Bring home a punnet of strawberries and your cat will likely show interest. Cats seem to adore these sweet fruits, tempted by their enticing smell. This will leave you wondering if strawberries are safe for cats to eat.
Strawberries will not make a cat unwell, unless they are eaten to excess. There are no toxic qualities to these fruits. However, they are high in sugar and have limited nutritional value. Feeding strawberries to a cat will do little to improve its health.
As felines are largely indifferent to sweet tastes, most cats will not enjoy eating the fruit all that much. The interest begins and ends with the scent. If your cat has a taste for strawberries, they can be fed in moderation.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Do Cats Like Strawberries?
- 1.1 Why Can’t Cats Taste Sweet Foods?
- 1.2 Are Strawberries Bad for Cats?
- 1.3 Health Benefits of Strawberries for Cats
- 1.4 Risks of Feeding Strawberries to Cats
- 1.5 Feeding Strawberries to a Cat
- 1.6 Strawberry Derivatives and Cats
- 1.7 Can Cats Eat Unripe Strawberries?
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. This means there will be some flavor casualties. Felines are unique among mammals in expressing indifference to sweet tastes.
The Journal of Nutrition has stated that a cat’s tongue lacks sweet taste receptors. Cats do not actively dislike sweet foods. They are just completely 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 a great deal of interest in the fruit. This is due to the smell. The scent of strawberries is comparable to catnip for many felines. Conversely, many cats hit citrus smells from oranges and lemons.
Why Can’t Cats Taste Sweet Foods?
All mammals aside from cats need small doses of sugar to thrive. This is why sweet foods taste appealing to us. Before artificial sweeteners were invented, sugar was derived from natural sources – like strawberries.
This does not apply to felines. Animal products provide a cat with everything it needs to flourish. As a result, cats instinctively do not 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. This 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. As it stands, cats are only interested in foods that fuel their bodies and minds.
Some cat 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 is attracting a cat. It is the high fat content.
Are Strawberries Bad for Cats?
Any food could harm a cat in the wrong circumstances. Allergic reactions to any food can cause distress. A cat that eats too much of new food will also experience an upset stomach.
Beyond these generic concerns, strawberries are considered cat safe. If you have a rare feline that enjoys the taste, strawberries are fine in moderation.
Health Benefits of Strawberries for Cats
Strawberries are not a health food for cats. They are not harmful, but neither are they a feline superfood.
It’s true that strawberries do offer health benefits. Most cats will need to eat more than their daily allowance to gain these advantages, though. All the same, any boost is good news. Strawberries are celebrated due to a number of wholesome components.
The biggest health boon of strawberries is antioxidants. These are found in the skin and flesh of a strawberry.
Antioxidants are often lauded as a natural way to prevent illness in humans. Tread carefully with these claims in animals. According to Science Translational Medicine, antioxidants can actually accelerate cancer in mice.
As a counterpoint, Veterinary Therapeutics claims that antioxidants can prevent progressive disease in cats. Salmon is widely considered to be a better source than strawberries, though.
One selling point of fruit is that it is primarily water-based. As felines rarely drink enough, strawberries could be a stealthy way to hydrate a cat.
Do not rely exclusively on strawberries for this purpose. You’d need to feed far more than is safe to meet a cat’s daily needs. There is no harm in a cat consuming more water though, especially during summer.
Manganese is an enzyme required by cats in trace amounts. Consuming manganese ensures that a cat grows at an appropriate rate. This makes it particularly essential in younger cats.
Any reputable cat food will contain all the manganese a cat needs. This mineral is widely considered to be completely non-toxic, though. This suggests that a little more from a strawberry will do no harm. It may even do a small amount of good.
Folate (Vitamin B9)
Strawberries are high in folate, which aids the gut and digestion. This vitamin can be essential for easing heartburn and gastric issues.
Cats get their folate needs from eating wild grass. If you have an indoor cat plagued by stomach problems, the occasional strawberry may help.
The potassium found in strawberries is a welcome bonus. As an electrolyte, potassium is essential to cats. Older felines, in particular, can be prone to hypokalemia, or low blood potassium. Strawberries can make a natural supplement.
The same caveat as always applies, though. It a cat eats enough strawberries to recover from hypokalemia, it will experience other health issues. Treat these fruits as a minor top-up of potassium, not a direct source.
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 for not entirely cat-safe, but the fruit itself is fine.
Unless you 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. All the same, be vigilant about watching your cat if it has a taste for strawberries.
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. An appropriate dosage is 2mg of medication per pound of body weight.
You should obviously avoid feeding strawberries to your cat again. The allergic reaction will be a fleeting issue, though. Future avoidance will prevent a reoccurrence. Only seek veterinary help 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 rare cat that enjoys sugary treats, they must be used 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. In addition, blood sugar will spike. This leaves the cat at risk of diabetes.
Tooth decay is also a prominent concern. If your cat eats strawberries, brush its teeth straight afterward. The sugar found in the fruit will otherwise cling to teeth and gums. This will invariably lead to dental pain and gum disease.
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 will cause diarrhea. Your cat may also vomit, as its digestion is not accustomed to acids found in strawberries.
If you limit your cat to two slices strawberries per day, it is unlikely to have stomach problems. Ease your cat into eating strawberries gently. Start with one small slice and gradually increase the allowance. Cap intake at a maximum of two strawberries per day.
Urinary Tract Infections
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 any more.
If your cat is prone to urinary tract infections, it should avoid strawberries. Reviews in Urology explains how Vitamin C promotes urinary oxalate excretion. This can lead to crystals forming in a cat’s urethra. UTIs will invariably follow.
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. In some cases, a cat may even cut its throat or tongue on a strawberry leaf.
Once this is done, cut the strawberry into slices. This will release more scent, which will tempt the cat. Offer the slice of strawberry and watch for any signs of an allergic reaction.
If your cat is fine, and actively enjoys the taste, you can offer more. Limit your cat’s intake, though. Two strawberries per day is the maximum that any cat should enjoy.
Strawberry Derivatives and Cats
If your cat enjoys the smell of strawberries, it will likely enjoy strawberry-scented products. Rub a little strawberry butter on your hands and your cat will shower you with licks.
Rare cats that enjoy the taste of strawberries may also show in interest in similar products. Some of these are safer than others for felines.
If you cat likes strawberries, jam is a great treat. You can dip your finger in the jam and allow a cat to lick it. This can be helpful when 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. Ensure that the sugar-free jam does 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. What cats like is not always good for them.
Thankfully, most cats will be indifferent to ice cream anyway. Felines typically prefer their food at room temperature, or just above. The fat content may still pique a cat’s curiosity, though.
If this is the case, consider making your own cat-friendly strawberry dessert. Pulp strawberries and mix with a small amount of cream. Feed this sparingly. Too much cream will upset a cat’s stomach due to the aforementioned lactose intolerance.
Yogurt can be a great way to pack a cat’s body with essential pre- and probiotics. These will promote good gut health. They are also adbisable if your cat has recently taken antibiotics. These 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. This way, your cat is not consuming needless calories and ingredients designed for human taste buds.
Always avoid low fat or fat-free yogurts for cats. These are loaded with sugar to make them more palatable. What’s more, your cat will likely reject such foods. The fat is a key appeal to the taste.
Can Cats Eat Unripe Strawberries?
As established, cats do not taste sweetness. Felines can taste sourness, though. This means you may wish to offer tart, unripened strawberries to a cat. Just be aware that such strawberries lack the quintessential 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 wellbeing, but will reject the taste outright. The health benefits of strawberries are menial at best.