Can Cats Eat Pesto? 9 Facts About It

You can put pesto on just about anything, from pasta to sandwiches to pizza. After all, pesto is tasty, and it can be used in countless ways.

Many people regularly use pesto as a sauce, prompting the question of whether or not pets can safely consume it.

As a responsible pet parent, you should do your research to determine whether or not a certain item is harmful to your cat. The solution is obvious: cats shouldn’t eat pesto.

Let’s learn more about pesto and why you should make sure your cat avoids it before you feel too bad for them for having this delicious green sauce placed on the “do not eat” list.

Can Cats Eat Pesto?

Pesto is toxic to cats. Cats shouldn’t eat pesto because it contains ingredients that can make them sick, such as spices, olive oil, milk, and cheeses. Cats shouldn’t eat pesto because of the high levels of garlic in it.

What Is Pesto?

Without first fully comprehending what pesto is, you might just dive in and start eating it. Although there are many variations on pesto and pesto-like sauces, we’ll be focusing on the authentic version, without any of the extras.

Pesto was first made in Genoa, Italy. Pesto may have been created in the 16th century.

Pesto is derived from the Italian verb pestare, which means “to crush” in the past tense. Pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, basil, and parmesan cheese are the main ingredients in pesto.

To make a sauce, people used to manually crush all the ingredients, but now we can just use a food processor.

There’s a reason why this classic condiment is still enjoyed today. However, your cat should avoid eating pesto due to the ingredients it contains.

homemade pesto in glass container

Cats and Pesto

Since there are five distinct ingredients in pesto, I’ll go over each one individually to explain why you shouldn’t let your cat near the jar.

Pine Nuts

Your cat may have trouble digesting pine nuts, but there are no current studies showing that they are toxic to cats.

Your cat’s digestive system was not evolved to process anything besides meat, and pine nuts are extremely high in fat. Too many pine nuts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and an upset stomach in your cat.


Garlic is the foundation of pesto. The sauce would be significantly less delicious without it. Garlic in any form is harmful to cats. Serious health problems can result from ingesting even a single clove.

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When compared to onions, garlic is about five times more toxic to cats. It is highly concentrated and contains more potentially harmful substances.

What, then, is the effect of garlic on felines? The compounds disulfide and thiosulfate are present in garlic. Foods belonging to the Allium family (like chives, onions, shallots, leeks, etc.) contain these compounds.

The toxicity comes from those compounds, which cats cannot break down.

The following are some of the symptoms a cat may experience after consuming garlic:

  • Disruption of erythrocytes
  • Diagnosing and Treating Heinz Body Anemia
  • Anemia caused by hemolysis

Your cat’s blood cells are obviously being affected by all of these. That’s a perilous circumstance. Garlic has been shown to disrupt normal blood cell circulation in cats. Because of those chemicals, the cells weaken, become extremely fragile, and often burst.

These are the signs you might notice if your cat has garlic poisoning from eating pesto sauce:

  • short, rapid breaths
  • lethargy
  • rapid beating of the heart
  • vomiting
  • gum discoloration
  • diarrhea

Depending on how much they consume, most people start to feel sick within a day. The effects of a cat eating an entire bowl of pesto would become apparent within a few hours.

It may take several days, even up to a week, before you notice your pet is showing signs of anemia.

To sum up, if your cat consumes garlic-rich pesto, you should rush it to the vet right away.

There’s no need to worry if your cat licks garlic or tries a little bit. But the safe consumption level is so low as to be negligible.

The recommended daily allowance for foods from the Allium family is 0.5 percent of your pet’s body weight. However, since garlic is a more concentrated ingredient, its presence is reduced to even less than 0.5%.

sick cat covered in blanket lies on the window in winter

Olive Oil

Pesto is a sauce because of the olive oil. Olive oil, fortunately, is not toxic to felines.

Olive oil, like any other fat, is bad for cats in large quantities because it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach upset.


Despite the fact that no species of basil is known to be toxic to cats, obligate carnivores like cats are unable to properly digest basil due to the lack of necessary nutrients.

Ingestion of basil could potentially cause stomach problems for your cat.

Parmesan Cheese

Cheese is a major component of pesto. Typically, parmesan cheese is used.

