Nutrition

Can Cats Have Honey? Is It Safe For Cats To Eat Honey?

Can cats have honey? Is honey something felines should ever eat? It is high in sugar and may be hard to digest, but is it harmful to cats? We discuss this sweet food, and if it is safe for felines to consume it in this quick overview.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: January 16, 2023 | 7 min read

Cat sniffing honey comb on a plate on a white background

Has your cat ever tried to sneak a lick of honey when making your morning tea? Kitties always trying to take a bite or sip of what they see us eating and drinking is typical behavior. Most cat owners would agree and have experienced this behavior to some degree. While some human foods are safe for felines to have, that may not always be the case. Honey is not something one would generally think a cat would be interested in, but it does happen fairly often.

Owners may wonder what to do if their pet eats this sweet sticky substance. It certainly can create a mess in their fur. Some owners may even give their cats honey because it has so many healthy qualities for people. In fact, many online suggestions imply that it may be safe to use medicinally for felines. Unfortunately, this is a big misconception, and owners should do more research before giving their cats this sweet, sticky stuff.

There is much more to feline nutrition than meets the eye, and owners need to be prepared for anything regarding cats eating human foods. This is especially true for sweet stuff, which is not naturally part of their carnivorous diet. Let’s get to the bottom of this sticky business and find out if cats can have honey.

Can Cats Eat Honey?

Cats should not eat honey. Although one lick or so will not cause significant damage, honey and felines do not mix well.

Though this is not toxic or poisonous for kitties, it has very little nutritional value for them and is hard to digest. This stuff is mainly sugar, which isn’t something kitties need to have in large amounts. Too much sugar can cause serious issues for felines. Their digestive tracts are not equipped to handle high-sugar foods.

So, while some kitties will eat honeycomb or syrupy stuff when it is presented to them or may try to sneak a lick or taste, this is not something they should have in any quantity.

What Is Honey?

Pot of honey with drizzle and stir stick
While this sweetener is a wonderful addition to human foods and beverages, that does not mean it is safe for cats.

Honey is a natural substance made by bees commonly used as a sweetener in human foods and beverages. There are over 300 varieties. Honeybees make it from flowering plant nectar. Along with being a common sweetener, this stuff has several other qualities. It can even be used as a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.

According to the Mayo Clinic, honey has been studied to treat several conditions in humans, including cough, wound care, gastrointestinal disease, cardiovascular disease, and even neurological disease. It has been used to soothe sore throats and upset stomachs, as an anticoagulant, and to help with depression and anxiety.

This sweet, golden, sticky stuff has many helpful uses for humans, but these effects are sometimes different for other animals, like felines.

Is Honey Safe For Cats?

No, honey is not safe for cats. While not toxic, this food is unsafe for felines to eat in large amounts. Raw, in particular, can be very dangerous.

Overweight kitties have compromised immune systems, and when still raw, honey can cause a very bad reaction, even fatal. The same can happen with kittens.

Though not toxic, this food isn’t healthy for them. It has an extremely high amount of fructose and glucose, which are sugars. Sugar is something felines need little of in their diets. After all, they are obligate carnivores. They need meat-based diets.

Plant-based foods high in sugar do not add anything nutritionally. In fact, honey is about 80% sugar, meaning this stuff is tough for kitties to digest because they do not produce the proper enzymes to break down fructose and glucose.

Do Cats Like Honey?

No, most do not like this sweet stuff. They are likely only interested in it because they see their owners eating it or they happen to come across some accidentally. Felines lack the taste receptors for sweet flavors. They have been referred to as “sweet blind.” Most of the time, when purr babies show interest in foods with sweet flavors, the flavor isn’t what they seek. We all like our sweet treats, many of which are high in fat. Kitties love to eat fat, which may be what attracts them to butter, cream, ice cream, etc.

What Happens If My Cat Eats Honey?

A cat partaking in a drop or two as an isolated incident is not a significant cause for concern. With such a small amount, even though it may be hard to digest, your cat will be okay, though they may experience some mild discomfort. Eating too much sugar can cause some unpleasant side effects for them. Owners need to understand that what seems like a tiny amount of sugar for humans is a significantly large amount for felines. So even a minimal amount is not a good idea.

Kitties with adverse reactions may experience stomach aches, diarrhea, vomiting, and weight gain. If they consume a large amount of it, their body’s insulin levels increase.

Kitties who eat too many human foods, especially those high in sugar, can become obese and develop diabetes. Exposure to such high-sugar foods also increases their risk of dental decay and developing dental disease.

