Cats are indifferent to most fruits. This is due to their tongue’s lacking the taste buds that detect sweetness, rendering fruit tasteless to felines. One exception to this rule is watermelon, which many cats have a particular fondness for.
As long as you remove the rind and seeds, watermelon is safe for cats. In fact, watermelon is healthy for cats. As well as being rich in vitamins and nutrients, watermelon is very hydrating. Most cats don’t drink enough water, and watermelon is a good way to solve this problem.
We will look at how to introduce watermelon to your cat’s diet. This will include how much watermelon is safe for your cat to eat. Like anything, it’s possible for your pet to consume too much. However, if your cat has a taste for this fruit, it’s a good addition to their diet.
Do Cats Like Watermelon?
It’s safe to assume that your pet will enjoy watermelon. The smell of watermelon – and the similar fruit cantaloupe – is a significant part of this. Cats are often attracted to their food by scent. Expect your cat’s nose to twitch whenever a watermelon is nearby.
According to the Journal of Experimental Botany, all fruits from the melon family are packed with amino acids, which in turn create volatiles.
These ‘volatiles’ are what attracts your cat; they think that the watermelon smells like meat. Once they start eating, they’ll be happy to continue.
This is partly due to the watermelon flesh. Cats enjoy foods that are chewy, crunchy and a little moist. These qualities mimic those of the prey that your feline would feast upon in the wild.
Watermelon should never be brittle. If it is, don’t feed it to your cat – it’s gone bad. The texture remains appealing to the feline palate, however.
A teething kitten will particularly enjoy tearing into watermelon flesh. It will take a while to chew, and moisture is not a problem.
Let’s not forget the fact that eating watermelon can be fun. If your cat encounters an intact watermelon, it’s like a giant ball to play with. Once they’re intrigued by the smell, it becomes a challenge to access the meat inside. Cats will roll the watermelon around, looking for an entry point.
This is where you’ll need to step in. Cats should never eat the rind or seeds of a watermelon. This means that you should always chop the fruit for them, and serve it in chunks.
Even if your cat eats around the rind and seeds, too much watermelon upsets their stomach. Vomiting and diarrhea are the likely results of a melon-eating binge.
Watermelon Juice for Cats
In addition to snacking on watermelon flesh, your cat may drink the juices from this fruit. There is nothing unsafe about this. It should be encouraged.
As housecats are descended from desert-dwelling felines, they tend not to drink enough water. Cats find still water in a bowl dull, and often do not trust it.
This fruit is 92% water. This is a useful addition to your cat’s diet during the summer. No matter how hot they get, some cats still won’t drink still water when overheating. Watermelon will solve that problem, and offer your cat a treat at the same time.
If they are prepared to drink the juice of watermelon, they’re safely hydrating. It’s no different to you adding a squeeze of fruit juice to liven up bottled water.
Watermelon juice still has the same aroma as the fruit itself. This means that it could be used to tempt your cat into eating, too.
If your cat is a fussy eater but loves watermelon, squeeze some juice on their kibble. You’ll find that they immediately take much more interest in their dry food.
Watermelon Flesh for Cats
To enjoy the benefits of watermelon, your cat needs to eat the flesh. The health benefits of watermelon and varied, but a note of caution.
Watermelon is low in calories, but very high in sugar. This means that watermelon is best avoided by diabetic cats.
Beyond hydration, the presence of lycopene is arguably the main benefit of watermelon. This is a natural antioxidant found within the fruit.
Antioxidants have a host of health benefits anyway. These include a strengthened immune system, slowing down of cognitive dysfunction, and improved eyesight.
Lycopene, meanwhile, is particularly potent when it comes to inhibiting cancer. This all adds up to make watermelon particularly advisable in older cats.
Vitamin A and Vitamin C
Vitamin C is not particularly important to your pet. Feline bodies generate Vitamin C naturally.
Vitamin A, however, is of benefit to your cat’s health. It keeps their skin healthy, and improves night vision. Too much can be toxic, however, so be careful.
It’s unlikely that you’d ever overload with your cat with Vitamin A through the consumption of watermelon. This fruit doesn’t contain enough, especially in the quantities you’ll be feeding it.
Be aware of any additional supplements, or other foods, that contain the vitamin though. You may need to make some very minor adjustments to your cat’s diet.
Potassium and Magnesium
In addition to these vitamins, watermelon contains potassium and magnesium. Potassium, in particular, is essential for cats. Insufficient levels of potassium lead to hypokalemia.
This health issue has various concerns, including heart problems and muscle weakness. Watermelon alone will not meet all your pet’s potassium needs, but neither will it overload their body. It’s a great way of slipping a little extra goodness into their body without supplements.
Magnesium, meanwhile, is the oil in the engine of your cat’s body. If your pet does not have enough of this mineral, several internal organs will struggle.
Digestive Tract Health
Watermelon contains traces of fiber. Alongside the water content of the fruit, this assists your cat’s digestive tract. If you’re dealing with a constipated cat, offer them a little watermelon.
The Risks of Watermelon Rind for Cats
Watermelon rind is not toxic to felines. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s safe. You should always cut the rind away from a watermelon before offering it to a cat.
The main reason is the toughness of the rind. It would take your cat hours, or even days, to chew through a watermelon rind.
If your cat is a chewer, you might think that watermelon rind will mean that they will give your shoes and furniture a rest. Sadly, your pet’s stomach will not agree.
