One of the most popular herbs grown and used in American kitchens is basil. It’s a common ingredient in many Eastern dishes and has a long history of use in alternative medicine.
It’s also simple to cultivate, whether in a backyard garden or indoors in a container.
You may be curious as to whether or not your cat can eat basil if you decide to grow it either indoors or outdoors. Is it good for them to do that? How secure is that?
Is Basil Safe For Cats?
Basil’s flavor and scent are both sweet and sharp. Your cat may be intrigued enough by the aroma to try a bite or two. The ASPCA reports that basil is not toxic to cats.
Commonly known as basil, Ocimum Basilium is actually a Lamiaceae family herb. Catnip, lavender, sage, rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, and mint are all members of the same botanical family.
Keep in mind that when you see the word “basil” in a Western recipe, you’re probably thinking of sweet basil, also known as Genovese basil.
Despite the fact that there are a great many species of basil (over 60),1They’re all related to one another as Lamiaceae. Tulsi (in Ayurvedic medicine) and St. Joseph’s Wort are two other names for basil that you might come across.
St. John’s Wort is the common name for a plant in the Hypericaceae family, but this name is incorrectly applied to another herb called Hypericum perforatum.
Is Basil Good For Cats?
Safe is one thing, but useful is another story entirely.
Basil has many health benefits for humans, including the ability to reduce anxiety and depression and to boost immune function and circulation.
Basil, however, is not good for cats.
Cats are obligate carnivores. Meat is an essential part of their diet because their bodies can’t function without it. Cats can benefit from eating certain plants, fruits, and vegetables, but basil is not one of them.
It’s completely useless as food for your pet’s body. Therefore, it is practically useless as a fresh leaf, cooked spice, or dry, crushed addition to a cat’s diet.
Furthermore, the aroma and flavor of basil is unpleasant to animals. As a result, it won’t gain any additional benefits beyond what it gets from food.
So there’s no point in adding basil to the rest of the ingredients if you’re trying to spice up the homemade cat diet or the raw food.
Are There Health Benefits to Basil in Cats?
Basil is low in calories while packed with healthy nutrients like vitamins A and K, plus iron, manganese, and calcium.1. Human trials have shown mixed results when used to control blood sugar, strengthen the immune system, alleviate stress and anxiety, and improve memory.2.
But perhaps cats would respond similarly to basil. It’s important to remember that felines are strict carnivores who need to consume regular doses of animal protein. Even so-called “carnivores” like humans are actually quite omnivorous.
Thus, the digestive process in humans is distinct from that in cats. Basil may not be easily absorbed by feline stomachs. Because of this, it’s possible that your cat won’t benefit from the basil’s nutritional value the same way you will.
Potential Health Concerns With Feeding Basil to Your Cat
Basil isn’t completely unsafe for cats to eat, but there are still precautions you should take.
Cats, being obligate carnivores, need to get their taurine from animal protein rather than making it themselves. This suggests that feline diets need not include as many greens as previously thought.
The occasional nibble on a basil leaf probably won’t change your cat’s daily nutrition all that much, but consuming too much basil can cause a nutritional imbalance. An overdose of basil can cause similar symptoms in your cat, including vomiting and diarrhea.
Basil allergies are extremely uncommon in cats, but when they do occur, they can cause vomiting, hives, swelling, and even difficulty breathing. Basil essential oil contains synthetic phenols that are toxic to cats and should be avoided at all costs.
What Kind of Basil Can Cats Eat?
Since all varieties of basil are safe for consumption by felines, there is no basil that should be avoided. The flavor and aroma of fresh basil will be milder and less intense than that of dried basil.
Also, the vitamin and mineral content of fresh basil will be lower than that of dried basil.
Therefore, it is possible that a cat’s daily nutrient balance may become more skewed with large amounts of dried basil as opposed to fresh basil, though this has not been studied.
It’s fine for your cat to taste a basil leaf once in a while, but you probably shouldn’t feed it to your cat regularly.
What Will Happen If Your Cat Eats Basil?
Your cat need not worry about eating basil. But if your feline friend eats some basil leaves instead of grass, there’s already something wrong with its digestive system.
Therefore, you should consult your veterinarian for guidance on how to proceed and whether or not a clinic visit is warranted.
Some cats may experience digestive issues after eating basil leaves, though this is extremely unusual.
Some cats may develop a skin rash if they come into contact with fresh basil, despite the fact that food-related plant allergies in cats are extremely uncommon. Call the animal hospital right away if you notice any adverse effects in your pet.
Finally, there’s always the possibility that your cat got a little bit of basil from the table scraps it ate.
Your cat will be fine eating the cooked basil in your meals, just as they are fine eating the fresh basil leaves you use.
Even if you cook your pet’s food to remove any potentially harmful ingredients, there is still a good chance that your pet will still become ill from eating it.
There’s no need to worry if your cat has accidentally consumed a small amount of basil and is showing no signs of illness.
However, it’s still important to let your vet know if you experience any side effects, no matter how minor. There’s no shame in being a worrywart when it comes to your pet, and it’s better to err on the side of caution.