Can Cats Eat Rice? The Surprising Pros and Cons
When my handsome Siamese cat Misha started having digestive issues, I was surprised at my vet’s treatment plan: an expensive wet cat food made of duck and rice.
“Can cats eat rice?” I wondered. These fluffy apex predators are natural carnivores. They can neither farm nor boil water. How can cats have rice?
But sure enough, feeding my feline small amounts of white rice reduced his diarrhea and vomiting until he got better.
Let’s dive right into the science behind cats and rice so you can make an educated decision to feed or not to feed your cat rice.
Can Cats Eat Rice?
Yes, cats can eat rice—with a few stipulations.
If your feline friend simply loves rice, an unseasoned nibble here or there won’t hurt her. In fact, many cat foods, including Public Goods’ Organic Cat Food, include cooked rice as a harmless filler.
But as obligate carnivores, cats’ bodies won’t receive many helpful nutrients from rice. Because it is neither healthy nor unhealthy for cats to eat rice, it is best to give her small portions of rice as a special treat.
On the flip side, your veterinarian may recommend giving your kitty a little rice if she is suffering from an upset tummy and diarrhea.
According to Dr. Hyunmin Kim, DVM, Director of Community Medicine, ASPCA, the fiber in rice helps your cat’s stool harden and regulates her digestive system. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration and should be addressed as soon as symptoms occur.
Always check with your vet before attempting to treat your pet’s illness.
Can Cats Eat Brown Rice?
As omnivores, we humans strive to eat whole grains. They give us plenty of fiber, B vitamins, iron, folate, selenium, potassium and magnesium
But is brown rice good for cats? Not exactly.
Brown rice is simply unprocessed white rice. It contains the whole parts of the grain, including the hull, bran and germ.
Your feline may receive a small nutritional benefit from eating brown rice over white rice, but she doesn’t need the same vitamins and minerals that we do. That’s why cats don’t naturally eat grains.
But when their tummy is upset, they may eat rice for the fiber which is present in both brown and white rice.
Moreover, Dr. Kim tells us that brown rice is actually a little harder for your cat to digest, so it’s not the best option for her upset stomach or vomiting.
Can Cats Eat White Rice?
You might be wondering if white rice is better.
White rice is processed brown rice. The hull, bran and germ are removed from the grain, making it softer and easier to chew. In fact, Dr. Kim says that white rice is among the easiest grains for your pet to digest because it’s low in fiber and bland.
The final word from Dr. Kim is this: “Cats can eat both plain white and brown rice as long as it’s cooked properly.”
Is Rice Good for Cats?
Rice can be helpful for cats with upset stomachs and is a safe treat every now and then. However, cats’ bodies don’t need the nutrients delivered by grains. In small quantities, it’s neither good nor bad.
The rule of thumb according to Dr. Kim is to keep rice, or any grain, below 25% of your cat’s diet.
Remember that her dry cat food likely contains some grains. Keep that in mind when cooking for your kitty! You don’t want to give her too much.
Is Rice Bad for Cats?
In high quantities, rice can have negative consequences for cats. Feeding your kitten too much fiber could cause her to become constipated or worsen diarrhea.
One 40 week study tested the effects of rice bran on adult felines. Cats whose diet consisted of 26% or more of rice bran showed decreased taurine levels causing a taurine-deficiency. Dr. Kim tells us taurine is a crucial amino acid for cats and can only be found in animal protein.
In other words, too much rice is bad for cats.
Your cat may also be having gastrointestinal issues due to an underlying cause. Be sure to check with your vet first if your cat is suffering.
How to Prepare Rice For Cats
Preparing rice for cats is the same as preparing it for yourself. Unfortunately, cooking an exceptionally small amount of rice is challenging.
Instead, make a full quantity and freeze the leftovers for future treats.
A Simple Rice Recipe for Cats
What you’ll need:
- A measuring cup
- A medium saucepan
- A wooden spoon
- 1 cup dry rice
- 2 cups filtered water
- Boil 2 cups filtered water in a medium saucepan.
- Add 1 cup dry rice, stir and reduce heat to medium.
- Cook for 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let stand until completely cool.
- Fluff with a fork.
- Do not season.
- Dish up 1-2 tablespoons.
- Garnish with 1 teaspoon flakes of dry seaweed (optional).
If your cat has an upset stomach but isn’t interested in eating rice, a little garnish goes a long way. In lieu of seaweed flakes, try mixing in a little tuna juice or a spoonful of her favorite wet food.
Other Human Foods That Cats Can Eat
If you’re set on the idea of sharing your plate with your kitten pal, be mindful of what you give her.
As a general rule, never feed your cat raw meat or seasoned food. That goes for sushi, too! And never give her spoiled or questionable meat. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t give it to your kitty.
So what can you give her? Let’s start with most cats’ favorite: cooked fish! You can also give her chicken, beef, pork and lamb. Cats need a meat-based diet for a healthy heart, sharp vision and strong muscle function.
Other proteins that will make your cat’s mouth water are eggs and cheese. Bear in mind that cats are lactose intolerant. That means cheese should be a rare treat, and you can skip the milk altogether.
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