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Strawberries are a classic symbol of summer — so after the months of dreary weather, it makes sense that your cat picks up on your enthusiasm for the snack. If your cat watches you wash a basket of just-picked berries or sniffs around your fresh strawberry jam, you might wonder: Can cats have strawberries? We’ll save you the Googling: “Strawberries are a perfectly safe snack to feed your cat in moderation,” says Dr. Tina Wismer, senior director of the ASPCA Poison Control Center. But cats are notoriously complex creatures, so nothing — including their snacking diet — is as simple as it might seem. Read on to find out everything you need to know about feeding strawberries to cats.
The Health Benefits of Strawberries for Cats
Strawberries are chock full of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants. It’s this big nutritional punch packed in low-calorie, super sweet little berries that earned strawberries the title of “superfood.” It’s possible that the high-fiber content helps treat constipation, but there is a lack of research showing a correlation between eating strawberries and good feline gut health.
Should you feed your cat strawberries?
Whether you can feed your cat strawberries is a different question than whether you should feed your cat strawberries. Although they’re safe in moderation, strawberries aren’t necessarily the best choice for all cats.
The kicker? Your cat might not even want to eat strawberries. Cats are considered “sweet blind,” meaning they lack the receptors that allow them to taste sugar. Unlike dogs, who are eager to satisfy their sweet tooth with strawberries and other sugary treats, cats may not find strawberries that enticing. That said, some cats are drawn to the texture and juiciness of strawberries — so even if they don’t find them sweet, they might want to indulge.
Are there downsides to feeding your cat strawberries?
Despite being nutritious and delicious, strawberries lack nutrients, such as protein, taurine, and vitamin A that are essential for your cat’s overall health. Strawberries are also high in sugar and carbohydrates, which are difficult for cats to digest. Diabetic and overweight cats should avoid eating strawberries, because the high sugar content can impact insulin levels and put on pounds.
Can cats be allergic to strawberries?
Most cats develop allergies after being repeatedly exposed to food, so it’s unusual for a cat to have an immediate allergic reaction to trying strawberries. That said, your cat can develop a strawberry allergy. Some symptoms to be on the lookout for are a runny nose, diarrhea, swollen eyes, itchy skin, coughing, wheezing, and vomiting.
Additionally, some cats can have intolerance to strawberries even without having an actual allergic reaction. In that case, your cat could suffer from vomiting or diarrhea, regardless of how many times they’ve tried strawberries.
Can kittens eat the stems of strawberries?
Technically, strawberry stems and leaves are non-toxic to cats. But it’s important to keep in mind that stems and leaves can be very difficult for cats to digest and can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction. Signs of a gastrointestinal obstruction include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, pain, and straining to defecate.
How Often Can Cats Have Strawberries?
Cats should not eat strawberries often. Because of their high sugar content, eating too many strawberries can cause a cat to gain weight or potentially lead to diabetes. Exactly how many strawberries your cat should eat depends on your cat’s size, medical history, and food preferences. Generally, cats should eat no more than one half of a strawberry per day. According to veterinarian Dr. McBride Vetter, treats should make up no more than 10 percent of your cat’s daily diet.
What happens if cats eat too many strawberries?
If your cat has eaten many strawberries, it’s important to keep an eye on them for signs of vomiting or diarrhea. If your cat is a senior, diabetic, or might otherwise be sensitive to high sugar content, you should take your cat to the vet to be on the safe side because strawberries can spike their blood sugar.
How to Add Strawberries to Your Cat’s Diet
If your cat likes strawberries, go ahead and offer them as an occasional treat — but prep them first to ensure they’re safe. Wash the berries to remove any dirt and residual chemicals and cut off the leaves and stems, which are difficult to digest. Instead of tossing your cat an entire strawberry, Dr. Wismer suggests cutting the berries into bite-sized pieces to prevent a potential choking hazard.
Stick with fresh strawberries. Canned berries and jams are often packed in sugary syrups, adding excess calories that cats don’t need. Remember, moderation is key.
Other Fruits That Are Safe for Cats
Fruits That Are Not Safe for Cats
On the other hand, what fruit is toxic to cats? There are some fruits your cat should definitely steer clear of. Cherries, grapes, and raisins are toxic to cats and can cause kidney damage. Citrus fruits — lemons, oranges, and grapefruit, for example — are also likely to upset a cat’s stomach.
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Jodi Helmer is a North Carolina-based freelance writer who shares her home with an embarrassing number of rescue dogs and relies on four feral cats to patrol the barn. When she isn’t refilling food and water dishes, Jodi writes about animals for Scientific American, Sierra, WebMD, AKC Family Dog, Living the Country Life, and Out Here.