Can I Give My Cat Carrots?
If someone were to tell you to list five vegetables, chances are carrots would be one of the first to come to mind. These much-loved root vegetables are cheap, affordable, and sold in abundance throughout the northern hemisphere. Even when you’re stranded in a sea of gas stations and fast food restaurants, you can usually scrounge up a package of baby carrots. We love them raw, baked, steamed, and even added to cakes and pasta dishes. Many pet owners are all too familiar with the canine affinity for carrots, too—dogs go crazy for these crunchy orange vegetables. But what about our finicky, carnivorous cats?
Can cats have carrots? The answer: Yes! Though cats are obligate carnivores, and therefore do not require any fruits or vegetables to meet their nutritional needs, carrots are perfectly (and maybe even somewhat beneficial) safe for cats. Carrots are not at all toxic to cats, so there is nothing to be worried about if your cat has been munching on these beloved root vegetables.
Conventional wisdom has rendered carrots synonymous with eye health, and for good reason. We eat carrots to keep our eyes healthy and disease-free, and our cats may be able to reap from these crunchy vegetables the same health benefits that we do. Carrots are full of all sorts of vitamins and minerals, but the one that gives them their vision-protecting benefits is the same one that is responsible for their distinctive orange color: beta carotene.
For humans, beta carotene is the first ingredient needed to create Vitamin A, which is one of the most important vitamins for eye health. Once Vitamin A works its way into the bloodstream, it is sent to the retinas of our eyes, where it aids in performing all the tasks required for healthy vision. Vitamin A is vital for the cells in our eyes which are responsible for our peripheral vision and for sight in dim lighting or darkness. This is why animals with a Vitamin A deficiency will often suffer from some degree of night blindness—which can be remedied by supplying the body with Vitamin A. This can be especially important for cats, who are renowned for having excellent night vision.
Though Vitamin A cannot reverse cataracts, glaucoma, or blindness, it appears to play a powerful role in helping to prevent these illnesses. As with most illnesses, prevention is the best medicine when it comes to eye health, so it’s best to make sure your pet is getting adequate Vitamin A BEFORE any health problems set in.
The beta carotene conversion process happens in cats, too, but not nearly to the same degree. While cats can get a small amount of Vitamin A from the beta carotene found in carrots, their bodies cannot synthesize this key nutrient in the amounts necessary to maintain health. This means that, while carrots make a great addition to your cat’s diet and can help protect eye health, they will not be enough to meet all of your cat’s Vitamin A needs. If you suspect that your cat may be low in Vitamin A, talk to your veterinarian about supplementation.
The vitamins in carrots may also help support your cat’s immune system and skin health, as well as the health of their fuzzy fur coat. In order to obtain these vitamins, however, it’s important to cook carrots before feeding them to your cat.
Things to Keep in Mind
As previously mentioned, cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they are ‘designed’ to eat meat. Unlike omnivores, carnivores often have difficulty digesting fiber-heavy plant foods. Feeding your cat raw carrots will not poison them in any way, but it may result in upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, or bloating. Raw vegetables can also pose a choking hazard for our feline friends, so make sure you cut the carrots into small slices before serving them. Your cat doesn’t need any sauces or spices—simply steam or roast the carrots until they are soft and toss them into your cat’s bowl without any additives.
These orange vegetables are one of the few plant foods that most cats seem to love, so they make an excellent cheap, natural, whole food treat. They are full of beta carotene, which helps protect eye health. Carrots also have the benefit of being high in fiber and low in calories, so they serve as a fabulous alternative to the often-fattening cat treats on sale in pet stores. In addition, though they can’t digest it, fiber improves digestive health and may help prevent some cancers in cats. The high fiber content can be invaluable for overweight cats who are undergoing calorie restriction to lose weight, too—fiber helps keep your cat’s stomach full without adding a whole lot in the way of calories. So, your cat gets to stay satisfied while losing weight!
To head off any choking risks or digestive problems, simply chop, then steam or roast the carrots before serving.
Cat Eating Carrot Video: