Cat looking at a cup of tea on a wooden tray. Caption "Drink me!"

Can Cats Drink Tea?

When you love your cat, and you love your tea, it’s natural to want to bring them together. You, your favorite brew, and your furry friend are always around each other anyway. Your pet certainly wants a sip of whatever you’re having. And then there’s YouTube…inspiring you with endless videos of cats drinking tea and having the time of their (nine) lives!

Yes, tea for cats is a thing.

If you’ve been looking to enjoy a cuppa with your pet, you’ll be happy to know that tea for cats is a thing. Not the caffeinated kind, but feline-friendly versions made of harmless ingredients like catnip. Nothing other than that should make its way to your cat’s bowl without first consulting a vet. 

“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”

There are conflicting views on whether or not regular tea is safe for cats. Sure, the internet’s full of adorable pictures and stories of cats drinking tea with their humans. But it’s also full of warnings that regular tea can be toxic for your feline friend. In other words, for a cat owner who is also a fan of tea, the world can be a pretty confusing place.

So, let’s cut to the chase and look at a few facts:

Cats are often just curious. Silhouette of a smiling Cheshire Cat

If you leave the room for a minute and come back to find your cat busy slurping up your cup of green tea, don’t take it as a sign that you need to start brewing tea for your cat on a regular basis. Cats do all kinds of things because they’re curious and not necessarily because they know what’s good for them. The natural and added fragrances in most herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint, or lavender will tend to attract them. It’s the scent they’re gravitating towards, not the substance itself.

Plants aren’t cat food.

Cats are carnivores. Their digestive systems are simply not wired to digest plants, and tea being a plant-based brew falls right within the bracket of things a cat can’t digest. An accidental sip here or there won’t be the end of the world, but if your cat gets on a regular routine of drinking tea, it can lead to a long-term buildup of toxicity. 

Essential oils are a big no-no for your feline friend. Cat looks at a cup of tea with caption: Drink me!

You may love to unwind over a cup of lavender or chamomile tea or enjoy a nice mid-morning Earl Grey. But your cat’s digestion will not take kindly to these beverages. The reason being that they contain plant-based essential oils that are much, much more toxic for your cat than the flowers, roots, or leaves they come from. Ironically, the aroma of these essential oils is what attracts your cat to your tea in the first place. But the consequences of consuming the tea will almost always be bad – an upset stomach, an allergic reaction, or something far worse. In fact, the essential oils in tea often outrank caffeine in terms of the danger they pose to cats.

Just because nothing’s gone wrong doesn’t mean nothing will

Many online articles and forums have pet owners talking about how their cat drank tea, and nothing bad happened. Well, the absence of immediate symptoms doesn’t mean everything’s fine. Cats lack certain enzymes that humans use to break down food. Anything their bodies can’t digest tends to get stored, usually in the kidneys. So in the short term, you may not notice anything off with your cat. But over time, these accumulated substances turn toxic and can lead to organ failure. As far as tea goes, such potentially toxic substances include caffeine and essential oils.

And lastly, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The question of whether cats can drink tea draws rather polarized reactions. But in the end, you want to keep your pet safe. So in light of the above facts (and in the absence of clear, reliable studies on the subject), it would be best to leave the tea drinking to the humans in your house.

More tea, please!

Silhouette of a standing cartoon rabbit with a cup of tea