If you bring home a punnet of strawberries, your cat will likely show interest. Cats seem to adore these sweet fruits, tempted by their enticing smell. But, of course, this will leave you wondering if strawberries are safe for cats to eat.
Strawberries aren’t harmful to cats unless eaten to excess. Strawberries are a good source of antioxidants, potassium, vitamin B 9, Vitamin C, and manganese. A few strawberry slices will also improve hydration levels on warm days. These fruits are non-toxic, but they do contain natural sugars (carbs).
As cats are indifferent to sweet tastes, most cats won’t enjoy eating this fruit. Their interest begins and ends with the scent. However, if your cat has developed a taste for strawberries, they can be fed to cats in moderation.
Do Cats Like Strawberries?
Cats have fewer taste buds than humans. The human tongue contains over 9,000 taste buds, while cats have less than 500. Thus, cats are unique among the few mammals that have an indifference to sweet tastes.
The Journal of Nutrition stated that a cat’s tongue lacks sweet taste receptors. Cats do not actively dislike the flavor of sweet foods but are apathetic toward them. While fresh strawberries are delicious to the human palate, a cat may as well chew on cardboard.
This means that cats are unlikely to consider strawberries a treat. Despite this, cats often show interest in this fruit due to the strong smell. The scent of strawberries is comparable to catnip for some felines.
Why Can’t Cats Taste Sweet Foods?
All mammals, aside from cats, need small amounts of carbs to thrive. This is why sweet foods are appealing to humans. Before artificial sweeteners were invented, sugar was derived from natural sources, like strawberries.
Unfortunately, this does not apply to felines. Meat provides a cat with everything it needs to flourish. As a result, cats do not instinctively crave sugar. What’s more, their genetic make-up is not programmed to taste it.
When other mammals eat something sweet, two proteins combine to create the flavor. These are known as Tas12r and Tas13r. According to The Journal of Heredity, the feline body does not create Tas12r, and that is why cats do not taste sweetness.
It is believed that this mutation occurred over time through necessity. If cats grew distracted by the pleasure of sweet tastes, they could start rejecting essential proteins.
Some owners will dispute this, claiming that their cats adore sweet foods. Cakes and donuts are often cited as examples. It is not the sugar in these snacks that interest cats; it’s the high fat content that is so appealing.
Are Strawberries Bad for Cats?
Any food, not just strawberries, could harm a cat in the wrong circumstances. Allergic reactions to any food can cause distress. A cat that eats too much of any new food will also experience an upset stomach.
Beyond these concerns, strawberries are considered cat safe for cats. If you have a rare feline that enjoys the taste, strawberries are OK if fed in moderation.
Benefits of Strawberries for Cats
Strawberries are not harmful to cats, but neither are they a feline superfood. They have various health benefits, but cats will need to eat more than their daily allowance to enjoy these benefits.
Antioxidants are found in the skin and flesh of strawberries. They are often lauded as a natural way to prevent illness in humans.
Veterinary Therapeutics claims that antioxidants can prevent progressive disease in cats. However, the consumption of salmon is widely considered to be a better source than strawberries.
One selling point of fruit is that it is primarily water-based. As felines rarely drink enough water, strawberries could be a good way to hydrate a cat.
Do not rely on strawberries for hydration. You’d need to feed your cat far more strawberries than is safe to meet its daily needs.
Manganese is an enzyme that cats require in trace amounts. Consuming manganese ensures that a cat grows at a healthy rate. This enzyme is also beneficial for a cat’s teeth and bones.
Folate (Vitamin B9)
Strawberries are high in folate, which aids the gut and digestion. Vitamin B9 can be useful for easing heartburn and gastric issues.
Cats usually meet their folate needs from eating wild grass. If you have an indoor cat that gets stomach problems, then eating the occasional sliced strawberry may provide a welcome boost to Vitamin B9 levels.
As an electrolyte, potassium is essential to a cat’s health and well-being. A medium-sized strawberry contains about 18.4 mg of potassium.
A lack of potassium can lead to symptoms like an unhealthy coat, leg cramping, weakness, and constipation. This is usually resolved with potassium gluconate supplements, but certain fruits can be beneficial.
The consumption of strawberries, bananas, grapefruit, and honeydew melon can benefit cats with hypokalemia.
Risks of Feeding Strawberries to Cats
While a cat needs to eat many strawberries to gain benefits, the same applies to harm. The leaves of a strawberry are not entirely cat-safe, but the fruit itself is fine.
Unless your cat has an immediate and visceral allergic reaction, strawberries are harmless. The worst that is likely to happen is the cat will spit out the fruit.