If your cat manages to eat through the rind, they’ll swallow. As the rind is so tough, your cat will do this before breaking it down into small pieces. This makes watermelon rind a choking hazard.
Any rind that makes it to your cat’s stomach cannot be easily digested. At best, this will give your cat stomach cramps. At worst, it will cause an intestinal blockage.
This is dangerous to cats, and may require surgical intervention to remove.
The Dangers of Watermelon Seeds for Cats
Unlike the rind of a watermelon, the seeds are potentially toxic. This is because watermelon seeds contain small amounts of cyanide.
It doesn’t matter if the seeds in question are white or black. The former is just unmatured variations on the latter, and can still be dangerous.
If your cat swallows a watermelon seed, they may not experience any ill health. With luck, they’ll pass right through their system. If they bite into the seed, however, they’ll release the poison. This could be fatal within the hour.
One seed is unlikely to contain enough cyanide to kill a cat. It can, however, cause stomach upset. That means vomiting and diarrhea. In addition to being unpleasant for your cat, it is dehydrating.
Were you feeding your cat watermelon because it’s hot? Well, now they’ve lost all the water from the fruit, and their body’s reserves. If you suspect cyanide poisoning in your cat, see a vet straight away. Your pet may need to receive fluids through an IV drip.
In addition to this, watermelon seeds are also a choking hazard for cats. These seeds are large enough to get lodged in their throat, but tricky to remove. Unless you know the feline Heimlich maneuver, that is can quickly be fatal. Even if you do, why would you take the risk?
Remove any trace of seeds from your watermelon before feeding it to your cat. Instructables have step-by-step instructions. If you feel that you won’t have the time, buy a seedless melon.
Can Cats Be Allergic to Watermelon?
Watermelon is not a common cat allergy. However, any feline can show sensitivity to anything. If your cat displays any of these symptoms after eating watermelon, they’re likely allergic:
- Sneezing and wheezing
- Streaming eyes or nose
- Scratching to excess, especially around the back and tail
- Breaking out in hives or hotspots
- Symptoms of ear infection
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Chewing on the paw pads
In such a circumstance, you should remove the watermelon and not offer it again. Most allergies are comparatively harmless, and the symptoms pass as soon as the allergen is removed.
It’s always worth having tests run on your pet, though. Sometimes a seemingly innocuous allergy can point to more substantial health problems.
How Much Watermelon Can My Cat Eat?
Like feeding your cat strawberries, watermelon should be considered a treat, and not a cornerstone of your pet’s diet. A whole watermelon is not a replacement for balanced cat food.
As a rule, watermelon can make up 10% of your cat’s intake at a maximum. The good news is that this fruit is very low in calories. That means that your cat will not gain too much weight.
This comes with the same caveat as all fruit, though. Even though watermelon is low in calories, it’s high in sugar. If your cat has to watch their blood sugar, watermelon is best avoided.
We have mentioned how hydrating watermelons can be. However, this means that you’ll have to watch what your cat drinks. It’s entirely possible for a cat’s little body to overhydrate, especially as they drink so little. Fresh water should always take priority, so restrict the fruit if necessary.
Treat watermelon the same way that you would any human food for your cat. A small chunk every once in a while is fine.
Keep it a treat, though. If you allow your cat to feast on watermelon, they may experience a stomach upset. Some felines will eat a whole watermelon, so keep an eye on your pet.
How to Serve Watermelon to Your Cat
Watermelon should be served in small chunks. Don’t toss the whole thing to your pet and leave them to it. They’ll have fun playing with the watermelon, but will get a stomach upset.
Remove any seeds and trim away the rind. It’s the flesh of the watermelon that benefits your cat, nothing else. You’ll also need to ensure that the fruit is completely ripe.
This is easy to tell, as the flesh will be bright red. Watermelon that has not yet ripened sufficiently will be closer to white in color. Give the top and bottom of the fruit a sniff, too.
Ripe watermelons smell sweet, and you’ll immediately be able to tell if they’re ready to cut. You should never give your cat a rotten watermelon. This will make your pet very sick.
When cutting dividing your watermelon, make a judgment on how big a slice you consider appropriate. Remember, this fruit should not comprise more than 10% of your cat’s diet.
From here, you have a few options on how to serve:
- Dice the watermelon into cubes and leave them in your cat’s bowl.
- Hold a slice and allow your cat to nibble away.
- Cut a slice and allow your cat to tackle it at their leisure. This will make a lot of mess, though.
- Freeze the watermelon into ice cubes, or as a frozen treat. This is refreshing, but many cats refuse to eat frozen food.
You could also create a cooling drink with watermelon. You need to put five cubes of the fruit into your blender to make a puree. Squeeze this through a sieve and into your cat’s bowl.
They’ll develop an uncharacteristic interest in hydration. Keep this a treat and use in moderation, though. Your cat will still need plain water. Watermelon juice is not a like-for-like replacement.
If your cat doesn’t like watermelon, don’t panic. Remember that cats are obligate carnivores. It’s meat and protein that keeps them alive and well, not fruit.
Watermelon is a bonus food that offers additional hydration to felines that enjoy the taste. If your pet is not among these cats, then no harm will be done. Just find other ways to encourage drinking during the hotter months of the year.
Watermelon is not a substitute for a balanced diet. Neither will resolve any health complaints. If your cat has kidney problems, for example, no amount of watermelon hydration will reverse them.
What the fruit does offer is a tasty way of topping up essential vitamins and hydration. This means that, should your cat show an interest in watermelon, encourage them.