Can I Give My Cat Brown Rice?
In many parts of the world, rice has been a dietary staple for thousands of years. Though it is not nutritionally adequate on its own, it is an excellent, bland, easily digestible source of energy that served as the base for many meals. Because it is easy to store, versatile enough for any sweet or savory dish, and resilient enough to grow in nearly any climate, rice is still eaten regularly in many parts of the world. Though modern technology (and the modern sweet tooth!) has given rise to such treats as rice cereal treats, rice cakes, and even rice crackers, those who are interested in health and fitness often rely heavily on white rice’s healthier cousin, brown rice.
Brown rice is bland and nonthreatening, which makes it seem like the perfect people food to give to pets. Many of us have given dogs a scoop of brown rice with chicken broth to help soothe an upset stomach, but dogs seem to be able to eat just about anything. Cats, on the other hand, throw up half of what we give them and flat-out refuse to eat the other half. But is this bland grain the key to feeding your cat through a cold? Can cats have brown rice?
This is one of the rare cases when our intuition turns out to be correct: yes, cats can eat brown rice in moderation. Rice is not poisonous to pets—there is no real risk of your cat suffering from toxicity as a result of gorging themselves on a heap of fresh brown rice. This food is often one of the more well-tolerated grains, too, which is why it may be useful for cats who are dealing with a short-term stomach bug. But, though it is technically safe, rice is not a suitable staple in your cat’s diet. In a perfect world, your cat would only eat brown rice when their stomach is upset (and only if they have been examined by a veterinarian!).
For thousands of years, rice has served as the foundation for many human diets—and, though it is not nutritionally adequate for cats, it remains one of the better grain options. Cats are obligate carnivores who, unlike our dogs, have not adapted to consuming large amounts of starches and other carbohydrates. This means that foods such as pasta, potatoes, and bread, which we often rely on during bouts of illness, can cause severe discomfort for our cats. A cat who eats a substantial amount of starch will often suffer from upset stomach, nausea, lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea. If your cat is already having a rough time, giving them most grains will only make their condition worse.
Rice is bland and more easily digested than other starches. Because it is fairly easy on your cat’s stomach, it can be a great way to provide calories for an ailing kitty who is unable to eat their usual meaty cat food. Brown rice will not keep your cat healthy in the long term (it is lacking in most of the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids felines need to thrive), but it can provide their body with enough fuel to get them through a stomach bug that lasts a day or two. If possible, you should mix the rice with small quantities of meat or broth to provide them with more nutrition.
Sick cats may actually have an easier time of eating white rice than brown rice. While brown rice is praised in the human diet for its higher fiber content, for cats, this can be a problem—cats are not good at processing dietary fiber. If brown rice is all you have, it should be safe enough, but white rice is likely to be easier on your cat’s upset stomach.
Things to Consider
All rice given to cats should be fully cooked. Raw rice is almost impossible to digest, so feeding your cat uncooked rice will almost certainly result in severe discomfort and vomiting. Make sure to give rice to your cat unflavored, too. Your cat does not need spices or soy sauce.
Rice, white or brown, should never make up a large part of your cat’s diet for an extended period of time. Feeding your cat large quantities of rice on a regular basis can cause serious, even permanent, long-term health problems. Rice does not offer enough of the kay vitamins, minerals, or amino acids necessary for feline health. If a substantial portion of your cat’s daily energy intake comes from starches like rice, they will develop harmful nutritional imbalances.
In general, brown rice is safe to feed to otherwise healthy cats who are dealing with a short-term stomach bug. It is bland, fairly easy to digest, and full of easy energy that may help your cat through their illness. Brown rice is not, however, nutritionally adequate, and you should not feed it to your cat on a regular basis. If your cat’s symptoms persist, or if they develop any new symptoms, seek veterinary care.