Cat food is generally designed to give our feline babies all the nutrition they need. But there’s something fun about giving them a taste of traditional human foods now and then.
While cats are carnivores (they are designed to eat meat), that doesn’t mean they can’t safely eat delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables sometimes. But not all fruits and veggies are safe for cats, so it can be tough to find the right ones to try.
What fruits and vegetables can cats eat?
We will dive more into this question at the bottom of this post (where we also talk about how to prepare these things for your cat) – however, here I’ll explain that domestic cats can eat the following fruits and vegetables in small quantities: pumpkin, peas, squash, cucumber, cooked green beans, cooked carrots, bananas, watermelon, and peeled apples.
Be sure your cat doesn’t eat too many of these treats; cats are obligate carnivores which means they must eat meat to survive. Fruits and veggies should only be given as special treats and only a few bites at a time.
That’s an impressive amount of fruits and vegetables that cats can safely eat, but the safe list is even longer. There are also some caveats to these foods, so don’t let Fluffy dig in just yet. Read on for the details of which fruits and vegetables are safe for cats.
Cat Nutrition Primer
Before you start feeding your cats fruits and vegetables by the truckload, it’s important to understand their nutritional needs.
There is a slight variation in what each individual cat will need based on his or her overall health and age, but the following guidelines are suitable for most healthy cats.
Cats Are Carnivores
There is no argument here. Cats are carnivores; science and Mother Nature both say so. In fact, they are considered obligate carnivores, which means they absolutely must have meat to survive.
Obligate carnivores, such as cats, have lost the ability to make specific amino acids within their own bodies. For example, a cat must eat a meat-rich diet to get adequate vitamin A. They are not able to use the beta-carotene in a carrot to make vitamin A on their own. Yet, when they eat a rabbit who has eaten a carrot, that rabbit’s body has already converted the beta-carotene into vitamin A that the cat can then process.
Can Cats Be Vegan or Vegetarian?
There are no safe vegan or vegetarian options for your feline friend. Anyone claiming that there is an alternative to meat for cats is misinformed. Veganism and vegetarianism are choices for humans because we are omnivores, which means we can eat just about everything if we so choose. Cats don’t have that choice, and if a human tries to force their veganism or vegetarianism onto a cat, it will make them incredibly sick and may even lead to their death.
Cats Can Eat Raw Foods?
Cats can and should eat raw foods if it’s feasible for you to provide it. With their shorter digestive tract and evolution’s impressive designs, cats are able to efficiently digest raw foods such as ground rabbit or chicken. In fact, cats can get more nutrition from raw foods than they may be getting from processed, commercial, or some cooked foods.
Cats Can Survive Just Fine on Cooked Foods?
Even though raw foods are often safe for cats, many cat parents aren’t comfortable with the potential bacteria or foodborne illnesses involved.
For those kitty parents, there’s still the option of cooking your cat’s food. It’s possible to give them adequate, high-quality nutrition by cooking the right balance of ingredients each meal. There are also some great pre-packaged cooked cat food services out there.
How to Safely Feed A Cat Fruits and Vegetables
Meat should be a cat’s primary source of nutrition, but they can get some vitamins from occasional bites of fruits and veggies. Though they may enjoy snacking on a bite of your cantaloupe or carrot, there are some guidelines to keep in mind before you give in to those big, sweet kitty eyes staring at your plate.
Check this list to see if a fruit or veggie is listed:
☐ Note whether the fruit or veggie should be raw or cooked
☐ See if there are any parts of a “safe” fruit or veggie that cats should not have
☐ Ask your vet before offering your kitty a fruit or vegetable, even if it’s on this safe list
☐ Always do a test run of a tiny bite for your cat before giving a big treat just in case of adverse reactions
Beyond the safety concerns, there’s also the issue of personal preference. All cats have different tastes. What one cat loves, another may despise. Don’t be upset if your cat can’t stand your favorite snack of peeled apples.
A fun little fact is that cats cannot taste sweetness. They don’t have that ability very strongly in their taste buds, so some cats may not like fruit at all. The ones who do are probably just excited to be sharing a treat with you and don’t really care what it is.
Which Fruits Can Cats Eat?
