You probably know what wasabi is if sushi is one of your favorite foods. This condiment belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which also includes mustard, radishes, and horseradish. To complement sushi and other dishes, it is typically ground into a paste.
It’s tempting to give cats a taste of our food when they show curiosity. Wasabi has such a strong flavor that you might be surprised to learn that they can actually eat it.
However, before you give your cat any wasabi, there are a few things you should know.
Continue reading for a more in-depth description of wasabi and an analysis of its effects on feline digestive systems.
Can Cats Eat Wasabi?
Yes, cats can safely consume wasabi. It’s not meant to be fed to cats instead of their regular food, though. And even then, it ought to be a rare treat rather than a regular part of your diet.
There isn’t enough nutrition in wasabi for a cat. It’s also connected to the mildly toxic herb horseradish, which is commonly fed to cats.
What Is Wasabi?
Wasabi is the pale green paste you might find in a mound next to your sushi. It’s a spicy condiment that wakes up your nostrils more than your taste buds.
Grated wasabi contains constituents that convert to allyl isothiocyanate rather than capsaicin, the well-known heat source in spicy peppers. Smell receptors in the nasal cavity are activated.
Wasabi is used for its pungent flavor, which complements whatever it is added to. Authentic wasabi comes from the Wasabia japonica plant, also known as Japanese horseradish.
This is a common plant along Japanese rivers, but it is notoriously difficult to cultivate in the United States and Canada. This plant can cost as much as $160 per kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) when purchased in bulk.
Only about 5 percent of the wasabi served in Japanese restaurants around the world actually comes from the wasabi plant. Because of its high cost and the difficulty most countries have in cultivating the crop, fake wasabi is a more cost-effective alternative.
You should know this because it’s likely that your sushi will contain fake wasabi. Cats could have reactions to the product’s ingredients.
What Is Imitation Wasabi?
The ingredients for fake wasabi include horseradish, mustard powder, food coloring, and a thickener like cornstarch or flour. Unlike real wasabi, which has a grainy, gritty texture, this is silky smooth. Genuine wasabi is always served grated, never pureed.
Do Cats Like Wasabi?
Cats aren’t supposed to eat plants, but out of curiosity, they might sample your wasabi anyway. However, most cats won’t be interested in eating it again. Even if they want your sushi, most cats probably won’t try it.
Do Cats Hate Wasabi?
The vast majority of the time, cats will not only ignore wasabi, but will actively avoid it. Both fake and authentic wasabi contain isothiocyanate.
This chemical compound is what gives wasabi its spicy flavor, but it also acts as a repellent against cats.
Mustard greens, brussels sprouts, turnips, savoy cabbage, kohlrabi, and kale are also rich sources of isothiocyanates.
Cats typically don’t like these, despite their beneficial properties for humans (such as their ability to fight cancer and bacteria like e.coli). Wasabi is included in this category.
You shouldn’t feel bad if your cat ignores the treats. Cats shouldn’t try to eat wasabi because it has no nutritional value for them; instead, they should eat cat food made specifically for felines.
Cats and Real vs. Imitation Wasabi
There appears to be no evidence that real wasabi is harmful to cats, but we were unable to confirm this. However, most cats will not actively seek it out because of its taste. Even if your cat has a taste for wasabi, giving it to them probably won’t do them any good and probably won’t hurt them either.
As obligate carnivores, cats can only get the protein they need from eating other animals. Cats are ideally suited to digest, process, and derive their primary nutrients from meat, though other ingredients in their food may provide flavor and nutrients as well.
They won’t gain any nutritional value from anything other than their regular diet. Cats can have treats on occasion, such as scraps from your plate that you know are safe for them to eat. However, your cat won’t benefit nutritionally from foods that aren’t compatible with its physiology.
The risk comes from using imitation wasabi. The primary component is horseradish (Armoracia rusticana).
Horseradish is not on the ASPCA’s list of non-toxic plants for cats, but it is also not on the list of toxic plants for cats. Experts are split on whether or not horseradish is safe for cats.
Some people think the plant is toxic because it contains sinigrin, which, when hydrolyzed, becomes a strong irritant to the eyes and skin.
