We all know cats and dogs are built differently. We have heard the saying, “dogs have owners, cats have staff.” But did you know that their nutritional needs are very different as well?
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they depend on meat and fat for their survival. There are certain vital nutrients, such as taurine and vitamin A, that cats cannot make in their own bodies and must acquire by eating meat.
Some carnivores, such as canines and bears, can also obtain nutrients from plants; however, cats are hypercarnivores who require a diet of at least 70% meat. Their bodies need more protein per pound than dogs do. Cats just can’t break down certain plant-based foods into their required nutrients.
Cats may consume the occasional plant matter, such as chewing on catnip, grass, or vegetation in prey’s stomach. Fruit and vegetables may contain micro-nutrients but are unnecessary to include in your cat’s diet. Ideally, fruits and vegetables should only be used as an occasional treat. Read on to find out about specific foods.
Can cats eat fruit and vegetables?
Some fruit and vegetables are safe for cats to eat, but not all. They should only make up a small percentage of the cat’s diet to avoid nutritional imbalances. Most fruit is high in fructose (fruit sugar), which adds unnecessary calories to the cat’s diet.
Please remember that this is not an endorsement for feeding fruit and vegetables to cats, even in small quantities. The purpose of this article is for pet owners to know if fruits and vegetables are a risk to cats if accidentally ingested.
Garlic, onion, leeks, and chives are all toxic to cats. These plants contain organosulfides which cause Heinz body anemia, where the red blood cells are destroyed due to the formation of Heinz bodies. Symptoms from one-time ingestion can develop in 1-7 days, including weakness, inappetence, pale mucus membranes, and reddish-brown urine color. Unfortunately, cats tend to be much more sensitive than dogs to Allium species foods as well.
Yes, with care
The ripe fruit of apples is safe for cats to eat; however, the seeds contain amygdalin, which breaks down into cyanide.
Yes, with care
Cats can eat an occasional avocado, but the flesh only. The skin, leaves, and bark contain persin, which is mildly toxic to cats. The more significant risk of avocados is the pit causing an intestinal obstruction.
The ripe fruit of bananas is safe for cats to eat and are a good source of potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.
Beetroot is safe for cats to eat. Be warned; beetroot can cause pigmentation of the urine (beeturia) and feces which resembles blood in the urine and stool.
Blueberries are safe for cats to eat and are a rich source of antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin C.
Cooked broccoli is safe for cats to eat and is a rich source of fiber and protein. It contains iron, potassium, calcium, selenium, magnesium, and vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.
Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, mandarins, limes, etc.) contain psoralens which are mildly toxic to cats and can cause gastrointestinal disturbances. While the fruit’s meat is ok to eat, the leaves and skin are not. Cats dislike tart-tasting foods, and most will avoid citrus fruits.
Yes, with caution
The kernels of corn are safe for cats to eat. They can also eat air-popped popcorn (minus the salt and butter). Corn is rich in vitamin C, magnesium, B vitamins, and carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
Be extremely careful, though, when serving corn on the cob. Even small pieces of corn cob can get stuck in the intestine. This obstruction often requires surgery to resolve.
Cucumber is safe for cats to eat. It is best to remove the skin to prevent any possible pesticide ingestion. Remember to cut into small bite-size pieces since cucumbers can be a choking hazard.
I have been unable to verify from a reliable source if eggplant (aubergine) is toxic when cooked. However, multiple veterinary toxicologists on the Veterinary Information Network advise eggplant flesh is non-toxic, but the green parts may contain solanine. Eggplants are a member of the nightshade family and contain solanine which is toxic to cats. I don’t recommend eggplants for this reason.
Grapes and raisins are known toxins to dogs, resulting in acute kidney failure. The exact compound and toxic amounts remain unknown. There have been anecdotal cases of toxicity in cats, so it is recommended that cats don’t eat grapes and, if they are consumed, seek veterinary advice.
Green beans are safe for cats to eat. In moderation, steamed green beans can be a good healthy treat – a half cup only contains about 15 calories.
Kiwi fruit is safe for cats to eat, but it is best to remove the skin first.
The ripe fruit of mango is safe for cats to eat. Be careful with the mango pit, though, since it can cause intestinal obstruction. Mango is great for humans since it contains abundant vitamin C, but cats can make their own vitamin C – they don’t need to get it in food form!
Ripe melon flesh is safe for cats to eat, remove the seeds and rind first.
Peas are safe for cats to eat. They are best served out of the pod, though, since the pod is not easily digested.
The fruit and leaves of pineapple are safe for cats to eat.
Yes, with care
Cats can eat cooked potatoes in small amounts. All members of the nightshade family (which potatoes are a member of) contain solanine in different amounts. Avoid potatoes with green on the skin; these parts have the highest levels.
Cooked pumpkin is safe for cats and can be used to treat mild cases of constipation and diarrhea.
All parts of the rhubarb plant are toxic to cats due to soluble calcium oxalate crystals. Leaves contain the highest amount but are also present in the stalks. Soluble calcium oxalate crystals can cause blood calcium levels to drop and, in rare cases, acute kidney failure. Immediate symptoms can include salivation and vomiting.
Yes, with care
The fruit of ripe cherries, plums, apricots, pears, and nectarine is safe to eat; however, the seeds/pips contain amygdalin, which breaks down into cyanide.
Also be aware that not only do the seeds cause toxicity, if enough is ingested, they also pose a choking risk or gastrointestinal obstruction.
Strawberries are safe for cats to eat. Make sure to wash them first to remove possible pesticides.
Sweet potato is safe for cats to eat. Make sure the sweet potato is adequately cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Yes, with care
The leaves, stems, and green fruit contain solanine which is toxic to cats and can cause gastrointestinal disturbances. The ripe fruit is non-toxic to cats.
Zucchini is safe for cats to eat.
Toxicity can range from mild to severe. How the cat is affected depends on the amount consumed, the degree of toxicity and the overall health of the cat.
If you are worried your cat has ingested a potentially toxic fruit or vegetable, seek veterinary advice or contact your local poisons helpline.
Frequently asked questions
Can cats eat raw vegetables?
If you want to provide veggies as the occasional treat for your cat, it is best to cook them instead of serving them raw. Some vegetables, especially larger chunks, can be a choking hazard or cause gastrointestinal obstruction. Cooking veggies until they are fork-tender reduces these risks significantly.
Do cats like fruits or vegetables?
Your cat is much more likely to be interested in that juicy steak or fish on your plate than in the fruit or vegetables. Cats lack the receptor to taste sweetness, so fruits and desserts may not be appealing to them.
How much is too much fruit or veggies?
Fruit and vegetables should only be given as an occasional treat instead of their regular commercially-made treats, not in addition to them. Remember that your cat’s caloric requirements are much lower than yours, so even 20 calories can be a significant part of their daily calorie intake. This means that fruits especially should be given in moderation.
What human foods do cats like?
Your cat is a carnivore, so will be tempted by those meaty smells from the stove, oven, or grill. While they may eat the occasional fruit or vegetable, they are much more likely to want a taste of tuna. Cats also don’t have taste receptors for sweetness. So while they may eat the occasional bite of ice cream, it’s more likely they are interested in it for its fat content and not the sweetness.
What happens if a cat eats fruit?
Many fruits are ok in moderation, as long as they are correctly prepared. The takeaway message is to cut the fruit or vegetable into bite-sized pieces, make sure it is soft, and avoid pits, skins, and peels.