Can Cats Eat Black Pepper?

A glass bottle full of black peppercorns, with some spilling over next to the bottle and scatter all over the wooden tabletop.

If you’re like most cat parents, you’ve probably wanted to awaken your cat’s tastebuds by adding some seasoning to their seemingly boring diet. However, black pepper doesn’t make the best flavor enhancer for your feline friend. Instead, it may repel your cat from the food and be problematic in large amounts.

Should Cats Eat Black Pepper?

Even though black pepper isn’t considered toxic, there are some possible issues with feeding your cat black pepper that shouldn’t be ignored.

  • Smell: First of all, black pepper has a very pungent smell, especially to a cat. Piperine, which is responsible for so many of the healthy benefits of pepper, is an irritant to the nasal airways. If inhaled in a large enough quantity, black pepper can cause your cat to sneeze. Since cats rely on their sense of smell as much as their mouth to boost their appetite, something that irritates the nose won’t be very appealing. 
  • Pepper is a Natural Repellent: The smell of black pepper is so irritating to cats and other animals that it is often used in natural pesticides as a repellent. This would make you think that food spiced with black pepper wouldn’t be appetizing to your feline friend.
  • Spicy Food Can Irritate the Stomach: Even though black pepper has a fraction of the spiciness of chilis or other types of pepper, it may still cause digestive upset if eaten in large enough amounts. Cats that consume a lot of black pepper may experience diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. These symptoms are usually minimal and should go away on their own. However, if your cat has any of these symptoms after eating black pepper that lasts longer than 48 hours, see your veterinarian.

So, it’s not an issue of black pepper being unsafe for your cat; it’s more a problem of your cat not wanting to eat something with a lot of black pepper on it. That being said, it’s okay to give your cat food seasoned with a touch of black pepper as long as they’re into it.

Does Black Pepper Have Any Benefits?

Black pepper comes from the vine Piper nigrum. This plant produces berries, called peppercorns, that are harvested green and dried until black. These peppercorns are ground into the black pepper that we use as an essential spice in nearly every food we prepare. It has a mildly hot taste, making it perfect for enhancing almost any food, including baked goods and meat. 

Most of us have black pepper at the ready near our stoves and on our dinner tables, but black pepper provides more than just flavor. 

  • Antioxidants: Black pepper provides antioxidants to help repair damaged cells and boost the immune system.
  • PiperinePiperine has anti-inflammatory properties which can help with chronic inflammation associated with diseases like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Piperine may also benefit degenerative brain conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
  • Blood Values: Black pepper may help decrease cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Anti-Cancer Properties: It has been implicated in helping to slow the replication of cancer cells in a laboratory environment.
  • Other Health Benefits: Black pepper may help reduce appetite, promote gut health, and enhance nutrient absorption.

Even with all of these potential health benefits, it’s best to avoid giving black pepper to your cat at all. 

Are There Any Spices That Cats Can Have?

As a general rule, cats don’t need a lot of seasoning to enjoy their food. Their sense of taste is relatively poor. As humans, we can enjoy a range of flavors from sweet to salty and bitter to mild, thanks to our nearly 9000 tastebuds. 

On the other hand, cats only have a few hundred tastebuds on their tongue and mouth, making them less likely to appreciate a combination of spices.

If you are feeding your cat a homemade diet or looking to treat them with a bit of human food, it’s recommended to leave the seasoning out. Cats don’t need it to make their meal taste good, and some spices can be very toxic. 

Seasonings to AVOID Giving Your Cat

Be sure to avoid the following spices in your cat’s food:

  • Onion
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Scallions
  • Salt 

Final Thoughts

While black pepper isn’t considered a toxic food to cats, it is completely unnecessary to your cat’s diet. The aroma of black pepper will put off most cats, and those that aren’t won’t appreciate the flavor anyway. If you’re cooking for your cat, leave the black pepper out. 

If your cat ingests small amounts of black pepper, there’s no need to worry. Just monitor them for a day to two to make sure they are okay. If they happen to eat a large amount of black pepper, vomiting and diarrhea may be headed their way but should usually resolve within a couple of days. If you have any questions about black pepper and your cat, consult your veterinarian.

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