Cats are obligate carnivores, not vegetarians. They need to be fed a diet that is high in protein (amino acids, such as taurine) to facilitate their physical development. A cat’s diet plan should NOT consist entirely of green vegetables. Pets have different dietary requirements to humans.
Some vegetables are healthy, but they should only be fed to your cat in moderation. These include peas, carrots, broccoli, and spinach. Other vegetables are extremely tough for felines to digest though, or even toxic. You should definitely avoid feeding your cat mushrooms, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. These will almost certainly make your cat sick.
Introducing vegetables to your cat’s diet can boost their health, but it must be done carefully. Don’t fill your cat’s food dish with fresh green produce. That’s a fast track to an upset stomach. We will look at how your cat can eat vegetables safely, and benefit from their nutritional value.
Do Cats Eat Vegetables in the Wild?
Whether wild or domesticated, cats are obligate carnivores. This means that they don’t just prefer meat. They need it to survive. Over the years, cats have evolved not to generate the amino acids found in meat organically. Taurine is the most common example. Without meat in their diet, a cat will not grow and thrive. In fact, in some cases, they may not even survive.
This means that no, a cat will not live on vegetables in the wild. Stray or feral cats live on small prey animals, and any meat scraps that sympathetic humans may provide.
It’s a matter of biology. As Feline Nutrition explains, cats have the shortest digestive tract of any mammal. This means that they break down protein – found in meat – very quickly. As vegetables tend to be much higher in carbohydrates, they can be tougher to break down.
This does not mean that wild cats are strangers to vegetables, however. As discussed, feral cats eat smaller animals. In turn, these smaller animals often eat vegetables and greenery. This means that cats consume the vegetables found in the stomach of their prey by proxy.
Overall, however, cats do not rely on vegetables to stay active and healthy. A typical feline diet should contain just 15% of vegetables and herbs. The remaining 85% will be from meat, bone, fat, and offal. Anything less than this places the functionality of a cat’s organs in jeopardy.
Do Cats Need to Eat Green Vegetables?
Cats need meat. Certain vegetables have health benefits, but they cannot replace animal products. Any high-quality cat food will have the optimal balance of ingredients.
Where you may want to bring vegetables into your cat’s life, however, is in the form of treats. If your cat is gaining weight, you may need to look at their food intake. Placing a cat on a crash diet can be torturous for both pet and owner. Your can will meow and cry because they’re hungry. This means that calorie-neutral vegetables can come in very handy.
Allow us to reiterate one last time – cats do not need to eat green vegetables. If you pick up quality food with a balance of nutrients, they are covered. Sprinkling broccoli over such a meal will add nothing, and may deter your cat from eating.
Vegetables can make useful, alternative treats. If you’re aiming to adjust your cat’s palate to vegetables, do so slowly. If you get the go-ahead to introduce veg to your cat’s meals, start with just a sprinkle and gradually increase their intake to whole foods.
How to Introduce Vegetables to Your Cat’s Diet
Cats struggle to process the carbohydrates found in vegetables. This means that handing them some will end in disaster. Your cat’s body will reject it, often messily. That’s right – vomiting white foam and diarrhea are common if your cat eats something that disagrees with them.
Once your vet confirms that you can bring veggies into your pet’s life, take these steps.
- Start small. Never make a sudden, wholesale change to your cat’s diet. This will cause severe problems with their digestion. Instead, begin with a ratio of 90:10 in favor of the familiar. Over time, you can steadily increase the vegetable content.
- Match your cat’s preferred food texture. Felines can be fussy eaters, and no two cats have the same dietary preferences. Pay attention to what food your cat gravitates toward. If they like hard, crunchy kibble, chop up tiny slices of equally tough veg. If they prefer softer food, consider pureeing the vegetables to match.
- Chop, slice, and dice. As cats struggle to process carbs, don’t make them break down large slices of veg, Chop the produce as small as you can, and sprinkle liberally.
- Make vegetables more fun. Consider that your cat does not automatically gravitate toward them. You may need to spice your vegetables up with aromas (without using spices.)
- Purchase safe produce. Always be careful about the veg that you feed your cat. Organic is best, albeit expensive. Ensure that you know the source of the vegetables, though. If there are any traces of pesticide on the produce, your cat could get very sick.
- Be patient and understanding. Cats may not take to vegetables overnight. Felines resist any change, especially where their food is concerned. If your pet refuses to eat a meal that contains vegetables, offer them something else. Cats can be stubborn – they know you won’t let them starve. You can save both of you a lot of trouble by just trying another time.
Not every cat will take to eating vegetables. It’s just not in their nature. If you can manage to convince your feline to eat their greens, however, there will be advantages.
What Vegetables Can Cats Eat?
So, we have established that cats can eat vegetables, in moderation. This leads to another, equally important question though. What are the best vegetables for cats? Let’s take a look at some of the most common options that can be found in most homes.
Can Cats Eat Peas and Green Beans?
