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Can cats drink tea?

Black cat with tea pot

Is it safe for cats to drink tea?

© Alena Ozerova - Shutterstock

Have you ever caught your cat drinking from your cup of tea after leaving it unattended for a few moments? Some human food and drinks are often not suitable for cats. This is the case for hot drinks like tea.

By Emilie Heyl

Updated on the

Cats are quite picky eaters anyway when it comes to human food and generally tea isn’t to their liking. But, it can happen that your curious cat decided to try some of your tea, what would be the consequences of that? Is it safe for your cat to drink tea? The answer is no!

While a lovely cup of tea or coffee warms up our body, they can be fatal for our cats. This is because the caffeine in coffee and tea is extremely harmful.

Let’s find out why tea is bad for cats, what symptoms you need to look out for and what you should do if your cat has drunk tea.

Is tea bad for cats?

The answer is clear: Cats should not consume caffeine in any of its forms. Tea contains caffeine so it is a drink cats should avoid.

Caffeine can cause many health problems in cats: even a small amount can make them sick. Indeed, tea, with the caffeine it contains, could cause poisoning, vomiting and diarrhoea. It could also expose your cat to tachycardia or increased heart rate. It is estimated that the toxic threshold of caffeine for a cat with an average weight of 3.6 pounds is 80 milligrams. A cup of black tea contains 50 milligrams of caffeine.

However, keep in mind that all cats are different and that for some, even a few sips could be toxic.

What should I do if my cat drank tea?

If you notice that your cat has been drinking some of your tea, you should monitor your animal very closely. If your cat is exhibiting one or more of the following symptoms, it may mean that she is poisoned by caffeine: 

  • Hyperactivity
  • Agitation
  • Panting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Heart tremors and palpitations 

Symptoms can develop within 30 minutes of ingestion and last up to 6 to 12 hours depending on the size, health of the cat and the amount of caffeine ingested. A visit to the veterinarian is urgently needed.

If these symptoms are caught early enough, the vet may induce vomiting to flush the caffeine out of the cat's body. If the symptoms are at a more developed stage, the caffeine will be eliminated intravenously.

Can cats drink herbal tea?

Cats can drink diluted and cooled herbal teas, such as those made with chamomile, echinacea, calendula, valerian (diluted and in very small doses), licorice root and dandelion root.

You can also brew catnip in hot water, especially if adored by your cat. Simply steep the herbs for half the time required for human infusion and serve at room temperature.

Catnip, chamomile, and valerian are very calming for cats. However, you have to be very careful with the way your cat reacts when drinking herbal tea.

Although it’s generally safe for cats to drink herbal tea, it can cause an upset stomach or diarrhoea if consumed in too much quantity. Therefore, you should remain vigilant!

What can cats drink except water?

To be honest, water is the best drink you can give to your cat. Cats aren’t considered to be heavy drinkers anyway, but as long as you provide fresh water all the time, your cat won't be looking elsewhere for something to drink.

If you wish to give your cat another kind of drink, you could bowl hot water with some plain chicken breast or white fish and serve it to your cat cold. Be careful with the salt, oil and any other flavours, this could be bad for your pet so it’s best not to add anything else other than water and plain chicken or fish.

Lastly, you could give milk which is suitable for cats. Don’t give human milk though as it contains lactose and this can lead to digestive problems.

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