Nutrition

Can Cats Eat Oregano?

As a well-intended cat owner, you may consider oregano oil to treat health concerns in your cat. It's safe for humans, but what about cats? We'll help you learn everything you need to know about cats and oregano .

Tara Maurer holding cat smiling

Last Updated: December 11, 2022 | 4 min read

Funny tabby cat enjoying dried herbs spilled out of jar

You’re no doubt concerned about providing the best possible nutrition for your furry friend. Feeding your cat quality, well-balanced cat food is important for good health. 

You may wonder if certain foods and herbs are healthy for your feline, especially if your cat has a particular interest in what you’re eating. If your cat is a pro at sneaking human snacks, familiarize yourself with what’s safe for your cat to eat. 

Oregano is used by humans both medicinally and culinary, but is it safe for cats? Learn about the safety of oregano and what to do if your cat eats oregano oil.

What Is Oregano?

Oregano is a common culinary and garden herb often used in Mediterranean cooking, especially Italian and Greek food. It has a distinct, peppery flavor and is used to balance a salty or acidic dish. While dried or fresh oregano is used in food preparation, it can also be used medicinally and provides many benefits for people and certain animals. 

Oregano has potent antimicrobial and antiseptic properties that aid in recovery from respiratory, gastrointestinal, oral, and topical infections. It is a powerful antifungal herb and can also be used in cases of bacterial and viral infections.

Oregano makes an excellent liquid extract and can be added to cough syrup, tea, or taken directly. The dried herb can be added to animal bedding in some cases, helping ward off insects, lice, mites, and other unwanted guests.

Is Oregano Safe For Cats?

Cat paw on herbs outdoors
It is not recommended to feed your cat oregano in any form.

Experts consider oregano toxic to cats, and it should be avoided in all forms. Avoid feeding your cat oregano, applying oregano topically, or even diffusing oregano essential oil in areas where your cat frequents.

Oregano contains naturally occurring compounds called phenols and terpenoids, which give the plant its healing abilities. While humans should value a high phenol and terpenoid count, cats can not properly digest these oil compounds, leading to gastrointestinal upset and liver damage.

Cats lack a liver enzyme called glucuronyl transferase. This enzyme is responsible for metabolizing chemicals and eliminating toxins in the liver. Without this enzyme, the compounds in oregano can cause a toxic reaction and permanent liver damage to your cat.

Can Oregano Kill Cats?

Oregano contains compounds that can cause digestive upset in cats. While symptoms can be mild, high concentrations of oregano can be fatal. Do not give or use oregano essential oil on your cat. Essential oils are highly concentrated liquid extracts, and even topical application can result in skin irritation. 

Symptoms Of Oregano Poisoning In Cats

Consuming fresh or dried oregano may lead to mild digestive upset for your kitty. More serious side effects result from exposing your cat to oregano essential oil, which is an extremely potent version of oregano. If you are afraid your furry friend has been exposed to oregano, watch for these signs of poisoning:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Oral irritation
  • Shallow Breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Liver-related issues
  • Collapse

If your cat exhibits any of the symptoms of poisoning or if you suspect your can has consumed oregano oil, contact your veterinarian. 

Treatment

If your cat shows signs of oregano poisoning, veterinary care is needed. Tell your vet about any symptoms you have witnessed. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, hospitalization may be required. Your cat’s breathing may need to be regulated, and intravenous fluids may be used to rehydrate your feline. Getting pet insurance is a great way to ensure any health emergencies are financially covered.

Any external part of your cat that has been exposed to oregano oil must be washed immediately to avoid irritation and inflammation of the tissue.

Recovery From Oregano Poisoning

If your cat ingests dried or fresh oregano, expect a quick recovery, lasting no more than a few days. Your cat might not display symptoms at all. If your feline consumes oregano oil, which can cause permanent damage to the liver, ongoing treatment may be required. 

Alternatives To Oregano 

There are many foods and herbs that are safe for cats to ingest. If you want to spice up your cat’s life, try catnip or silver vine. Exposure to either plant can stimulate your feline and help them enter a euphoric state. 

Catnip is a minty herb that contains the substance nepetalactone. Nepetalactone causes a pleasure release in the brain, and cats react to it with ecstasy. This reaction is harmless and nonaddictive, and the effect dissipates after about fifteen minutes. You can give your cat fresh or dried catnip. You can even grow your own! 

Similar to catnip, silvervine is a great way to enrich your kitty’s life. This plant contains two substances that attract cats: nepetalactone and actinidine. If your feline doesn’t respond to catnip, try silver vine. Research shows that while only one out of every three cats responds to catnip, almost 80 percent react to silver vine.

Both plants are a great way to get past a stressful situation or encourage a sedentary cat to be more active. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is oregano toxic to cats?

Yes, oregano is toxic to cats in high dosages.

What should I do if my cat eats oregano?

If your cat eats dried or fresh oregano, monitor for signs of poisoning. If your cat comes in direct contact with oregano essential oil, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Do cats like oregano?

Your feline won’t find anything appealing about oregano. Unlike catnip or silver vine, your cat won’t be attracted to it. Your kitty might actually find the smell of oregano off-putting. 

Final Thoughts

While humans and other animals may enjoy the benefits of oregano, it is best to keep this plant away from your cat. At small dosages, oregano can cause gastrointestinal problems for your feline and, at worst death. Make sure to familiarize yourself with what foods and herbs are safe for felines. If your cat is exposed to oregano essential oil, seek medical attention.

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