Can I Give My Cat Cereal?donuts and toaster pastries, cereal is the easiest, most delicious breakfast option for the modern American. Regardless of your age, gender, ethnicity, or flavor preferences, there is at least one type of cereal you find irresistible. And, in contrast to donuts and toaster pastries, many of our favorite whole grain cereals are considered a healthy use of calories. Many of these cereals, which are fortified with added vitamins and minerals and contain a solid hit of dietary fiber, are even considered suitable for growing children.
Alas, our furry kids are not the same as our human children, and they have different dietary needs. So, is breakfast cereal a safe snack option for our feline friends? Can cats have cereal?
Technically, yes, cats can eat cereal. Provided there are no added flavors or ingredients that fall on the forbidden foods list, cereal is not poisonous to cats. If you catch your cat eating cereal, there is no reason to panic and rush to the vet’s office. That said, the low poisoning risk doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to feed your cat cereal. Though it isn’t dangerous, breakfast cereal is not recommended for cats.
The one point in favor of giving your cat cereal is the dietary fiber. Though cats should not eat large amounts of fiber, a small amount can help regulate digestive health and decrease their risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Dietary fiber can be very helpful for cats suffering from diarrhea, because it adds bulk to otherwise loose or watery stools. However, there are much healthier sources of fiber, and not all cereals contain enough added fiber to make them worthwhile.
What about all those added vitamins and minerals? Though fortified cereals can be beneficial for those of us who have difficulty eating our fruits and veggies, they offer little in the way of nutrition for our carnivorously inclined feline family members. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means two things: firstly, they have different nutritional needs, and secondly, they have different digestive equipment.
The vitamins added into your standard box of cereal are formulated to help us, humans, meet our human dietary needs. Our cats have different daily nutritional needs! While humans are typically healthiest eating moderate amounts of carbohydrates and Vitamin C, our cats require other nutrients, like high levels of protein and Vitamin A. Much of the nutrients in fortified cereals are either useless for our cats or present in a form that is not easy for them to absorb. This is the same reason why we would not give our cats multivitamins that are designed for humans. Humans are mostly herbivores, so our dietary needs are vastly different from those of our carnivorous cats.
There is no good reason to give your cat breakfast cereal regularly, but there are several good reasons to avoid giving your cat cereal. The first is the high sugar content. Cats, unlike humans, are not well adapted to eating large amounts of carbohydrates—in fact, they lack much of the biological equipment required to process them properly. In the short term, eating too many carbohydrates can result in upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. It may also cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, which can lead to a sudden drop that corresponds with lethargy, extreme hunger, and behavioral changes.
Things to Keep in Mind
Some cereals can cross the threshold from unhealthy to dangerous. Many of our favorite breakfast cereals contain ingredients that are downright poisonous to cats, including raisins, chocolate, macadamia nuts, and artificial sweeteners like xylitol. If you make the choice to share a bite of cereal with your cat, opt for the unflavored options (such as plain Cheerios or Chex), and avoid anything containing dried fruit, added sugars, or artificial sweeteners.
In addition, avoid giving your cat cereal with milk. Despite the cute cliché of the cream-loving cat, dairy products are generally considered to be unhealthy for felines. Any cereal fed to your cat should be dry.
Breakfast cereal may be a great way to boost your own dietary fiber and vitamin intake, but it’s little more than a source of empty calories for your beloved housecat. Most cereals are not poisonous to cats (unless they contain ingredients like chocolate or raisins), so there is no need to panic if you find that your Siamese has gobbled up a couple Froot Loops off the floor. That said, cereal should not be fed to your cat regularly. Opt for healthier treats like sliced apples, sweet potato, or cat treats.