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Home > Cats > Can Cats Eat Cinnamon? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Can Cats Eat Cinnamon? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

cinnamon spice

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

Veterinarian, DVM

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

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Cinnamon is an antioxidant-rich spice with some convincing evidence-based health benefits for humans. The powdered variety can offer us anti-inflammatory properties, while its essential oil counterpart is useful in homemade mouth rinses or as a skin-soothing topical treatment. Seeing how powerful cinnamon can be for human health, you may wonder if its benefits translate similarly for your pets.

Unfortunately, the answer to this is no. While the ASPCA says that cinnamon is non-toxic to cats, it’s still not something you should offer your cat.1 Additionally, certain forms of cinnamon cause absolute havoc on your cat’s health. Read on to learn more.

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Can Cats Eat Cinnamon?

As our introduction mentions, the ASPCA says cinnamon is non-toxic for cats, but just because something isn’t toxic for your pet doesn’t mean they should have it. Cats are obligate carnivores, requiring a diet consisting primarily of animal tissues. Cinnamon serves absolutely no purpose in the feline diet.

While the ASPCA says cinnamon is non-toxic, it isn’t as black or white for the Pet Poison Helpline. Their website suggests that the question of cinnamon toxicity may come down to the route of exposure.

Cats can be exposed to cinnamon in many ways, including:

  • Chewing on the ornamental tree that is sometimes kept as a house plant
  • Eating food meant for humans that have been seasoned with the spice
  • Licking or eating cinnamon sticks left in cider
  • Eating the spice directly
  • Consuming cinnamon essential oil
  • Encountering cinnamon essential oil on the body

While it will take a relatively large amount (one teaspoon) of powdered cinnamon to cause problems for your kitty, even a small amount of the essential oil can be problematic. Large doses of cinnamon powder or exposure to the essential oil can cause low blood sugar, liver disease, gastrointestinal upset, and heart rate changes.

cinnamon sticks tied up
Image by: UlrikeLeone, Pixabay

What Is the Problem With Cinnamon?

So, you know your cat probably shouldn’t be allowed in your spice drawer or a sample of your famous cinnamon rolls, but what is it about cinnamon that causes issues? The problems that can arise will depend upon the route of exposure.

Ingestion

Cats don’t have the liver enzyme necessary to metabolize the compounds of cinnamon. This can lead to problems with indigestion. Cinnamon contains a naturally occurring compound known as coumarin, sometimes used in the medical world as a blood thinner. An excessive dose of cinnamon could then conceivably cause blood clotting issues for your pet.

Additionally, ingesting powdered cinnamon could cause a reaction in your cat’s mouth because of the spices’ aromatic compounds that give it its spicy bite. This can look like redness, irritation, and salivation.

Cinnamon essential oil is poisonous to cats when ingested. Your cat doesn’t have to lick the oil out of the bottle to be exposed to it. When you diffuse essential oils, the vapors become airborne, landing on objects, people, and pets in your home. When your kitty goes to groom himself, he’ll be exposed to the toxic components of the oil.

Signs of essential oil poisoning include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Muscle tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Burns on the lips, gums, or skin
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Lethargy

Inhalation

Cats can inhale cinnamon through a pile of spilled powder or cinnamon essential oil vapors. Your kitty may exhibit signs such as coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing if he has a respiratory reaction to inhalation.


Skin Exposure

As mentioned above, your kitty can have a reaction if his skin or fur comes into contact with cinnamon, especially in its essential oil form. It can act as an irritant, causing signs like rash, redness, and even burns.

Cinnamon powder and sticks on wooden table
Image by: New Africa, Shutterstock

My Cat Was Exposed to Cinnamon. Now What?

The likelihood of your pet experiencing a toxic reaction to powdered cinnamon is quite low unless he’s been exposed to excess amounts. As mentioned above, he’d have to eat about a teaspoon of cinnamon to see any toxic effects. While a teaspoon may not sound like a lot, if you were unfortunate enough to try the viral “cinnamon challenge” trend of the 2010s, you know how impossible it is to eat a teaspoon of cinnamon. No cat we can think of would subject themselves to such torture.

Cinnamon essential oil, however, is an entirely different story. Rapid diagnosis and treatment are crucial if your kitty has come into contact with your oils. Call your veterinary clinic or the 24/7 Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680 for advice. If the oil has spilled onto his fur, clean it off quickly using your liquid dishwashing detergent and then contact your vet.

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A Word on Essential Oils

Essential oils can be toxic to cats whether applied to their skin, inhaled, or given orally. Exposure to oils can cause liver damage, liver failure, seizures, and even death.

If you must use essential oils in your own healthcare regimen, keep them far away from your pets. Reconsider whether diffusing the oils is the right choice for your pet-friendly household.

Never use essential oils on your pet unless you have been instructed to do so by your veterinarian.

What About Nutmeg?

nutmeg spice
Image Credit: scym, Pixabay

Nutmeg and cinnamon are cozy, comforting spices that are often used simultaneously. If your cat has gotten into your candied yam or homemade eggnog prepared with these spices, it’s good to know what to expect.

Nutmeg contains a toxin known as myristicin. While a small amount of nutmeg will unlikely cause a serious issue for your kitty aside from gastrointestinal upset, exposure to large amounts can be dangerous. Cats suffering from myristicin toxicity will exhibit signs such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • High body temperature

Treatment for nutmeg intoxication will be primarily supportive care. Your cat may need its stomach flushed if large amounts were ingested.

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Final Thoughts

While the ASPCA says cinnamon is non-toxic, the question of toxicity may not be so black and white. Certain routes of exposure, such as cinnamon essential oil inhalation or ingestion, can be extremely dangerous. If you must use essential oils topically on yourself, keep them out of reach of your pets.

Your kitty may not have any long-lasting effects from eating a lick of cinnamon powder, but it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on your pet whenever he’s around foods meant for humans. Call your vet if you notice him exhibiting any strange behaviors or concerning signs.


Featured Image Credit: 5389939, Pixabay

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