Can Cats Eat Mint? Herbs That are Toxic and Safe for Cats

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Can cats eat mint? The popular mint grown for human consumption can be poisonous to cats in large enough amounts. While cats can eat catnip, also known as catmint, other varieties of mint are toxic to cats. 

There are several different varieties of mint, including peppermint and spearmint. These are toxic to cats if they eat enough of the plant. Even a small nibble on the leaf can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. To prevent problems, cat owners should avoid growing mint in a pet-friendly yard.

This article will answer the question, ‘can cats eat mint?’ We’ll look at different varieties of mint and discuss whether having a nibble is likely to produce symptoms in your pet.

Differences between catmint and other varieties of mint

can cats eat mint

Some people get confused between catmint and common mint varieties that are used to flavor foods. That’s why the question, ‘can cats eat mint?’ is often asked. There are significant differences between catmint and mint, the main one being the compounds they contain and why one is toxic to cats while the other is given as a treat to stimulate their senses.


Mint has the botanical name mentha and is part of the plant family Lamiaceae. There are wide varieties of mint, including hybrids and cultivars, and it’s thought that there may be as many as 20 varieties. These are commonly referred to as garden mint or simply mint.  

Mint is a very easy herb to grow, and it spreads rapidly. It can be used to flavor various meals and is commonly used to make a mint sauce which can accompany a roast meal.  

This type of mint has a strong scent and is toxic to cats if they eat enough of the plant. According to the ASPCA, the plant is toxic due to the essential oils it contains. These oils are also harmful to dogs and horses. 

Unfortunately, many cats seem to be attracted to the smell of mint as it’s similar to catnip and they will roll around beside the plant. This isn’t necessarily a problem as long as they aren’t in the habit of chewing on the leaves. 


Catnip is often called catmint because the plant looks fairly similar to mint and is also part of the Lamiaceae family. The plant is also sometimes called catwort and has the botanical name Nepeta cataria. It is a stimulant that makes cats hyperactive and playful in small amounts. However, if a cat eats too much catnip, it can cause adverse reactions and is actually considered toxic. You should only give your cat a couple of pinches of dried catnip at a time. 


Spearmint is also toxic to cats if they eat enough of the leaves or stems. While the plant may be appealing to some cats, it’s generally considered less appealing than mint or catmint. 


Peppermint is also toxic to cats, but most felines hate the plant’s smell. It’s well known that peppermint repels cats, so if you have a peppermint plant in your yard, your cat will likely keep away from it. Peppermint contains a substance called Salicylate, which is toxic to cats, so you should keep your pet away from the plant. 

Can cats eat mint?

As mentioned above, cats love catmint, which can make them hyper or sleepy depending on the cat’s personality, age, and dose. Mint plants also contain nepetalactone, which is the active compound in catnip. For this reason, your cat may be attracted to mint in your herb garden. 

Mint grown for human consumption is toxic to cats and should be avoided. If your cat has had a nibble of the plant in your yard, he may suffer from symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea.

If you think your cat has eaten a large amount of mint, you should watch for any signs of an adverse reaction. If your cat appears to be having difficulty breathing or vomiting after eating a large amount of mint, seek immediate veterinary attention. 

Common symptoms of mint toxicity include:

  • Vomiting and an upset stomach
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration and increased thirst


Most cats recover well after consuming mint as long as they have the correct veterinary attention. It’s often necessary to either induce vomiting or pump a cat’s stomach after they have eaten a toxic plant. The vet will then give the cat fluids and medication to help with recovery. Your pet may need to be observed by a vet for a few days to ensure they haven’t become too dehydrated or suffered any other adverse reactions from the plant. 

Which herbs are toxic to cats?

There are many herbs that can be too toxic to cats, even in small amounts. The most well-known toxic seasonings include onion and garlic. You should avoid growing the following herbs if you have cats:

  • Onion, garlic, chives
  • English chamomile (also known as garden/Roman or true chamomile)
  • St John’s Wort
  • Oregano
  • Tarragon
  • Lemongrass

Which herbs are safe to grow in a pet-friendly yard?

While the above herbs should be kept out of the reach of cats as they are known to either be toxic or cause irritation to pets, the good news is that there are many herbs you can grow in a kitchen garden. 

The following herbs can be added to your pet-friendly yard; many can even be used to treat medical ailments in your pets, although you should always seek veterinary advice if your cat is suffering from a severe condition. 

  • Valerian
  • Witch hazel
  • Echinacea
  • Licorice root
  • Dandelion root
  • Calendula
  • Goldenseal
  • Basil
  • Cilantro/ Coriander
  • Dill
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary


Valerian is considered an alternative to catnip as it can make cats feel energetic and improve general well-being. The herb has the opposite effect on humans and is used for relaxation. 

Witch hazel

Witch hazel can be used to help with skin irritation and is often used as an ingredient in natural cat and dog shampoos. It can be beneficial for feline acne and helps to soothe red and irritated skin. 


Echinacea is a herb that can help to support your cat’s immune system. It’s particularly beneficial for cats who suffer from respiratory infections. 

Licorice root

Licorice root has many uses, from soothing itchy skin to help improve digestion. It also helps to soothe mucus membranes in cats that are suffering from cold or flu symptoms or respiratory infections. 

Dandelion root

Dandelion root is also sometimes referred to as cat’s claw. It has many beneficial properties and can help improve a cat’s immune system, detoxify the liver, and improve digestion. 


Calendula can be used to help wounds heal as it has anti-inflammatory properties. 


Goldenseal is anti-bacterial and can be used to treat wounds and skin conditions. 

Culinary herbs

Culinary herbs, including basil, cilantro/ coriander, dill, thyme, and rosemary, won’t necessarily provide any benefits to your cat’s health. Still, they can be grown in a kitchen herb garden, and you won’t need to worry if your cat has a nibble. 

Can cats eat mint: Final thoughts

Although many herbs are safe for cats, some can be toxic, and it’s best to avoid them in a pet-friendly yard. Mint is toxic to cats and can cause symptoms even if a small amount has been consumed. Other herbs that should be avoided include oregano, tarragon, savory, and lemongrass.

Catmint, commonly called catnip, is safe for cats to eat in moderation and can be a healthy treat for your pet. Always keep an eye on your cat when they’re enjoying catnip, and if you have any concerns, consult with your vet.

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