Have you spotted your cat munching down on sage in your yard or caught them nibbling away at some sage on your windowsill? Maybe you have had a little panic and thought “can cats eat sage?” or “is sage safe for cats?”. Maybe you are planning to do some garden work or are getting a new cat and want to double-check on what needs pulling up in your yard?
We go through some of the finer points of cats and sage. We tell you if sage is toxic to cats, what benefits if any they might get from sage and what you need not worry about and what could be a potentially big problem.
Are Cats Attracted To Sage?
Many cats find a chemical, nepetalactone, absolutely irresistible. This is the chemical found in catnip, catmint, valerian root, silver vine, and Tatarian honeysuckle that absolutely blisses them out. The chemical has almost narcotic effects on them.
Sage does not contain this chemical. Sage has no overriding physical or chemical properties that should be attractive to a cat.
If you find your cat is attracted to sage it is likely because either the odor or texture of the herb has stimulated their curiosity, and, like an experimenting baby, they are just trying out the different flavors and textures that the herb gives them.
As a cat they have no instinctive use for sage.
Is Sage Safe For Cats?
According to the ASPCA your cat can ingest sage with no toxic effects. Generally, sage is safe for cats.
However, whilst dried sage or fresh sage that you might grow in your garden is deemed non toxic to cats should they have a bit of a curious chew or strip off a few leaves, you should be careful not to expose your cat to sage essential oils either directly or through a diffuser.
Your cat is missing the liver enzymes to break down the chemicals found in essential oils and can end up with a toxic dose if exposed to essential oils.
Does Sage Benefit Cats?
Humans have used sage for flavor in dishes for thousands of years. We have also used the herb in medicine to treat various conditions.
Sage is thought to be helpful in treating digestive conditions such as excessive gas, diarrhea, bloating, and heartburn as well as useful for treating conditions that cause depression, excess perspiration, and hot flushes. It has been found to help with memory and mental performance as well as to aid pain relief and help treat lung cancer – all in all sage is a bit of a wonder herb!
However, none of these benefits of sage have actually been tested on cats so we can’t say for sure that your cat derives any of these benefits when they have a nibble on a few sage leaves in the garden or on your kitchen windowsill.
If your cat has developed a habit of chewing on a bit of sage it is likely that they are aiming for the same effects they get from grass when they eat a few blades. They likely have an unsettled stomach and intuitively understand that a bit of plant fiber will either help them vomit the offending contents up or act like a scouring brush passing through their system to get things operating properly again! They may just have excess hair in their system that needs help moving on or ejecting!
Is Burning Sage Safe For Cats?
There is a school of thought that finds that smudging an area in the home with sage brings beneficial effects to the home. Basically, if you are not aware of this practice, the idea is that you burn some sage within the home (smudging) to change the energy within the home to a more positive balance.
Cats have a far more sensitive upper airway tract and set of lungs than we humans do. Sometimes you hear stories of cats saving sleeping family members from house fires by waking them up before the homeowners have even identified their house is burning down. This is because the cat is usually very sensitive to smoke.
Burning sage, given that your cat has such sensitive airways, is not a good idea whilst your cat is around. You should carry out such activities with your cat well clear of the home. This will reduce the risk of the cat developing asthma over time or suffering at the time from irritated airways.
The same advice goes for burning sage incense around your cat. Try to avoid burning incense when your cat is in the home. Even though the smoke may appear very light there may be invisible vapors that irritate and inflame the cats respiratory tract.
Cats and Sage
So, there you have it. Fresh sage or dried sage in small quantities is no problem for your cat. Even larger quantities of fresh stuff are nothing to worry about.
The situation is not the same for burning sage, sage incense or sage essential oils. Burnt sage or incense will irritate your cats airways and cause them distress and potentially long term harm (asthma).
Essential oils are a big no-no for cats as they can’t process the ketones, phenols, and other toxic chemicals in the essential oils.
Medicating your cat with fresh sage is to be avoided – there is no evidence they get the same benefits from sage medicinally as we do…