Can cats eat carrots? That is the question. Carrot, is one of the most popular vegetables on the market and most probably is in your kitchen right now. The long orange taproot belongs to the Umbelliferae family, scientifically speaking and is what most people enjoy eating most, although other cultures enjoy the green leaves as well.
They are crunchy, delicious vegetables that have been part of our daily lives for years: from stews, pot pies or a bountiful salad that gives us the sweetness and crunch we need for our day. Though most carrots are orange in color, they also come in yellow, white and purple.
As you probably know, carrots are healthy for humans. Known for their vibrant orange color, carrots are full of a pigment called beta-carotene, which gets converted into vitamin A as we digest it. They are also a good source of several other vitamins, as well as of potassium and fiber.
Though the claim that carrots improve your night vision is an exaggeration born from World War II-era propaganda, they are genuinely good for your eyes, as well as for your digestive system and immune system.
But does any of that apply to our feline friends? Should we be encouraging our cats, along with our two-legged children, to eat their carrots?
Are carrots safe for cats?
Some human foods are outright toxic to cats, but carrots are among the vegetables that cats can eat without fear of being poisoned. The real danger carrots present to cats is that they can be a choking hazard.
To make carrots safer for your kitty, you can cook them until they are soft and easy to chew, or even mash or puree them to the consistency of wet cat food. If you decide to cook carrots for your cat, remember to avoid seasoning them, as common flavorings like garlic and onion can be deadly to felines.
On the other hand, vegetables lose some of their nutrients when cooked. If you want to maximize the nutritional value of the carrots by serving them raw, be sure to chop them up into small enough pieces for your cat to swallow without difficulty. You should also thoroughly wash them to remove possible contaminants, just like you would do if you were planning to eat the carrots yourself.
If you are planning to add carrots to your cat's diet, do it in small amounts. Hyunmin Kim, DVM explains that “Carrots contain carbohydrates and almost half of the total carbohydrates are from sugar. The sugar in carrots does not have a big impact on blood sugar, but cats being obligate carnivores do not require carbohydrates.”
Can cats eat carrots?
The short answer is, “Yes, but…” According to PetMD, “carrots and some other vegetables are safe for your pet to eat. However, vegetables are not part of a cat’s natural carnivorous diet. Having too much sugar (yes, even natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables) in a cat’s diet can cause digestive or diabetic issues over time.”
Carrots can be safe for cats to eat, but whether they're actively healthy for cats is a separate question. Unlike humans, who are omnivores, cats are obligate carnivores. A cat's diet needs to be primarily made up of meat in order for them to get the nutrients they need.
You may have heard of Taurine, an essential amino acid found only in animal-based proteins that cats cannot produce on their own, but that isn't the only reason cats are unable to live off of vegetables.
Other important nutrients can be found in plant-based foods, but cats have difficulty digesting them. The beta-carotene found in carrots is a great example, as cats' digestive systems don't seem to be good enough at converting it into Vitamin A for it to meet their nutritional needs without other sources of that vitamin in their diet.
That said, while you should not try to replace your cat's meat-based diet with plant-based foods, carrots may have health benefits for cats when given occasionally as treats. While cats are not as good as humans are at getting vitamins out of vegetables, they do still get some. Additionally, carrots have a lot of both water and fiber in them, which can help with a cat's digestion.
In any case, they are healthier than many packaged cat treats, which are like junk food for kitties. Regardless of how healthy your cat's treats are, though, the ASPCA recommends that they not make up more than five percent of a cat's diet. The other ninety-five percent should consist of a regular cat food that contains all the nutrients cats need in the right proportions.
Raw vs Cooked Carrots
“Cooked carrots are the safest way to give to cats,” Hyunmin Kim, DVM, advises. Just see to it that you do not season them as it can upset their stomach or even downright toxic. Dr. Kim also recommends that carrots in baked goods can be a very safe way to give carrots to your cat as a snack.
Again, double check the label that all the other ingredients included is safe for your feline companion. You also want to ensure that all carrots, baked or cooked, are cut into tiny pieces that your pet can actually chew to prevent any choking from happening.
On the other hand, raw carrots by itself can be a healthy treat for cats, however, Dr. Kim advises that “it’s best to avoid giving cats raw carrots.” Since raw carrots are hard and rigid, it is a major choking hazard.
Can cats have whole carrots?
Due to the high incidence of choking, Dr. Kim recommends avoiding giving whole carrots cooked or uncooked to your cat. The carrots that should be given to your pets must be cut into tiny pieces to make eating easier.
Do cats like to eat carrots?
Carrots may be relatively safe and healthy for cats to eat, but the point is moot if your cat refuses to eat them. Just like small humans, many cats may decide that they want nothing to do with this root vegetable.
Unlike when human kids turn up their noses at carrots, though, the problem may not be the flavor. Cats are unusual among mammals in that they do not have taste buds for detecting sweetness, meaning that carrots taste very different to them than they do to us.
Since the sweetness of carrots is not a draw, you could try experimenting with different textures to catch your cat's interest. As mentioned above, cooking, mashing, or pureeing carrots can make them easier for your cat to eat. If you are really determined to get some carrot into your cat's diet, you could even try mixing it in with regular cat food.
Then again, since vegetables are supposed to be a treat for cats rather than a staple of their diet, if your cat refuses to eat carrots, you might be better off trying to find an alternative your feline friend will actually enjoy. Green beans, sweet potato, cucumber, zucchini, asparagus, or steamed broccoli might be more to your kitty's liking, and all of them are vegetables that can be safe for cats to eat.
If all else fails, veggie burgers that imitate the taste and texture of meat might be more appealing to your cat than plain vegetables, but check the ingredients of the patty to make sure everything in it is safe for kitties.
Ultimately, cats are carnivorous, which means that they are likely to prefer meat-based snacks to plant-based ones. Some kitties might be interested in expanding their horizons to include the occasional vegetable, but try not to be disappointed if your own pet isn't that adventurous.
Can Cats Eat Vegetables?
Gary Richter, DVM, owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California and Holistic Veterinary Care said, “Pet owners can always try to give vegetables to cats in food or treats. Not all will eat them. There certainly are good nutrients in vegetables when part of a balanced meal.”
So if you want to be a little adventurous of your pet's vegetables beyond carrots, here is a list of veggies that according to ASPCA are not toxic to cats:
- Celery (cats love its crunchiness!)
- Green bell peppers
- Spinach (Filled with vitamins A, C, and K)
- Pumpkin (often used as a way to get fiber in your cat’s system)
In trying out various healthy options for your feline, please do so sparingly. “There is no reason cats can’t be given human food as long as it is nutritionally appropriate,” Dr. Richter explains. “That said, cats tend to be very specific about what they will eat and they like consistency. Most are not enthusiastic about changes in their diet.”
Carrots are non-toxic to cats, but they can be a choking hazard if not cut into small pieces or prepared in a way that softens them. Carrots are not as good a source of nutrition for cats as they are for humans and should not be a major part of any cat's diet, but they can be a relatively healthy snack compared to packaged kitty treats. Since cats are into meat, they might not be interested in eating carrots at all.
At the end of the day, be reminded that your cat is a carnivore. And if you have plans on making your pet a vegan, they will miss out on essential nutrients their body needs that is found on properly formulated cat foods.
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