The last thing you’d think you’d find in cat food is a vegetable. They are obligate carnivores, after all, meaning they crave and need a meat-based diet to survive. While it should make up the bulk of their diet, you might be wondering, can cats eat vegetables?
Without opening a textbook on evolutionary biology, let’s just say that cats have adapted to life with humans, and cats know a good vegetable here and there is good for them. After all, even their wild ancestors nibbled on grasses to keep things running smoothly, if you know what I mean. What’s more, their prey often eats plants, and cats eat their prey, guts and all (sorry to get graphic). So while cats used to get their plant material indirectly, cat food must now be supplemented with some form of vegetable matter.
If you’ve got a feline friend that seems partial to parsnips, you might be considering breaking her off a little broccoli. Before you fix kitty a side of veggies of her own, get the facts on what vegetables are appropriate for her.
Can cats eat vegetables?
So yes, cats can in fact eat vegetables. In moderation, vegetables can be a good source of some key nutrients, aid with digestion, and offer a dose of antioxidants.
While you want to stick to prey your kitty could catch in the wild, such as rabbit, chicken, our whole Freeze-Dried Minnow Treats, and our Freeze-Dried Duck Nibs, a garnish of some mashed pea protein is an appreciated touch.
What vegetables can cats eat?
Without further ado, here are 6 healthy vegetables, why they’re good for your kitty, and how they’re normally prepared.
Treat your cat to some carrots every once in a while. Carrots are a nutritious snack chock-full of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, vitamin A, and beta-carotene. Potassium is an important mineral and electrolyte that helps with hydration. Pectin, a fiber found in carrots, can help your cat with bowel movements. And beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that can boost your cat’s immune system.
Simply cook those carrots until soft! Do not season them. Wait for them to cool inside and out before offering kitty a bite. Raw carrots are too hard for cats and may be a choking hazard.
Ah yes, peas and carrots: the classic vegetable combo. It turns out peas are also a nice low-calorie snack for your cat, containing healthy grain-free carbohydrates, potassium, iron, and a surprising amount of protein. In fact, peas have become a common ingredient in cat food, not without some critics.
In short, protein derived from peas is sometimes used as a substitute for superior animal protein. On the other hand, for a carbohydrate boost, they’re healthier than the usual grains found in cheap cat food—grains like wheat, corn, and rice.
But Dr. Jennifer Adolphe, Nutrition Manager at Petcurean, clarifies that grain-free food does not equal carbohydrate-free. For that reason, Public Goods’ Cat Food contains no peas, and chicken is the first ingredient.
However, as a supplemental snack or treat, peas are just fine. Please note that raw peas contain small amounts of contentious lectins so be sure to cook them to render them harmless. In fact, your cat shouldn’t even eat raw meat. Cook it all for the safest bet.
Everything in moderation, right?
You’d be surprised how many cats love pumpkin. And that’s not by coincidence. It turns out it’s a nutritious treat abundant in fiber, vitamins A and C, and beta-carotene.
Fiber plays an important role in your cat’s digestive system, and while they can’t tolerate as much as us humans, fiber plays double duty getting things moving when they’re stuck (ahem, fur ball) and firming things up when they’re runny.
Because cats groom themselves, they can sometimes use an aide to push through ingested fur, and fiber does just that.
And if your cat is obese, pumpkin can be a healthy treat to wean her off unhealthy snacks, leaving her satisfied with fewer calories.
Make sure you use cooked pumpkin. We recommend buying cans from the grocery because it’s easier. And double-check that it’s not pumpkin pie filling because your cat won’t appreciate the added sugars and dangerous nutmeg.
4. Winter or Butternut Squash
Pumpkin is not the only gourd cats can chomp on. In the same family of vegetables, we have winter and butternut squash which are non-toxic and potentially healthy for many of the same vitamin-rich and fibrous reasons.
Less frequently #hashtagged than pumpkin (squash latte, anyone?) but just as nutritious, pick them up during Thanksgiving and your cat can celebrate with you. Cook them as you would pumpkin, and skip the salt and spices.
Ah, zucchini. This juicy vegetable is a low calorie, hydrating treat for cats, which have a lower thirst drive than humans. That’s because their desert-dwelling ancestors relied on moisture from the food they ate.
Small quantities of zucchini also provide a dose of fiber and antioxidants such as beta-carotene. You can feed them raw or cooked, but cooked is ideal.
6. Green Beans
Usually left until the last reluctant bite on a child’s plate, green beans aren’t a glamorous vegetable.
But it’s this simple: these fibrous greens provide a low-calorie treat for your cat, especially great for felines on a weight reduction diet. You can grab fresh, canned, or even frozen peas from most groceries, and unlike other contenders on this list, they can be served raw or cooked.
But like the pumpkin, watch out for seasoned or even salted cans; they can often contain butter (cats are rather lactose-intolerant) and herbs (which can cause an upset stomach).
What vegetables are bad for cats?
There are certain toxic vegetables you should avoid. These include all the alliums:
They may form the rich savory base to so many human dishes, but plants in this category are dangerous because they break down your cat’s red blood cells which could lead to anemia.
Just think, “If it keeps vampires at bay, from the cat, keep away!”
Long story short, you should avoid carelessly feeding your cat table scraps. Instead, introduce one approved vegetable at a time as an occasional treat. Test a few out to cater to your kitty’s taste. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian about your cat’s special needs—they may differ based on age, weight, and underlying health conditions.
By now, you probably have a special vegetable in mind to enjoy that special bond that only comes at feeding time—we all know who’s boss.
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