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Is It Safe For My Cat To Eat Olives?



If you’ve ever dropped an olive on the floor, you may have been surprised by how much your cat loved batting it around on the floor.

Cats are naturally drawn to olives (more on that below!), and some may even eat them — but it’s important to be careful she doesn’t eat too many, since they can make her sick.

The Dodo reached out to Dr. Patricia Squillace, chief medical officer at Veterinary Care Group, to find out what happens if a cat eats too many olives, and why cats seem to like them so much!

Are olives bad for cats?

A little bite of olive here and there probably won’t harm your cat — but too many can cause stomach problems, or worse, because they’re so high in sodium.

“Olives are not toxic to cats, but there are reasons to limit or avoid feeding them to your cats,” Dr. Squillace told The Dodo. “Olives are frequently in a brine and are therefore high in sodium. So, they have the potential, if ingested in large enough quantities, to cause, at best, stomach problems and/or diarrhea and, in worst cases, metabolic imbalances that could potentially be fatal.”

Olives can also come prepared with other ingredients that can potentially be toxic for your cat (like garlic), so make sure any olives you give her are plain.

“Many olives are ‘stuffed’ with foods that may cause additional problems or may, in fact, be toxic,” Dr. Squillace said.

You’ll also want to keep pitted olives away from her, too.

“In addition, many olives have pits, which could be a choking hazard,” Dr. Squillace said.

Why do cats like olives?

You might find that your cat absolutely goes bonkers over green olives. And the reason for this is likely because green olives contain isoprenoids, which are really similar to an active chemical in catnip known as nepetalactone. (Nepetalactone is the chemical in catnip that causes cats to be attracted to the plant.)

Green olives aren’t the only food that cats are attracted to. Like green olives, pimentos can also contain isoprenoids.

All cats are different, though, so not every cat will react strongly to olives (or pimentos, or even catnip) – so don’t be concerned if your cat is totally unfazed by your jar of olives.

Can cats have olive oil?

Olive oil is super healthy for humans — but like olives, your cat can get sick if she eats too much.

“As with olives, olive oil is not toxic to cats; however, the amount given needs to be monitored,” Dr. Squillace said.

Olive oil is a fat, which can cause stomach problems when eaten in large quantities.

“Too much can cause vomiting and diarrhea.” Dr. Squillace said.

When it comes to how much olive oil you can give your cat, “never exceed 1 teaspoon,” Dr. Squillace said.

How many olives would it take to make a cat sick?

The amount of olives it would take to make a cat sick depends on several factors.

“These include the cat’s age, weight and any health problems [i.e., heart or kidney disease], as well as the type of olive fed,” Dr. Squillace said.

If your cat really likes olives, though, and you want her to enjoy them safely, be sure to remove the pit and feed sparingly and in small quantities.

“Although olives are not harmful, there are probably better treats and should be given only in very small portions,” Dr. Squillace said.

(And if your cat does manage to eat a bunch of olives somehow, make sure to call your vet!)

In general, treats shouldn’t make up more than 10 percent of your cat’s diet. And always check with your veterinarian before adding a new food to your cat’s diet.