Can Cats Eat Pumpkin?
During the season of pumpkin patches and all things pumpkin spiced, you might find yourself wondering, can my cat join the festive fun? We spoke to a board certified veterinary nutritionist to take the spookiness out of the question: "Can cats eat pumpkin?" While we found that your feline friend can enjoy an occasional pumpkin treat, read this before you start giving your cat an extra scoop of pumpkin in her dish.
Is Pumpkin Good or Bad for Cats?
When prepared correctly, your cat can eat pumpkin. In fact, your cat might already be eating pumpkin in their daily meal. Many commercial pet food brands include pumpkin as a low-calorie, high-fiber ingredient to keep your cat feeling fuller for longer.
But is pumpkin good for your feline friend? Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they are born to get their nutritional needs met with meat-based proteins—not plants. "In a prey-based diet, cats consume materials such as fur, sinew, cartilage, and chitin that act the same way fiber does in the gut," the Feline Nutritional Foundation explains. However, when a prey-based diet isn't on the menu, the fiber found in pumpkin can provide cats with some nutritional benefit and relief to digestive upset.
"Pumpkin doesn't provide much in terms of energy or required nutrients for cats, but it does contain a nice mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber sources," says Angela Rollins, DVM, PhD, DACVN, Clinical Associate Professor of Nutrition at the University of Tennessee. "This additional fiber can help regulate bowel movements and improve colonic health."
As with any special treat, too much of a good thing could be bad. Giving your cat too much pumpkin can have the opposite effect and either back your kitty up or get things moving a little too quickly, Rollins warns.
How Much Pumpkin Can Cats Eat?
"The amount of pumpkin to add will depend on your cat's stool quality," Rollins says. "If they have very normal, regular bowel movements, you probably don't need to add pumpkin." In fact, Rollins warns, the addition of pumpkin to a healthy cat's diet could cause digestive upset.
If your cat shows signs of digestive distress including constipation or diarrhea, Rollins suggests beginning with about one tablespoon of pure canned pumpkin and gradually increasing up to one-fourth cup per day as needed.
Are All Types of Pumpkin OK for Cats to Eat?
From pumpkin pie to roasted pumpkin seeds, not all pumpkin is safe for your cat to eat.
Plain, canned pumpkin is the best option for your cat. Cooked down into its most digestible form and with no ingredients added, your cat can enjoy this treat in moderation without digestive distress. So, where do you buy canned pumpkin for cats? Pure canned pumpkin can be found year-round in your local grocery store.
In its raw form, pumpkin is slimy and stringy. More than texturally gross, raw pumpkin is hard for your cat to digest. It's best to stick with pure canned pumpkin or to cook raw pumpkin down into a pumpkin puree for your cat. However, never feed your cat the stem, skin, or any remains of your jack-o'-lantern.
While roasting pumpkin seeds for your own snacking, forgo the salt and other spices and roast some pumpkin seeds for your cat! Grind the seeds and sprinkle a pinch on top of your cat's meal for a boost of fiber and other vitamins.
At its best, pumpkin pie and canned pumpkin pie filling contain salt, sugar, and milk. At its worst, it might contain allspice and clove, two spices that are toxic to cats. While pumpkin pie is delicious to humans, this is one treat you shouldn't share with your cat. If you know or suspect that your cat has eaten a food that is toxic to cats, call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline right away at 1-800-213-6680.
Does Pumpkin Help Cats With Health Issues?
If your cat has constipation, there are a couple of safe home remedies including adding pure canned pumpkin to their diet. However, for cats with ongoing gastrointestinal upset, it's best to consult your local veterinarian.
Pure canned pumpkin is a tasty, high-fiber food that packs little calories while keeping your cat feeling fuller for longer. While this may seem like a good solution for cat weight management, pumpkin is a vegetable and cats have no requirement for this food source, reminds the Feline Nutritional Foundation. Instead, the Foundation recommends a slimming diet consisting of low-carb canned wet food. It's a good idea to work with your veterinarian to determine the best weight loss plan for your cat.
Pumpkin contains soluble fiber, working to soak up excess water as it passes through the digestive tract. This makes pumpkin an at-home remedy for diarrhea in cats. "Depending on the cause of diarrhea, this could be a helpful strategy," Rollins says. "However, understanding and treating the underlying cause of diarrhea is important for chronic or severe cases."
While cats can eat pumpkin seeds, these seeds shouldn't be used to treat intestinal parasites in cats. Some believe a compound found in the seeds of pumpkins and other gourds can cause paralysis of intestinal parasites and allow for excretion. However, there is little scientific research that would indicate pumpkin seeds as effective parasite control in cats, Rollins says. The best way to prevent intestinal worms is to keep your cat on year-round preventative medications and seek veterinary care if your cat shows signs of parasites.