Chives are a common part of most peoples’ kitchens and cooking. Used in a huge variety of recipes, they can be used fresh, dried, as part of herb mixes, used in dressings, and paired with meats and other meals.
So, it’s not impossible that your cat could come across them, especially if you grow them fresh in your yard or in a household planter. The leaves of chives may be of particular appeal to cats as something to chew on. Should you worry about chives and your cat? Can cats eat chives?
Short answer – no. Cats should never eat chives and they are fairly toxic, especially in the long term or in high quantities. If you caught your cat taking a nibble, keep an eye on it for several hours after in case of excessive vomiting, diarrhea, or behavioral issues that signal a need for the vet, and if you think your cat outright ate some, call your vet right away for information. This goes for fresh, dried, cut up, or ground: all chives are toxic to cats.
Do Cats Like Chives?
The reality is that cats are a lot like small children (I swear I have two toddlers at the moment: my youngest son and my new 3-year-old cat…). They get into things they shouldn’t and they don’t really understand the dangers of something that they like. In the case of chives, there are plenty of owners who have had their cats do whatever possible to get at chives – knocking over plants in the way, climbing high places, sneaking outside, you name it.
The reason for this isn’t quite known, but it’s suspected that it’s a combination of getting chives confused for grass (which many cats will chew on, particularly if they have an upset stomach), confusing it for catnip (they may smell similar) and of course, simple curiosity. And cats, being cats, they can get both sneaky and demanding about it, even though you know full well they shouldn’t eat it.
Cats don’t derive any nutrition from plants at the best of times, and chives are downright toxic, so don’t feel bad about keeping them well away from your cat, no matter how much they may beg.
Do Cats Hate Chives
Some cats are not fans of chives at all (or rather they simply don’t care about them). If this is your cat, good! Encourage that lack of attention by keeping them busy with other treats and toys, putting out cat grass to chew on, and keeping the chives well away.
Can Chives Kill Cats?
A small nibble of a chive probably won’t do much harm to your cat, but too many chives or eating it over a long period of time is deadly toxic.
The reason for this is because chives are part of the Amaryllidaceae family – along with garlic, onions, leeks, snowdrops, and some lilies – and they contain an oxidant that is very toxic to cats and dogs alike. In this case, it’s one called the N-propyl disulfide oxidant.
It attacks red blood cells, causing damage. It can also decrease the red blood cell count in cats over time which is fatal, causing hemolytic anemia and cutting off the oxygen supply to the body. It can also relax the heart muscles and dilate blood vessels, causing low blood pressure and circulatory problems.
Chives can also simply cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, lethargy, blood in the urine, and a loss of appetite for both food and water. Ignoring the high risk of hemolytic anemia, these things are bad enough!
This happens with dogs too, but since cats are so much smaller and lighter than most dogs, it takes a lot less time and a lot less exposure. About .5% of your cat’s weight in chives is enough to make a cat seriously ill.
If you notice symptoms like these in your cat, you need to call your vet right away and find out what to do next:
- Abdominal pain or inflammation
- Lethargy, weakness, panting
- Increased heart rate
- Blood in urine
- Mouth irritation
- Wobbly walking
It can take up to several days for these symptoms to present themselves, so be on the lookout if you suspect your cat ate chives at any point.
Smaller cats are more susceptible than larger cats and some breeds are hit harder than others too. It’s best to simply treat chives as completely toxic to all cats at all times and keep it well away from your pet in any form.
How Many Chives Can My Cat Have?
It also doesn’t matter what form the chives are in. Fresh, dried, cut up, baked, cooked, put in seasonings, boiled, roasted, etc., they are always toxic to cats and it really doesn’t take much to make a cat seriously ill.
Common Ways Cats Get Into Chives
If you want to ‘chive proof’ your home, look for the following and hide them or otherwise make them inaccessible:
- Chives growing near your home. It’s wonderful to have fresh chives right outside your door – and in many towns and cities, very common, but if your cat goes outside regularly, they will come into contact with them. Root them out or if possible and you want to, relocate them to a planter well away from your cat’s usual stomping grounds.
- Chives are commonly used in omelets, chicken dishes, pasta, casserole, and sometimes in dressings and of course, as toppings for things like nachos and baked potatoes. Your cat should never nibble on these things if chives are an ingredient.
- Chives left out after cooking. Always put your chives away when you’re done with them. Cats will generally and happily hop onto counters and tables if they think there’s something they’d like to get into. By putting all food away, not only do you keep the food safe for human consumption, but you also keep it away from your cat and discourage your cat from hopping up on the counters since there’s nothing there for them anyway.
Chives may be a great food for humans to eat as it’s tied to helping to prevent cancer, helping with sleep, and is versatile enough to be used in a lot of cooking, but for cats, it’s a big Nope. Along with onion, scallions, garlic, and lilies, chives are simply too toxic in too small an amount to be safely kept anywhere near your pet.
Keep your cat out of your chives and if you do suspect some got eaten, contact your vet right away for advice or to bring your cat in for medical treatment.
Does your cat go after chives? How do you dissuade it?