A cat can be allergic to any food, including strawberries. Some allergic reactions arise immediately, while others could take up to an hour to manifest. Symptoms of an allergic reaction in cats include:
- Sneezing, coughing, and wheezing
- Streaming from the eyes or nose
- Itching and scratching
- Breakouts of hives on the skin
- Vomiting and diarrhea
If your cat has an allergic reaction, it will pass. If you want to soothe your cat’s discomfort, you can use Benadryl. The right dosage is 2mg of medication per pound of body weight.
Avoid feeding strawberries to your cat again. The allergic reaction will be a fleeting issue, though. Future avoidance will prevent reoccurrence. Only seek veterinary assistance if your cat enters anaphylactic shock.
Obesity And Tooth Decay
As established, the sweetness of strawberries is what makes them delicious. If you have a cat that enjoys sugary treats, it must be fed in moderation.
As cats’ bodies are not accustomed to sugar, they do not process it quickly. This means that a cat that eats strawberries will be prone to weight gain. Also, blood sugar will spike, leaving a cat at risk of diabetes.
Tooth decay is also a prominent concern. The sugar found in this fruit will cling to the teeth and gums. This could lead to dental pain and gum disease. If your cat eats strawberries, brush its teeth afterward.
A cat that eats too much of anything new will develop a stomach upset. Strawberries are no exception.
Strawberries contain fiber, which is not a nutritional requirement for cats. This means that too many strawberries can cause diarrhea. Your cat may also vomit, as its digestive system is not accustomed to the acids found in strawberries.
If you limit your cat to two slices of strawberry per day, it is unlikely to experience stomach problems. Ease your cat into eating strawberries gradually. Start with one small slice and gradually increase the allowance. You should cap the intake at a maximum of 2 strawberries per day.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s)
Strawberries contain large amounts of Vitamin C. This is a good thing for humans but less so for cats. The feline body creates Vitamin C organically. It does not need supplementation or foods to gain more.
If your cat is prone to urinary tract infections, it should avoid strawberries. Reviews in Urology explain how Vitamin C promotes urinary oxalate excretion. This can lead to crystals forming in a cat’s urethra.
Unspayed females of middle age or beyond are particularly prone to feline UTIs. Cats that meet these criteria should avoid strawberries.
Feeding Strawberries To a Cat
If you wish to test your cat’s reaction to strawberries, cut the leaves and stem off. While not toxic, these leaves are an irritant. The sharp edges could cause itchiness in your cat’s eyes, nose, or throat.
Once this is done, cut the strawberry into slices. This will release more scent, which will tempt the cat. Offer a slice of strawberry.
If your cat is fine and actively enjoys the taste, you can offer more. As mentioned, limit your cat’s intake to two sliced-up strawberries per day.
If your cat enjoys the smell of strawberries, it will likely enjoy strawberry-scented products. Let’s explore some of the options and if they’re safe:
You can dip your finger in the jam and allow a cat to lick it. This can be helpful as a reward while training a cat.
Use an organic, sugar-free jam as strawberries are already packed with sugar. A cheap jam from the supermarket will contain more sugar.
Sugar-free jam must not contain the artificial sweetener xylitol.
Strawberry Milk And Strawberry Ice Cream
The vast majority of cats are lactose intolerant. To this end, dairy products should be avoided. As with sweet desserts, the stereotype of cats loving milk stems from the fat content.
Most cats will be indifferent to ice cream. Felines prefer their food at room temperature or just above. The fat content may still pique a cat’s curiosity.
If so, make your own cat-friendly strawberry dessert. Pulp strawberries and mix with a tiny amount of cream. Feed this sparingly as too much cream will upset a cat’s stomach due to their lactose intolerance.
Yogurt can be a great way to pack a cat’s body with essential prebiotics and probiotics. These will promote good gut health. They are useful if your cat has recently taken antibiotics as they indiscriminately kill all bacteria in the gut, both good and bad.
If your cat enjoys the taste of strawberry, this will make yogurt more enticing. It is best to use unflavored yogurt and mix a small amount of strawberries yourself.
Always avoid low-fat or fat-free strawberry yogurts for cats. These are loaded with sugar to make them more palatable. What’s more, your cat will likely reject such foods. Again, it’s the fat content that appeals to cats.
Can Cats Eat Unripe Strawberries?
Cats can taste sourness. This means that you may wish to offer tart, unripened strawberries to a cat. However, unripened strawberries lack the scent that cats love. This means your cat will likely disregard them.
Unless a cat is allergic to strawberries, they are safe to eat. No cat will decline strawberries on the grounds of well-being but will reject the taste outright. The health benefits of strawberries are minimal at best.