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We love to treat our feline friends, sometimes even with scraps of what we eat (oops). But can cats eat potatoes safely? Here’s what to know before they take a bite.

By Tracey L. Kelley
November 23, 2020
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As kitty twines around your legs near dinnertime, it’s tempting to give her a little treat of whatever you’re cooking. While some human foods are safe for cats to snack on, you might wonder if cats can eat potatoes, too.

Cats can eat taters—but it’s not necessary. Since cats are obligate carnivores, they require meat-based nutrition with essential amino acids, like taurine. Your goal is to provide her a complete and balanced diet. And since Kitty won’t be meowing for kale anytime soon, it might surprise you to find potatoes listed as an ingredient in her wet or dry food. But feline nutritionists occasionally use them in cat food as a source of mineral-rich, non-grain carbohydrates to round out food formulas.

So while your fuzzball doesn’t need potatoes in her diet if her general kibble is highly-nutritious, there are a few other guidelines to keep in mind before feeding kitty those tots.

White cats sits in front of potatoes illustration
Credit: Michael Reinhard / Chanita Chokchaikul / EyeEm / Getty / Yeji Kim

Can Cats Eat Potatoes?

Richard Hill, VetMB, PhD, is board certified in small animal internal medicine and veterinary nutrition, and an associate professor at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville, Fla. His advice? Your cat can eat cooked potatoes as a treat now and then.

“Potatoes contain calories and are not complete and balanced, so they have the potential to ‘unbalance’ a balanced commercial diet,” says Hill. “We recommend that no more than 10 percent of the calories of a diet come from unbalanced treats.”

If your cat eats mashed potatoes off your child’s high-chair tray, a few licks won’t hurt her. Just don’t let her make it a habit unless that’s her only treat source. Further, the ASPCA notes that a feline’s digestive system isn’t adapted for a plant-based diet. So when choosing potato treats for cats, consider which ones matter most. 

The Safety of Different Potato Preparation Methods

Cooked Potatoes

Plain boiled, mashed, or baked white potatoes are fine occasional treats for your kitty. Cats can even eat instant mashed potatoes. As long as potatoes are cooked, Hills says, they’re non-toxic. “Uncooked potatoes are indigestible. Cooking breaks up the starch granules to make the starch moderately digestible. But the green bits or green potatoes are toxic.” 

The toxicity in uncooked potatoes comes from a chemical called solanine. Keep this in mind if kitty gets mischievous and noses through a garbage can where there might be potato skins or bits of raw potato. It’s unlikely she’ll eat them unless they’re slathered in chicken fat, but consult your vet right away if you suspect she did. She might have an upset stomach for a while, and even vomit, but a veterinarian will do a thorough exam to make sure she's OK.

Sweet Potatoes

While it’s permissible for your cat to eat sweet potatoes, it’s probably not the best treat choice. The ASPCA lists cooked sweet potatoes as non-toxic, and kitty might sniff around if a dog has sweet potato treats. But similar to white potatoes, they’re not as easily digestible or as nutritious for cats as other feline snacks.

Potato Chips, Fried Potatoes, & Potato Salad

Can cats eat potato chips? The high sodium and fat content isn’t good for her (or us!), plus she won’t crunch down thoroughly, as cats tend not chew treats completely. Any other form of fried potato or potato salad isn’t the best bet either, for the same reasons.

So while a few potato crisps aren't the best option for snack time with Fluffy, treats are a wonderful way to bond with your favorite feline. Treats that have been specially formulated for her dietary needs are best, but if you think she might like what you’re snacking on, choose a different pet-safe food for her to try. A few human foods your cat can safely snack on include items like zucchini, blueberries, peeled banana, cooked eggs, apple slices, and unsalted creamy peanut butter.