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Can Cats Eat Nutmeg? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Can Cats Eat
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Kristin Hitchcock

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	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Nutmeg is not healthy for cats in the least. If eaten in high enough amounts, nutmeg can actually be toxic for your feline. Luckily, the small amounts typically used in baking and cooking are fine for felines. If your cat takes a bite from your pumpkin pie, you probably don’t have anything to worry about.

However, you should not purposefully give your cat anything with nutmeg in it. Of course, pure nutmeg is not recommended, either.

Let’s take a look at nutmeg and why it’s toxic to cats, as well as symptoms to look for.


Why Is Nutmeg Toxic to Cats?

Nutmeg contains¹ an oil called myristicin. Luckily, this substance is only toxic when consumed in very high amounts. For instance, most sources suggest that cats need to consume 1 grated teaspoon for a toxic dose.

Of course, it does depend on the size of the cat, as well as a few other factors. Some cats are simply more sensitive to nutmeg than others, which will cause them to develop symptoms sooner. Furthermore, different cats will develop different symptoms, depending on their predispositions.

Still, cats usually won’t eat enough nutmeg to cause serious harm. However, they may eat enough to cause stomach upset and similar problems. If you’re concerned about your cat’s symptoms, you should contact your vet.

What Are the Symptoms of Nutmeg Toxicity?

a cat in a veterinary clinic being examined by a doctor
Image Credit: Libre, Shutterstock

If your cat consumes too much nutmeg, they will likely experience an upset stomach. Cats may even vomit or have diarrhea, depending on their sensitivity level and how much they ate. With that said, cats are very good at hiding discomfort, and not all cats vomit after eating lots of nutmeg.

Therefore, just because you didn’t notice any digestive problems doesn’t mean that your cat isn’t having a reaction.

If your feline vomits or has diarrhea, then they may become dehydrated. This lack of hydration is the main problem with these digestive problems and in some cases, this can become life-threatening. However, most cats do not become seriously dehydrated.

For cats that do become dehydrated, veterinary attention is vital. Often, these cats will benefit from IV fluids. The vet may also prescribe medication to help with digestive problems.

If your cat eats a lot of nutmeg, they may develop some other issues, as well. Symptoms usually start with vomiting around 3-6 hours after ingestion.  This can be followed by central nervous system effects. Disorientation is typically the first symptom cat owners notice. Your feline may appear lost or lose coordination. They may also vocalize randomly, such as meowing at the wall or in no particular direction. Because the cat really doesn’t know what’s going on, they don’t hide these symptoms.

In very serious cases, tremors and seizures may occur and these symptoms may even lead to death. Therefore, if you begin to notice any of these neurological symptoms, it is vital that you visit your vet.

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How Much Nutmeg is Toxic to Cats?

Cats must eat quite a bit of nutmeg to develop serious symptoms. For instance, the general estimate is that it would take 1 teaspoon to harm an adult cat.

Most cats that do consume nutmeg don’t actually eat enough to hurt them. Most cases of nutmeg toxicity involve the cat eating plain nutmeg but most cats won’t eat enough plain nutmeg by itself due to its strong smell and taste. In fact, many cats will steer clear of nutmeg.

Still, we don’t recommend just leaving nutmeg laying around. Preferably, raw nutmeg should be put away. We also don’t recommend feeding your cat anything containing nutmeg. While most baked goods don’t contain much nutmeg, you preferably don’t want your cat eating any nutmeg.

Does Nutmeg Keep Cats Away?

Image Credit: Quique, Pixabay

Many cats don’t like the smell of nutmeg so this substance is sometimes recommended as a way to keep cats out of your garden. However, nutmeg can be poisonous in large amounts. While this method may be effective, it typically isn’t the best option for animal welfare.

After all, nutmeg can kill cats if they are exposed too much to it. Therefore, if you use nutmeg in your garden, you may end up seriously harming a cat or another animal.

For this reason, we do not recommend utilizing nutmeg for these purposes.

Do Cats Like Nutmeg?

Some cats may enjoy the taste of nutmeg, though they usually prefer it mixed with other ingredients (like people). Nutmeg typically doesn’t taste very good by itself. However, this isn’t always the case and some cats do like the tantalizing spice, as it has a unique taste.

Personal preference comes into play here a lot. Some cats will enjoy this spice while others simply won’t.

If your cat likes nutmeg, you should probably keep a closer eye on them. After all, they’re more likely to consume a bunch of nutmeg than a cat that doesn’t like nutmeg at all.

Either way, we don’t recommend having nutmeg in an area where your cat can reach it. Put it in a cabinet and in a secure container. Cats can be curious and tend to get into lots of things.

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Nutmeg is poisonous to cats. However, it requires more than a small nibble of a hot cross bun to harm an adult cat. Of course, your cat’s size, age, health, and predisposition will affect this. Some cats will be especially sensitive to nutmeg, especially if they are smaller.

Either way, we don’t recommend leaving nutmeg out or feeding your cat anything with nutmeg in it. While it does take a lot of nutmeg to harm your feline, a small amount can cause digestive upset.

If your cat develops severe dehydration or any neurological symptoms after consuming nutmeg, be sure to take them to the vet ASAP. While nutmeg toxicity is rarely dangerous, it can be deadly and caution is recommended.

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Featured Image Credit: scym, Pixabay

About the Author

Kristin Hitchcock
Kristin Hitchcock
Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!

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