Can cats eat mint leaves?
When I was new to cat-parenting, I wasn’t aware of the fact that catnip or catmint aren’t the same as mint leaves.
A friend told me to remove all mint plant from my kitchen garden – since mint happens to be very toxic to cats.
Now I am wiser and although there is still a lot to learn in terms of pet parenting, I at least know what is and isn’t safe for my furry child.
So, in this guide, I would like to share some vital information regarding mint toxicity in cats. Many pet parents aren’t aware of this, so it is important to get educated about it.
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Can Cats Eat Mint Leaves?
No – cats should never ever consume mint leaves because the essential oil or peppermint oil found in the mint plant can cause toxicity in cats.
There are literally thousand different varieties of mint plants and not all of them are safe for pets, especially for cats. So if you think that catmint, catnip, spearmint, and peppermint are all the same, think again!
Please understand that I am not trying to frighten you.
Mint poisoning in cats is not a common occurrence. After all – there are very few reports of cats being killed by mint leaves. And it makes sense too since most cats know – to some extent – what is and isn’t good for them.
But, mint poisoning in cats does exist and can occur if your cat consumes mint leaves or inhales or licks peppermint oil in large quantities.
That is why, it is important for all cat parents to note that many members of the fresh mint family are extremely toxic to our beloved cats.
Note that not all cats show signs of mint poisoning. But the ones that do could suffer from debilitating symptoms like vomiting, skin irritation etc.
Don’t worry, if you have some mint bushes in your garden and your cat chews them- it should be fine. However, if your pet starts vomiting and the symptoms do not ease up, then it could be mint poisoning, and you’d be better off taking it to the vet.
Also Read: Can Cats Eat Ginger
Why Should Cats Not Eat Mint Leaves?
So now that you know the answer to the question: can cats eat mint leaves? It is time to dive a bit deeper into this topic.
More importantly, we will understand the ‘why’ behind this fact.
There are different types of mint species
The Mint species of plants and herbs belongs to the genus ‘mentha’. There are many plants in this genus including spearmint, peppermint, wild mint, garden mint, horsemint, Australian mint, pennyroyal, and sweet mint.
Each of these has a characteristic feature that draws us humans to these herbs – they all have an alluring aroma and flavor that finds use in perfume-making, in chewing gum and candies, in cooking, etc.
Harmful essential oils
But did you know that every time we have a fragrant or aromatic plant on hand, it has some essential oils triggering those aromas and flavors?
These essential oils come in very handy during aromatherapy for humans and they also impart a delicious flavor to our gourmet dishes, but to our cats, these strong scents and flavors can be very irritating. Some like pennyroyal can even kill your cat.
Many cats start immediately sneezing when they come in contact with any of these genus-mentha plants or their essential oils.
Cats Lack Enzymes needed to Metabolize Mint Leaves
This is because cats lack the enzymes needed to metabolize these volatile agents. So any contact – either through skin or through oral consumption – can trigger a reaction in them.
Some cats react more strongly to these herbs while others might have milder reactions.
No one knows the reason behind these differences – it may depend on a cat’s age, weight, and even its genetics. That is why, some cat parents wonder ‘why is my cat attracted to mint’, even if this herb is supposed to be toxic to it? (I will answer this question later in this guide).
But before I do that, I want to address some common misconceptions people have about the mint family – especially differences between mint, catmint and catnip.
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What are Catnip and Catmint? Are They The Same?
Yes, catnip and catmint are more or less the same. They are parts of the Nepeta species of herbs and are sometimes called catswort or catwort and cat grass. The minor differences between these herbs are:
- Catnip is Nepeta cataria while Catmint is Nepeta mussini or nepeta faassenii
- Catnip is weedier in appearance while Catmint is a pretty flowering perennial herb
- Catmint flowers more continuously than catnip does.
- Flowers of catnip are whitish in color while catmint has pretty lavender colored flowers
- People use catmint in their cooking as a flavoring herb while catnip is commonly used as an aphrodisiac for cats and to calm agitated felines.
In short: Catnip and catmint can be considered as close cousins of each other.
For those of you who have cats, it may be no secret that our cats love both catnip and catmint.
In fact, both herbs have a calming effect on cats owing to their nepetalactone content. Nepetalactone is a compound found in these herbs that induces euphoria in cats. It can even relieve stress, calm upset stomach, and alleviate anxiety in felines.
Is Catmint and Mint The Same?
No. Catmint and mint are not the same plant.
Mint – as stated earlier – consists of a wide range of plants including spearmint, peppermint, wild mint, garden mint etc. There are also hybrid variants of mint like chocolate mint, apple mint, and ginger mint.
Catmint and mint are very different. They belong to different families too. Catmint is safe for cats to play with, inhale, and eat – in small amounts. Mint belongs to the genus menthe whilecatnip and catmint belong to genus Nepeta
Mint on the other hand, is not safe and can lead to toxicity in cats. Not all cats suffer from mint poisoning, but the ones that do tend to have skin irritation, sneezing, vomiting, and – in adverse cases – even seizures.
Remember that mint toxicity is only seen in some cats and only if they have consumed or inhaled mint in large quantities.
