Can Cats Eat Strawberries? How to Share the Berry with Your Cat
Strawberries are a sweet source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium in the human diet. But is it safe to share these juicy red treats with our whiskered friends? The short answer is yes—strawberries are generally considered to be safe for cats to eat. But there are other questions to consider before sharing a berry with your pet, like whether or not there are any nutritional benefits, risks, or reasons to avoid feeding your cat strawberries.
Since cats’ nutrition needs are different from humans, we partnered with the experts at the University of Missouri Small Animal Clinical Nutrition Service in Columbia, Mo., to learn more about how to keep your cat healthy when she’s trying new foods.
Are There Nutritional Benefits to Feeding Your Cat Strawberries?
Cats have different nutrient requirements from 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.”
This means that as long as your cat is getting all of his required nutrients from his diet, treats like strawberries aren’t necessary.
Are Strawberries Safe for Cats to Eat?
While the Clinical Nutrition Service lists strawberries as a safe food for cats, it notes that there are caveats.
- Strawberries 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 different, and what one cat’s system can tolerate well might cause problems for another cat.
- Most of your cat’s calories (90 percent) should be from a complete and balanced pet food, which will provide the nutrients he needs. Human foods like strawberries should only be given occasionally and in moderation.
How to Feed Your Cat Strawberries Safely
Taking into account the caveats above and feline nutritional needs, the following guidelines offer steps to safely feed strawberries 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 strawberries 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, and one medium strawberry is around six calories. So for example, if your cat eats 250 calories a day, only 25 of those calories should come from treats.
- Prepare. Wash the strawberries with water before removing the stems and any leaves. Cut up the strawberries 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. 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 determine the source of the problem. If you think your cat is having an adverse response to strawberries, call your veterinarian.
Should Cats Eat Strawberries?
Bottom line: nutrients before treats. Because strawberries 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. “Because cats are picky eaters and prefer protein from meat, a better question might be ‘Will my cat eat strawberries?’” Entriken says. However, if your cat is begging for you to share, following the guidelines above is the safest way to give in to his cravings.
Cats vary in the amount of food they need to eat each day to maintain an ideal weight. “Just as peoples’ caloric needs vary, cats’ caloric needs depend on a variety of factors, including their age and developmental stage, genetics, body condition score, activity level, and underlying medical conditions,” Theresa Entriken, DVM, a veterinary consultant based in Leawood, Kan., says. And different pet foods vary widely in their caloric content. “So making a generalization about the amount to feed your cat can be challenging,” Entriken says.
An online Calorie Calculator for Cats from the Pet Nutrition Alliance allows you to provide basic information about your pet and the brand of food you’re feeding her to help you determine an approximate daily caloric intake and the appropriate amount to feed.
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.