Why Some Cats are Obsessed with Olives

Caitlin Dempsey


A gray tabby cat smelling an olive sitting on a dark brown surface.

Olives aren’t typically the first food that comes to mind when thinking about the kind of things that cats love. Yet some cats go absolutely crazy over the presence of olives. So, what is it about olives and some cats?

Olives have a compound similar to catnip

Most people are familiar with the reaction that many cats will have to catnip. Catnip contains a chemical compound called nepetalactone found in the plant. When certain cats smell catnip, it triggers pheromones, which are chemicals that cause all kinds of “feel good” reactions that last roughly 10 minutes.

Scientists have hypothesized that a structurally similar compound to nepetalactone that is found in olives, called isoprenoids, is what’s responsible for stimulating a similar response to this small green fruit in cats.

Just as not all cats are enamored with catnip, not all cats will instantly have an intense attraction to olives. Some cats will merely sniff the olive out of curiosity before becoming bored with it.

A gray tabby cat smelling an olive sitting on a dark brown surface.
Some cats are attracted to a chemical compound in olives that is similar to catnip. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Are olives safe for cats to eat?

In small amounts, olives are safe for cats to eat. Make sure you cut up the olives into very small sized bits. Larger pieces of olive can be a choking hazard for cats.

Olives do not contain any toxins that may impact the health of the cat adversely. However, olives are often processed by brining them which introduces a high amount of salt. Too much sodium intake can impact the blood pressure of the cat in the same way as it does in humans. Consuming high amounts of sodium can cause blood circulation disturbances and other medical diseases in cats.

Since cats are obligate carnivores and require a meat-based diet for their nutrition, keep the amount of olives you let your cat ingest to a minimum. Also, eating too many olives can make your cat’s stomach upset or cause diarrhea.

Olives are fun to play with

For other cats, it’s not the smell of the olive but the shape of it that they find fun. Olives are small and rounded, making them easy to bat around. You might notice your cat playing with olives in your kitchen since they are the perfect size to be chased and handled by the feline’s paw.

If you do find your cat playing with an olive, keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t try to eat the olive whole.


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey holds both a master's in Geography from UCLA and a Master of Library and Information Science. She is the editor of Geographyrealm.com and an avid researcher of geography and feline topics. A lifelong cat owner, Caitlin currently has three rescued cats: an orange tabby, a gray tabby, and a black cat.