We have witnessed that our oldest cat Tiger loves tomatoes and cucumbers. He always steals them from our plate. Are vegetables good for cats or are they bad for them? Let’s take a closer look at them.
What Do Cats Need (To Eat)
Cats are obligate carnivores which means that cats need solely meat proteins to thrive. Cats are able to eat most rodents and birds with feathers, bones and most of the organs. The stuff they cannot eat, is vomited or left alone. The food they hunt and eat themselves has a lot of water content.
Everything a cat needs is to be found in the prey they hunt, which consists of all the vitamins, minerals, water content, proteins and other nutrients.
Obligate carnivore means also that cats do not need any form of vegetables (or fruit) as part of their diet. Still, some cats do enjoy some vegetables or fruits, even if it was just to lick the water of them. In the same time we also find these vegetables (and fruits and herbs) in cat food. What is this all about?
Vegetables In Cat Food
A lot of cat foods food, mostly kibble (dry cat food), but actually wet cat food just as well, contain vegetables, grains, fruits and spices or herbs. When cats are supposed to eat only meat proteins, why are they being fed vegetables and fruit through their diets?
There are two reasons for this:
- Trying to achieve similar nutrients with less meat
- Its cheaper than 100% meat
Similar Nutrients With Less Meat
Cats have specific needs for their diet to be able to survive or better yet, thrive. Perhaps you have heard about Taurine. It is a necessary protein that is found in animal meat. The dry kibble does not contain this protein through the meat, because all the meat that is used for pet food production is cooked, destroying these important proteins in the process. Instead, the Taurine is added as a manufactured protein. There are a couple of these absolute neccesities that are added to the food after cooking.
In the same way there are many other minerals, vitamins and other nutrients within the prey they kill. All these nutrients are no longer available and are being replaced by something different. This is why they add all sorts of vegetables, fruits, herbs and even straight tablet form vitamins and minerals to your cats food. Ultimately they try to balance out your cat’s nutrient need in their cat food.
Its Cheaper Than Offering 100% Meat
Adding all sorts of vegetables, fruits and herbs, means adding less of the most expensive bit of pet food: meat. The meat products that are used in cat food are usually of the type chicken, turkey and duck.
To lower the costs of the cat food, a lot of other ingredients are thrown into the formula. Vegetables can be cheaper than meat, so they are added as fillers. As such a lot of grains such as corn and wheat, as well as starches (potatoes) are added to the food. These starches and grains do not add much to the nutrient list of cat food, but do help to fill your cats tummy. Unfortunately do these starches no good for cats, as they are basically sugars that give little and short energy burns.
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Vegetables On Your Plate
Nonetheless cats do sometimes have weird behaviour. They can often enjoy things that are meant for us humans instead. They might lick your plate, because you left some nice salty sauce or a fatty milk on your plate. Cats love the bad things in life too.
While they can drink milk, it is not particularly good for them. The same goes for salty sauces on your plate. It is generally a good idea to keep your cats from licking your plate, because there can easily be something harmful on that plate to them. As such you should be careful with onions, chives and garlic, which can be part of your sauce leftovers.
Okay, all the warnings aside, cats do sometimes enjoy the strangest of vegetables and fruits. We have seen all our cats lick watermelon or any type of melon in fact. Tiger also like to eat tomatoes and cucumbers. Perhaps it is the juicy bit that is nice, or maybe they do have a certain nutrient need we did not know about.
Similarly, cats do eat grass. One thing we know for sure is that cats eat grass to get their hairballs out. The grass blade irritates and tickles their throat, which will lead to vomiting the hairball out. Some vets have said though, that grass possibly can give them certain vitamins they need on that particular moment.
Are Vegetables Good For Your Cat?
We have at least verified with a vet that melons, red tomatoes and cucumbers are not harmful to our cats. Green tomatoes are harmful however, so be careful what you offer your cat.
Here is a list of vegetables and fruits that cats can safely eat away on:
- Cooked or steamed
- Green Beans
- Spinach (only when they do not have urinary tract problems)
- Watermelon/Cantaloupe/Honeydew (but no seeds)
- Peeled apples
Let Your Cat Decide
It is however a good idea to not force-feed your cat with these human foods. It is best to let your cat decide whether they want to have a nibble, while you are preparing the vegetable or fruit for yourself. I would personally not want to feed my cat the fruits and vegetables, unless they are showing interest.
It is perhaps also good to note that these foods should be seen as a snack on top of a well-balanced diet. Overfeeding your cat can result in obesity.
Does your cat eat any vegetables or fruits? Please tell us about them in the comments below. Got questions whether a certain food is okay for your cat? Please take contact as well.