Coconut Oil For Cats – Uses, Benefits And Risks

“Put the lime in the coconut,” recommends a calypso song by Harry Nilsson “and you’ll feel better.” Where your cat’s concerned, you might want to skip the lime (Most cats don’t like anything citrus.) but a little coconut oil might be good for what ails her. Emphasis on little.

What is Coconut Oil?

image of a jar with coconut oil

In ancient Samoan culture, coconuts were used for everything including soap and shampoo. Coconut oil, also known as copra oil, is extracted from the kernel of the fruit of the coconut palm. (Cocos nucifera) Because it’s slow to oxidize due to high fat content, it can last a good six months without spoiling.

As a cooking element, it’s flavorful but fatty. In fact, it’s 99% fat and has 890 calories in 100 grams. It’s a primary ingredient in non-dairy creamers and movie theater popcorn. It is high in the Vitamins E and K, making it popular as a hair care product.

Coconut Oil Benefits

image of broken coconuts

As a topical ointment, coconut oil is perfectly safe for cats. If your cat has a skin irritant coconut oil might be the best thing to put on it. It should not be placed directly on an open wound, but around it to prevent infection. It can also be used to avoid a skin irritant.

If you have a white cat or a hairless variety like a Sphynx that sunburns easily a little coconut oil can serve as sunblock. If your cat is leash trained (Yes! It’s possible!) you can rub a bit on her paw pads before a walk to serve as a barrier in case she steps on something nasty like road salt. If your cat has ear mites, a drop or two of coconut oil followed by an ear massage will smother the mites and loosen up wax, making them easier to clean.

Have you been using coconut oil on your hair? It’s good for your cat’s hair too! If you have a long haired breed, coconut oil can work as a detangler as well as making her fur shiny and sleek. Don’t worry if Kitty licks a bit off her fur. It’s not only fairly safe for your cat to take coconut oil internally, but it can prevent hairballs. If Kitty is feeling constipated, a small dose of coconut oil could fix that right up. Which helps us segue into….

Risks of Coconut Oil

image of a feline feeling bad

They never mentioned this on the television series Gilligan’s Island or the animated film Moana or even in the novel Robinson Crusoe, but coconut is a natural laxative. That’s why your cat should only take it internally in small doses to prevent hairballs or to cure constipation. It’s also very high in fat content.

Some brands of coconut oil have the poly-unsaturated “good” fat and some have the hydrogenated fats that aren’t so good. Either way, if your cat is diabetic or dieting, coconut oil might not be good for them even in small doses. There’s also a slight possibility your individual cat is allergic. Allow her to lick a tiny bit off your finger and observe her reaction before giving her any more.

Should You Give Coconut Oil to Your Cat?

image of shattered coconuts fruit

Coconut oil provides more benefits to your cat if used topically, for instance to treat psoriasis, bug bites or a wound. Internally, it should only be used as a very occasional supplement. Check with your vet first and if you get the OK, use only non-hydrogenated coconut oil, preferably virgin or fractionated. Your best bet is the fractionated oil because of better stability and a high concentration of healthy fatty acids.

The fatty acids in coconut oil are partially water soluble, making it easy to metabolize. If you have a sick cat who’s been losing weight, coconut oil might help but proceed with caution. If your cat is not diabetic or allergic to coconut oil and is underweight, constipated or suffering severe hairballs, a small dose of coconut oil might be the way to go.

How to Include Coconut Oil in Your Cat’s Diet

image of a jar on the gray background

You want to introduce this slowly to Kitty’s diet so she doesn’t have tummy troubles. Just 1/8 of a teaspoon a day to start with will work. For an average sized cat, work up to 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon twice a day and start to gradually cut back as Kitty’s health improves. Many cats like the taste of coconut oil and will happily lap it right out of the spoon. If your cat doesn’t care for it, you might want to mix it in with some aromatic cat food.

Alternatives to Coconut Oil

If for some reason your cat can’t have coconut oil, there’s fish oil to consider, preferably salmon, anchovy or krill. This kind of oil should only be used internally. No one wants a kitty who smells like fish! For topical use, olive oil can work though it won’t have quite the same anti-inflammatory effects.

Your veterinarian can suggest topical applications specifically formulated for cats. Coconut oil can be safely added to your cat’s beauty regimen and ease some skin ailments. It can cure some internal problems but can also cause some, so be very cautious to use only the smallest dose necessary. Use it well, and then you’ll feel better!

Resources:

  • March 19, 2018
Mary Nielsen
 

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.