We talk a lot about healthy veggies and fruits for dogs, which ones are great, and the few that they don’t really need to have in their diets. Fruits and veggies can add a nutritious punch to your dog’s diet, providing vital vitamins and minerals, often without adding a lot of calories. And they make great treats!
But what about the kitties? Can cats eat vegetables? Should you be adding some broccoli florets or zucchini slices to your furry feline’s dinner bowl? This is often a controversial question, so let’s get into it!
Can Cats Eat Vegetables?
Can cats eat vegetables? You may have heard people answer yes and no to this question.
Why? Well, cats are obligate carnivores. Obligate means ‘by necessity,’ so an obligate carnivore, by definition, must eat meat to survive. That’s true of all cats – they have to consume meat. It provides them with their energy, protein, and fat requirements. And they’re not alone in this ‘obligate carnivore status. Many other animals are the same – dolphins, walruses, mink, salmon, crocodile, even snakes and lizards.
So, technically, cats don’t need to eat vegetables to survive. They get their nutrition from meat.
But does that mean vegetables are off the table? Since your cat must consume meat to survive, does that mean they shouldn’t eat vegetables? Do they hold no nutritional value whatsoever?
For many who choose to feed a raw diet, one of the basics of this is looking at the ancestral diet (what the animal’s ancestors would eat), and choosing items that mirror that diet. Out in the wild, when a domestic cat’s ancestors would catch prey, chances are there would be vegetable components in the prey animal’s stomach and/or intestines. And the cat would eat that. So, although they were eating meat, many would also be consuming vegetables and fruit.
Now, cats don’t require carbohydrates in their diets. And high carb veggies aren’t ideal. Nor are too many carbs. Firstly, they just aren’t great for a cat’s digestive system, but too many can wreak havoc in the long term, leading to things like obesity and metabolic diseases, or diseases that throw off the hormones and metabolism, like diabetes and hormonal imbalances.
All that said, certain vegetables (and in the right amounts) provide your cat with healthy phytonutrients, which provide valuable bioflavonoids and phenols that impart extra health benefits and can help fight against cancer, autoimmune disease, and infections.
And what’s the right amount? Vegetables should only make up 5-10% of the diet.
Good Vegetables for Cats
So, if adding some vegetables to your cat’s diet is a good idea, which ones are a good idea? And which ones are a good idea to stay away from?
- Broccoli – high in fibre, antioxidants, vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which support the immune system
- Carrots – rich in lycopenes and antioxidants, and lycopene-rich foods can help prevent certain cancers and protect the eyes
- Kale – full of vitamins and nutrients, rich in vitamin A and copper, which are very important
- Green beans – another great source of fiber
- Zucchini – a good source of magnesium, potassium, and manganese
- Onions – can cause anemia
- Lettuce – can cause diarrhea
- High carbohydrate vegetables like potatoes, squash, peas or corn – as we mentioned, cats don’t need carbs in their diets
Will Cats Eat Vegetables?
Now, can cats eat vegetables? We’ve established that they can – and often should – but will they? That’s a whole other question.
Most cats are picky, so it you set down a bowl of kale or carrots in front of you kitty, chances are, they’re going to turn their nose up at them.
So, how can you work them into the diet?
- In most cases, the more raw, the better! Broccoli, for example, loses a lot of its nutritional value when you cook it, so if your cat will eat it completely raw, that’s best.
- If raw is a no-go, lightly steam veggies and cut them up small. Just remember not to add any seasonings.
Take your 5-10% and mix it in with your cat’s regular food. If you fee raw or wet canned food, this will definitely be easier, but you can try it with kibble too!
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