Can Cats Taste Spicy Food?

A brown bowl with lots of small red chilli peppers

Can cats taste spicy?

Since cats have heightened senses, we can’t help but ask, can cats taste spicy food? The answer is no. Cats don’t taste spicy food. Although they are known for their keen senses, the taste isn’t one of them.

The smell may still send your kitty running to the spicy food, but the spice flavour itself won’t register to your kitty. Worse, it may just mess with their stomach and irritate their taste buds.

Can cats taste spicy food?

Fun fact: cats are one of the several mammals without any taste receptors for sweetness. Also, they don’t seem to detect spicy flavours. The only thing that will make your cat cringe out of spicy food is the heat from the capsaicin of peppers/chilis. It will give them a burning sensation as well as a gurgling stomach.

Cats’ tongues are programmed to taste bitterness and saltiness. They are made to eat warm and salty meat, a nod to their eating habits in the wild.

Cats can also detect sour tastes.

This is the reason why you should skip the hassle of spicing up your cat’s food. Your cat will not appreciate the taste of nutmeg or cinnamon because they can’t taste it in the first place.

More robust spices like jalapeno or chilli peppers will induce a reaction. But then again, it’s all about the heat and not the taste.

Unlike humans, cats have fewer taste buds. A normal person has an average of 9,000, while cats only have 473 taste buds. Such a small taste range is the reason why kitties are not wise to some flavours.

But how come my cat still eats sweet and spicy food? Well, it will boil down to the fat content of the food. Due to evolution, cats can detect fats and proteins, two nutrients that their body needs to survive in the wild.

Why you should not feed your spicy cat food

Although your cat may seem to tolerate spicy food, you should never give it deliberately. Cats will experience gastrointestinal upset if you feed them spicy food. In many cases, it can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, and weakness.

Since cats can’t taste capsaicin, their tummies are not programmed to process it. This is why they experience such a harsh reaction.

A small amount of spicy food may not be harmful, but you should never risk it as much as possible. Besides, your cat doesn’t need capsaicin. It requires a healthy source of protein, carbs, and just the right amount of fat.

Aside from the digestive problem, cats that have eaten spicy food will have runny eyes and nose. This will cause further irritation, aside from the stomach upset it may experience.

After the harsh exposure to spicy food, your cat will start avoiding food with the same smell or taste. Being creatures of caution, cats learn which food is harmful. Still, some curious kitties may dare for a second strike.

[icon name=”info-circle” prefix=”fas fa-2x”] You may also be interested in our article on Can Cats Eat Beans?

Why does my cat like spicy food?

While spicy food isn’t appealing to most cats, some may appear to be attracted to it. However, it’s not the spice itself, but the following factors:

Food texture. A meat dish with spices (chili con carne, for example) will appeal to cats since it has warm and salty meat. And if the sauce is tolerable, your cat may not fuss about it.

Good aroma. Cats detect food through smell. And if the spicy food has a delicious scent, the cat will endure the mild spice. Some cats also prefer a good-smelling meal to a good-tasting one.

Temperature. Since capsaicin gives off a warm sensation, a small amount may entice your cat to eat. Some picky eats may even yield to a food with a small amount of spice added to make it appear warmer.

Scientists proved that “Development of an aroma attributes lexicon for retorted cat foods”. And spicy foods have more aroma in them, which attracts cat towards them.

Why does my cat like spicy chips?

Most chips are seasoned with a lot of salt, which is why your cat might be attracted to it. Also, if the spice is tolerable, your cat may not even show signs of irritation. But then again, chips are not healthy and must not be integrated into a cat’s diet. Allowing your cat to munch on chips too often may lead to excessive calorie intake and eventual obesity.

What spices are poisonous to cats?

Spices like nutmeg, shallots, garlic, and commercially formulated pumpkin spice are not safe for cats.

For one, nutmeg contains the toxin myristicin. This can lead to disorientation, hallucination, abdominal pain, and other symptoms if taken excessively by pets.

The likes of allspice and cloves are also no-gos because they contain eugenol, which causes liver toxicity among felines.

Aside from that, you should avoid giving your cat garlic. Too much of this spice can lead to a condition called hemolytic anaemia. This condition damages the red blood cells, which will put your cat’s life at risk. So even if you’re adding these spices for the sake of taste on your cat’s food, you must avoid it at all costs.

You also keep a close eye on onions, although it’s five times less toxic than garlic. According to onion toxicity studies conducted on pets, a consumption of 15 to 30 grams for every kilogram of body weight can lead to substantial red blood cell damages.

What to do if your cat eats spicy food

If your cat feasted on spicy food, you must observe it for several hours. If your cat vomits or experiences diarrhoea, consider bringing it to the vet. You should also remove the spicy food so your cat won’t consume more.
The vet will neutralize the stomach upset and replenish the lost fluids on your cat’s body. Remember that continuous diarrhoea and vomiting expose your cat to the risk of dehydration.

Can cats eat jalapenos?

No, jalapenos are not safe for cats and must not be given as part of their meals. It contains too much capsaicin than a house cat can handle. Even humans that are sensitive to spice may have an upset stomach after eating jalapeno.

A cat that has eaten a jalapeno may vomit and suffer from diarrhoea. If you want to increase your cat’s intake of vegetables, you should give it cooked carrots, asparagus, squash, peas, and zucchini instead.

A new study finds out that if you keep pushing your cats to eat spicy foods/peppers, it will lead to severe lower urinary tract infection.

Is it safe to feed chilli tuna to a cat?

No, it would help if you never fed chilli tuna to a cat. Anything spicy is bound to give your cat an explosive bowel movement and severe discomfort. Also, it’s not best to provide cats with canned tuna all the time since it can lead to mercury poisoning.

Besides that, you should only give cats canned tuna made for them, not any human-grade tuna.

Do cats like chilli powder?

No, cats find the smell and mouth feel of chilli powder repulsive. This is why chilli powder is used as a repellent for cats that keep having accidents on the same spot. However, you should use it sparingly as a repellent because it can irritate your cat’s nose if it happens to inhale a lot.


Can cats taste spicy food? The answer is a resounding no. Spicy food will mess with your cat’s tummy and give it the runs. Also, your cat doesn’t have the taste buds to process the complex flavour of spice. If you want to make your cat’s food tastier, focus on saltiness, texture, and smell. Still, it would help if you took it easy with the sodium to prevent taxing your cat’s kidney.


Rochelle is a self-claimed crazy cat lady and proud cat mum to Owlie! She has owned, rescued, and fostered cats throughout her whole life. Rochelle created Cats On My Mind as a hub for likeminded cat parents to get all the information they will ever need to give their fur babies their best life!

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