Has your kitty ever “helped” you make a pumpkin pie and taken a taste? Or how about “sharing” your pumpkin spice latte?
Pet parents often ask if it’s safe for their cat to eat pumpkin. Here’s what you need to know about sharing this seasonal squash with your cat, from potential benefits to how to feed it safely.
Is Pumpkin Good for Cats?
Plain 100% pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) is safe for cats and can even be useful as a treatment for gastrointestinal issues. It contains several healthy ingredients, such as potassium; phosphorous; calcium; vitamins A, C, and K; and lots of fiber.
Keep in mind, however, that cats are obligate carnivores. This means that their systems are designed to process meats, so everything that isn’t a meat product, such as pumpkin, should be fed sparingly.
You may sometimes see pumpkin added as an ingredient in commercial cat foods, and this is usually done for the fiber content the pumpkin adds to the diet. Although there are other healthy nutrients in pumpkin, they’re usually also found in other components of the food that are easier for them to digest.
Can a Cat Eat Pumpkin Seeds?
Although pumpkin seeds are not toxic to cats, they can become a choking hazard, especially when eaten quickly. If your cat eats too many, it could result in an intestinal obstruction.
If you do give your cat pumpkin seeds, they are best fed in small quantities with you close by. Do not add any salt or spices or cook or roast them in oil, which markedly increases the fat content.
It is fine to use seeds that are either in the shell or with the shell removed, but mashing or crushing the seeds is safest. They can then be sprinkled on top of canned cat food for your cat to enjoy.
Is Pumpkin Good for Constipated Cats?
Perhaps the most common reason veterinarians recommend pumpkin is for constipated cats. The water content combined with the fiber can often help ease constipation. Many cats will respond to 2-4 teaspoons of canned pumpkin added to canned cat food if they have a mild case of constipation.
Canned food is recommended for constipated kitties, as it adds more water into their system. This is augmented by the water and the fiber in the canned pumpkin. Many veterinarians will use the addition of canned pumpkin as part of the cornerstone treatment for constipation.
Is Pumpkin Good for Cats With Diarrhea?
Canned pumpkin serves double duty—it is sometimes used to treat cats with diarrhea as well as constipated cats! The fiber in the pumpkin can add bulk to the stool, which helps to relieve the loose stools of diarrhea. However, if you give your cat too much canned pumpkin, it will usually result in diarrhea.
If your kitty has diarrhea, consult your veterinarian before giving pumpkin. Most cases of diarrhea actually have a medical cause, and those are easiest to diagnose in the earlier stages. You don’t want to treat the symptom and not investigate the cause.
After checking a stool sample and perhaps doing other tests, your veterinarian may recommend pumpkin as part of the treatment plan. Somewhere between 1-4 teaspoons of canned pumpkin will usually be recommended for diarrhea, depending on the severity of the symptoms, age and weight of your cat, and other factors your veterinarian might note. This is likely safe for both young and old cats that are otherwise healthy.
Can Cats Eat Pumpkin Pie?
Pumpkin pie and canned pumpkin pie filling both contain many spices, which are likely not healthy for your cat. Some of these spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice, can be considered mildly toxic and result in gastrointestinal upset.
A small lick of pumpkin pie filling will likely cause no harm, but if your cat eats more than this, call your veterinarian to determine if any additional action is needed.
How to Feed Your Cat Pumpkin Safely
If your kitty likes pumpkin and you would like to share, the best option is a small amount of cooked, plain pumpkin with no spices added. While it is sometimes best to cook your own so you know exactly what’s in it, canned or pureed pumpkin is also safe as long as no other ingredients have been added.
It is safe to use either pie pumpkins or carving pumpkins, although most people think that pie pumpkins taste better. Who knows what cat taste-testers think? The canned pumpkin you get in the grocery store comes from pie pumpkins.
Some cats will eat pumpkin on its own, while others prefer to have it stirred into a small amount of canned cat food—about 2-3 tablespoons. However your cat likes it, canned pumpkin can be a very valuable addition to your cat’s diet if they have gastrointestinal problems, especially mild chronic constipation.
Featured Image: iStockphoto.com/Bogdan Kurylo
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