My friend Anna-Marie told me recently that one of her cats is crazy for olives. I was surprised, and I had never heard of that. Then again, since I don’t like olives, there’s no likelihood that one of my cats would find one around the house, either.
In the meantime, I did some research. Olives are well-known for containing oleic acid. In fact, oleic acid is the component of olive oil responsible for its ability help to lower blood pressure in humans.
Oleic acid is also a component of the facial pheromones your cat spreads by rubbing her chin against you or objects in the house. In fact, the artificial pheromone diffusers for cats you can purchase to plug in around the house have oleic acid as an ingredient in the synthetic pheromone.
It’s likely that cats who enjoy olives are actually responding to the oleic acid in the olives. They aren’t hoping to drop one into a martini or anything.
Cats have been known to go wild over squished odorous ants, which also contain oleic acid. So there seems to be a connection. My cats may never have seen an olive, but we have had ant invasions in the past, and they were completely uninterested. Maybe the ants in Florida wear deodorant.
At any rate, it was nearly time to try this olive thing at home. Not knowing anything about olives except I don’t like them on my pizza, I went to Whole Foods and selected four different olives from the olive bar. My main criteria was that they were all different and that none of them contained garlic or onions in the ingredient list.
I cut up very small pieces and put them on a plate for the cats to inspect.
Pierre: What did you get on your ear? It smells funny!
Ashton: It’s not me! * SNIFF SNIFF * It’s the stuff on this plate.
Newton: What ARE those things? They’re on a plate like food, but they don’t smell like food.
Ashton: If it’s on a plate, I think you’re supposed to eat it, not play with it.
Newton: I don’t see YOU eating it, Miss Smartystripes.
Ashton: I was saving whatever it is for you. Go right ahead.
Newton: No, that’s all right. * SCRATCH SCRATCH *
Newton: We don’t know what it is, but we’re holding out for something more appetizing.
Our household test was a bit of a failure. Olives got twelve paws down here, but apparently there are lots of cats out there who really love them. Do your cats love (or hate) olives?
References and further reading
J Comp Physiol B., Dietary fats and body lipid composition in relation to hibernation in free-ranging echidnas
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, Oleic acid content is responsible for the reduction in blood pressure induced by olive oil
Google Patents, Properties of cats’ facial pheromones US 5709863 A