cat. This means nothing that would be added to a dish to add a little kick. This includes cayenne pepper and paprika.

Cinnamon and nutmeg have already been covered in our segment on cat spice allergies. These two spices are close to being deemed universal allergies, with no exceptions.

Turmeric is also a hotly contested subject among feline nutritionists. Turmeric is an astonishingly powerful and potent superfood for humans, healing inflammation and even preventing cancer.

In theory, it will do the same for cats. Alas, as Food Fur Life explains, many feline turmeric products are contaminated.

Is Hot Sauce Bad for Cats?

Sometimes, we resort to unique measures to encourage a fussy feline to eat. If your cat has a taste for spice, can hot sauce be added to their meal? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Most brands of hot sauce, taken on their own merits, are not toxic to felines. This means that you may be tempted to experiment. Some cats seem to enjoy the burning sensation of spicy food.

Spicy food will irritate a cat’s stomach. They say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but that doesn’t really apply to cats. What doesn’t kill a feline can make them very ill.

If our cat licks a spoon of hot sauce, don’t panic. It won’t do any lasting damage – this substance is not toxic. Just be prepared for a stomach upset. The hot sauce is likely to repeat on your cat.

It’s rare, but your cat may show an interest in the spicy food on your plate. Try to deter this curiosity. No good can come of your cat developing a taste for curry, but plenty of problems can arise.