Peas are a common and popular ingredient in cat food. They’re a great filler, and they’re also packed with nutrients. Peas and green beans contain substantial quantities of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, and K. You’ll also flood your cat’s body with zinc, potassium, magnesium, iron, riboflavin, phosphorous and thiamine. That’s a pretty exhaustive list.
Peas can make a fun treat for kittens. Pour some on the floor, and watch your pet chase and capture them. Green beans are particularly impactful as treats for older, or overweight, pets. These ingredients are best steamed. Just avoid tinned peas or beans. While these will theoretically match the nutrition of fresh produce, they’ll also be loaded with salt.
Can Cats Eat Broccoli?
Broccoli is a feline superfood, so if you can convince your cat to eat it, then it should be encouraged. If your cat is constipated, broccoli is especially advisable. This vegetable contains more fiber than just about any other.
Of course, this does also mean that it should be approached with a little caution. While fiber can unblock a constipated cat’s digestion, it can also cause diarrhea in a healthy pet. Chop broccoli into small chunks, and mix it in with cat food.
Can Cats Eat Carrots?
Carrots are another vegetable that makes their way into many cat foods by stealth. Carrots are packed with calcium, fiber, potassium, beta-carotene, and Vitamins A, C, and B6. These nutrients combine to give your cat healthy skin, fur, eyesight, and internal organs.
Carrots should be cooked before serving to a cat to soften them up a little. They should also be chopped in small, bite-sized chunks. Do not expect your pet to munch through a whole carrot. It will be challenging for them to digest.
Can Cats Eat Sweet Potatoes?
White potatoes are not recommended for cats. They are dense and carb-packed, making them very hard to digest. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are ideal for felines.
They ease digestion, are packed with fiber, and have hydrating qualities. Also, even a cooked sweet potato will contain plenty of vitamins and nutrients.
Can Cats Eat Cucumbers and Zucchinis?
The internet is filled with videos of cats freaking out at the sight of cucumbers. This is unfortunate, as they are packed with goodness.
Sliced cucumber contains magnesium, and Vitamins K and C. Also, cucumber is virtually carb-free and contains plenty of water. This means that it can help a cat stay hydrated. Cucumber also freshens feline breath, and lowers blood pressure.
Zucchini, as part of the same family, offers many of the same benefits. Also, zucchini is packed with potassium. This dramatically boosts a cat’s immune system. Consider grating a little zucchini over your pet’s meal.
Can Cats Eat Sweetcorn?
Cats will not necessarily struggle with sweetcorn. However, there is also very little to recommend it. Corn is not a natural part of any cat’s diet, after all.
If your cat has a taste for sweetcorn, a small amount as a treat is fine. Try to avoid making a habit of feeding it, though. It has no nutritional value, and too much could block your pet’s digestion.
Can Cats Eat Spinach?
Cats have a complicated relationship with spinach. While it’s undoubtedly packed with goodness, acting as a superfood, it’s best avoided by senior cats.
This is because spinach contains calcium olaxate, which can form crystals in the urine. Older cats, especially females, can be prone to urinary tract infections. Adding spinach to this equation can make for an excruciating time for your pet.
Can Cats Eat Pumpkin and Squash?
Like broccoli, pumpkin is a fiber powerhouse. Tinned and pureed pumpkin will cure any constipation. However, this does mean that it should be served sparingly. If you do pick up a tin, ensure it doesn’t contain excessive sugar or questionable spices.
Can Cats Eat Asparagus?
A small piece of asparagus will be good for your cat as an occasional treat. It is best to soften the vegetable a little before offering it, though. The stalk of asparagus can be very tough, and an impatient feline could choke on it.
The health benefits of asparagus largely revolve around potassium. This vegetable is loaded with it. However, your cat will also enjoy many vitamins and plenty of fiber.
Can Cats Eat Bell Peppers?
Bell peppers are filled with fiber and beta carotene, while they’re also natural antioxidants. The stem and seeds can be very dangerous though, so trim very thoroughly.
You will also need to chop a bell pepper into tiny, manageable portions. How your cat takes to them may depend on the color. As cats typically reject sweet sensations, they may not be keen on yellow or orange peppers. A green or red pepper, however, may offer some enjoyable crunch.
What Vegetables are Toxic to Cats?
Not all vegetables are equal, especially where cat health is concerned. Keep your pet well away from any of the following.
- Garlic and Onions. Both onions and garlic are poisonous to felines, as they contain disulfides and The result will be a breakdown of your pet’s red blood cells. Anemia, sudden weight loss and digestive issues will quickly follow.
- Leeks. Leeks belong to the same family as onions and garlic. This means that they also contain sulfoxides and disulfides.
- Tomatoes. Green tomatoes are the most dangerous for cats, but all are best avoided. The reason for this is the presence of Glycoalkaloid Solanine. This is a highly toxic alkaloid that plays havoc with feline digestion.
- Mushrooms. The mushrooms that you purchase from a supermarket are usually perfectly safe for cats. However, wild mushrooms are invariably toxic and dangerous. If your pet develops a taste for mushrooms and roams outdoors, they could get in trouble.
If you catch your cat eating any of these vegetables, get them to a vet. A professional will be able to advise on the best treatment to prevent permanent damage. If you cannot see a vet quickly, call the ASPCA’s poison control hotline for advice.
