Cats may not go crazy for every human food quite like dogs, but it’s still tempting to give our feline friends some human foods from time to time, whether as treats or supplements to their normal diets.
Sharing human food can be fine for your cat in certain cases, but it’s essential to be aware of what is and isn’t acceptable for cats to eat. The responsibility of being a pet parent includes keeping your cat safe and healthy, as well as happy.
Today, our Spot Pet Insurance guide is all about eggs.
Eggs can benefit domesticated cats, but there are certain factors you should keep in mind when feeding them to your pet.
So are eggs safe and healthy for cats? How should you prepare some eggy snacks, and are there any dangers to look out for? How much egg can a cat safely eat? Read on for the answers to these questions and more.
Cats & eggs: A match made in heaven?
Wild cats have been eating eggs for thousands of years, specifically the eggs of birds, but sometimes of other animals too, such as snakes.
While catching live prey is rewarding and necessary, it’s also a lot of work and often unsuccessful. Snatching some eggs from an unguarded nest is a much easier way for wild cats to secure protein, calcium, biotin, and other vital parts of their nutritional needs.
Eggs can contribute to cats getting enough nutrients but can’t form a complete diet for any cat, and here’s why: cats are obligate carnivores.
Just as humans are obligated to consume certain things for our survival, cats are obligated to eat meat; it is a biological necessity for their survival.
Cats rely on meat because certain nutrients, essential to their vital functions, can only be found in meat. Additionally, it’s because they lack the enzymes to process plants in their digestive system.
Eggs contain some of these nutrients, especially fatty acids from animal proteins. These amino acids are essential, meaning cats can not produce them on their own and must get them from the foods they eat.
Some of these proteins, such as taurine, are only found in yolks, not egg whites. However, in general, egg whites are higher in protein content, while yolks are higher in fat content.
While eggs are an exceptional source of many proteins, they aren’t typically advised as the sole source of dietary protein for any cat – just as a supplement.
Of course, wild cats only eat raw eggs. Domesticated cats, on the other hand, should never be fed raw eggs. Cooked eggs, on the other hand, can be a great snack if your cat happens to enjoy them! Sometimes our cats can be picky eaters, but their instincts generally kick in and make eggs a favorite snack.
Can cats eat raw eggs?
Eggs are indeed safe for cats, but this comes with some caveats.
Are Raw Eggs Good for Cats?
First, you should never feed your cat raw eggs or raw egg whites since raw eggs can contain salmonella and E. Coli, both of which can be deadly to a cat. In addition, the avidin protein in raw eggs makes their nutrients difficult for cats to absorb.
If you’re planning to feed eggs to your cat, those eggs must be cooked. Make sure the eggs reach an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit while being cooked to ensure there isn’t any raw egg left.
This rule goes for all cats, including those on a raw diet otherwise.
Are eggshells safe to consume for cats?
Another caveat to keep in mind when feeding eggs is that cats shouldn’t eat the eggshell unless you specially prepare it.
Eggshells contain plenty of calcium, which is an important mineral for cats. When powdered, eggshells can enhance a cat’s diet, although it is best to consult a trusted veterinarian before adding mineral supplements to your cat’s regular balanced diet.
Powdered eggshells can be safe and beneficial, but giving your cat a hard-boiled egg without peeling the shell first isn’t recommended. A stray piece of shell likely won’t cause any issues if it is accidentally consumed, but you should still do your best to remove shells when giving your cat an egg.
Whole eggs for cats: potential dangers and health issues
While eggs are safe for cats in general, that doesn’t mean they are without potential issues. They should still be an occasional treat enjoyed in small pieces. The key is to be aware of what might make an egg snack dangerous for your cat, as opposed to safe and even healthy.
Infectious bacteria in raw eggs
It is essential cats not be fed raw eggs due to the potential presence of infectious bacteria, such as salmonella and E. Coli, that can weaken your cat’s immune system.
Salmonella is the main concern with raw eggs. It is a bacterial disease that can infect many different creatures, from humans and cats to dogs and birds.
Salmonella typically comes from raw food. Cats could become infected if they eat cat food with ingredients that weren’t fully cooked, but this is relatively rare. It’s also possible for cats to get salmonella from birds or bird feces, especially around the transition from winter to spring.
In the case of eggs, feeding raw eggs to a cat risks salmonella infection.
If your cat does become infected with salmonella, symptoms could vary in severity quite widely. Some cats show no symptoms or minor symptoms, such as limited vomiting and diarrhea. Other cases can be much more severe, even life-threatening, especially if the disease spreads to other organs.
Mild cases require no or very limited treatment, while more severe cases, or those complicated by other conditions, might require medical attention and could have a less positive prognosis.
- Coli is a bacteria found naturally in the microbiomes of many animals, including cats. However, E. Coli infection, known as colibacillosis, is not so welcome for cats.
Even if your cat regularly eats a raw diet, they should not be given raw eggs.
High fat content and cholesterol
Eggs contain plenty of fat, particularly egg yolks. Cholesterol is also abundant and could be a problem for your cat. The first step to knowing whether these qualities pose much risk for your cat is to talk to a trusted veterinarian.
Excess fat could cause a number of conditions or worsen existing conditions, including pancreatitis, diabetes, or weight issues.
Pancreatitis involves the inflammation of the pancreas, a vital organ near the stomach that plays an important role in your cat’s digestive system, specifically when it comes to maintaining a proper blood sugar level and metabolism via insulin.
Pancreatitis can accompany diabetes mellitus or even develop as a secondary condition through diabetes.
If your cat does develop pancreatitis, you may see vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, fever, and reduced energy levels and appetite. Severe cases could even involve acute shock or death.
Keeping a close eye for signs and seeking prompt treatment is essential to give the best chance for successful treatment.
