Is Vinegar Bad for Cats?


Vinegar has lots of uses around the home. I use it for descaling in my kitchen and bathroom; the acidic nature of vinegar means that it reacts with limescale to remove it (very effectively, I might add). It’s also great for de-scaling kettles, although you have to wash them out carefully afterwards unless you want your tea to taste the vinegar. As with any product I use in my home, I checked that vinegar was safe before applying it to any surfaces where my cats might pick it up. Luckily, it turns out that vinegar is generally safe for cats.

Is vinegar bad for cats? Cats should not really consume vinegar in more than the smallest quantity, as it’s highly acidic. You should not give your cat anything seasoned with vinegar; although small quantities aren’t harmful, it could upset her stomach. Vinegar as a cleaning product is safe to use around cats.

If you’ve landed on this article, you have questions regarding cats and vinegar. Maybe you want to use vinegar as a cleaning agent, and you want to make sure it’ll be safe for your cats. Perhaps your cat has licked up some vinegar recently, and you’re worried that it might hurt her. Maybe your cat is prone to stealing a little of your tuna salad, and you’re concerned that she might get sick. You might have heard about vinegar as a flea treatment or a remedy for ear infections, and you want to know if these work. Read on to find out the answers to all your questions.

Is Vinegar Bad for Cats?

In general, vinegar is fairly safe for cats. I wouldn’t give my cats food containing vinegar, as it could cause a tummy upset. Vinegar is very acidic and could give your cat dyspepsia if she consumes a lot of it. Vinegar could also be irritating to the membranes of her mouth, throat and nasal passages, which is unpleasant for the cat.

Flavoured vinegar should definitely be kept away from cats, as the ingredients might include things that are toxic to felines. Garlic and onion are the worst offenders here, but some herbs and spices are also bad for cats. When in doubt, keep it away from your cat.

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Cats are prone to appropriating food from their human companions’ plates, which might mean that your cat ends up consuming something with vinegar on it. This probably won’t do any harm, although I strongly encourage cat owners to avoid letting cats eat “people food” as a general principle. If your cat has grabbed a bite of vinegar-soaked tuna from your salad, though, there’s no need to be overly concerned. She’s unlikely to suffer any ill-effects, although she might enjoy the tuna a lot less than she anticipated.

Another common use of vinegar is as a cleaning product. Because it’s acidic, vinegar is great for breaking down grease and dirt. Cleaning with vinegar is a good option for cat owners, as it is much less toxic and irritating than a lot of popular cleaning products. Whatever you clean with will leave a residue on floors, counters, tables etc. Even once a cleaning product has dried, it can still cause irritation to the delicate skin of a cat’s paw pads.

Another issue is the possibility of ingestion. Most cats probably won’t try to lick up cleaning fluid or suds from a surface (although I wouldn’t entirely put it past my domestic shorthair, who has been known to nibble paint chips and plastic grocery bags). If a cat walks through a substance or gets it on her fur, though, she’ll instinctively lick it off, ingesting it. I’d far rather that substance was household vinegar rather than whatever gives a floor cleaner its “pine-fresh” scent. Vinegar may not be great for your cat’s digestion, but a tiny trace won’t do any harm and it’s certainly safer than chemical perfumes and cleaning agents.

On the whole, as household substances go, vinegar is one of the safer ones. As I say I wouldn’t actively feed it to my cats, but it’s unlikely to do them any harm if they happen to consume it anyway.

Vinegar as a Feline Food Supplement

Some people use vinegar, particularly apple cider vinegar, as a food supplement. This is fine; I’ve heard it’s great for arthritis and rheumatism, as well as being an aid to digestion. What works for humans, however, isn’t necessarily effective for cats.

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I’ve noticed a tendency for pet guardians to assume that if something is good for people, it will naturally be good for cats. The problem here is that cats have very different systems from humans. What might be an effective remedy for us might not work on cats. I’ve seen people suggesting that arthritic cats might benefit from a dose of cider vinegar, but very little to support these claims. On the whole, I’d avoid giving my cat anything that wasn’t recommended by a vet.

If your cat is suffering from inflammatory conditions, arthritis etc., you will obviously want to help her. The best way to do this, however, is by getting medical advice from a qualified professional. If your cat is struggling with the symptoms of arthritis or some other medical condition, your vet can prescribe something to help her. It’s likely to be much more effective than untested substances from your kitchen cupboard. A vet will also be able to suggest more effective food supplements, like cod-liver oil. You can help your arthritic cat by giving her lots of affection, providing her with a heating pad, and making sure that she gets the exercise she needs.

Vinegar as a Skin Remedy

There are a lot of kitty home remedies that are supposed to address common feline ailments. In the interests of transparency, I should say that I’m not a fan of trying to treat your cat’s issues yourself. My domestic shorthair’s previous owner apparently tried to fix a skin condition with vinegar, and the irritation just made the symptoms worse.

Skin infections are one condition that people try to treat with vinegar. These treatments involve dabbing diluted vinegar on the site of the infection, or bathing the cat in water with vinegar added. Again, I’m not a fan. I prefer to avoid bathing my cats at all unless it’s absolutely necessary. Washing your cat removes vital natural oils from her skin and fur, and can make her skin irritated. There are more effective treatments available. Ask at your pet store for something that’s formulated for cats, or consult your vet.

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Vinegar for Ear Infections

Ear infections in cats can be quite serious. As well as being uncomfortable and distressing for the animal, they can have long-term consequences if not properly treated. An infection that’s left to run rampant can leave your cat deaf in the affected ear and might impair her balance and coordination.

I have seen a mixture of rubbing alcohol and vinegar touted as a possible remedy, and the combination makes me flinch. While both vinegar and alcohol can kill germs, they can only do so on surfaces. An infection that’s taken hold in the tissues of the ear probably won’t respond very well to those substances. Moreover, both rubbing alcohol and vinegar can be irritating if applied liberally to a sensitive area, which definitely describes the inside of a cat’s ear. Again, I would recommend that you take your cat to the vet if she shows signs of an ear infection.

Vinegar as a Flea Treatment

Another popular home remedy is using vinegar to get rid of fleas. I’m extremely dubious that this would work either. The recommended process is to fill a spray bottle with a 1:1 mixture of water and vinegar, and spray your cat’s fur until saturated.

For one thing, I’m not convinced that vinegar can get rid of fleas. For another, the process sounds absolutely horrible for the poor cat. Cats do not like to be wet (mostly; I have met some who positively loved a nice dip in the tub). They’re also unlikely to be well-disposed to having a strong-smelling fluid rubbed all over them. The only result I can envisage is a cat who still has fleas, but is now wet and angry to boot. There are plenty of excellent and effective flea remedies on the market, and I strongly recommend using one of them instead.

My British Shorthair Cat

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