Can Cats Eat Eggs? Here's What Experts Recommend
Cats are meat eaters, so adding protein-rich eggs to their diet is a no-brainer, right? While your kitty may eye your morning breakfast, the question of whether you should share a bite or start making omelets for your cat is a bit complicated. Here are a few factors to consider:
- Are there any nutritional benefits to feeding cats eggs?
- Are eggs safe for cats to eat?
- Can cats eat raw eggs?
- How much egg can cats eat safely?
Answering these questions requires a quick overview of feline nutrition and some expert advice on how to partner with your veterinarian to keep your cat healthy.
Can Cats Eat Cooked Eggs?
According to the University of Missouri Small Animal Clinical Nutrition Service in Columbia, Mo., cooked eggs like plain scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs are safe for cats to eat.
While cats can eat eggs, it's best to separately prepare a dish for your cat rather than giving her scraps off your plate. Eggs cooked for humans likely contain added ingredients that are high in calories or toxic for cats, like butter, oil, cheese, milk, salt, or seasonings like garlic and onion.
Can Cats Eat Raw Eggs?
Raw eggs are on the ASPCA's list of human foods pets should avoid. Like humans, cats can get food poisoning from a type of bacteria sometimes present in raw eggs called salmonella. Raw eggs also contain an enzyme called avidin that interferes with cats' ability to absorb biotin, a type of vitamin. This can cause skin and coat problems.
Never feed your cat any eggs with runny yolks or raw egg whites, such as over easy, sunny-side up, or poached. If your cat accidentally consumes raw eggs and shows signs of gastrointestinal upset like vomiting or diarrhea, be sure to contact your veterinarian right away.
Are Eggs Good for Cats?
While the Clinical Nutrition Service lists cooked eggs as a safe food for cats, there are caveats.
First, cooked eggs are considered to be safe for healthy cats. So if your cat has a health condition, be sure to ask your vet specifically about eggs before you feed them to your cat. Likewise, not all cats react the same to foods, and a food that one cat can eat successfully might give another cat an adverse reaction.
The Clinical Nutrition Service explains that cats have specific nutrient requirements, which are of course different from those of humans. 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."
So if your cat is getting all of his required nutrients from his usual diet, feeding your cat eggs isn't necessary.
How to Cook Eggs For Cats
Taking into account the caveats above and feline nutritional needs, here are some steps for safely feeding eggs to your cat:
Ask. Talk to your veterinarian before giving your cat any new foods—even if they're typically considered to be safe for pets.
Calculate. The Clinical Nutrition Service says treats shouldn't account for more than 10 percent of your cat's daily calories. For example, if your cat eats 250 calories a day, only 25 of those calories should come from treats. Check the nutrition label on your carton of eggs to get the calorie count per egg and portion accordingly. You may want to omit the yolk and stick to egg whites for a lower calorie and lower fat option.
Prepare. Remember that any egg you give your cat must be fully cooked (scrambled or hard-boiled) first. Never add any salt or other seasonings.
Monitor. The Clinical Nutrition Service says that even safe foods can have unexpected reactions, so watch your pet for signs of gastrointestinal problems (e.g. vomiting, 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 eggs, call your veterinarian.
The bottom line: A cat who's getting his nutrition needs met by his normal diet won't need additional treats. Because cooked eggs 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 curious and meowing for a taste, following the guidelines above is the safest way to satisfy his cravings.