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Can Cats Eat Vanilla? What You Need to Know

Ashley Bates

By Ashley Bates

vanilla plant

Vanilla is one of the most popular flavorings you might find in a spice cabinet. A go-to favorite for desserts, perfumes, and dishes, vanilla has undoubtedly made its mark on the culinary world. Even though it is a safe, tasty additive for humans, you might wonder if cats are safe, too.

While vanilla itself is non-toxic to cats, the ethyl in concentrated vanilla oil can be dangerous. Let’s look deeper at just how carefully we need to keep an eye on our felines around vanilla.

Keep Your Vanilla Out of Your Cat’s Reach

When the holiday season hits, it’s pretty common to see baking ingredients scattered across countertops. But our cats are some curious creatures—and not all things are safe for them.

Vanilla extract that you have in your cupboard contains a large amount of ethyl alcohol—up to 34%. Alcohol content this high can be dangerous for your feline. Vanilla fragrance, scents, and essential oils are trouble, too.

However, vanilla baked goods and snacks will probably not harm or kill your cat—as long as no other potentially toxic ingredients exist. To be on the safe side, it’s best to keep your kitties from vanilla in general. They don’t benefit from having vanilla in any way.

vanilla pod and sugar
Image Credit: gate74, Pixabay

Vanilla Extract Nutrition Facts

Amount Per: 1 tablespoon

Calories: 38
Potassium: 19 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 1.6 g

As you can see, there are no nutritional benefits in vanilla extract alone. It is an addition to recipes, not a standalone snack.

Vanilla Oils

Vanilla like many essential oils are highly concentrated. This means the potency of the plant is reduced to a pure form and condensed into premade bottles. This is extra lethal—so make sure to always keep any pure oil away from your cats.

Vanilla Sprays & Perfumes

Vanilla sprays and perfumes might be worse than straight vanilla. They contain toxins and chemicals that can wreak havoc on your cat’s digestive and nervous system. However, most of these tastes will be unsatisfactory for your cat, warding them away naturally.

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract has high alcohol content, topping out around 34%. If your cat drinks enough of it, it can cause extremely harmful effects on its system.

bottled vanilla extract
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Symptoms of Alcohol Toxicity in Cats

If they had vanilla extract, here are symptoms of alcohol toxicity to check out:

  • Ataxia
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Recumbency
  • Tremors
  • Hypothermia
  • Disorientation
  • Crying
  • Hypotension
  • Respiratory depression
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Death

If your cat exhibits any of these symptoms, rush them to the vet right away. The outcome depends on what they consumed, the amount ingested, the age of your cat, and overall health.

Importance of Keeping Vanilla Away from Cats

The likelihood of your cat drinking enough vanilla extract to cause severe damage is low but still possible. The more likely scenario is that your cat will smell it, possibly taste it, and walk away.

In rarer cases, your cat might indulge. To reduce the risk of exposure entirely, make sure all spices, seasonings, and cooking ingredients are out of reach.

If your cat gets into goodies, it can cause costly vet visits, which can be troublesome if you aren’t anticipating the cost.

vanilla cookies
Image By: Einladung_zum_Essen, Pixabay

What to Do If Your Cat Eats Vanilla

If your cat eats or drinks vanilla, it greatly depends on the form of vanilla they consumed. Some types of vanilla are more dangerous than others—especially depending on the purity and dilution of the vanilla.

Baked Treats & Desserts

Many other additives can be harmful to cats. So, vanilla might not be your biggest concern in this case. If it was a baked good or dessert, do a quick sweep over additional ingredients. However, if nothing looks too alarming other than the vanilla, your cat will likely be just fine with no ill effects, given the very small amount of vanilla called for in most baked goods. Keep an eye out for any symptoms as your cat continues to digest the food.

Some other common pairings with vanilla flavoring that might be harmful include:

  • Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Spices like nutmeg or cinnamon

Extracts, Oils, & Fragrance

If your cat came in contact with any type of oil, fragrance, or extract, you should contact your vet immediately. All of these vanilla items can be very detrimental to your feline’s health.

Cats + Vanilla: Final Thoughts

So, in short, vanilla extract, oils, and fragrance are absolute no-nos. Baked goods and desserts with added vanilla can be non-toxic, but double sweep the ingredients to ensure there’s no other cause for concern.

If your cat got into the vanilla, remember that the type of vanilla matters. If your cat shows any adverse effects, don’t hesitate to get them to your vet. They will need further evaluation at the hands of professionals.

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Featured Image Credit: bineshab, Pixabay

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