Let’s face it; everyone loves a roly-poly cat. Videos of their antics dominate the internet, and there’s just something about that attitude (or cattitude, rather). Unfortunately, even though they may be cute, they definitely aren’t healthy.
Over half of the domesticated housecats in the United States are overweight or obese. This can lead to health problems like diabetes, arthritis, bladder stones, and heart disease. Unfortunately, even being moderately overweight can reduce your cat’s life expectancy by several years.
There are a lot of factors that can contribute to weight problems in your pet, and your veterinarian can help you determine what they are. A good place to start is by reevaluating what they eat in a day. A change in diet can help your cat drop the pound or two that will get them back to a healthier place. One of the best places to start is by swapping out the treats that you’re feeding them.
You may have heard that adding fruits and veggies to a dog’s diet can help cut calories, provide vitamins and fiber, and still leave them feeling full. If you’re wondering if this might work for your cat, the answer is yes, but there are definitely some guidelines you should follow.
Safe Fruits and Veggies For Cats
When it comes to feeding your cat plant-based foods, there are some that are better nutritionally, some that should be avoided because they’re difficult to digest, and some that are just downright toxic. Make sure you are positive a fruit or vegetable is cat safe before adding it to their diet.
Cats digest cooked vegetables better than raw ones, so lightly steaming them is the best way to prepare them for your cat. Making veggie purees to mix into your cat’s food helps add bulk which will fill them up and keep them from noticing that you’ve reduced the amount of food in their dish.
Fruit can be a wholesome treat for cats, but your cat may not be receptive to it. Cats won't enjoy the sweetness of fruit the way dogs do, because they can't taste it. When it comes to cats, texture has a lot to do with whether they find a certain food or treat enjoyable.
Fruits and veggies that are full of fiber and antioxidants, but low in sugar, and safe for cats include:
- Apples- High in fiber and a great source of vitamin A; be sure to cut them into small pieces.
- Broccoli- A good source of antioxidants; lightly steam to help your cat digest it better.
- Blueberries- A superfood that is rich in antioxidants; try mixing them with your cat's regular food.
- Carrots- Full of beta-carotene; try steaming and puréeing to use as a food mix-in.
- Green beans- Full of fiber and low in calories; cutting back on dry food and adding green beans will help keep your cat feeling full.
- Pears- Full of fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C; pears make a great treat, but be sure they are cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Raspberries- High in vitamin C with antioxidant properties; these are good as a treat or mixed into food.
- Watermelon- Potassium rich and a good source of B vitamins; try offering small chunks.
- Pumpkin- A good source of fiber, vitamin A, and gut support; pumpkin can be used as a mix-in with dry food.
- Asparagus- A source of heart-healthy potassium; try lightly steaming and offering in chunks or as a purée added to dry food.
Veggies and Fruit to Never Give Your Cat
It’s hard to believe that things that are healthy and beneficial for us can be dangerous for our closest companions. Many things that we consume regularly can cause extreme health issues and even death in cats. Never feed your cat these fruits and vegetables or anything that includes these as ingredients:
- Onions and other allium family plants- Onions, garlic, chives, leeks, all of the plants in this family damage the red blood cells of cats and dogs and can cause severe anemia. Powdered, dried, or whole, these should definitely be avoided.
- Grapes and raisins- These are tasty snacks for us, but for cats, consuming grapes and raisins can lead to kidney damage.
- Citrus- While citrus fruits aren’t toxic to cats, the acidity of the fruit can lead to an upset stomach and diarrhea.
Should Your Cat Go Vegetarian?
Don’t be surprised if your cat is resistant to adding fruits and vegetables to the menu. Not only can cats not taste the sweetness that makes these appealing, but unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores. This means that the majority of a cat’s nutrients need to come from meat. For a healthy cat, the nutrient profile should resemble this:
- 52% protein
- 36% fat
- 12% carbohydrates
At 12% carbohydrates, even healthy carbohydrate sources, like fruits and vegetables, should play a minimal role in a healthy cat’s diet.
If your cat has an aversion to plants, and you’re trying to find healthier treats, try natural treats made of dried meat. These are perfect if you are trying to watch the carbohydrates your cat is eating or prefer your pets stick to a more ancestral diet.
These Simply Natural Air-Dried Chews are slowly dried to preserve nutrients, do not contain preservatives, and are a healthy source of meat protein. Be sure to select treats that are the right size for your cat, so they can safely consume them. Pro-tip: You can also select bigger treats that can be broken into smaller pieces - more bang for your buck!
Remember, even though your cat can safely consume some fruits and vegetables, cats are not designed to be vegetarian. Despite what some of the fads say, a solely plant-based diet may have detrimental effects on your cat’s health. Veggies as treats are fine if your cat will eat them, but the main portion of your cat’s diet should come from a healthy source of meat protein.
Do you feed your cat fruits and veggies? Let us know how they respond in the comments below!