Blueberries: A Superfood for Humans, but What About Cats?
Blueberries, which are rich in antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin C, have been designated as a superfood in human nutrition. But are they super for cats? While blueberries are generally considered to be safe for your kitty to eat, they aren’t a necessary part of your cat’s diet. So while cats can eat blueberries, it’s important to know what nutritional benefits and risks you should consider before giving him a bite.
Are There Nutritional Benefits to Feeding Your Cat Blueberries?
According to the University of Missouri Small Animal Clinical Nutrition Service in Columbia, Mo., cats have specific nutrient requirements that must be met by their diet, and the nutrients they require aren’t the same as the ones humans need. As obligate carnivores, cats rely on nutrients found only in animal products. “The simplest and most convenient way to meet the nutrient requirements of a cat,” the Clinical Nutrition Service explains, “is to provide them with a complete and balanced commercial diet formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist or an individual with a PhD in animal nutrition.”
This means that as long as your cat is getting all of his required nutrients from his diet, treats like blueberries really aren’t necessary.
Are There Risks When Feeding Cats Blueberries?
While blueberries are considered a safe food for cats, there are some caveats.
“If your cat likes them, blueberries are fine to feed healthy cats,” Theresa Entriken, DVM, a veterinary consultant based in Leawood, Kan., says. “But because of blueberries’ sugar content, it’s best to avoid feeding them to cats with medical conditions such as diabetes.” Also keep in mind that some cats may not tolerate diet changes or additions such as new fruit treats, so they may develop vomiting or diarrhea after eating something new.
“Remember that the majority of a cat’s calories should come from a complete and balanced diet,” Entriken says. So offer treats such as single blueberries only occasionally—no need to go overboard and offer a blueberry muffin or slice of pie!
How to Feed Your Cat Blueberries Safely
Taking into account the caveats above and feline nutritional needs, the following guidelines offer steps to safely feed blueberries to your cat:
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. To determine how many blueberries your cat can safely eat, you’ll need to do a little math. The Clinical Nutrition Service says 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. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 cup of blueberries is around 84 calories.
Cats vary in the amount of food they need to eat each day to maintain an ideal weight. 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. Remove any stems and thoroughly wash the blueberries with water before cutting them 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 to aim for.
Monitor. “Abruptly changing your pet’s diet or feeding a new type of treat can cause gastrointestinal upset,” Entriken says. So it’s best to introduce only one new treat at a time and in moderation so you can pinpoint the culprit. Call your veterinarian if your cat exhibits vomiting or diarrhea after eating something new.
Should Cats Eat Blueberries?
The bottom line: nutrients before treats. Because blueberries 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.