Along with some adverse physical effects, this sweet goo is never something one wants to get anywhere near a kitty’s soft coat. This stuff is extremely sticky and will cause a huge mess if it gets on your cat’s fur. Though this may not cause harm to them, it will cause them to need a bath and grooming, and too much of the sticky stuff can be a real issue.

Negative Effects On Cats

Although an occasional bite will not cause irreparable harm, long-term and regular consumption of the sweet stuff is harmful to your cat. Some of the adverse side effects include:

  1. Stomach pain
  2. Digestive difficulty
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Nausea
  5. Vomiting
  6. Weight gain
  7. Diabetes
  8. Increased dental decay
  9. Sticky fur and poor coat condition

Why Is Raw Honey More Dangerous?

Raw is more dangerous, especially to kittens and adult kitties with weaker or less mature immune systems. The raw stuff contains bacteria and has not been pasteurized, meaning it still contains the risk of harmful bacteria and yeast.

Felines who eat the raw varieties are at a higher risk of developing food poisoning or infection, including Botulism. Giving a kitten this is never a good idea and not something adults should have much of.

Can Cats Eat Manuka Honey?

Manuka honey is produced from the Manuka bush, a plant native to Australia and New Zealand. The Manuka bush has been described as an Evergreen shrub with pointy green leaves. Manuka is a very hardy plant and can survive harsh conditions. The Manuka plant often grows naturally back after major environmental events like wildfires.

The Manuka variety contains elements like hydrogen peroxide, making it a popular natural antiseptic and antibiotic, and it has often been used in wound care. Though there are many claims otherwise, there has not been any research to prove that Manuka honey is any better for felines than other kinds.

Because of this, giving your cat Manuka is generally not advised. Some veterinarians and animal rehabilitation specialists recommend this substance topically to help with wound care. That being said, it’s generally not a good idea to feed kitties the Manuka variety regularly.

Feline Friendly Alternatives

Because this food carries such a risk for purr babies, it isn’t advisable to give it to them often or at all. Unless you are specifically directed to by your veterinarian, it is best to keep your pet away from honey. Many other things will work better. Felines are carnivores, and they must eat meat to survive. Not only must they eat meat, but they also love the flavor.

Kitties of all ages, sizes, and breeds will go crazy for the smell and taste of fresh, high-quality meat. So, rather than giving them a sweet treat, why not stick to something that they will genuinely enjoy and that is good for them? Freeze-dried foods and treats are a great option. These are often single proteins and are unprocessed. This means that meat is freeze-dried to remove moisture but retains its flavor and nutritional value.

Along with freeze-dried foods and treats, owners can also look to more traditional cat treats and freeze-dried foods and treats. These include meaty treats, catnip treats, and CBD treats. CBD treats can benefit kitties in a few ways and come in several varieties.

Owners can even try to feed their purr babies appropriately prepared human foods like chicken, turkey, or steak. While not something they should have every day, when prepared correctly, raw or cooked meat treats can be an excellent addition to your pet’s diet. These will undoubtedly be better for your sweet Princess to eat than a spoonful of sweet goo.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can cats taste honey?

No, because felines cannot taste sweet flavors. It is hard to tell what they taste, but they do not taste any of the sweet flavors we enjoy from this substance.

Should I give my cat honey for a cough?

No, it would be best if you did not give your cat this for a cough. It is much better to consult your veterinarian at the first sign or symptom that your kitty may be sick. If your pet is coughing, discuss this with your veterinarian rather than trying home remedies. While it is often tempting to try these, most of the time, they are not as effective as they claim to be. In some cases, there can even be a risk for harm, like a bacterial infection. Always consult your veterinarian if you are concerned about your pet’s health.

Can cats eat syrup?

No, cats should not eat syrup. Syrup is high in sugar and is often made with artificial additives and ingredients. While they can technically eat it, meaning they can go through the act of consuming it, syrup holds no nutritional value. It is far too high in sugar for felines and should be avoided.

Can kittens eat honey?

No, kittens cannot eat this food. This is not something that should be offered to them or that they should be allowed to get into on their own. Raw honey poses a considerable risk for kittens whose immune systems are not fully developed. They can develop severe bacterial infections.

Final Thoughts

Although it may be tempting to share that drop of honey from your toast or let your cat have a quick drink of your tea, this natural sweetener isn’t safe for cats. Though they technically can consume it, meaning they can eat it physically, this should not be a regular part of any feline’s diet. An occasional taste will not cause much harm, but giving your cat honey regularly can lead to long-term digestive issues, weight gain, and diabetes. Plenty of other more species-appropriate treats and products are available. If you are concerned about your cat’s digestion, respiratory health, or even wound care, it is always better to consult your veterinarian before adding things like honey to their diet.

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