Your curious kitty is showing an interest in your farmer’s market haul of fresh fruit…but we all know what they say about cats and curiosity. So, can cats eat fruit? We went to PetSmart veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Bruns, DVM, MPVM to find out everything you need to know before you let your cat sink its teeth into a piece of nature’s candy. (Spoiler alert: Some fruits are safe and others most certainly are not, so read carefully.)
Can cats eat fruit?
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they certainly don’t need to eat fruit. What’s more, Dr. Bruns tells us that cats are unable to taste the sweetness of fruit because their tongues lack sweet taste receptors. That said, there are a variety of fruits that are safe for cats to eat if they find the texture pleasing (but maybe save your juiciest and sweetest seasonal produce for your own enjoyment).
Which fruits can cats eat?
“Fruits that are safe for cats include apples, bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, strawberries and seedless watermelon,” the expert tells us. Some other safe fruits include raspberries, blackberries and cranberries.
When it comes to feeding one of these safe fruits to your cat, Bruns recommends cutting the fruit into small, bite-size pieces and only offering it in moderation, as the dietary change can result in vomiting and diarrhea if you overdo it. In other words, when it comes to feeding fruit to cats, less is more.
Are there any benefits to feeding cats fruit?
The primary benefit to feeding your cat fruit is simply that it can be a fun routine shared between the pet and owner. Another potential benefit of giving cats fruit as a special treat is that it can stand in for commercial treats in the event your cat is hooked on them and needs to lose weight. Still, as far as nutrition is concerned, Dr. Bruns tells us that commercially available cat foods cover all the dietary needs of your cat, so there’s really no need to add fruit to the mix.
Fruits that are not safe for cats to eat
So are other types of fruits fair game, too? Nope. We strongly suggest you stick to the expert-approved list of safe fruits, but Dr. Bruns says that it’s particularly important that you never feed cherries, grapes or raisins to a cat, as these fruits are toxic to felines and can cause kidney damage and possibly death. Citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges are also a no-go because they can cause digestive upset and, when consumed in large quantities, even central nervous system depression. In other words, avoid these toxic fruits at all costs—and, in general, remember to talk to your pet’s vet before introducing any new foods to your furry friend.
What are some signs that a cat has eaten an unsafe fruit?
According to Dr. Bruns, the symptoms to watch out for if you suspect your cat has eaten an unsafe fruit (or any other toxic substance) include “continual vomiting, diarrhea, refusal of food, pale gums or tongue or a swollen tongue, abdominal pain and convulsions.” Lethargy, hiding and excessive salivation (i.e., drooling) are also signs that your feline is feeling unwell and toxic food might be the culprit. If you see any of the aforementioned indications of sickness in your cat, call up your vet so your cat can be seen ASAP and, if possible, try to come up with a mental list of everything your pet consumed that day so the doctor can quickly identify the offending food and act accordingly. Bottom line: If you think your cat ate something toxic, you might have a medical emergency on your hands, so it’s critical you act fast.
Are there any other human foods that are safe to feed cats?
Given that cats are carnivores, it should come as no surprise that meat is a sensible option if you’re looking to treat your cat to something special. “Safe choices for cats include cooked beef, chicken, turkey and deli meats,” says Dr. Bruns, adding that “fish, in particular, is a beneficial choice because it has a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which can be healthy for cats.” That said, it’s worth noting that she advises against giving raw or uncooked meat or fish to your kitty (so, you know, don’t start sharing your sushi dinner).
Dr. Bruns also emphasizes that no more than 10 percent of a cat's diet should come from treats or human food, since too much can “mess with their balanced diet.” And whatever you do, do not consider replacing commercially available foods with homemade cat food. Per the expert, “the nutritional profiles of vitamins, amino acids, and minerals contained in those commercially available diets are necessary for a healthy cat,” and probably not something you should attempt to recreate in your own kitchen.