Jalapenos are a great addition to any spicy dish but while you may be tempted to give your pet feline a spoonful or two, you might want to think twice before you do. Many food items enjoyed by humans are toxic to cats and it’s always a good idea to know what foods to avoid to keep your kitty safe. In the case of jalapenos, can cats eat them? After all, pepper is considered to be nutritious, as the vegetable is a great source of vitamins for kitties. So is it okay to give your cat a bite or two of jalapeno? Read more to find out.
Are Jalapenos Toxic to Cats?
Jalapenos are not toxic for cats but they are not good for them either. If your kitty has accidentally eaten a raw jalapeno, it’s not immediately a cause for concern. Your cat may like to chew the raw pepper at first, but would probably spit it out due to the hotness, which can be uncomfortable for them. However, when your kitty has consumed large amounts of jalapenos, it may cause more than just discomfort in their mouths and could lead to digestive issues that may need medical attention.
Aside from the high temperature, jalapenos also contain a chemical that is bad for a cat’s digestive system. Jalapenos and other peppers contain the chemical capsaicin, which is responsible for the spicy flavor of the vegetable. Though it is packed with nutrition, it’s not exactly healthy for cats who get most of their nutrients from protein, since they are obligate carnivores.
Capsaicin, on the other hand, contains another chemical, which is called Glycoalkaloid Solanine, or Solanine for short. This chemical is known to cause gastrointestinal issues in cats, such as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach upset. With diarrhea, cats can be at risk for dehydration, and when left untreated, can cause serious problems, and can even be fatal.
And thus, while jalapenos are not necessarily toxic to cats, consuming large amounts of the pepper can pose a health risk to your cat.
What Happens When My Cat Eats Jalapeno?
Jalapenos are medium-sized peppers with moderate to high spice temperatures. They are popular as a spice to dishes such as salsa and chili and are well-tolerated by humans. In fact, jalapenos add that special kick to dishes. However, cats don’t have the receptors that would make them appreciate how jalapenos taste. They do, however, experience pain when the hotness of jalapenos reaches their mouths, throat, and stomach. They feel the spiciness and hotness, but not the pleasure of eating jalapenos.
Your cat may beg you to give her jalapenos, but don’t be fooled. They may smell the pepper, but they won’t be able to taste it. They may only be curious, or they like the smell of the jalapeno and want to have a bite. Jalapenos are perfectly-sized for a cat’s mouth and they’re also chewy, making them appealing to your kitty. However, once they start chewing, they’ll realize jalapenos are actually hot and spicy, and they’d most probably chew them out.
In this case, since only a small amount is consumed, it’s not usually a cause for concern. Small amounts of capsaicin are not toxic and it doesn’t cause any harmful effects on cats. However, if larger amounts of jalapenos are chewed or consumed, this may cause some problems. Though capsaicin poisoning is rare from consuming jalapenos, here are some of the symptoms to watch out for:
- Not eating but drinking a lot
- Runny Nose
- Wheezing or Heavy Breathing
If your feline friend consumed a large number of jalapenos and it’s showing visible signs of any of these symptoms, it may be time you bring it to the vet. A vet will assess the situation and would probably provide IV fluids if your cat has diarrhea or has been vomiting, to prevent dehydration. Other treatments may also be given if your cat is showing signs of a serious allergy.
How to Prevent Your Cat From Eating Jalapeno
To help prevent your cat from accidentally consuming jalapenos, here are some tips that may help:
Keep Jalapenos Out of Reach
If you’re cooking with jalapenos, make sure your cat is off-limits from your kitchen. When you store it, make sure it’s in a place your cat can’t reach. If you have a vegetable garden where you grow these peppers, fence off your garden to ensure your cat will not wander to your jalapeno plants. Consumption of jalapeno leaves is also bad for cats as they also contain high levels of capsaicin. Cats may love chewing the leaves out of curiosity.
Don’t Feed Table Scraps to Your Cat
If you’re cooking dishes with jalapenos or you bought food with pepper as an ingredient, you might not notice or you might forget that the food scraps you just gave your cat contained the pepper. To avoid this from ever happening, avoid feeding food scraps to your cat. Ensure your pet kitty stays on a protein-rich cat food diet to prevent capsaicin poisoning.
Train Your Cat to Not Beg for Food
If you frequently have guests at home, your cat may want to play with guests who may not know what to feed or not to feed your pet cats. But if you train your kitty not to ask for or receive food from friends, strangers, or family members who visit your home, then you can avoid other people from accidentally feeding jalapenos to your cat.
If your cat has eaten jalapenos, observe your cat’s behavior after. If it is showing any signs of distress, such as wheezing or vomiting, bring your kitty to the vet. If you notice your cat is not eating but drinking a lot, it may only be trying to relieve itself from the hotness of the jalapeno.
No, you can’t feed jalapeno chips to your cat because these kinds of food still contain traces of capsaicin, and added ingredients that you may not know about. Any kind of food with jalapeno ingredients is to be avoided.
It depends on the symptoms shown by your cat after eating the pepper. If it is wheezing, your cat may be allergic to jalapenos and its vet may give anti-allergy medication. If your cat is having diarrhea, your vet may need to require IV fluids to prevent dehydration.
Cats can eat red and bell pepper with no ill consequences but these kinds of peppers have low levels of capsaicin. It’s not jalapenos per se that cats can’t eat but it’s the high levels of capsaicin found in the pepper that makes it bad for cats. Any food with high amounts of this chemical is bad for kitties.
Jalapenos are tasty and flavorful, making them a great ingredient in a wide range of spicy dishes. While it may be tempting to give our pet cats a spoonful of our rich homemade spicy food, we always have to think twice before feeding our cats any human food. Jalapenos may not be toxic to cats and eating a raw piece of this pepper may not result in any adverse reactions, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Large consumption of jalapenos in cats can lead to serious complications, especially when diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing are left untreated. Avoid giving your cat jalapeno and make sure your pet kitty has no access to jalapenos at all times.