Is Basil Safe for Cats to Eat? Or Is It Toxic?

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is basil safe for cats to eat?

Do you have a cat, or plan on getting one? If so, it’s important to know exactly what’s good and bad for them to eat.

If you have a garden, or eat a lot of herbs, like basil, you may be surprised at the answer to whether or not it’s safe or toxic for your cat!

Read on below and discover everything you need to know about basil and your cat.

Is Basil Safe for Cats to Eat?

Basil is nontoxic to most pets, including cats and dogs. That counts for fresh basil as well as dried, powdered, or cooked. The only real issue pet owners (and it is a rare one) report is that some cat breeds may experience vomiting or diarrhea.

Generally, basil is considered absolutely safe for cats. In fact, it is actually one of the widely used herbal snacks for cats. Even more, basil is good for your cat’s health.

However, it is important to note that according to the Texas A&M University Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences department, basil (in the form of essence oil) may be considered toxic to cats.

How Do Cats React to Basil?

cat vomiting

Most cats have no real noticeable reaction to basil, other than loud purring and genuinely seeming pleased at the fresh treat. But, as stated above, some cats do experience rare symptoms from basil (including diarrhea and vomiting). Some pet owners have reported kittens showing a rash from eating basil as well.

Does Basil Make Cats High? 

cat with tongue out

Basil in one of its many raw forms (fresh, dried, or powdered) doesn’t make cats “high” at all. It isn’t catnip after all. That said, if your feline friend were to get their furry paws on some basil essential oil or essential oils they may indeed get “high” or sick. In a worst-case scenario, they might need to be rushed to a vet.

Do Cats Like the Smell of Basil?

Cats are a lot like people in that each one has its very own personality. That said, there is no accounting for taste. But, most cats genuinely seem to enjoy not only the taste of basil but the smell of it as well. Now, that doesn’t mean they’ll go stark-raving-mad for the stuff (like catnip, and little red laser dots), but they sure don’t mind it being around.

Are Cats Attracted to Basil?

cat eating

Basil is part of the same family as catnip and produces a similarly potent smell. As a result, a curious cat who may mistake it for catnip may be attracted to this plant. Other cats may simply like the smell more than others and check it out. However, other cats do not like the smell of basil. Like people, individual cats have personal tastes and preferences. What one cat likes, another may not.

In other situations, cats may experiment with basil when eating grass outside and find it helps calm their stomach. Basil naturally helps treat problems like poor circulation and stomach spasms. As a result, it may work better as a calming agent than regular grass. Cats low in calcium may also find themselves drawn to basil, as it contains a high amount of this important nutrient.

So, generally speaking, cats may be drawn to basil due to its unique smell and flavor. Its similarity to catnip in many ways could also intrigue many cats to come and check out this growth. Some cats may even enjoy it when you add dried flakes of basil to their food, as it could add a little extra taste. Let your cat smell this herb or plant before adding it to their diet.

Also, make sure that you talk to your vet about any changes you make to your cat’s diet. Basil should be relatively harmless and cause little to no adverse reactions in your cat. However, allergic reactions may be a common concern for many cats, particularly to plant-based items. Understanding this concern should make it easier for you to keep your cat safe and avoid serious long-term health issues.

Can Cats Be Allergic to Basil?

fat cat lounging on the sofa

A small number of cats may be allergic to basil and experience an adverse reaction. The exact percentage of cats with a basil allergy is unknown. When they develop an allergic reaction, they’re likely to become agitated, mew uncomfortably, develop rashes, and may even fall into respiratory problems. Take your cat to a veterinarian immediately if they experience any of these reactions.

Other cats may experience unrelated but problematic reactions to basil. For example, basil naturally lowers blood pressure, which may be healthy for a cat if it has too high blood pressure. However, it may also reduce it too far if your cat overeats it. Therefore, it is crucial to see how your cat reacts to this plant and minimize its exposure if it runs into low blood pressure issues.

Similarly, basil may also cause slow blood clotting, which could be a bad thing if your cat gets hurt. This effect is typically short-lasting, though, and may not be a significant problem. Nevertheless, if you run into this issue, there are a few ways that you can keep your cat away from your basil and healthy.

For example, you can plant them in or near plants like rosemary or lavender, as cats naturally hate these smells. If you don’t have room to produce these growths around your basil, you can spread their fragrance or essence on top. For a quick fix, you can also use citrus oil from an orange or a similar fruit, as cats naturally hate this smell as well. To minimize this problem, you can spread the oil on the plants or place halved oranges around your basil.

Is Basil Like Catnip to Cats?

jumping kitten

While basil may attract your cat and cause them to eat or even roll on it, it does not work on them in the same way as catnip. That’s because it lacks the oily compound nepetalactone. This substance attracts cats and interacts with their pheromones, triggering euphoria and other types of unpredictable actions. As basil does not produce this compound, it will not cause a cat to behave in the same way.

That said, many cats do enjoy the taste of basil, as they do catnip. You can add it to their diet by sprinkling ground leaves or a powder on top of their food. As mentioned previously, it is high in calcium and may help them stay more robust and healthier. It also contains high levels of vitamin A and other nutrients that a cat may struggle to get into its diet otherwise.

Try to avoid giving cats whole basil leaves, as their digestive system is likely to pass them completely. Leaves may also be more likely to trigger diarrhea or vomiting in a cat. Crumbled leaves or powder is easier for a cat’s digestive system to absorb. As a result, they can more easily get the nutrients from basil, as they would not get them from an undigested leaf that goes through their system.

Keep Your Cat Safe

cat sniffing basil

As you can imagine, it is vital to keep your cat’s diet safe and protected from various types of problematic foods and ingredients. Basil should be easily tolerated by most cats and provide minimal trouble for their digestive health. If your cat is allergic to or does not tolerate basil well, you may want to move your plants somewhere that they cannot reach. Doing so may be tricky, as cats are pretty clever, but it is worth it if you can keep them healthy.