Growing up as a kid, the one snack that we always had at home was licorice. My parents were big fans of licorice and loved having the occasional licorice candy.
I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the smell and taste of licorice as a kid. It reminded me too much of cough mixture. But the smell and taste kinda grew on me as I got older.
Just the other day when I got back from my grocery run, I noticed that my cat was very curious about the packet of licorice candy that I bought.
Is it safe for cats to have licorice candy?
Licorice isn’t known to be toxic to cats and it should not pose any harm to your cat if it does eat licorice candy. However, anything that contains sugar isn’t healthy for cats. Licorice candy can contain other ingredients that could be toxic to cats.
In this article, we will be exploring more about licorice, the benefits and if it should be part of your cat’s diet.
What Is Licorice?
Licorice is actually a herb that is found mostly in Europe in Asia. It is an ancient remedy for many ailments which explains its somewhat medicinal odor and taste.
It’s something that you either love or hate. Not much of an in-between here.
Licorice comes from the root of the licorice plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra.
There are some health benefits associated with eating black licorice. It is supposed to help with digestion, ulcers and heartburn.
However, there have been no studies to conclude that cats enjoy the same health benefits as humans when consuming licorice.
Can Cats Eat Licorice Candy?
Even though there’s no official word when it comes to licorice candy being toxic for cats, I wouldn’t let my cat consume such food products. Plus it isn’t normal for cats to eat candy.
Licorice candy contains mostly licorice extract and sugar. Licorice extract is made from licorice root which contains glycyrrhizin.
Glycyrrhizin when eaten in large amounts can cause some side effects like:
- Heart failure
- Water and sodium retention
- Increased blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Stomach upset
Glycyrrhizin is sometimes used as a sugar substitute as it can be thirty to fifty times sweeter than sucrose.
Even though it isn’t considered an artificial sweetener like xylitol which is very toxic to cats, it is still very high in sugar content which is harmful to cats.
Cats with kidney and heart diseases are more sensitive to glycyrrhizin and should not be given any.
Furthermore, many licorice candies are flavored with anise oil and not with natural licorice extract. This is because anise oil tastes like black licorice. Anise oil is a herb and is also used as an essential oil that is very toxic to cats.
This is because many essential oils contain phenols that cats are not able to break down when inhaled. This leads to a build-up of this compound over time that can lead to serious health problems in cats.
If your cat has eaten licorice out of curiosity, please bring it to the vet for a checkup just to be sure there is no toxin poisoning.
If you have eaten licorice candy before, you’ll know that it can be very hard or chewy. It isn’t the kind of texture that cats know to handle well.
Not only does licorice candy pose as a choking hazard for cats, but the hard black licorice candy can also cause your cat’s teeth to chip or break.
Some licorice candy manufacturers might use artificial flavorings and sweeteners in their candies like Xylitol and aspartame. Such ingredients are very toxic to cats and can cause liver failure.
Do Cats Like The Smell Of Licorice?
It has been said that many cats like the taste of licorice. And if a cat likes the taste of something, it probably likes the smell of licorice as well.
It could be the slightly pungent and medicinal odor of licorice that they are drawn to.
This is because cats have an acute sense of smell and they taste food by smelling it.
Cats can process a smell or odor by using the Jacobson’s organ that is found on the roof of their mouths.
The Jacobson’s organ is able to break down and analyze the smell before relaying the information to the brain.
Is Licorice Root For Cats Safe?
There is no definite consensus when it comes to feeding cats licorice root. Some sources find it beneficial to give our cats a small amount for the health benefits. While others oppose it and state that cats should not eat anything derived from licorice.
Licorice root is sold as a supplement and has been known to have many health benefits.
Licorice root contains anti-inflammatory properties. This can help to reduce inflammation in cats with arthritis and help cats recover faster from the feline cold.
Its anti-inflammatory properties can also help cats with allergies to make their symptoms less severe.
As pet owners, one thing we should always be aware of is that just because something has the potential to be beneficial for our cats, that doesn’t mean we should feed our cats with it.
One reservation that I have about feeding cats licorice root is that the active compound found in this supplement is Glycyrrhizin.
And as mentioned earlier, Glycyrrhizin when consumed in large quantities can be harmful to cats and especially to cats with existing health issues.
Seek Veterinary Advice
Before making a decision, I would strongly suggest that you speak to a qualified vet on the pros and cons.
Based on my experience, most traditional vets will tell you straight up “no”. You might have to speak to a vet that specializes more in holistic healing for pets for a more balanced view.
Can Cats Have Twizzlers?
It is easy to mistake Twizzlers for ‘red licorice’ based on how it is shape so similarly to traditional licorice sticks.
The thing about Twizzlers is that not all of them contain licorice. The original Twizzlers did contain licorice extract but over the years, it has evolved to become more fruit flavored like cherry, strawberry and citrus fruits.
I would not recommend that you feed your cat sweet stuff like Twizzlers even though it doesn’t contain licorice. The high sugar content and artificial flavoring can be harmful to your cat and cause health issues like obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
It might sound tempting to include some licorice root supplement in your cat’s diet. I’m someone that strongly believes in holistic healing when it comes to pets. But when the supplement sounds rather far-fetched, I’m more inclined to pass on it.
However, if you do have access to a qualified holistic vet who has sufficient experience in treating cats with licorice root supplements, it might be a good idea to arrange for a consult before making a decision.