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Do Cats Like Peppermint? 10 Facts to Know

Do Cats Like Peppermint? 10 Facts to Know

✔ This article was reviewed for accuracy by a licensed veterinarian.

Have you ever stuffed a toy with catnip and watched your cat go to town? If you haven’t, do it immediately for both your and the cat’s enjoyment. If you have — you have seen the feeling of pure ecstasy from your feline roommate. But did you know that catnip and peppermint come from the same family of plants? That may have you wondering: Do cats like peppermint? 

Catnip, scientifically known as Nepeta cataria, and peppermint both come from the mint family of plants — Labiatae. Cats may be attracted to peppermint as its scent can be confused with that of catnip. 

Essentially, your cat is confusing various types of mint plants with catnip and seeking out that glorious kitty buzz.

Here are the top 10 facts cat owners need to know about their cats and peppermint:

#1. Do Cats Like Peppermint?
#2. Is Peppermint Harmful to Cats?
#3. How Much Peppermint Can Cats Have?
#4. Why Do Cats Like Peppermint?
#5. Why Do Cats Like Catnip?
#6. Peppermint and Catnip
#7. Should You Keep Your Cats Away from Mint?
#8. Can the Smell of Peppermint Hurt Cats?
#9. The Risks of Peppermint-Flavored Foods
#10. Do I Have to Get Rid of My Peppermint?

1. Do Cats Like Peppermint?

Yes, many cats do like the smell of peppermint. Cats are drawn to the smell and sometimes even the taste and texture of peppermint. 

However, there are plenty of cats that find the scent of peppermint, wintergreen, and other mint plants to be off-putting. Some cats have such a strong aversion to peppermint that they’ll even avoid their owners if they’re wearing mint-scented perfume, essential oils, or even chewing mint gum.

Even though your cat might like the smell of peppermint, you should avoid letting your cat spend too much time around mint plants. 

2. Is Peppermint Harmful to Cats?

A cat staring at a peppermint lollipop. Do cats like peppermint? 
It’s tasty, but I don’t trust it.

Even though your cat might be attracted to peppermint plants, you should avoid letting your cat spend too much time around peppermint. The American Society for the Prevention for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists mint as a toxic plant for cats

Peppermint contains several compounds that are toxic to cats. If your cat ingests too much of the peppermint plant, it can experience digestive problems including nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. 

The amount of peppermint that your cat needs to eat before it starts experiencing these signs of exposure to toxic plants will depend on the health and size of your cat.

Exposure to peppermint is not usually life-threatening for cats. Unless your cat is a kitten, is a senior cat, or has underlying health concerns — they should make a quick recovery. If your cat has eaten too much peppermint, the best thing you can do is take your pet to see the vet. 

3. How Much Peppermint Can Cats Have?

The answer to this one is easy. Your cat should never have any peppermint, wintergreen, or other mint products. Even if your cat might seem very interested, and even happy, around peppermint plants, they should avoid these at all costs.

Rather than let your cats get familiar with the scent and seek it out, it’s safest to avoid peppermint completely. 

4. Why Do Cats Like Peppermint?

It’s a little strange that cats can be attracted to a plant that can give them an upset stomach. But then again, I can’t help myself around a sleeve of Oreos or a pint of ice cream.

Here’s what’s going on inside your cat’s biology that’s getting them attracted to a plant that can harm them.

Cats are attracted to a wide range of plants. Some of these are harmless while others can be potentially dangerous. While the scientific research on this issue is still in its early stages, researchers think that these plants are mimicking pheromones and scents that cats find interesting.

In the case of peppermint, this plant just happens to be so close to catnip that cats are getting the two confused. 

If you’ve ever wondered about the science behind why cats are attracted to catnip, this video gives a quick rundown of the basics:

5. Why Do Cats Like Catnip?

In case you didn’t watch the video above, we’ll provide the spark notes:

  • Catnip has an organic molecule called nepetalactone.
  • Nepetalactone is used by the catnip plant to repel insects like mosquitoes, ticks, and mites.
  • But cats are attracted to it!
  • Researchers believe that nepetalactone is similar to a cat’s natural pheromones (which are the molecules cats use to communicate).
  • Once in the cat’s system — the signal sent to the cat’s brain is stating there are tons of pheromones around.
  • Only about 50-70% of cats respond to catnip. So don’t keep buying different brands if your cat doesn’t like it. You’re just lighting money on fire!
  • The effects of catnip usually last for about 15 minutes.
  • The more a cat is exposed to catnip, the less sensitive they are to it. So, it may be best for a Friday night celebration — or special occasions. 

6. Peppermint and Catnip

As stated above, peppermint and catnip are a part of the same family of plants. This means that they’re going to have many of the same chemicals the cats can pick up on. 

Your cat has a powerful sense of smell. Unfortunately, peppermint and catnip smell so similar to a cat that he or she can get them confused.

Almost every cat out there loves catnip. Research has suggested that up to 70% of cats enjoy rolling around in catnip. 

Big Cat Rescue (yes, the one run by Carole Baskin) even tested catnip on lions, tigers, and other large cats. As it turns out, even the biggest cats out there turn into little kittens when they get some catnip!

The ASPCA actually lists catnip as a plant that is toxic to cats, but thankfully its toxicity is minimal and cats only tend to enjoy small amounts of catnip at a time. Think of catnip like alcohol for humans. We know it’s not good for us, but many of us enjoy it from time to time, and hopefully in moderation!

7. Should You Keep Your Cats Away from Mint?

A cat resting in a bed of plants. Do cats like peppermint? 
I could sleep in my bed, but I could also sleep here.

You should keep an eye on your cat’s individual behavior before deciding whether you need to get rid of those mint plants in your kitchen or garden.

Some cats will chew through mint plants like there’s no tomorrow and get themselves sick while others might stop by for an occasional smell but then wander on. If you want to play it safe, you can either keep the cats and mint plants separate or just get rid of the peppermint plants altogether. 

8. Can the Smell of Peppermint Hurt Cats?

No, the smell of peppermint on its own is not enough to hurt cats.

Cats can freely smell peppermint plants without harming themselves. It’s only when they start to eat these plants that they run the risk of experiencing digestive problems.

There is one exception here. Peppermint essential oil is a highly concentrated product. You can even upset human noses if it’s inhaled too directly and too deeply. Your cat has a much smaller and much more sensitive nose. This means that it’s going to be that much more sensitive to mint essential oils.

Mint essential oils can cause some cats to start sneezing and could even contribute to upper respiratory infections in at-risk cats.

If your cat seems to be particularly sensitive to mint, it might be best to keep the use of mint essential oils in moderation. 

9. The Risks of Peppermint-Flavored Foods

There’s one last health risk for cats that’s related to peppermint.

One of the biggest differences between cats and dogs is that cats aren’t that big a fan of human food. Cats are obligate carnivores meaning that all those veggies and snacks that humans love aren’t that appealing to cats.

However, peppermint-scented foods can trick cats into eating them. Some cats can even try to consume breath mints or mint-flavored gum. These can be damaging to your cat’s digestive health and mean a trip to the vet for both you and your cat. And we all know how much you and your cat don’t like the carrier! 

If you have a cat that loves the scent of mint, take the extra precaution, and make sure that any mint-flavored candy or food is well out of the reach of your little kitty. 

10. Do I Have to Get Rid of My Peppermint? 

Some people may have peppermint in the home already and might not want to get rid of it. That is completely fine!

Just ensure you have your eyes on your cat when they are near your peppermint. If possible, try to place the peppermint in rooms your cat doesn’t have access to. Then you can have the best of both worlds!