The cat sniffing a bunch of red chili peppers

Can Cats Eat Chili?

As cat lovers, we often share our meals with our furry companions.

But when it comes to spicy dishes like chili, we might hesitate.

So, can cats handle the heat of chili?

Why Chili Might be a No-Go for Cats

Several factors make chili a less-than-ideal snack for cats:

1. Capsaicin Trouble:

The main culprit is capsaicin, the compound that gives chili its heat.

Capsaicin can irritate a cat’s stomach and intestines, leading to discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

In severe cases, it can even cause ulcers or pancreatitis.

2. Sensitive Taste Buds:

Cats have a highly sensitive sense of taste, and the burning sensation from capsaicin can be overwhelming for them.

This can lead to aversion to the food and potential dehydration as they avoid drinking due to the burning mouthfeel.

3. Hidden Ingredients:

Many chili dishes contain ingredients that are toxic to cats, such as onions, garlic, and grapes.

Even if the chili itself doesn’t contain these ingredients, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks associated with other components.

Accidental Chili Ingestion: What to Do?

If your cat sneaks a bite of chili, it’s important to stay calm and monitor their behavior.

Mild symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea may resolve on their own within a day or two.

However, if you notice more serious signs like excessive drooling, difficulty breathing, or lethargy, contact your veterinarian immediately.

While a tiny amount of capsaicin might not be fatal, it’s important to remember that cats are obligate carnivores. Their digestive systems are simply not designed to handle spicy foods.

Dr. Sarah Wooten. The veterinarian at the Feline Clinic of Midtown Manhattan

The Bottom Line

While a tiny nibble of chili might not cause immediate harm, it’s best to err on the side of caution and keep chili firmly out of your cat’s reach.

Their sensitive digestive systems simply aren’t equipped to handle the heat and other potentially harmful ingredients.


What if my cat accidentally eats a piece of bell pepper?

Bell peppers contain virtually no capsaicin, so your cat should be fine.

My cat loves sniffing my chili bowl. Should I be worried?

While sniffing isn’t harmful, keeping your food out of reach is best to prevent accidental ingestion.

Are all chili peppers equally bad for cats?

Yes, all chili peppers contain capsaicin, but the amount varies greatly.

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