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Can Cats Eat Oregano? Nutritional Facts & Safety Tips

Oliver Jones

By Oliver Jones

Can Cats Eat oregano

Vet approved

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The herb oregano is widely known for its use in dishes such as pizza and pasta sauce. Among the world’s most popular herbs, it’s found in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine and even in chili powder. It’s very common to use dried oregano, but fresh oregano is also used, and both forms are available year-round.

Oregano contains an essential oil that can upset cats’ tummies. Reactions like these are generally mild and only happen when a lot of the herb has been ingested. However, oregano essential oil is a real danger. It’s a highly concentrated form of oregano that’s full of phenols and terpenoids that cats can’t digest. Ingesting oregano oil can cause a toxic reaction, and ultimately, can cause severe damage to your cat’s liver.

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Is Oregano Safe for Cats?

Although other herbs can be used orally or topically on cats, oregano is never safe for them. All types of oregano are toxic for our feline friends to varying degrees. Cats should never be encouraged to consume oregano. This is because oregano causes serious health problems in cats, according to the ASPCA. It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh or dried, cooked, or raw; it’s toxic! The essential oils found in oregano are what make it toxic.

Oregano contains phenols and terpenoids, which cats can’t digest. Since cats don’t have the same variety of enzymes as humans, they can’t process these toxic oils and eliminate them. A cat’s liver lacks glucuronyl transferase enzymes that can digest this herb’s active chemicals. Without the ability to digest these chemicals, they just build up in your cat and make it sick.

Cat Oregano
Image Credit: Angela Kotsell, Shutterstock

Do Cats Like Oregano Scents?

Your cat doesn’t find anything chemically appealing about oregano. Oregano smells like camphor. There’s a pungent flavor that’s earthy and green, with a hint of mint and hay. It can be a little bitter. There’s no catnip or cat thyme in it so your cat shouldn’t be attracted to it. Generally, it is safe to grow it around your home or garden. You don’t have to worry about your cat being attracted to oregano. Oregano’s scent and taste tend to be off-putting to cats, so you don’t have to do much to keep them away from it. But cats are curious, so if they can get over the smell, they might take a nibble.

Can Oregano Kill Cats?

Oregano can cause big problems for your cat. The oil especially can be dangerous. You can expect some nasty side effects if your cat has been exposed to a large amount of oregano. Typically, this happens when the oil has been deliberately applied either topically or fed to a cat. A bad case of oregano poisoning can kill your cat. By the time they get to that point, however, they will have experienced sickness, diarrhea, excessive wind and bloating, oral irritation, skin irritation, difficulty breathing, difficulty walking, and finally, loss of life. A terrifying potential outcome for any cat lover.

Is Dried Oregano Dangerous for Cats?

The more common form of oregano is dried. Most people like it because it’s subtler and doesn’t overwhelm dishes as fresh oregano can. It’s also more convenient to store in your pantry year-round. The good news is that this version is far less likely to cause death or serious illness for your cat than oregano oil. However, if you know your cat has been nibbling on dried oregano, you should still observe it carefully for signs of illness.

Dried Oregano
Image Credit: ariesa66, Pixabay

Is Fresh Oregano Safe for Cats?

For us humans, fresh oregano has the best flavor and aroma. In a bouquet garni, oregano is commonly used to flavor soups and stocks. You can easily grow oregano in a herb garden or windowsill so you always have it on hand. When a cat eats some fresh oregano, they’ll probably just feel a little nauseated and have diarrhea until the poisonous compounds have been excreted. Fresh oregano can make your cat sick if they ingest a lot of it, but they are unlikely to eat it in sufficient quantities to get really ill. If you think your furry friend has eaten a lot of this plant, take them to the vet immediately.

Is Oregano Oil Toxic for Cats?

Oregano is packed with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits for humans. Many of the compounds in oregano that are good for us are a serious problem for our cats. It’s unlikely that a cat will encounter oregano essential oil unless someone uses it on their cat deliberately. Sometimes, owners get confused by information about the health benefits of oregano in humans and give it to their pets. Many people mistakenly believe that oregano essential oil can be used in place of antibiotics, for instance, which can be very dangerous for their cat. This is a massive mistake.

Although none of the forms of oregano are safe for your cat, you can be sure that the worst kind of oregano to give your cat is the oil. Being the most concentrated form, oregano oil is by far the most dangerous form of this herb. You cannot give your cat oregano oil. It’s highly poisonous to cats.

oregano oil
Image Credit: Madeleine Steinbach, Shutterstock

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What Are the Signs of Oregano Poisoning?

Most plant consumption only causes mild digestive upset, if any. Oregano essential oil can cause severe reactions in cats. If used continuously, signs will develop. Here are all the symptoms to watch for: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shallow breathing, oral irritation, loss of appetite, liver problems, and collapse.signs

What Should I Do if My Cat Eats Oregano?

Take your cat to the vet if it shows any of the signs listed above. Let your vet know everything that has happened in the lead-up to your visit. Being totally honest is the best policy if you wish your cat to get better quickly. If you have deliberately exposed your cat to oregano essential oil, for example, tell your vet immediately. After the cat is stabilized, the vet will probably ask what the oregano oil is being used for. If your cat has any health issues, you may also be asked for its full medical history.

If the cat has burns from oregano essential oil application, the vet will also do an oral or dermal examination. They’ll measure your cat’s temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate and take a sample of the cat’s blood to run standard tests to see what’s in its bloodstream. A complete blood count and a biochemical profile are usually included.  More specific tests for liver function may be needed. What Are the Treatments for Oregano Poisoning?

In cases where a cat eats oregano plant material, the only thing to do is to monitor the animal until the signs subside. Cats poisoned by oregano essential oil may have more severe reactions. Depending on the signs the cat has, extra care and hospitalization may be needed. To counteract dehydration caused by gastrointestinal distress, intravenous fluids may be necessary. It may be necessary to regulate the cat’s breathing during the episode. During hospitalization, the cat will be kept as comfortable as possible. A cat’s mouth needs to be flushed with water if it’s been burned or irritated by oregano essential oil. It may be necessary to wash any other parts of the body that came into contact with the oil.

sad cat
Image Credit: avi_acl, Pixabay

How Quickly Do Cats Recover From Oregano Poisoning?

Depending on how seriously your cat has been poisoned, they may recover in just a few days, or they may never recover. It’s especially important to never use oregano essential oil on cats. Even topical use can cause painful irritation. There is a risk of liver damage if your cat consumes oregano essential oil, and they might require ongoing treatment.

Burns on the skin and in the mouth should heal relatively quickly. If your cat ingested oregano plant matter, fresh or dried, it will most likely quickly recover with no lasting effects on its health. Do make sure that your cat can’t get to your potted herbs. You can keep your cat inside so they don’t come into contact with toxic plants in the garden.

What Herbs Are Bad for Cats?

Herbs and spices are great for making food taste better, but there are many herbs and spices that are bad for cats. You should avoid garlic, chives, chamomile, St. John’s wort, lemongrass, mint, and tarragon. Really, it’s best to let your vet take care of your pet’s medicinal needs and to keep your cat’s nutrition as simple as possible.

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Keep your cats away from oregano. You should never give your cat any oregano plant material and especially not oregano essential oil. Use your judgment and take your cat to the vet if you think they have oregano poisoning. Don’t delay or try to treat your cat from home because if your cat is seriously ill, you need immediate specialist care. In cases where your cat has eaten only a tiny bit of oregano, they may experience a couple of days of discomfort, but it should go away gradually on its own.

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