Can I Give My Cat Broccoli?bread, pasta, donuts, cookies, and possibly a baked potato or two. The reality of adulthood, for those of us who finally developed a love for the foods that make us feel good, is a kitchen full of green: spinach, kale, celery… and of course, broccoli. Broccoli is one of the most affordable, most accessible vegetables available in the U.S. We eat it raw or cooked, and we add it to a wide variety of our go-to dinner dishes. Most of us have broccoli on hand more often than not.
Since we also own pets, this means that our furry friends have many chances to grab a bite of this common cruciferous vegetable. Should we be concerned? Can cats have broccoli?
It’s unlikely that your cat is going to throw itself across the table to steal a stalk of broccoli, but if you’re wondering whether it’s okay to offer, never fear: broccoli is not at all poisonous to cats or dogs. This green vegetable is considered safe for feline consumption (in moderation!) both cooked and raw. Just make sure it hasn’t been cooked with anything that could hurt your cat, like garlic, onions, or high amounts of salt.
Broccoli is one of the best foods we can eat, so we may assume that it is equally as good for our cats. It’s true that there are some potential benefits to giving your cat broccoli in moderation. The big one is its high antioxidant content, which is the main reason for its immunity-boosting, disease-fighting properties.
What’s the deal with antioxidants? Many antioxidants are vitamins that our bodies need to function anyway, but their value goes further than satisfying nutritional needs. Antioxidants get their power from their relationship with particles called free radicals. Free radicals, if you are not familiar, are highly charged, highly reactive particles that leave disaster in their wake—when they come into contact with cells, they cause damage that often results in mutations. These mutations are often harmless, but every once in a while, they result in sickness: free radicals have been implicated in a wide range of unpleasantness, from the standard cognitive failure associated with aging all the way to heart disease and cancer.
Antioxidants are thought to destroy free radicals, which heads off cell damage and its resulting mutations. Of course, antioxidants are no substitute for medical care such as chemotherapy; if your cat already has cancer or heart disease, a little broccoli is not going to solve all of their health woes. The power of antioxidants is in prevention. By feeding your cat foods that contain antioxidants, you can reduce their chances of becoming sick in the first place, help them age more gracefully, and possibly even lengthen their lifespan.
Though cats should not eat a lot of fiber, the dietary fiber in small amounts may benefit their health. Fiber has long been associated with the ability to lower cholesterol, which can reduce your cat’s risk of cardiovascular problems. But fiber’s most famous health benefits are its effects on the digestive system: fiber can alleviate both constipation and diarrhea, helping your cat have full, soft, regular bowel movements. Cats often eat roughage when they have an upset stomach, so broccoli may be a good food for your indoor cat with indigestion.
Things to Keep in Mind
If you decide to feed your cat broccoli, be sure to practice moderation and start small. As previously mentioned, cats have evolved to eat meat, not plants. This means that the feline digestive system may have difficulty processing high-fiber, high-carbohydrate cruciferous vegetables. To make it as feline-friendly as possible, cook the broccoli thoroughly (this makes it easier to digest), then cut it into bite-sized pieces. If you want to go above and beyond, you can puree the broccoli before offering a small amount to your cat.
If your cat experiences vomiting or diarrhea after eating broccoli, it’s not a cause for immediate panic, but it probably means you should consult a vet before trying again. Since broccoli is nontoxic, the vomiting is likely just indigestion.
Though broccoli should never be a feline dietary staple, it is perfectly safe to share some of this food with your cat every now and then. This food is low in calories, yet high in fiber and antioxidants that can protect their health and help them live a long, disease-free life.