Do Cats Like Frozen Vegetables?
No, your cat will likely completely reject a frozen vegetable. This is unfortunate, as crunching on a frozen carrot could be good for their teeth. The feline tongue, however, will give short shrift to anything served below room temperature.
Cooking Vegetables for Cats
If you are cooking vegetables for your cat, there is no point in boiling them. This will remove all essential nutrients from the vegetables. If that’s the case, you are providing your pet with empty carbs. These have no nutritional value, and are hard for your cat to digest.
Steaming or baking is the best way to prepare vegetables for a cat. The ideal texture for feline food is crunchy, but still slightly moist. Monitor the temperature of the vegetables carefully, too.
If they’re too cold, your cat will reject them outright. If they’re too hot, you risk damaging your pet’s mouth and teeth. This will deter from eating vegetables again, as they associate them with pain.
Before you spend substantial time cooking for your cat, check that they enjoy vegetables. Your pet may sniff their bowl and walk away if it contains something unappealing. This is a waste of your time and money, and potentially dangerous to your cat’s health.
How to Make Vegetables Appealing to a Cat
If you want your cat to eat vegetables, you may have a battle on your hands. Cats are not silly. They know the difference between a favorite store-bought treat and a floret of broccoli. If you want your cat to eat vegetables, you may need to encourage them. Consider some of these methods to do so:
- Cover the vegetable in catnip. If your cat loves catnip, they won’t be able to resist this trick.
- Rub the vegetable in meat stock. Cats are carnivorous. They’re drawn to meat, and their nose is the first organ to detect any potential meal. Meat stock or gravy can add an appealing, meaty smell to vegetables.
- Let your cat hunt the vegetable. Try tossing the veggie treat across the room. If your cat catches sight of it through their peripheral vision, they’ll hunt and devour it.
- Pair vegetables with traditional treats. One of the best things about vegetables is that they are essentially calorie-neutral. This means you can offer one to your cat alongside a favorite treat. Much like you would a child, train your cat to eat their veg before getting a treat. Eventually, you can try doing away with the treat altogether.
- Eat vegetables yourself. Cats are natural imitators of their owners. If they watch you eating vegetables, they may want to replicate the experience. This is especially like if you seem to be enjoying the experience. Of course, this does not mean that they’ll like the veggie too. Be prepared for your cat to request a vegetable, then reject it outright.
Vegetables will never be a cat’s first choice of snack. That’s not how felines are wired. With exposure, patience, and encouragement, however, you may convince your pet to tuck in too.
My Cat Threw Up After Eating Vegetables
Cats have delicate digestive tracts. An upset stomach after eating vegetables for the first time suggests too much, too soon. If you are going to introduce vegetables to your cat’s diet, do so slowly. Match their consistency with your pet’s existing food, and begin with small amounts.
If your cat still struggles to keep vegetables down, it suggests they have an allergy. You should stop providing the offending vegetables at once! Also, however, it’s worth seeing a vet. They’ll run tests to pinpoint the sensitivity, and confirm that nothing more serious is to blame.
Can Cats Only Eat Vegetables?
Some meat-averse owners like the idea of a vegetarian diet for cats. Feeding your cat a vegetable-only diet is not safe, and should never be attempted. Your cat will very quickly get sick, and possibly find themselves critically ill.
Don’t think that picking up taurine supplements from a health food store resolves the problem. It does not. Cats that are fed vegetarian or vegan diets frequently experience blindness and heart failure. Also, many vegetables are high in carbohydrates, which are tricky for felines to digest.
If you are adamant that you want to feed your cat a vegetarian diet, speak to a vet. You should be prepared to face opposition, though. Very few healthcare professionals will recommend this course of action. You may be able to switch your cat to a meat-free specialist cat food, though.
Evolution Diet, Vegecat and Wild Earth are the most commonplace. National Geographic profiles the latter, and discusses the general phenomena of meat-free cat meals. These suppliers have their supporters, who claim that their cats are happy and healthy.
Can Cats Eat Any Meat Substitutes?
Tofu is a favorite meat substitute for humans that follow a meat-free diet. Is this safe for cats? The answer is not really. Tofu is constructed from the soy plant, which is dangerous for felines.
As Mercola explains, soy can cause significant disruption to a cat’s digestion. It could even leave your pet at heightened risk of cancer.
Overall, the debate as to whether cats can live meat-free will continue to rage. There will be firm and unchangeable views on both sides. Never lose sight of the fact that felines are obligate carnivores, though. That’s just nature. If you want a pet that thrives without meat, a cat is not an ideal choice.
Vegetables and cats are not a natural mix. If your cat outright rejects the opportunity to eat them, it’s best to accept this. Your cat will not need vegetables to stay healthy. They may suffer after eating them due to the complex nature of feline digestion.
If your pet appears to gravitate naturally to veg, however, that’s no bad thing. Stick to the ratios and safe foods that we discussed, and they’ll enjoy some health benefits. Just remember that cats need meat, and vegetables are just an optional extra.