close up of a bush of oregano growing in a garden

Is Oregano Safe For Cats To Eat?

Oregano is a herb that is used widely in cooking (Meditteranean and Mexican dishes) and is believed to have a wide range of medicinal uses. Lots of herbs have no impact on our cats and they are perfectly safe for cats to be around. But what about oregano? Is oregano safe for cats? Can cats eat oregano and get some of these medicinal benefits that this magical herb brings to us humans?

Read on to get the low down on oregano and find out what benefits it might have for your cat.

What Does Oregano Look Like?

Oregano is a perennial herb that grows to 80cms high. It is a member of the mint family and has broad opposite leaves that are usually about 4cms long. The herb flowers with a purple flower. Check out the pictures to help you identify fresh oregano in your yard.

Is Oregano Safe For Cats?

Oregano is not safe for cats. According to the ASPCA, oregano is toxic to cats. Unlike basil, sage, and thyme this herb cannot be given to cats either orally or topically. Whether the herb is fresh or dried is irrelevant – it is toxic every which way!

What makes this herb so toxic to my cat? Oregano contains phenols and terpinoids which are toxic essential oils for cats. Cats have livers which are missing some of the enzymes that us humans have and as a result they can’t break down these toxic oils safely and eject them from their system. The oils simply build up and poison your cat.

Is My Cat Attracted To Organo?

Luckily your cat is unlikely to be attracted to oregano growing in your yard or on your windowsill. The odor is usually off-putting and the taste is bitter – this is usually enough to keep your cat away from oregano without you having to take much action.

However, cats are curious, and if your cat overcomes the off-putting odor they may end up having a nibble of oregano. If they do keep a close eye on them and check out our advice further down the page.

There is nothing chemically enticing about oregano to your cat. It does not contain the active ingredients of catnip or cat thyme and should not draw your cat in. 

a bowl of freshly chopped green oregano in a wooden bowl on a kitchen table

What Are The Benefits Of Oregano?

For humans, oregano has culinary and medicinal benefits. From a culinary perspective, it is all about flavor and jazzing up mundane ingredients!

From a medicinal point of view, oregano is believed to have many positive qualities. Oregano is purported to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is said to aid pain relief, improve gut health and lower cholesterol. It is even thought to have cancer-fighting properties!

Part of the issue for cat owners is that they would like to bestow some of these reputed medicinal benefits onto their cat and end up poisoning our little furry friends!

Most cat poisonings from oregano are actually instigated by the cat guardians and their well-meaning attempts to treat their cat rather than from the cat chowing down on the fresh oregano in your yard or on your windowsill!

“It sounds like this stuff is terrible – does it have any uses for our cats?” Well, kind of. Check out our page on home remedies for fleas on cats. It turns out that cat fleas can’t stand oregano! They particularly hate the compound carvacrol that is found in oregano. The problem is you can’t put this stuff on your cat or get them to eat it. We recommend either purchasing a flea collar made with natural ingredients which will include oregano or devising your own – but seriously, before taking the risk of devising your own, try the more kitty friendly natural flea treatment solutions available first like lemon (citric acid) or lavender sprays!

Is Oregano Oil Safe For Cats?

Whilst none of the forms of oregano are safe for your cat you can be absolutely positive that the very worst, most dangerous form of oregano to give to your cat is indeed oregano oil. Oregano oil is in no way safe for cats. Oregano oil is highly toxic to cats.

Put simply this is the most concentrated form of the poisons in oregano. A cat chomping down on a few sprigs of fresh oregano will probably just suffer a bit of mild sickness and diarrhea until the poisonous compounds have been ejected from their system. 

A cat that comes into contact with the oil will have a much bigger problem on their paws!

What Are The Symptoms Of Oregano Poisoning?

If your cat has just had a little nibble of some oregano they are likely going to suffer from a minor, mild stomach upset. They are going to probably throw up and suffer from some diarrhea and get some mouth irritation going on. 

If your cat has been exposed to a larger amount of oregano either by having oil spread topically or ingested with food or by eating a rather large batch of the stuff you can expect to see some really nasty side effects.

A bad poisoning by oregano can be fatal to your cat, but before they get to that stage they are likely going to suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, excessive wind/bloating, oral irritation, skin irritation, shallow and troubled breathing, difficulty walking and finally collapse. Not good.

What Should I Do If My Cat Eats Oregano?

If your cat has just had the odd leaf of oregano then monitor the situation and see what happens. The odd leaf is likely to cause a mild adverse effect that will pass shortly with just a bit of sickness.

If your cat has had exposure to a larger amount of oregano, perhaps you used essential oils of oregano by mistake or added oregano to your cat’s food hoping to help your cat out before you understood the dangers, then your cat needs professional treatment by a veterinarian.

The vet will check out all your cats vital signs – temperature, heart rate, breathing rate. If the situation is serious they will probably carry out blood and urine tests to establish just how much poison is in your cats system and to establish if the liver is damaged or not. 

From there your vet will offer supportive treatment to help your cat see off the danger. They will likely put your cat on an IV to try to wash the poisons out of the system and if your cat is having trouble breathing they will offer oxygen and sedatives to calm them and give them the best chances at recovery. If things are this bad your cat is looking at several days treatment at the vet to pull through.

Outcomes vary depending on the degree of poisoning and your cat’s reaction. If caught early enough your cat may make a total recovery. If the poison is a high concentration and it has had time to carry out its work your cat, if it survives, may end up on special diets due to liver damage.

Oregano is seriously toxic to cats – be on alert if you have this stuff in your yard or use the essential oil around your house!