Can I Give My Cat Tea?
When we envision a relaxing Sunday afternoon, those of us who avoid coffee shops can only conjure up one image: a day spent lounging around in our pajamas, a majestic Persian cat sitting in our laps, sipping hot tea with a pinky in the air. The cat is purring loudly and the tea is steaming gently. We probably burn ourselves, but we don’t swear, because that would disturb the cat.
But wait a moment—wouldn’t this relaxing Sunday afternoon feel a little less selfish if we gave Fluffy a steaming cup of tea, too? After all, our cats have a regal poise to them that seems to suggest they would love to drink tea out of a saucer. Our cats probably have more sophisticated taste in teas than we do. And, well, we have all experienced a nosy cat shoving his paw into our English breakfast tea before we even get a sip. So, should we share? Can cats have tea?
Though sharing your morning breakfast tea with your cat may sound like a bonding experience, it isn’t a good idea. Cats should not drink tea, no matter how small the serving, that contains any amount of caffeine. This means that black, white, green, and yellow teas are off limits entirely. Cats’ bodies can’t handle caffeine in nearly the same doses that our bodies can, so even drinking what we would consider to be a safe serving size can be dangerous—or even deadly. Cats should also avoid most herbal teas, because many of our favorite herbs are poisonous to our feline friends.
That being said, there are a few types of herbal tea that are considered safe for cats in moderation. In small amounts, these teas may have some behavioral and health benefits for your cat… though the biggest benefit may be keeping their paws out of your tea.
It should come as no surprise that one of the cat-safe teas is a favorite for both humans and dogs: chamomile. While no cat should ever be allowed to eat the chamomile plant, they can drink it when it is brewed into a weak tea. The qualifier there is worth repeating: WEAK tea. A small amount of tea, diluted with water and served at room temperature, can help soothe an anxious or aggressive cat due to its calming effects.
Small doses of chamomile tea may also help ease upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your cat bounces off the walls at night, try giving them a little bit of chamomile tea before bed. While it may not knock them out the way it knocks us out, it may help them stay calm and quiet. If your cat’s behavior issues persist, take them to a veterinarian—chamomile tea is no substitute for chronic anxiety or aggression issues.
Cats can also drink weak licorice tea, which may offer more health benefits than chamomile tea. Licorice has been used for hundreds of years to solve all sorts of health problems in humans, and it is generally recognized as safe for cats. Most cats enjoy the flavor of licorice, so it will be up to you to make sure the tea is properly diluted before serving.
Licorice has strong anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that may benefit your cat’s health. While it is unlikely to prevent or slow the progress of any illness, it may go a long way in helping to relieve your cat’s inflammatory symptoms. Licorice root may reduce the pain associated with arthritis, injuries, and other inflammatory illnesses. It may also ease the itching associated with allergies, bug bites, rashes, and other skin problems. Licorice also has the benefit of easing inflammatory symptoms without seriously repressing the immune system, which means your cat can still fend off colds and other infections without trouble.
Things to Keep in Mind
While some herbal teas may be safe for cats, it is unsafe to serve your cat tea that contains any amount of caffeine. Symptoms of caffeine overdose include vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, rapid heartbeat, shivering, and anxiety, and may cause death. If your cat experiences any symptoms, take them to a veterinarian immediately.
If you choose to give your cat herbal teas, pick a cat-safe herb, keep the serving size small, and make sure it is cool enough that it won’t burn their mouths. As with any new food or beverage, watch your cat to make sure they don’t experience any adverse effects.