Peppers are pretty much everywhere in the American diet. From the sweet bell pepper to the spicy jalapeno, peppers can be found in everything from fajitas to salads and from pizza to soup.
Because we use them so frequently, our feline friends are likely to come across them at some point or another. But can cats eat peppers?
Well, it depends entirely on the type of pepper.
Some species of pepper, such as the bell pepper, are relatively harmless for cats and can be safely eaten in small quantities (though honestly, it’s unlikely that your cat is going to be too interested, as they don’t smell like much and don’t have a strong taste).
Other peppers, such as a jalapeno, can wreak absolute havoc on your cat’s digestive system and are absolutely not safe for cats to eat.
We’ll give you the “4-1-1” on different types of peppers and whether or not you should be sharing them with your furry feline friend.
In this article, we’ll cover the following:
Native to South and Central America, bell peppers are one of the most innocuous peppers in existence. They’re tasty, not at all spicy, and can be found in everything from salads to pizza.
Bell peppers are a popular diet food for humans because they are rich in vitamins and make a good low-calorie snack.
When it comes to felines, though, the health benefits of bell peppers get a little more complicated.
The valuable nutrients present in bell peppers are pretty useless for cats, both because felines naturally produce many of these vitamins on their own and because cats often aren’t able to absorb the vitamins in vegetables.
If you’re feeding your cat a healthy diet of a high-quality cat food such as Blue Wilderness For Adult Cats, which lists meat as the first ingredient and contains limited additives, you don’t need to worry about adding extra vitamins.
Most cats won’t even try to eat a bell pepper, as they don’t have any of the qualities that cats find appealing. They aren’t meat, they don’t have much of an odor, they aren’t sweet or crunchy, and they don’t have a strong flavor.
If your cat does like bell peppers, though, never fear: they aren’t toxic. You can safely feed pieces of bell pepper to your cat without worrying that they will be poisoned.
However, too much bell pepper can make your cat ill, especially if they aren’t used to eating vegetables.
If you want to feed your cat a bell pepper, here are a few things to keep in mind:
The red peppers you see at the grocery store are actually bell peppers. They come in three colors: red, yellow, and green (and sometimes one pepper can be a mix of one or two colors).
Red peppers are probably the most common, and they are nutritionally different than their yellow and green counterparts. Red peppers contain much more beta-carotene that green or yellow peppers do, and twice the amount of vitamin C.
Cats can eat red bell peppers as long as they are only offered once and a while and always in small quantities.
I said that most cats don’t like bell peppers, but this one apparently does!
Yellow bell peppers are a little different than red and green bell peppers from a nutritional standpoint. They contain less vitamin C and beta-carotene than the red and green variety.
In fact, the yellow pepper falls in the middle of the green and red pepper when it comes to “ripeness.”
The red bell pepper is the most mature and was harvested last, the yellow falls somewhere in the middle, and the green pepper is the least mature.
The three colors are essentially in the same in that none of them are toxic to cats. Your cat may be less inclined to eat a yellow pepper than a red one, as red peppers tend to be a little sweeter and more flavorful.
However, if your cat seems to enjoy yellow bell peppers you can give them a little piece now and again as a treat as long as it doesn’t make them sick. But remember, only offer small pieces and only once and a while! Too much of any color bell pepper can give your cat an upset stomach.
Green bell peppers are the least mature variety of bell pepper. While it has fewer vitamins than it’s red and yellow cousin, green peppers still provide over 200% of the daily suggested daily intake of vitamin C for human beings.
Vitamin C isn’t actually that important for cats, as they naturally produce it within their own bodies. While there is no real nutritional benefit to feeding your cat a green bell pepper, if your cat really likes them you can feed them a little bit on occasion as a treat.
If it’s the first time feeding your cat a green pepper, make sure to watch them closely for any signs of digestive problems, such as vomiting or diarrhea.
No! Cat’s absolutely cannot eat jalapeno peppers. Jalapeno peppers, just like many other types of spicy pepper, contain an element called capsaicin, which is the chemical that makes your mouth burn when you eat them.
Cats are not resistant to capsaicin. In fact, they may be even more sensitive to it than we are! Your cat won’t like the flavor and certainly won’t like the pain it causes them.
Worst of all, spicy peppers can make your cat very ill.
If your cat accidentally ingests jalapeno pepper (which is unlikely as most cats will simply spit it out), be sure to offer them plenty of water and bland food and then monitor them carefully for signs of sickness or irritation, such as diarrhea, vomiting, watery eyes, and retching.
Cayenne pepper is another type of pepper that your cat absolutely should not eat. And it’s easier for cats to ingest cayenne pepper than other types of pepper because cayenne is often used in powder form.
If you use cayenne pepper in cooking, whether it be pasta, rice, tacos, or meat, be sure not to let your cat anywhere near it. Your cat is unlikely to smell the spiciness of the cayenne pepper and may take a big bite out of whatever you’ve cooked, especially if it’s meat.
Cayenne pepper can cause a variety of problems for your kitty, including vomiting, diarrhea, watering eyes, and oral and throat pain.
Be sure to also label your kitchen spices carefully so you can keep the cayenne pepper out of your cat’s reach!
While this cat doesn’t seem turned off by spicy food, most cats won’t go near it (which is good, because spicy food can make your cat really sick).
No, kittens should not eat any type of pepper. Even though some varieties such as bell peppers are relatively harmless, peppers have no nutritional benefit for kittens.
Because your kitten is still growing, it’s imperative that you only give them food that will help them grow.
Your kitten’s diet should be made up almost entirely of a high-quality kitten food, such as Blue Kitten Healthy Growth, which lists chicken as the first ingredient and contains no by-product meals.
While most peppers are chock full of vitamins, they are pretty useless to cats from a nutritional perspective as feline digestive systems aren’t made to absorb the vitamins in peppers.
If they like them, safe peppers like bell peppers can make a nice, low calorie treat for your cat.
There is no benefit to feeding spicy peppers, such as cayenne pepper and jalapeno, as they will only make your cat sick.
If you’re looking to add some colorful veggies to your cat’s diet, you may have better luck with corn or peas. Both corn and peas are sweeter than peppers and are ingredients commonly found in commercial cat food and may be better tolerated by kitty digestive systems. Heck, even broccoli can be healthier if you’re looking for a veggie for your cat.
Not all types of peppers are safe for cats. Bell peppers can be harmless as long as they are eaten sparingly and in small quantities, whereas cayenne pepper, jalapenos, and any other spicy variety are definitely not good for your cat and will make them very ill.
And remember, high-quality cat foods, such as Blue Wilderness for Adult Cats, contain all the nutrients your cat needs, so no need to worry about them missing out on extra vitamins if your cat won’t touch a veggie!
Is your cat particularly fond of peppers? Have you found creative ways to give it to them? Let us know in the comments. We want to hear all about it!
After moving to New York City from Rome, Italy, I began working in the nonprofit world. Despite my day job, my passion has always been animals, especially dogs and cats, and writing. What better way to combine the two? I’ve been a pet owner for 15 years, and my menagerie includes dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional hermit crab. My beloved cat, Mozart, who I found as a newborn kitten, sparked my love for felines and is now nearly 15 years old. I am an enthusiastic volunteer at the local ASPCA, where I enjoy spending time with the cats and cleaning up after the dogs. I’ve been writing about pet ownership and care for the past five years.