Pet Consider

Can Cats Eat Cabbage?

Can I Give My Cat Cabbage?

Though it is not one of the most popular vegetables for snacking or serving on a veggie tray at parties, cabbage is one of the plant foods that often makes its way into our diets. This crunchy cruciferous vegetable often shows up in soups, salads, coleslaw, tacos, wraps, egg rolls, and stir fries. It also commonly appears next to corned beef around St. Patrick’s Day. Most of us will eat cabbage without a second thought, but when it comes time to share our table scraps with our precious pets, once-innocent plant foods suddenly become shrouded in suspicion.

Most people who have cats are aware of the dangers of foods like chocolate and raisins, but should we refrain from giving our pets vegetables, too? Can cats have cabbage?

The answer is yes, cats can eat cabbage in moderation. Unlike plant foods such as grapes, garlic, and onions, cabbage does not seem to be toxic to felines—it does not increase your cat’s risk of Heinz Body anemia. Even if you manage to give your cat too much cabbage in one sitting, it is doubtful that this will result in a medical emergency. Still, to keep them healthy and comfortable, cabbage and all vegetables should only be given to cats in moderation.

Health Benefits?

cabbageCabbage is generally considered to be a healthy food in the human diet, so our intuition may lead us to believe that it is a health food for our pets, too. While this often applies to our dogs, it isn’t the same for our cats. Felines have drastically different dietary needs from people and from canines. Still, cabbage does offer some small health benefits if it is fed to cats in moderation.

One of the best reasons to give your cat most vegetables is their antioxidant content. A lot of antioxidants, like Vitamin C, double as nutrients that our body needs to function properly, but they also help support health in other ways. In the long term, these chemicals protect our health because of the way that they interact with metabolic waste products known as free radicals. Though they are natural products of our cats’ bodies’ biological processes, free radicals can wreak havoc on the body if they are left to their own devices.

Some of these particles are relatively harmless, but others carry a high charge, which means that they react with many of the other particles that they come into contact with. Unfortunately, when free radicals float freely through our cats’ bodies, most of the particles they bump up against are body cells! When a highly reactive free radical comes into contact with a cell, it may steal electrons from the atoms within cells, thereby damaging the cells. Sometimes, free radical activity results in mutations that later lead to disease.

This fits in with the free radical theory of aging, which suggests that many of the negative effects associated with the aging process—from dementia and arthritis all the way to heart disease and cancer—are caused by free radical activity. So, by feeding your cat fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants, you may be able to reduce free radical activity and lower their risk of suffering from chronic diseases as they age.

The other benefit of supplementing a cat’s diet with vegetables is the dietary fiber. While cats and other carnivores should not eat large amounts of plant fiber, small quantities may offer some health benefits. Fiber is most often touted as a way to regulate digestion; the fiber in cabbage can help prevent problems on both ends of the spectrum, alleviating constipation and diarrhea. Cats who consume fibrous foods like cabbage in moderation may have softer, fuller bowel movements.

Things to Consider

Though cabbage and other vegetables have their health benefits, they should not make up a significant portion of the feline diet. Cats are obligate carnivores whose bodies are set up to process meat foods; feeding them vegetables will do little to help them meet their nutritional needs. In addition, cats are not built to process large amounts of fiber and carbohydrate. Cabbage, which is a cruciferous vegetable, may cause vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion, or gas if fed in large quantities. If your cat has struggled with cruciferous vegetables in the past, it may be a better idea to feed them more easily digestible veggies.

A word of caution: cabbage contains a substance called thiocyanate, which can repress thyroid function if it is fed to cats in large quantities. Though your cat is unlikely to eat enough cabbage for this to cause a problem, it is wise to rotate the types of vegetables your cat consumes to prevent them from eating too much thiocyanate. If your cat already has thyroid problems, opt for a different type of vegetable.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, cabbage is safe for cats to consume in moderation. It is nontoxic, high in fiber and antioxidants that may help protect against chronic illness, and low in calories. When feeding cats cabbage, moderation is key: too much of this cruciferous vegetable can cause gas, indigestion, and other gastrointestinal problems. Any time you introduce your cat to a new food, start small!


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