Can Cats Eat Apples? How to Feed the Fruit to Your Cat Safely
Does an apple a day keep the veterinarian away? Not exactly. Apples are generally considered to be safe for cats to eat, but they aren’t a necessary part of your pet’s diet. So while cats can eat apples, there are other questions to consider before serving a slice to your feline friend:
- Are there any nutritional benefits to feeding cats apples?
- Are there any risks with feeding your cat apple?
- How can cats try apples safely as a snack?
- How do you prepare apples for cats to eat?
Answering these requires a quick overview of feline nutrition and some expert advice on how to partner with your veterinarian to keep your cat healthy.
Are There Nutritional Benefits to Feeding Cats Apples?
According to the University of Missouri Small Animal Clinical Nutrition Service in Columbia, Mo., the simplest and most convenient way to meet the nutrient requirements of cats is to provide them with a complete and balanced commercial diet—and that doesn’t necessarily look like what we’d consider a balanced diet for humans. Since cats are considered obligate carnivores, they rely on nutrients that are found only in animal products. That’s why vegetarian diets are not suitable for cats—they need vitamins, minerals, and by-products from food that’s made up of similar ingredients to what they’d eat as prey in the wild.
As long as your cat is getting all of his required nutrients from his regular diet of specially-formulated cat food, treats like apples aren’t necessary.
Are There Any Risks with Feeding Cats Apples?
While the Clinical Nutrition Service says that apples are considered a safe food for cats, there are some caveats to keep in mind.
- Apples are considered to be safe for healthy cats. So if your cat has a health condition (such as diabetes), this general rule doesn’t apply.
- Every cat is unique and can vary a great deal when it comes to tolerating certain foods. “Cats must be considered individually,” the Clinical Nutrition Service explains, “as some cats may consume a particular food item with no issue and another cat may consume the same item and develop vomiting, diarrhea, or other adverse signs.”
- The majority of your cat’s calories should come from foods specially formulated to give him the nutrients he needs. Human foods like apples should only be given occasionally and in moderation.
- Apple stems, leaves and seeds contain cyanide and are poisonous to cats. If your cat consumes any of these parts, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) as soon as possible.
How Can I Feed Apple to My Cat Safely?
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and still want to give your cat a taste of your fresh fruit, here are some guidelines from the Clinical Nutrition Service:
- Ask. Talk to your veterinarian before giving your cat any new human foods—even if they’re typically considered to be safe for pets.
- Calculate. According to the Clinical Nutrition Service, “Treats shouldn’t account for more than 10 percent of your cat’s daily caloric intake. For example, if your cat eats 250 calories a day, only 25 of those calories should come from treats. The FDA says a large apple is around 130 calories, so you can do the math based on your cat’s current calorie consumption.
- Remember: cats have different needs, and the amount of food they need to eat each day to maintain an ideal weight will vary from animal to animal. If you aren’t sure how many calories your cat needs or what his ideal weight is, visit with your veterinarian about developing a nutrition plan that’s specific to your cat.
- Prepare. Wash the apple thoroughly with water before cutting a portion of it into cat-bite-sized pieces that are easy for your pet to manage. The size of your cat’s kibble can give you a good idea of what size you should aim for. Remember, be sure to keep your cat away from the apple’s stem, leaves, and seeds. The peel shouldn’t harm your pet, but removing it may make the fruit easier for your cat to eat and digest.
- Monitor. The Clinical Nutrition Service says that even safe foods can have unexpected reactions, so watch your pet for signs of gastrointestinal problems like vomiting or diarrhea after consuming a new food. It’s also a good idea to introduce only one new food at a time. That way, if your cat does start showing signs of illness, you can more easily pinpoint the source of the problem. If you think your cat is having an adverse response to an apple, call your veterinarian.
With All those Caveats, Should Cats Eat Apples?
The bottom line: nutrients before treats. Because apples aren’t part of a complete and balanced diet for felines, there’s no need to go out of your way to get your cat to eat them. However, if your cat is constantly meowing for a taste, following the guidelines above is the safest way to respond to his cravings.
If you’re unsure whether your cat is getting the nutrients he needs from the food he eats every day, bring up your concerns with your veterinarian. They are ready to help you find good options for your pet, and no question (or treat!) is too small for discussion. Open, honest communication with your veterinarian is key to keeping your cat safe and healthy.