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Fruits and veggies are commonly labeled as “superfoods.” Sometimes these labels are slightly inaccurate, exaggerated, or even misleading. However, in the case of blueberries, “superfood” is quite fitting.
At least, it’s fitting when it comes to human nutrition. Cats are significantly different from humans and dogs in terms of what they need to eat to survive and thrive. Due to their dietary adaptations, many foods that taste great and improve health for humans don’t have the same effects on cats.
As pet parents, it’s easy to succumb to our cat’s big eyes and precious meows when they want a bite of whatever we’re having. It may not happen as often as it does with dogs, but it is still an inevitable dilemma for every cat owner.
Our responsibility is mainly to care for our cat’s health, so knowing what is healthy (or not) for cats is vital. We can’t just give them any old human food we eat!
Today, our Spot Pet Insurance guide looks at blueberries and answers your questions about this delicious blue snack.
Are blueberries safe for cats? Are blueberries healthy for cats? How many blueberries can my cat eat? Let’s discuss.
Cats are obligate carnivores, relying on a predominately meat-based diet. There are certain nutrients in meat (or meat products, such as eggs) that cats cannot create on their own or access through any plant-based foods.
Plants are not necessarily toxic to cats (in most cases), but they are rarely beneficial. Either the nutrients they provide just aren’t needed, or they aren’t in a high enough quantity to be impactful.
Blueberries are not only safe for cats, but they can also be beneficial, though not nearly to the degree they are for humans.
In fact, some commercial cat foods or treats include blueberry powder for some extra nutritional power.
However, cats don’t naturally eat blueberries. They can tolerate them and even get some benefits from them, but blueberries are not truly part of a balanced cat diet. When home feeding blueberries, you should view them as a treat.
Even though blueberries aren’t part of a natural cat diet, cats can still benefit from eating them in small quantities. Just don’t expect to start basing your cat’s diet on fruits like blueberries.
Some of the best benefits of blueberries as a cat treat include antioxidants, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and high water content. Overall, this is a low-calorie snack that offers a reasonable amount of nutrition for cats but must be consumed in moderation.
Let’s look at the benefits in more detail!
The primary benefit of blueberries for cats is the antioxidant quantity blueberries provide. Cats can easily process and then utilize these antioxidants to protect against oxidative damage to red blood cells.
Red blood cells are essential to vital processes since they carry blood throughout the body. When red blood cells are damaged by oxidation, they rupture. As red blood cell numbers are reduced, a condition called anemia (low red blood cell count) sets in. Anemia occurs with numerous possible symptoms, most commonly lethargy, but also others (fill in)
Without sufficient oxygen being carried to vital organs by red blood cells, these organs can start to suffer or fail. Kidney damage and cardiac issues are some of the most dangerous potential results of anemia, with both being potentially lethal and kidney damage typically irreversible even if survived.
All that to say — antioxidants are extremely important!
Fiber aids digestive function in cats, just as it does with people. If your cat is having trouble digesting and passing their food, fiber can help relieve these issues and improve stool quality.
While fiber has important benefits, too much fiber can just as easily be problematic for your kitty. Commercial cat foods typically provide sufficient fiber for your cat’s nutritional needs.
Some cats need or benefit from medical supplementation of fiber, but having a few blueberries isn’t likely to make any significant impact for better or worse. Nonetheless, fiber does provide some health benefits when provided by a blueberry snack.
Blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C for cats.
Vitamin A is an essential element for cats and one which they must get from their diet (or from supplements) since they can’t synthesize it themselves.
Deficiency in vitamin A starts with reduced coat quality and can progress to include night blindness, weakness, lethargy, and muscle loss as well.
Vitamin C is important in helping your cat make enough collagen to maintain bone strength and joint health. Collagen is a vital tissue that fights against some of the most common conditions found in domesticated cats, such as hip and elbow dysplasia.
While cats can synthesize vitamin C, unlike vitamin A, getting a little extra from their food is a positive.
Unlike the other nutrients we’ve talked about, flavonoids aren’t actually provided by meat food. Flavonoids are a chemical compound protein found in various plant foods that act as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory agent, and even a protector against cancer and viruses.
Since these proteins can be so important to cats, most commercial cat foods supplement them somehow – even by using blueberry powder!
Foods with high water content make excellent snacks for pets, both cats and dogs, since they help our pets stay hydrated.
Despite the importance of water, many pets don’t drink as much as they really need. This could be because water doesn’t necessarily “taste good” like the treats your pet will constantly beg for.
Water content also helps make snacks feel more filling without adding calories. Eating too many calories relative to daily caloric intake needs and expenditure can lead to weight issues, diabetes, and other harmful conditions that follow (such as arthritis), so being able to satisfy your pet’s hunger cravings without risking caloric imbalance is a huge win.
So we’ve established that blueberries can be beneficial as a rare treat. Now it’s essential that we lay down some standards in terms of quantity since overeating blueberries could be problematic.
The general recommendation for most cats is that they should have no more than 2-3 blueberries per day. This is assuming you aren’t feeding them other sugary treats in addition.
Treats should only occupy 10% of your cat’s daily caloric intake, at most. The remaining 90% should be a complete, balanced cat food formulated by certified cat nutrition professionals.
If your cat does eat more blueberries than that, they aren’t likely to be in serious danger, although they may experience gastrointestinal upset.
Frequent overconsumption of blueberries, however, or treats in general (including blueberries) could lead to caloric imbalance, weight issues, diabetes, and subsequently arthritis and other conditions.
Cats are often picky eaters. Do they even want to eat blueberries?
This is a fair question, considering that cats cannot taste sweetness! One of our favorite parts of the blueberry as humans is their sweet taste, so for cats, that isn’t a whole lot left to make them appetizing.
Nonetheless, some cats do thoroughly enjoy blueberries. Ultimately, it truly varies on a case-by-case basis. Some cats might see you eating them and simply want to participate as part of social bonding. Others might get jealous if you feed them to your dog. Some cats might just be curious.
Whatever the case, if your cat does end up liking blueberries, ensure they only eat them in moderation.
If you’re planning to intentionally introduce blueberries to your cat, you should first talk to a trusted veterinarian to ensure it’s a good step for your individual cat’s diet.
Some cats might also have a food sensitivity or food allergies to blueberries, so it’s important to keep a close eye on their reaction after they try their first bite.
Once snack time rolls around, you should cut the berries into bite-sized pieces if necessary to avoid choking hazards. You can mix blueberries with your cat’s food or other healthy treats if desired!
We hope this guide helps you better care for your cat’s health and happiness. At Spot Pet Insurance, we’re committed to helping every fur family we can. Check out our Blog for more resources like this one, and get a quote today to see if a pet insurance plan provided by Spot Pet Insurance could be the right fit for insuring your pet!
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