Can Cats Eat Olives? The Truth About Your Cats Obsession with Olives

can cats eat olives?

Can cats eat olives, and why do they take such an interest in them?

If you've ever seen a cat around olives, you'll know they go crazy for them, especially their scent. Olives are also the perfect paw size for playing, making them fun to chase around the kitchen!

But other than enticing their senses, what is it that makes cats love olives? Let's explore the facts:

  1. Why do cats like olives?
  2. Can cats eat olives?
  3. Differences between green and black olives
  4. Benefits
  5. Safety concerns
  6. Adding olive to your cat's diet
  7. Other uses of olives


Why do Cats Like Olives?

While there's no scientific evidence to conclude why cats like olives, we know of a few theories. Some cats may like olives for their smell, taste and even the way they feel after eating them. Green olives in particular contain a similar chemical compound to nepetalactone which is found in catnip. The effects are much the same, causing some cats to become more playful, silly or outright crazy. So it's no wonder why cats like olives - it's basically the edible equivalent of catnip.

behavioral effects of isoprenoids on cats

Though the majority of cats are attracted to olives, some might just see it as an opportunity to play, while some might show a complete lack of interest in them. Every cat's preferences and biology are different. If your cat doesn't show an interest in catnip or valerian, they might not be interested in olives either.


Can Cats Eat Olives?

Dr. Sarah Wooten, a certified veterinary journalist claims that it's okay to feed your cat olives in very small quantities (less than a whole olive) a couple of times a week if they've eaten them before without any side effects. Generally speaking, olives are not toxic for cats but they shouldn't make up any significant portion of a cat's diet considering they're typically high in sodium and are considered empty calories. 

Can Cats Eat Green Olives?

Green olives are alluring to cats because of a unique chemical compound they contain, isoprenoids. As with the active compound found in catnip, isoprenoids bind to receptors in cat's vomeronasal organ resulting in common behavioral changes. Green olives are an acceptable treat when given in moderation - a couple of days per week - as long as it's less than a whole olive each time.

It's also best to avoid options that contain preservatives and additives. Plain, unsalted green olives are always the best choice. 

Can Cats Eat Black Olives?

Like green olives, black olives are also non-toxic to cats but can contains pits, which can be dangerous if ingested. 

Contrary to green olives, this kind is already ripe when picked, so it is cured differently. In preparation and packing, this means that black olives usually contain more oil and less salt. If given in moderation and in it's most natural form, black olives can be a great treat for cats.


Benefits of Olives For Cats

Olives are a great addition to our diet due to their high concentration of different vitamins such as C, A, and E. Cats however, don't see as much of a benefit. Cats can produce vitamin C and get the remaining vitamins they need from good quality protein. Not to mention that there are healthier fruit and vegetable options for cats than olives. From a nutritional point of view, cats do not need olives in their diet, but they might benefit from them in a medical sense. This opinion, however, is not consistent among veterinarians and pet nutritionists.

Besides vitamins, olives have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties responsible for destroying free radicals that can cause cell damage and lead to various diseases like cancer. Moreover, anti-inflammatory foods can help to ease some symptoms of arthritis in cats. The addition of these foods can help felines to regain mobility by reducing their pain. A veterinarian will be best to advise you what benefits, if any, olives can have for your cat. 


Safety Concerns

Generally speaking, olives in small quantities don't pose a health risk to healthy cats, but consumption in larger quantities can be harmful. Get familiar with the risks before deciding to feed your cat olives:

  1. High sodium content - Olives are frequently preserved in a high-sodium liquid, which can cause sodium poisoning. All of the associated symptoms are extremely dangerous since they are associated with kidney failure, which is fatal for cats. Some symptoms of sodium positioning are:
    • Loss of appetite
    • Tremors
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Constipation
    • Extreme thirst or dehydration
    • Excessive urination
    • Seizures (in severe cases).
  2. Upset StomachSimilar to adult cats, feeding olives to kittens can upset their stomachs due to the laxative effect from the fiber present in this fruit. Young cats can as a result, be more susceptible to diarrhea, which leads to dehydration and a consequent emergency trip to the vet.
  3. Insulin Sensitivity - Additionally, if you have a diabetic cat, you should keep him away from olives. Some diabetic cats can suffer from insulin sensitivity when consuming olives.
  4. Choking HazardOlives can also be dangerous if they still have pits since cats can choke on them. Removing the seeds before, or keeping a close eye while the cat is nibbling, is the best way to ensure he is safe.


Adding Olive to Your Cat's Diet

Raw olives are one of the ways that cats can indulge, but cat food and cat treats that include olive or olive flavoring can also help satisfy an olive craving.

Another option worth considering is olive oil, which provides benefits other than those we've already discussed. 

Olive Oil

Like the fruit, olive oil is also non-toxic to cats and can be given as a diet supplement. Infrequently and in small portions (a tablespoon at most), it is said that the oil can help to improve their immune system, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and help with constipation and hairballs.

Since olive oil doesn't contain a high percentage of omega 3 or 6 fatty acids, it's great for kittens that don't easily digest them and pets who suffer from intestinal issues.

Opt for 100% extra virgin oil since it's less acidic, not chemically treated, or mixed with other oils, ensuring that it is safe for cats to consume.

Like olives, giving too much olive oil to your cat can do more harm than good. One of the main concerns is diarrhea.


Other Uses

cat in olive tree

Besides adding olives or olive oil to your cat's diet, your cat can also benefit from other parts of the plant and uses. Olive oil in particular can be a great remedy when used as an ointment to treat some common cat problems.

Dry or itchy skin can be uncomfortable and painful for your pet and ultimately dangerous if they keep scratching the area. As with coconut oil, massaging the area with a tad of olive oil can help hydrate the skin and reduce the need to scratch. 

Another use for olive oil is to use it as ear cleaner. Though it's not advisable for frequent use or to use it as a standard cleaner for ear mites, if you're in a pinch and can't buy an off the shelf product, it does the trick. A few drops will help with cleaning and killing those nasty mites.


The Olive Plant

Besides the fruit and its oil, the leaves, wood, and branches are beneficial for cats.

Some felines love to munch on olive leaves and branches. This behavior helps to clean their teeth and gives them a smooth and shiny fur coat.

Aside from that, they are also more prone to scratch, roll, and nibble on olive wood pieces, since it has chemical compounds that resemble catnip, just like the olive fruit.


Final Recommendations

Olives and the plant itself aren't harmful to your cat and can provide benefit on a medicinal level. Consumption of olives and olive oil, and external use of the plant and oil can promote healthier teeth, nails, and fur if your pet shows interest.

Because cats are natural carnivores, excess consumption of any non-meat food source such as olives can be dangerous.  

As with everything diet related, consult with your vet before experimenting with your cat's diet. 


To learn more about household foods cats can eat, check out:

Why Do Cats Like Fish? A Deep Look at History & Science

Can Cats Eat Coconut? A Coconut Guide for Cats

Can Cats Eat Cucumbers? Benefits and Cautions Explained


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