Depending on the severity of the case, treatment might be mostly supportive, replacing your cat’s food and water intake with intravenous fluids so that your cat’s pancreas can cease functioning and recover. Treatment often involves hospitalization for a few days but has a generally positive prognosis for mild cases. Severe cases, or cases in cats with diabetes mellitus, will likely require additional care.
Working with your veterinarian to manage your cat’s diet and weight is the best way to help prevent conditions such as pancreatitis or diabetes from occurring. Ensuring that your cat only eats an appropriate amount of eggs is part of that process.
Salt, seasoning, and artificial ingredients
If you’re preparing eggs for your cat, you should stick to plain egg whites. However, when it comes to sharing some food from your own plate, you might be tempted to make compromises, especially if your cat really loves eggs and employs all their cuteness in asking for a bite.
Unfortunately, most of the seasonings and additional ingredients we add to our own eggs are unhealthy or dangerous for cats.
Almost anytime we humans eat eggs, we add some table salt. While we may love the taste, table salt can be poisonous to cats (and dogs) in many cases.
Signs of salt poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, frequent urination, and lack of appetite, energy, and coordination. Seizures, tremors, coma, and death could occur in extreme cases.
It’s safest to keep salt in all forms away from your cat’s diet, so you shouldn’t feed them eggs seasoned with salt. Keep in mind that many herbal seasonings might also contain salt.
Ketchup is another common seasoning for eggs that shouldn’t be fed to cats. Ketchup contains plenty of artificial ingredients that can be harmful and unhealthy for cats, including added sugars and salt.
If your cat gets a tiny bit of ketchup, they aren’t likely to experience any symptoms, but this condiment should generally be kept from your feline friend.
Deviled eggs are also a no unless you can separate a bit of unseasoned, fully cooked egg white – just be sure to avoid the seasoned yolk.
Cheesy eggs are also a human favorite but are best kept from cats. A tiny amount of cheese is usually harmless, but lots of cheese can upset a cat’s digestive system (although it isn’t necessarily toxic – they just can’t process it as obligate carnivores).
Do eggs offer health benefits for cats?
Eggs are something of a superfood for humans, but how about for our feline friends?
Some of the health benefits on the table include plenty of protein, some healthy fats, and vitamins A, B2, B5, B6, B12, D, E, and K, as well as folate, phosphorus, selenium, calcium, and zinc.
Eggs are also known for being high in cholesterol, but for most humans, they don’t raise blood cholesterol levels.
For us, eggs are one of the most nutritious foods out there. There are still some benefits for cats, although eggs aren’t quite to the same level of “superfood” for them. Let’s break down some of the individual benefits.
Cats can’t process much fat in their diets, making the low-fat egg white an excellent choice.
Egg yolks, on the other hand, tend to have more fat and more calories, which increases the risk of health problems (such as weight issues, gastrointestinal upset, and pancreatitis).
Cats need plenty of protein, specifically animal protein, for their vital functions and growth. Of course, humans and dogs need protein too, but cats need a much higher percentage of protein in their diet due to their biological setup.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein, especially egg whites, and thankfully those proteins are the kinds cats can digest.
Eggshells also contain calcium, which is important to the diet of a cat. However, most pet foods formulated by cat nutrition experts contain sufficient calcium already, so you should talk to your vet before supplementing minerals such as calcium into your cat’s diet.
If you are going to add eggshells to your cat’s diet, you can powder them up and sprinkle the powder on food or treats. However, there’s no telling whether your cat will enjoy the taste of eggshells since they aren’t quite as tasty for cats as meat or egg whites.
What’s the best way to give your cat eggs?
Whether you’re giving a one-time treat or adding eggs to your cat’s regular diet under the direction of a veterinarian, there are certain things to keep in mind. You’ll have to consider the number of eggs, how they are prepared, and what ingredients you add (if any).
How much egg can your cat eat?
The amount of eggs appropriate to your cat’s diet can vary widely, so the most important thing is to talk to a veterinarian who knows your cat to work out limits and recommended amounts.
In general, one tablespoon of plain egg whites can be an appropriate supplement for most cats.
As a rare treat, a similar amount of egg should be fine, provided you follow the precautions we’ve established, ensuring you use mostly or only egg whites, fully cooked and free of potentially harmful seasonings or artificial ingredients.
You should also be careful of your cat’s fat intake, especially if you are feeding them egg yolks, which are high in fat. As a reminder, too much fat can lead to or worsen diabetes mellitus and other conditions, such as pancreatitis.
How to cook eggs for your cat?
It’s essential to cook eggs if you’re going to give them to your cat, rather than feeding raw eggs. However, you might be wondering about the best way to cook eggs for your cat since there are so many different methods we use to prepare eggs for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and even dessert.
The easiest and fastest way to cook eggs for your cat is to scramble them. With this method, it’s easy to portion off a specific amount (and then munch on the rest yourself), and you won’t have to worry about whether each portion is bite-sized for your cat.
If you enjoy omelets, you could cut off a few tiny pieces for your cat without issue. Just be sure that any ingredients you put in your omelet (or seasonings you put on top) aren’t in the bits you cut off for your cat.
In either case, it’s crucial that the eggs are fully cooked.
Boiled eggs are another good option, especially as treats you can save for later. Just be sure to cut or break up the egg into bite-sized pieces.
No matter how you cook eggs for your cat, you should keep the portions for your cat plain – free of salt, seasoning, and condiments.
Spinach and tomato omelets may be tasty and healthy for us, but you should avoid veggies in any egg snacks for your cat. Cats can’t fully digest plant foods and won’t get any benefit from them. Too much plant food can easily upset your cat’s stomach, so it’s best to avoid it, even if these veggies may be healthy for us humans.
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