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Have you noticed that your cat comes running whenever you open a can of olives? Maybe you've even offered an olive to your kitty, only to see them react with unbridled excitement. But should cats eat olives? What about olive oil? Although it can be a lot of fun to share these salty snacks with your cat, you'll want to consider a few things before you do.
Why Do Cats Love Olives?
There are no scientific studies that delve into the mysterious reasons as to why cats go crazy for olives, but there are some theories. Some cats may just love the taste or enjoy the interaction with you during treat time. Others may like the way they feel after eating olives. That's because olives, particularly green olives, contain an active chemical compound that's very similar in structure to a compound found in catnip called nepetalactone, according to Wired. Nepetalactone is the active chemical that is thought to be responsible for the silly behavior that cats exhibit after consuming the leaves, stems and flowers of catnip.
But how does nepetalactone work? As noted by Mental Floss, nepetalactone is an organic chemical that interacts with the vomeronasal organ of a cat. The vomeronasal organ is located at the top of the back of the throat in cats and other mammals, although most scientists agree that humans don't have this organ. The vomeronasal organ is basically a sensing, smelling nose-brain that cats use to detect pheromones, which are sex hormones that cats emit to let other kitties know that they're ready to breed. Nepetalactone stimulates the pheromone receptors in a cat's vomeronasal organ, causing mind-altering effects that make them act loopy, calm or agitated. After consuming nepetalactone, your kitty may roll around, act sillier and more playful than usual and have dilated eyes.
Not all cats act silly after eating catnip or olives, though. Your kitty may enjoy eating olives and experience no changes in their behavior whatsoever after snacking on them.
Can Cats Eat Olives Safely?
In general, olives are not a dangerous food for cats; they're considered safe for them to consume in very small quantities. Eating a tiny olive snack, meaning less than a whole olive, a couple of times a week should be fine for your kitty if they've eaten olives in the past without any negative side effects.
But can cats eat olives and olive oil? They're regarded as healthy snacks for humans, but olives should be considered purely empty-calorie treats for cats. And olive oil may not be a welcome addition in your cat's diet — more to come on that later. Though they may taste delicious and have an amusing effect on your kitty's behavior, olives are known to be high in sodium, and therefore, should make up no more than 10 percent of your cat's daily calories, as with any treat.
Can Cats Have Olive Oil?
Olive oil is considered a healthy part of human nutrition, but can cats eat olive oil? Yes, although it may not be a good idea.
Although olive oil isn't considered poisonous to cats, consuming too much of any fat, including olive oil, may cause your cat to experience diarrhea and vomiting. If you use olive oil for cooking, a tiny piece of food cooked in it shouldn't be a cause for alarm if your cat eats some, as long as your cat doesn't exhibit any adverse health effects afterward.
Safety Concerns About Olives
Generally speaking, there are few safety concerns with cats eating olives or olive oil other than the possibility of mild stomach upset or diarrhea. Avoid giving your kitty olives in the future if you notice any negative side effects after they consume this snack.
Olives are often stuffed with delicious human-friendly treats, like blue cheese, almonds, garlic, sausage or pickled jalapenos. While olives are not considered to be toxic to cats, the items they're stuffed with may be. Avoid giving your cat olives stuffed with anything other than a pimento or olives that have pits, as pits can be a choking hazard or can cause intestinal obstruction if they're swallowed.
The other main concern with olives and olive oil is sodium toxicity. According to the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of California, "Harvested olives must be 'cured' to remove the bitterness in order to make them palatable." This is commonly achieved through brining. Salt-brined olives are high in sodium, and feeding these to your cat on a regular basis may expose them to harmful levels of salt.
Olives aren't a good treat if your cat has health concerns with sodium, such as heart disease or kidney disease. It's also important to note that washing olives with water doesn't reduce the amount of sodium that's present in them. However, healthy cats can typically indulge in a quarter of a large olive or half of a small olive a couple of times a week without experiencing any negative health effects. Always try to limit any snacks separate of your cat's regular food to not exceed ten percent of their daily caloric content. Also, always check with your veterinarian before feeding any food not specifically formulated made for cats.
Dr. Sarah Wooten
A 2002 graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sarah Wooten is a well-known international speaker in the veterinary and animal health care spaces. She has 10 years experience in public speaking and media work, and writes for a large number of online and print animal health publications. Dr. Wooten is also a certified veterinary journalist, a member of the AVMA, and has 16 years of experience in small animal veterinary practice.
In addition to being a speaker, author, veterinarian and co-creator of the wildly popular card game Vets Against Insanity, she co-owns Elevated Eateries Restaurant group in Greeley, Colorado, with her husband of 21 years. Together, they are also raising three slightly feral mini-humans. When it's time to play, she can be found skiing in Colorado, diving with sharks in the Caribbean, or training kenpo karate in her local dojo. To learn more, visit drsarahwooten.com.