a cutting of fresh basil on a wooden table top

Can Cats Eat Basil?

Can cats eat basil? Well, they can eat anything they put in their mouth if they are so inclined! Here we will identify if eating basil is dangerous for your cat, why they might actually be interested in eating basil given that they are obligate carnivores and don’t need to be eating plants and look at what might actually happen if your cat munches down on a load of basil. 

Read on to learn if your cat that has just eaten basil is about to roll over and go to kitty heaven or go about their daily business without a care in the world:

Is Basil Safe For Cats Or Toxic?

Is basil safe for cats? YES…..at least according to the ASPCA. Is basil toxic to cats in volume? NO. 

If you are looking for plants safe for cats, basil fits the bill and is a safe choice!

Your cat is safe to chew down on basil – everyday if they like – although we would suggest this would be really unusual for a cat and you should probably take your cat to get checked out if they are tucking in to this much basil!

What about dry basil or fresh basil? What about all the different varieties like Thai, sweet or Italian basil? What about basil essential oils? 

If your cat has dry or fresh basil it is no problem. The type of basil – Thai, sweet, Italian, or any of the other varieties – all are non-toxic to cats. 

Essential oils are another matter. Cats have trouble processing essential oils due to a lack of certain enzymes in their liver. Essential oils high in phenols or salicylates can prove fatally toxic to cats. Basil essential oils are high in these compounds and therefore you should avoid giving or placing these oils on your cat – you might end up poisoning them! 

Do Cats Get Any Benefits From Basil?

Humans eat basil because it is a flavor enhancer that adds interest to otherwise bland meals. Some will say it has all sorts of health benefits such as it is anti-inflammatory, fights depression,  contains decent quantities of vitamin A and K. The truth is, whilst these characteristics are nice additional benefits to have, they are not the main event – the flavor is the reason people around the world use basil.

Clearly, cats don’t care about enhancing the flavor of their meat dinner! Cats simply don’t care to garnish their food so you have to say that the main benefit of basil for humans is of zero consequence or interest for cats!

As for whether your cat might get some kind of health benefits from eating basil, this would be a bit of a stretch. Basically, your cat is unlikely to digest the basil it eats so is unlikely to enjoy any extra vitamin A or K!

The main benefit your cat gets from eating basil is that it is likely to come back the way it went down along with anything else in your cats stomach and this in its own right might be considered a benefit by your cat!

a garden pot with fresh basil and thyme growing in it

Are Cats Attracted To Basil?

Cats’ curious nature probably attracts them to the scent of basil but they are not attracted to basil in the same way that they are attracted to catmint or catnip.

Once the enticing scent has piqued their curiosity, they probably chew down on a leaf to assess the plant and find they can get a satisfying chew off the thick leaves which may draw them to eat or take an occasional bite of a basil plant. 

Nothing about the chemistry of basil is actually irresistible to cats so we can’t really say they are attracted to the plant like they might be with catnip or other mint plants.

Why Is My Cat Eating Basil?

It is entirely speculation, but our best guess is that your cat is eating basil because it has a satisfying chew and because they need some indigestible plant fiber to help an unsettled stomach. 

Your cat has probably learnt that eating vegetation when they have a dicky stomach is a good way to ease the stomach by causing vomiting and ejecting the cause of their stomach discomfort. 

Your cat may have excess hair in the stomach from grooming that won’t pass through their system so needs to vomit the excess hair out. They may instinctively understand that plant fiber is the tool for the job and hence they are tucking into your fresh basil!

What Might Happen If Your Cat Eats Basil?

a small wicker pot containing a basil plant

The most likely outcome of your cat eating basil is that they will either pass the undigested plant material in stools in due course or they may vomit and eject the plant matter from their system.

The chances are that your cat might actually be eating plant matter to ease a minor stomach issue and is actually intending to vomit. 

According to the ASPCA basil in all its forms is non toxic to cats so the worst that can happen is that you find a nasty gift has been left by your cat!

How To Identify Basil

There are a number of different types of basil with slight variations in appearance. Most grocers sell fresh sweet basil these days, so if in doubt go check the stuff out in a shopping aisle near you!

The best way to describe the appearance of basil is that the leaves are generally rounded rather than pointed, tend to have a top surface with a waxy appearance and have a fairly thick leaf. The plant is often a small shrub like plant of a rounded appearance. 

Check out the images on this page – you have probably seen basil before and if you are not familiar the images will act as an aide-memoire.