Updated - Feb 28th, 2022
Sweet, juicy strawberries are a summer favorite on many tables. We love them and love sharing food with our furry friends. Dogs can eat strawberries, so can your cat also enjoy the health benefits from these sweet berries?
The short answer is yes, your cat can eat them, as strawberries are not toxic to your cat. The bigger question is: which health benefits does your cat get from eating them? To answer that, we need to explore the cat’s digestive system and nutritional needs.
Cats: Obligate carnivores with specific dietary needs
Science categorizes cats as obligate carnivores. This means their bodies function best with a sole diet of animal proteins, or meat. Their digestive system is designed to process and use the proteins, fats, and acids found in meat, but they lack the key enzymes needed to process or absorb the nutrients in plant-based foods.
Cats can only handle 0-2% carbohydrates in their digestive system. This equals about the amount of plant-based material found in the digestive tracts of small prey animals like rodents, and it’s only partially digested. So offering your cat fruits and vegetables comes with risks and provides no nutritional benefit.
Let’s look at strawberries now.
Health benefits of strawberries
For humans and dogs, strawberries offer amazing health benefits. They’re filled with powerful antioxidants that boost our immune system, sugars, fiber, and even malic acid that can whiten teeth! Strawberries are low in calories, have moderate sugar content, and provide important vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as Manganese, Folate, Potassium, and Magnesium, all of which are important for our nervous systems. But for cats, it’s a different story.
Cats only benefit from the dietary fiber found in strawberries, since they lack the enzymes necessary to digest and absorb nutrients from plants. They also don’t have sweet taste receptors, and can’t taste the juicy sweetness of the strawberry like us humans or a dog can.
Many cats have unusual taste preferences and will want to taste your food even if they are on a balanced diet. Strawberries are not toxic, so it’s okay to offer a small piece of your strawberry to your cat. However, given their specific dietary requirements, your cat will thrive better on commercial cat food that’s been formulated by a certified feline nutritionist, and cat treats that are designed for their nutritional needs.
As they can’t enjoy the taste, most cats will turn away from plant foods like strawberries, but your cat may be the exception! When your cat appears to want a bite of strawberry, here’s the best way to offer them a tasty morsel.
How to serve your cat strawberries
Before you offer your cat a piece of your strawberry, check with your veterinarian to make sure there are no health issues that would make ingesting the strawberry a health hazard.
Once you have the go-ahead, wash the strawberries to remove any pesticides or fertilizer, and then remove the stems and leaves. Strawberry leaves and stems may be a choking hazard.
Cut the berries into small pieces (about the size of your cat’s kibble) and offer one to your cat. Keep in mind, even if your cat is crazy interested in eating strawberries, they may turn away once given the opportunity. It’s the thought that counts, right?
Even though fresh strawberries are safe, you must avoid any processed strawberries in strawberry jams, syrups, ice creams, and even strawberry yogurt. These products can contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can be deadly to your cat if ingested.
If your cat eats strawberries, watch out for any common side effects that occur when cats eat new foods. Let’s look at those now.
Risks when cats eat strawberries
If your cat is overweight or has diabetes, avoid strawberries because they contain too much sugar. Ingesting too much sugar can spike your cat’s blood sugar and cause serious health problems. This is another good reason to speak to your veterinarian before offering foods meant for humans to your feline.
Additionally, high amounts of carbs can spell trouble for a cat’s digestive system. They can give a cat abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, or a low appetite. A visit to your vet may be necessary if you see any of these signs.
Diabetes is another condition that can develop if your cat has the wrong diet. Your cat may gain weight if they eat too many treats or too much food. In that case, you’ll need to consult your veterinarian.
Signs of diabetes are:
- Excess thirst
- Frequent urination
- Lack of appetite
- Inability to jump
- Vomiting or upset stomach
Allergies are not common but can happen when cats eat new foods. The signs of an allergic reaction will occur shortly after ingestion and include:
- Runny nose and sneezing
- Coughing or wheezing
- Itchy, watery eyes and/or nose
If you notice any of these symptoms, talk to your vet right away. Keep in mind these are not common, but you need to know what to watch for when feeding any new food to your kitty.
The bottom line on cats and strawberries
Yes, strawberries are delicious, and you can safely offer your cat a small taste.
Make sure you follow the 90/10 rule of daily caloric intake if you have an adventurous cat that will eat strawberries. 90% of your cat’s diet should come from their normal balanced cat food, while the remaining 10% can come from treats. Anything more and your cat could develop obesity or diabetes.
The bottom line is that cats don’t need and can’t process food from plants. So your cat may eat the strawberry, but a healthy snack like a commercial cat treat or a bite of unseasoned cooked meat may be a better choice for your cat’s overall health.