Can cats eat rice?
Yes, cats can eat rice. Rice is the most important food crop in the developing world and a staple food throughout the globe. Veterinarians routinely recommend white rice as a part of a bland diet for cats recovering from gastrointestinal disorders because it is easy to digest.
When to feed a cat rice
Cats are obligate carnivores and must consume meat in their diet to obtain essential nutrients which their body cannot produce. When feeding rice as a treat, rice (and other treats) should make up no more than 10% of a cat’s diet as they are not nutritionally complete and contribute to extra calories which can lead to weight gain over time.
Your cat’s veterinarian may recommend rice as a part of a bland diet for cats with acute gastrointestinal inflammation or infection, pancreatitis, gastric ulcers, during chemotherapy and post-surgery (especially involving the GI tract). Depending on the veterinarian’s instructions, this may be fed alone, or with chicken breast.
Can all cats eat rice?
Rice may not be suitable for the following:
- Cats on a prescription diet to treat or manage a disease
- Cats on a hypoallergenic diet
- Cats with a known hypersensitivity to rice
- Young kittens who have not weaned
Do not feed rice which contains additional ingredients, especially onion and garlic, which are toxic to cats.
How to prepare rice for cats
Rice should always be cooked before it is given to a cat. It may be served on its own, mixed in with your cat’s regular food or added to boiled chicken. Always speak to your veterinarian before you feed rice to a cat.
- Add one cup of white rice to a sieve and rinse well to remove excess starch
- Add two cups of water or salt-reduced chicken stock (check the ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain garlic or onion) to a pan and bring to the boil (the rice/water or stock ratio is 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice)
- Place rice in a pot and bring back to the boil
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 8-12 minutes until the rice is just tender
- Strain and allow the rice to cool down before you feed to the cat (if the rice is too dry, you can add a small amount of water or chicken stock)
- If the rice is not going to be used straight away, store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours
*see note below for rice safety
What kind of rice is best for cats?
Brown rice is the entire rice grain which contains the fibrous bran, germ and the carb-rich endosperm
White rice is the carb-rich endosperm only, having had the bran and germ removed
Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice and is higher in fibre, magnesium and other nutrients, but it is harder to digest. Therefore, white rice is recommended for cats who have been prescribed a bland diet. Brown rice won’t harm the cat if it is fed as an occasional food in addition to a complete and balanced cat food.
Uncooked rice can contain spores of the bacterium Bacillus cereus which are able to survive the cooking process. Held under the right conditions (between 8 C and 55 C), B. cereus spores can grow into bacteria. These bacteria produce toxins which can cause food poisoning (vomiting and diarrhea) in affected cats.
Once the rice is cooked, B. cereus grows and thrives in the warm, moist environment therefore if rice is not going to be consumed immediately, it will need to be cooled as quickly as possible. Spread cooked rice thinly on a plate to speed up cooling and cover and refrigerate once the rice has cooled sufficiently. This won’t kill the bacteria, but it does slow down its growth. Discard uneaten rice within two days.