Do Cats Hate Peppermint?

Cats are renowned for their superior sense of smell. They have over 200 million odor sensors compared to a human’s five million sensors.  This makes their sense of smell at least 14 times better than ours. This causes cats to hate many strong smells including citrus, cleaning products,  cayenne pepper and peppermint. 

Do cats hate peppermint?

Yes, most cats hate peppermint. Most cats do not like peppermint since it contains salicylate, an ingredient that is toxic to cats. Inversely, some cats are drawn to the smell of peppermint because it has nepetalactone-mimicking compounds that are present in catnip. Mint plants are considered harmful for cats except for catnip and catmint. 

Thankfully, peppermint only contains few traces of salicylate and it takes a big amount of the plant before cats could become adversely affected. However, hypersensitive cats may suffer skin irritation if they eat or come in contact with peppermint. 

Can cats eat peppermint?

No, it is not ideal for cats to eat peppermint especially if it is in the form of essential oil. Peppermint oil is highly concentrated and you should it out of the reach of your cat away from it. 

Signs and symptoms of peppermint oil poisoning 

  • Your cat is wheezing and experiencing labored breathing. 
  • Your cat is drooling. 
  • Your cat is coughing or sneezing. 
  • Your cat is lethargic. 
  • Your cat has a lack of appetite. 
  • Your cat has an increased heart rate. 
  • Your cat has a fever and is experiencing tremors. 
  • Your cat is wobbling and she may also be unresponsive. 

The nervous system of cats is sensitive to peppermint oil and some cats may contract aspiration pneumonia. Symptoms include fast or labored breathing, fever and erratic heart rate. Cats that have ingested something containing peppermint may develop an upset stomach, liver damage and problems with the central nervous system.  Just a drop of peppermint essential oil on your cat could make her unresponsive or lethargic. 

What is peppermint?

Peppermint plants have a high menthol content. They are a hybrid between spearmint and watermint. These plants are cultivated because of their health benefits for people and are often used as tea. The actual plants only contain low levels of salicylate but peppermint oil which is used for aromatherapy or in candy contains concentrated formulation which could harm cats. Salicylate is also found in aspirin. 

However, while some cats hate peppermint, some are attracted to the plants because it contains compounds similar to nepetalactone.  It is the active chemical found in catnip which cats love.

Spearmint and other hybrid mints contain lower levels of salicylate compared to peppermint and they are not as toxic for cats. 

Conclusion 

Cats are endowed with a superior sense of smell that is 14 times better compared to a human’s sense of smell.  Consequently of the intensity of their senses, some scents could prove too much for them. Take, for instance, the smell of peppermint. Most cats hate peppermint because it contains salicylate, a chemical that is toxic for them. 

However, some cats also like peppermint because it has nepetalactone-mimicking compounds that are also found in catnip that cats adore.

Image: istockphoto.com / gurinaleksandr