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Are Catmint and Catnip Toxic to Cats?
Unlike mint leaves, catmint and catnip are safe and nontoxic for cats to play with, inhale, and even eat.
Yes, cats can safely eat catnip and catmint in small quantities. In large quantities though, it could result in digestive issues, vomiting, and diarrhea as well.
That is why vets advise not to feed cats catnip or catmint every day and to limit feeding them once every 2-3 days.
What to Do if Your Cat is Attracted to Mint?
Cats are often attracted to mint family plants like peppermint and spearmint. This may be because of the nepetalactone-mimicking compounds found in these herbs.
Your cat might mistake mint to be catnip/catmint and could lick it or show a desire to play with the leaves.
Some cats even try to lick the potpourri herbs containing dried mint leaves. Many have licked peppermint oil thinking it to be catnip. A few cats get crazy from the smell of mint – some even get aggressive and wild!
This can be dangerous to your kitty.
That is why, as a cat parent, I avoid keeping anything from the mint family in my house – no potpourri herbs, no diffusers with mint oils, no essential oils with genus menthe herbs, etc. As I mentioned at the beginning of this guide, I even removed all mint plants from my kitchen garden.
I suggest you do the same. We can never know for sure which cat might have an adverse reaction to mint. Some small kittens might get immediately affected as well as some older, weaker cats.
You don’t want to take that risk.
Simply keep all mint-related items away from your pet to avoid painful symptoms mentioned above.
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What Parts of Garden Mint Plant Should Cats Avoid?
It is best that cats avoid all parts of the mint herb: leaves, stems, stalks, flowers, etc.
Some cats go wild when they smell mint and will immediately try to eat it but you must not let it. That is because they confuse it with catnip or catmint.
Remember here that catmint and catnip plant are okay for your cat – in small quantities. Both, catmint and catnip, can calm your pet and give it a temporary high. These herbs can make your pet happy.
But please prevent your cat from eating garden mint, peppermint, spearmint, or wild mint growing in your garden. And this includes all parts of these herbs – leaves, stalks, flowers, etc.
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Can Cats Eat Mint Candy and Mint Gum?
Although these substances do not contain real mint, they tend to contain mint extracts. These can be hard to digest and can cause stomach gurgling, pain, and even vomiting in your pet, depending on how much it has ingested.
Moreover, mint candy, chocolate mint, and mint gum all contain xylitol.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener which can be toxic to cats and dogs and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even seizures in your pet. Chocolate mint also contains theobromine – a very harmful toxin for your feline friend.
So try not to let your cat get near these harmful treats. Keep all mint-based snacks out of your pet’s reach.
If you want to freshen your cat’s breath, give it some vet-approved dental chews or a few catnip leaves.
Can Cats Eat Mint Ice Cream?
No, please avoid feeding mint ice cream to your kitty.
This too contains mint extracts and some brands even add real mint leaves and their pulp to it.
Moreover, they are high in sugar and can cause a spike in your cat’s blood levels.
Mint ice cream also contains preservatives, added flavors, and other chemicals which could aggravate food allergies in sensitive cats.
Also Read: Can Cats Eat Chocolate Ice Cream
Can Cats Drink Mint Leaf Tea?
Many vets recommend against feeding even peppermint leaves tea to cats owing to the toxicity associated with peppermint oil.
If you want to feed tea to your cat, make a dilute or weak tea using dried catnip or catmint leaves.
Make sure you are only using catmint and not peppermint, spearmint, garden mint, or wild mint.
Feed a few teaspoons of this weak tea to your pet to calm inflammation, settle the nerves, and even relax the muscles. You can even apply this tea to calm your pet’s irritated skin, hotspots, itching, etc.
Also Read: Can Cats Drink Orange Juice
FAQs on Can Cats Eat Mint Leaves
1. Does mint drive cats crazy?
Wild mint and peppermint leaves have a scent similar to nepetalactone found in catmint or catnip. The latter do tend to make some cats go crazy or get excited.
Some vets believe that the catnip plant has an aphrodisiacal effect on cats and they get aroused by its scent.
So, if mint drives your cat crazy, then make sure your pet isn’t allergic to it. Do try to stop your cat from eating too much at a time to reduce peppermint toxicity or mint poisoning.
2. Does mint keep cats away?
Some gardeners plant peppermint in their gardens to keep stray cats away.
This trick may or may not work since some cats tend to get excited by mint’s scent as they confuse it with the other ‘mint’ variant – catmint! Instead plant lemon, rue, or lavender to drive cats away.
3. Which other herbs are toxic to cats?
In addition to mint, herbs like oregano, garlic, chives, tarragon, marjoram, pennyroyal, and bay leaves are all toxic plant for cats.
Can Cats eat mint leaves?
No, cats should never consume mint leaf in excess as they contain toxic essential oils that can cause mint poisoning in your cat.
Not all cats show signs and symptoms of peppermint toxicity but the ones that do can suffer from debilitating symptoms like weakness, extreme vomiting, etc.
So, in order to avoid these symptoms, please do not let your cat eat mint leaves.