For us humans and many of our pets, such as dogs and reptiles, fruit is a favorite snack. Strawberries, blueberries, mangos, pineapples, apples — there are so many wonderful, sweet, juicy, healthy fruits to choose from!
Can cats indulge safely in these same snacks? Even if it is safe, is it healthy or beneficial for them to do so?
As pet parents, it’s our responsibility to ensure our cats receive a balanced diet, from every meal to every treat. The first step to this end is becoming educated about how cats work and what they can and should eat.
Here at Spot Pet Insurance, our dedication to helping you be the best pet parent you can be starts with lifelong learning! Today’s cat nutrition guide is about one fruit: Strawberries.
Are strawberries a safe and healthy food for cats?
Yes, strawberries are safe for cats. Fresh, plain strawberries are not toxic to cats nor particularly dangerous as choking hazards when prepared properly.
Although there isn’t immediate danger if your cat eats strawberries, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should feed your cat strawberries all the time.
Cats have unique biological needs when it comes to nutrition that are very different from humans and even other common pets, like dogs. They also have different taste receptors, caloric intake needs, and more.
Can strawberries be part of a balanced diet for cats?
Whether cats can eat strawberries is a separate question from whether they should. Before answering that question, we need to talk about how cats work.
Cats are obligate carnivores. Meat is a biological necessity for them, and most of their diet comes from animal proteins found in meat and eggs.
Further, cats can’t break down plant foods as humans and dogs can. There are plenty of great nutrients in plants, but cats can’t process these nutrients because they lack the enzymes in their digestive systems needed to do so.
The nutritional needs of cats can only be met by very specific kinds of foods, and these needs can be delicate. Adding too many carbohydrates or sugars that your cat can’t digest could lead to issues with their dental health or the development of diabetes mellitus, among other conditions.
So the first thing to know about strawberries is that they must be viewed as treats.
Instead, cats need to get most of their calories from cat food formulated by expert cat nutritionists to meet our feline friends’ exact needs.
Do strawberries have health benefits for cats?
Strawberries are certainly healthy for humans! They offer plenty of nutritional benefits for us, such as vitamins A, B6, and C, potassium, fiber, antioxidants, manganese, folate, and magnesium. These benefits are great for our heart health, nervous systems, and more.
Plus, strawberries are low in calories and have no sodium, fat, or problematic cholesterol.
Unfortunately, with all these great benefits, cats can’t enjoy any of them (except dietary fiber) because they can’t process nutrients from plants. So not only are strawberries not necessary for cats, they aren’t even particularly healthy for cats.
Potential risks of strawberries for cats
Although cats generally should not have adverse reactions to a very small amount of fresh strawberries, not all cats are the same.
Some might have adverse reactions such as vomiting or diarrhea. This is especially true if your cat is already sick or has ongoing conditions, such as diabetes.
Before giving your cat any new human food, talk to a trusted veterinarian who knows your cat. If you give your cat strawberries, keep a close eye on them after the first feeding to see how they react.
Clinical signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, excessive urination, lack of energy, itchy eyes, runny nose, frequent sneezing, difficulty breathing, and coughing could indicate that your cat does not react well to strawberries. This could be due to another illness, allergies, or some other reason, so talk to your vet if you see these signs.
Although fresh strawberries are safe, strawberry products with artificial ingredients can be dangerous for cats. Added sugars, for example, can’t be processed by cats and could increase the risk of conditions such as diabetes. Sugar replacements, such as Xylitol, have not been shown to be deadly for cats in the same way they are for dogs, but research is ongoing, so these ingredients are best avoided.
Do cats even like strawberries?
Regardless of how healthy (or not so healthy) strawberries might be, many cats won’t want to eat them.
Cats don’t have sweet taste receptors, so they can’t enjoy what we typically see as the best part of strawberries anyway. Certainly, these sweet, juicy fruits will not give the same wonderful experience to cats that they provide us.
Overall, our feline friends are generally picky eaters. A cat will rarely have a strong desire for strawberries.
Since strawberries aren’t particularly healthy for cats, and cats generally won’t want to eat them, it’s to avoid giving our cats strawberries.
If you happen to have a cat who wants to eat strawberries, or you happen to share a small slice on a rare occasion, it should be okay! There’s nothing toxic about strawberries to cats — just remember that they are a treat and must be given only in small quantities.
How to give your cat strawberries
If you decide, with your vet’s input, that strawberries would be a fitting snack for your cat, there are some things to keep in mind.
First, monitor the number of strawberries your cat consumes. A good general rule of thumb is to ensure 90% of your cat’s daily calories come from cat food, while no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake comes from treats.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s database shows that the average medium strawberry, which weighs about 12 grams, accounts for almost four calories. For comparison, a small strawberry contains just over two calories, and a large strawberry contains almost six calories.
Depending on your cat’s age, weight, and other factors, their daily caloric intake needs may differ. If your cat needs 200 calories per day, for example, no more than 20 calories (or five medium strawberries) should come from treats.
When you feed your cat strawberries, cut the strawberries into bite-sized pieces (to avoid choking hazards), remove the stems, and remove the seeds.
Should I give my cat strawberries?
For most cat owners, it’s better to save strawberries for your own summer snacks.
Cats have a picky digestive system and a limited range of foods they can benefit from in terms of nutrition. Too much sugar or too many carbs can be quite harmful to a cat, possibly leading to the development of health conditions such as diabetes mellitus.
Feeding human food to your cat must be done very carefully. You should talk to a veterinarian before introducing new human foods to your cat.
We hope this guide has helped you understand why you might not want to feed strawberries to your cats.
Here at Spot Pet Insurance, we’re committed to walking alongside you through your pet parent journey, from deciding what foods to give your pet to helping with expensive vet bills.