Vanilla is an extremely common substance found in just about any pantry or cupboard. It comes in two forms: artificial vanilla extract, which is significantly cheaper, and real vanilla extract, which is more expensive but gives foods a more genuine vanilla flavor and odor.
Either way, because it is so common, it’s something that your cat may have run across – either a few drops that got spilled or by sticking their head in whatever you’re making! Can cats eat vanilla?
There’s no straight answer on this really. While vanilla in things probably won’t hurt your cat (though the ‘thing’ may hurt your cat if it’s too high in sugar, for example), straight vanilla can be problematic. Fortunately, it also probably won’t attract your cat. In short, it’s best to leave vanilla (and vanilla anything like pudding or cake) off your cat’s menu.
Do Cats Like Vanilla?
I’ve never had a cat go anywhere near vanilla.
Vanilla tastes quite wretched, by itself, even if it does make other things taste good. It smells good too, but to a cat, it’s probably not as enticing. If a cat does get a drop of vanilla, it’s more likely they went after it out of curiosity than because they like it, and they probably won’t do it again.
Vanilla in foods can be another matter. Some cats like ice cream (which is also a big no), cake, and other things with vanilla in them, usually because of the texture or because they see you eating it. But in that case, it’s not necessarily the vanilla that is attracting them.
Do Cats Hate Vanilla?
Cats who try vanilla may end up not liking it very much! But more likely, they will ignore any spilled drops and go after foods with vanilla in them. This is a very different thing and may or may not result in trouble for your cat, depending on what they ate.
Most foods with vanilla are fine, so long as your cat doesn’t eat it regularly or in high quantities. My cats have always completely ignored vanilla.
Can Vanilla Kill My Cat?
While vanilla flavored foods are usually safe enough (again though, you don’t want to let a cat have too much or have it too often), straight-up vanilla is a problem. This is because vanilla extract contains ethanol.
Ethanol is a type of alcohol and while the quantity is so minute for humans as to be nonexistent, for cats with much smaller bodyweight, it can be downright toxic.
Cats have a nearly impossible time processing alcohol with their liver, and with vanilla extract containing at least 34% ethyl alcohol, a taste of it can quickly lead to alcohol poisoning.
Signs of alcohol toxicity include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Poor coordination
If you really want to let your cat try vanilla, there are alcohol-free vanilla extracts that can be found in health stores. These will be a lot safe for cats to have – though given that cats probably won’t care much about vanilla in the first place, it’s probably not worth spending the money on.
However, if you have a cat who insists on licking vanilla, it’s probably a good idea to get the alcohol-free stuff just to be safe.
The alcohol content is found in both artificial and real vanilla, so either way, you’re looking at risking a drunk and then alcohol poisoned cat. It won’t be immediately fatal, probably, but it won’t be very comfortable either and it’s definitely not something you want to have happen regularly.
As a side note, vanilla extract can also hurt your cat’s sense of smell. The strong odor can overwhelm cats and make it harder for them to discern other scents.
This has been used by some pet owners to hide the smell of a sick cat from the rest of the cats or to introduce a new cat to the house.
We still wouldn’t exactly recommend doing that since it may not work, and it may make your cat very uncomfortable which will still lead to your new cat and old cat not getting along! (‘This is all your fault, you newcomer!’ to quote my cats who have had to deal with new roommates.)
How Much Vanilla is Safe for My Cat to Eat?
Really, no vanilla extract is safe for your cat to eat. It doesn’t take much to cause alcohol poisoning in such a small body. But if your cat snuck a lick, keep an eye on it for symptoms and talk to your vet if your cat starts acting strangely. And then keep the vanilla away!
Is Artificial Vanilla Safe for My Cat?
Artificial vanilla is no safer for your cat than authentic, pure vanilla. It contains the same amount of alcohol in it and furthermore, is often made with flavorings from wood by-products that contain chemicals. (There’s nothing wrong with that for us humans, but a sensitive cat may have more trouble). Artificial vanilla tends to be made from guaiacol and lignin – in other words, chemicals derived from refining oil and gas and wood.
Not a big deal for home bakers, unless you’re making vanilla pudding or custard or cake and you want a real punch of vanilla, but the artificial stuff could make your cat feel sick. And the pure vanilla extract probably won’t attract your cat, though since it also contains a high level of alcohol, that’s just as well.
Can Cats Eat Vanilla in Food?
The main issue with vanilla foods (cake, ice cream, etc), isn’t just the vanilla – it’s the other stuff, primarily the sugar and the dairy.
Too much sugar can quickly lead to a can become obese and increase the odds of contracting diabetes. And dairy products often make cats have digestive problems since most cats are lactose intolerant. This is why we strongly recommend against letting cats have things like ice cream!
Vanilla yogurt on the other hand is popular with many cats. It’s gentler on the stomach, has a nice flavor, and doesn’t have any extras that cause cats problems.
Just be sure to get yogurt with as few added ingredients as possible, no artificial sweeteners, and even opt for lactose-free if possible. But this is about the only vanilla food that is largely safe for cats – other foods tend to have too much sugar to be healthy.
In any event, we wouldn’t recommend letting your cat eat vanilla. The high alcohol content alone means that you risk giving your pet alcohol poisoning and it’s not something that most cats would be attracted to anyway.
Vanilla in baked goods is safe enough, but then you’re contending with a high concentration of sugar. Either way, vanilla is best left away from your cat in favor of foods that are a lot safer.
Does your cat try to eat vanilla?