Not all treats need to be smelly (like tuna) or unhealthy (like store-bought treats). The following fruits are safe for most healthy adult cats. As with all new foods, be sure to ask your vet before you try anything on this list.
Bananas are good for cats and can be served fresh in small pieces or frozen and blended to make a smooth and creamy texture.
Apples should always be peeled before feeding to cats. Apple skins are hard for cats to chew and may get stuck in their throats.
Never feed a cat apple seeds!
Watermelon is a great hot weather snack to share with your cat.
As with apples, do not feed a cat watermelon seeds!
🍈 Honeydew, Mango and Cantaloupe Melon(s)
Honeydew melon is safe for cats but again, please avoid the seeds. Mango can be served (skinless) and in small bites.
Cantaloupe is safe for cats, but as with the other melons on this list, avoid the seeds.
Apricot flesh is high in potassium, but avoid the stem, pit, and leaves.
Pear should be served in thin slices after peeling and removing the seeds and stems.
🍓 Berries (Strawberry, Blueberry, Cranberry)
Strawberries are a good fruit choice for cats. And blueberries are a fun treat for cats when serves fresh or frozen on hot days. Cranberries are a tart treat that many cats don’t like, but some rather enjoy. Avoid cranberry sauce (even homemade) and cranberry juice, though.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Too many fruits can cause gastric upset, so please only feed your cats very small amounts at a time.
Fruit treats should not be a daily thing or the litter box could become a smelly nightmare.
Which Vegetables Can Cats Eat?
Of course, not all cats will like vegetables, but many more like veggies compared to those who like fruits. Veggies are a great source of extra vitamins, but the main advantages to veggie treats are the additional water and fiber which can aid in digestion.
Pumpkin is a favorite vegetable for cats.
In fact, many vets recommend feeding small amounts of cooked, mashed pumpkin to help kitties gain weight or to help them through tummy problems.
Carrots are great for cats, but be sure these are steamed or boiled first. Carrots are too hard for cats to chew properly.
Broccoli should be thoroughly cooked before you offer it to your cat. Some cat parents report an increase in gas after feeding broccoli, so go easy on this treat.
Bell peppers can be served in small pieces after cooking.
🥫 Beans, Peas and Asparagus
Green beans are another favorite, but these should always be cooked.
Peas are a healthy and fun snack for cats. The fun part is watching your cat chase a frozen pea around the kitchen floor.
Asparagus might come as a surprise on this list, but many cats enjoy this vegetable. Be sure it is steamed or boiled.
Celery is safe for cats and may help freshen his breath, but many cats don’t care for the taste.
Cucumber can be served raw, but be sure it is cut into very small pieces.
🥗 Lettuce and Cauliflower
Lettuce can be shredded down to very small pieces and served as bite-sized treats.
Cauliflower is healthy for cats in small bits after steaming or boiling.
🍆 Squash (Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Butternut Squash)
Squashes such as zucchini, yellow squash, and butternut squash are all safe for cats, too. Be sure they are thoroughly cooked and mashed though.
🥔 Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are a favorite for most cats. Serve cooked and cooled.
How Much Fruit or Veggies Can I Give My Cat?
Keep the number of fruits and vegetables to a minimum.
Even though vegetables are overall safe for cats, they’re not suitable as a staple in a feline’s diet. Fruits have the added danger of too much sugar if fed in excess.
One small bite every few days is probably safe for most cats. You’ll definitely want your vet’s guidance on this though. Overweight cats or felines with underlying health issues won’t gain many (if any) benefits from the addition of fruits and vegetables as treats. However, your vet may suggest supplementing with specific vegetables.
Instead of looking at fruits and vegetables for your cat as a way to supplement their diet, try to view it as a treat to build a bond with your cat.
She’ll feel like she’s getting something special if it comes from your plate—a forbidden food if you will.
You’ll get the joy of hearing your happy kitty purring as she goes to town on a fresh strawberry or apple slice.
What human foods are not safe for cats?
- Never feed a cat onions, garlic, chocolate, wild mushrooms, rhubarb, or avocado
- Corn is considered a common allergen for many cats.
- Grapes and raisins have been linked to kidney damage in cats.
- Never feed a cat fat scraps.
Can cats eat rice?
Yes, rice is safe for cats.
Make sure it is clean and from a trusted source. It should also be thoroughly cooked before serving.