While there is some disagreement on this, we prefer to air on the side of caution. We do not recommend giving cats anything that could potentially harm them.
Imitation wasabi often contains mustard powder, which should also be avoided when feeding your cat. Ground up mustard seeds become mustard powder. In cats, these can result in life-threatening diarrhea. Some of the signs of this are:
- Weak, dry sobs
- Curb your hunger
If your cat becomes severely dehydrated, this condition could prove fatal. The vet may be able to treat certain ingestions on an outpatient basis with medication and fluids. Others may need to be admitted to the hospital. Don’t give your cat store-bought wasabi if you don’t want to deal with this problem.
Can Wasabi Kill Cats?
Wasabi probably won’t kill a cat. Most cats won’t eat enough of it for the chemical compounds present to have any harmful effects.
In addition, cats don’t particularly enjoy the taste; after a single taste, they often run away, make a face, or even vomit it back up and continue to glare at you for the rest of the day. (Because it’s your fault they snuck something they shouldn’t have, after all).
The problem is that most of the wasabi we come across is actually horseradish and mustard, neither of which are traditional ingredients in wasabi.
Your cat probably won’t die if it eats one of these, but it will probably get sick if it does. The possibility of mild diarrhea is also present.
You may have to clean up cat messes for a while if your cat has a particularly sensitive stomach after ingestion, but other than that, the effects are likely to be temporary.
Make sure the commercial fake wasabi you give your cat doesn’t contain any ingredients that could make it very sick, like garlic or onion.
It probably doesn’t contain any of these things, but it’s still a good idea to double-check the labels before feeding your cat table scraps.
Spices like garlic and onion powder are included. Again, it’s highly improbable, but it’s still worth your time to double-check.
Wasabi may be unpleasant for cats, but it’s probably not worth worrying about an overzealous feline.
No kitten should ever taste wasabi. Their stomachs are too small, too delicate, and they need all the healthy food they can get to keep up with their rapid development.
Kittens are very sensitive to wasabi, so please keep them away from your sushi and any toppings. To prevent your young, nosy cat from trying to steal your food, try eating in a different room.
How Much Wasabi Can My Cat Have?
Intentionally feeding your cat wasabi is not something we endorse. Even if they manage to scavenge some food from your plate or the trash, they probably won’t eat very much.
If you’ve confirmed the authenticity of your wasabi, you should be fine eating it. If it’s fake wasabi, look out for stomach pain and get medical help if you need it.
If your cat seems to actively seek it out and enjoys it, you may want to limit its access and provide a more appropriate treat in its place.
They won’t miss it because it’s an unnecessary part of their diet. Pieces of cooked fish or chicken breast without any seasoning will do the trick.
Can My Cat Eat My Sushi Instead?
As an alternative to fake wasabi, you could offer your cat some of your sushi; after all, many felines enjoy seafood. But cats shouldn’t eat raw fish because it can make them sick.
It has enzymes that break down thiamine and bacteria that can poison your cat.
Your cat needs the B1 vitamin thiamine to stay healthy. Convulsions, coma, and death can occur if your cat does not get enough thiamine.
You can safely feed your cat a piece of fish if it is fully cooked, unsalted, and boneless.
Can Cats Eat Soy Sauce?
The sodium content of soy sauce is quite high. Cats don’t have a nutritional need for a lot of salt, and consuming too much of it can be harmful to their health. They risk salt poisoning if they consume an excessive amount of soy sauce.
Symptoms of salt poisoning include:
- loss of appetite
- Drenching wetness or frequent urination
Be on the lookout for these signs if you find your cat licking the last of the soy sauce off your plate. Talk to your vet if you see any of these signs.
While many people enjoy eating wasabi, cats are more likely to steer clear of the plant. Wasabi may help humans with things like fighting cancer and preventing food poisoning, but it doesn’t do much of anything for cats.
The real stuff is probably going to repel your cat more than attract it, and the commercial wasabi is way too spicy to be appealing.
In addition, as obligate carnivores, cats don’t need to sustain themselves on vegetables (or vegetable paste). Don’t feed your cat wasabi; instead, give it something more suitable.