Cats can eat cheese now, but only in small amounts. Most cats have an intolerance to milk, which is found in cheese. It’s dairy, and cats aren’t supposed to have that.

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Your cat’s digestive system as a whole can be thrown off by eating too much cheese. Diarrhea and vomiting are two of the most obvious signs.

Cheese is not healthy for cats, but it is not poisonous to them either.

Is Pesto Safe For Cats

Cats should not eat pesto.

The sauce’s main problem is the pesto itself. Small amounts of some of the ingredients can be harmful to cats. The typical pesto sauce is loaded with salt and garlic.

Your cat may have problems with salt poisoning in addition to the toxicity caused by the garlic.

Signs of Toxicity

Now that we know that garlic is dangerous for cats, we can examine the symptoms of garlic poisoning and discuss what to do if your pet eats too much pesto.

Symptoms of Garlic Poisoning:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Pale Gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Acceleration of Pulse Rate
  • Accelerated Breathing Rate/Difficulty in Taking a Deep Breath

Onset of Symptoms

Some symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, can appear as soon as an hour after ingestion and can last for up to 24 hours. It may take several days after ingestion for symptoms of anemia to manifest.

If you suspect your cat has ingested garlic, even if no symptoms have yet appeared, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

a cat that feels sick and seems to vomit

What Happens If My Cat Eats Pesto

If your cat eats a lot of pesto, it will get very sick. They will probably get sick to their stomachs and throw up after eating pesto because of the garlic and cheese in it.

The severity is proportional to the amount of pesto your cat consumes. If they consume an excessive amount of pesto, for instance, their health may be in jeopardy. Most of the problems associated with the garlic are responsible for this.

Pesto has a high sodium content and is loaded with spices. Most of the seasonings, like basil, probably won’t harm your cat, but the salt could.

While cats can consume salt, giving them too much can cause salt poisoning. Dehydration and abnormal fluid accumulation are two symptoms of salt poisoning in cats. Also, your cat will have trouble walking and will likely throw up.

Olive oil and pine nuts, two other pesto staples, are safe for cats to eat. Olive oil can help your cat’s coat look healthier and glossier.

Some cat owners also use it to prevent their feline friend from choking on hairballs. Oil is still fat, however, and cats shouldn’t eat too much of it.

Many pesto recipes call for pine nuts, but they are safe for cats to eat. They, too, should be consumed in moderation, along with the rest of the ingredients.

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There is a maximum amount of fat that a cat can process. Pine nuts are high in fat, so limiting their intake is recommended. It’s possible that some felines are nut-sensitive. Cats with this allergy are at risk for anaphylaxis.

What To Do If Your Cat Eats Pesto

There are a few things you can do if your cat ingests or licks pesto sauce. The first thing to do is take away the pesto and see how much actually got eaten. Next, keep an eye out for signs of depression, weakness, sickness, vomiting, or any other abnormalities in your cat’s behavior.

Keep in mind that the symptoms of these issues typically don’t show up until several hours or even days later.

Take your cat in right away if you have any doubts or just want to be on the safe side. Tests can determine whether or not the pesto caused salt or garlic poisoning in your cat.

The most preventative measure you can take is, of course, to never let your cat near pesto in the first place.

Keep your pesto in airtight containers and put them somewhere your cat can’t get to. Make sure dishes are clean and not accessible to your cat.

Keeping Your Cat Safe

The safest way to avoid poisoning is to keep your cat away from anything that could be toxic to it.

Make sure food is always stored in airtight containers and promptly put away. Keep all food stored in the fridge, freezer, and cabinets, and think about getting a locked trash can to keep them from getting into your garbage.

Always make sure your cat is getting a healthy diet that fits their age, size, and activity level. Keep in mind that cats are strictly carnivorous, meaning they can only survive on a diet of meat.

Pick a cat food that doesn’t include any additives, chemicals, or fillers. Always check with your vet or a feline nutritionist before giving your cat any human food.


Pesto contains no ingredients that would ever appear in your cat’s natural diet, and the garlic in it is toxic to both cats and dogs.

Garlic is highly concentrated and can be fatal to cats, despite the fact that pesto may not contain what seems like a lot of garlic.

If your cat ever gets into any of your food and you suspect they may have ingested pesto, call your vet immediately.

The bright side is that you don’t have to feel guilty about hoarding your favorite Italian condiment.

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