Can I Give My Cat Cherries?Though fruits are among the favorite healthy foods of many Americans, there are only a few fruits that most of us would consider to be ‘treats’. A bucket of apples, a bag of peaches, or a basket of berries may be delicious, but they aren’t too likely to get your kids jumping up and down out of sheer excitement. No, for grinning, screaming, dessert-level joy, no healthy food will deliver quite like a basket of cherries. Though pitting them can be labor intensive, almost everyone loves cherries. They come off the tree beautiful, delicious, and full of vitamins and phytochemicals. Cherries are nature’s candy, and they are wonderful for our health, too.
Since cherries make such a wonderful, healthy treat for our kids, many of us may be tempted to use them as treats for our pets, too. Many of the cat treats found on store shelves are full of additives and questionable ingredients, so we turn to whole foods. But are cherries a good option? Can cats have cherries?
The answer: yes, cats can eat cherries, but only if you remove the pits first! After all, you wouldn’t give your toddler cherries with the pits left inside, would you? While cherry flesh will not likely help your cat meet their daily nutritional requirements, the antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory chemicals found inside may improve your cat’s health in the long run. Just remember to keep the portion sizes small—for the sake of your cat’s digestion as well as your wallet!
So, what are the health benefits of cherries? If you look at cherries from a strictly nutritional standpoint—that is, in terms of the dietary vitamins and minerals your cat needs to function—they do not offer much. But, if you look at the bigger picture of overall health, it becomes clear that foods such as cherries can offer more than just basic sustenance. One of the biggest health benefits of cherries, for example, is their antioxidant content.
Antioxidant consumption is often stressed in the human diet due to our unnaturally stressful lifestyles—we smoke, we eat unhealthy foods, we experience chronic emotional stress, and we are constantly bombarded by carcinogens and other harmful substances found in our environment. Wild animals do not have to deal with a lot of the stressors found in our man-made environments, but domesticated animals like cats have to deal with a lot of the same things that we do! Many of these unhealthy environmental factors increase the number of free radicals in our pets’ bodies. Free radicals are particles that can damage cells, resulting in the mutations that can lead to serious illnesses like cancer.
This is where antioxidants come in. Antioxidants are free radical killing machines that eliminate these dangerous particles before they have a chance to damage cells. This means that, by feeding your pets foods containing antioxidants, you can help combat the negative effects of substances they may be exposed to in the human environment—things like pesticides, junk food, and cleaning chemicals. Of course, cherries alone cannot atone for all of these ‘health sins,’ so the best thing you can do is minimize your cat’s exposure to substances that can make them sick.
Another benefit of cherries: they are powerful anti-inflammatory foods. In recent years, athletes have harnessed the power of cherries to recover between workouts and to reduce the risk of injury. Reducing inflammation may lower your cat’s risk of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers. But if you’re looking for the most noticeable effects of anti-inflammatory foods, try feeding them to pets who suffer from arthritis—the reduction in inflammation often reduces pain and improves mobility.
Things to Keep in MindAs previously mentioned, it is of vital importance to remove the pits before feeding cherries to your cat. Aside from the obvious choking hazard, cherry pits are also dangerous because they contain a substance that is toxic to cats called cyanide. Cyanide prevents an enzyme in body cells from working properly, which prevents them from absorbing the oxygen they need to function. If your cat has consumed cyanide, they may suffer from labored breathing, discolored gums, dilated pupils, and shock. Left untreated, cyanide poisoning is often fatal.
The other thing to keep in mind is serving size. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they often struggle to properly digest plant foods like cherries. Giving your cat too many cherries will likely result in indigestion, vomiting, or diarrhea. Remember: this fruit is a supplementary food, not a dietary staple.
So, you can now feel free to give them a couple cherries every now and then knowing that, in doing so, you are giving them a boost of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances that may prevent disease, fight inflammation, and improve their overall quality of life. Just remember to keep their portion sizes small and remove the poisonous pits before serving.