Can I Give My Cat Coconut?
Most of us like to nibble on a piece of fresh fruit every now and then, but coconuts transcend the limits of most other fruits—they are not only foods on themselves, but ingredients that may yield a wide variety of delicious dishes. We like to drink coconut water in lieu of processed sports drinks, but we also incorporate coconut meat and milk into our breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts. In recent years, coconuts have gained popularity as a superfood, which has given us more excuses to enjoy it. Though most of us do not think of coconut as a dietary staple, it shows up in a surprising number of our favorite foods. For this reason, our pets are at a high risk of being exposed to this fruit’s flesh.
This isn’t too much of a big deal for our dogs (who seem able to stomach anything that isn’t chocolate), but our cats area delicate flowers with strange stomachs and unique nutritional needs. Most of us know that our feline friends evolved to be obligate carnivores, but does this mean that nonmeat foods are actually harmful for them? Could this tropical superfood benefit our pets’ health? Can cats have coconut?
The answer is technically yes, but most sources agree that feeding your cat coconut is not a good idea in the long term. If you drop a chunk of coconut meat into your cat’s bowl once or twice, they probably will not suffer any negative health effects (and they will enjoy the creamy, fatty treat). Coconut is an unhealthy food for cats, but it is not immediately life-threatening—coconuts do not contain any substances that are known to be poisonous to felines. If your cat has gobbled up a bit of coconut, there’s no need to rush them to the pet hospital, but you should not let them eat this fruit regularly.
Many coconut products (especially coconut oil) have been praised for their powerful health benefits, but do any of these benefits apply to cats? Isn’t coconut oil the cure to healthy skin and hair? Won’t a daily dose of coconut oil grant you and your cat immortality?
Well, no. Contrary to the overblown claims made by those of us who frequent health food stores, coconuts (and their oil) are just foods—they are not magical cures. That said, there is some evidence to suggest that coconut oil may be helpful for animals who suffer from certain skin conditions. Some pet parents swear by using coconut oil as a supplement to combat mild skin allergies.
More research needs to be done before we can confidently say whether or not coconut oil is effective feline medicine, but, if your veterinarian gives you the go-ahead, you may find that this fruit alleviates your cat’s itching. The important thing is to make sure that you have your cat examined by a veterinarian any time they develop skin problems. Administering coconut oil (or any home remedy) without a proper diagnosis can be extremely dangerous. If your cat’s symptoms are the result of an underlying condition, coconut oil will not do anything to treat that condition. It is always best to seek veterinary care sooner rather than later.
Things to Consider
Feeding coconut products to your cat on a regular basis can be dangerous. Though it is a fruit, coconut is extremely high in fat, which means that it may lead to pancreatitis, hyperlipidemia, or even fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease, also known as hepatic lipodosis, can cause weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, muscle loss, depression, yellow eyes, drooling, collapse, and death. If your cat has existing diabetes, cancer, liver problems, or kidney disease, they are already at an increased risk of fatty liver disease, and it would be wise to avoid caloric, fatty fruits such as coconuts.
This goes for coconut water and coconut milk, too. As previously mentioned, cats are obligate carnivores who are suited to consuming mostly meat products. Coconut water (or juice) is little more than sugar, which cats often struggle to process properly. Coconut milk is loaded with fat and calories that can cause the same problems as coconut meat. Your cat is not set up to consume any of these foods and they are likely to develop nausea, upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you give your cat coconut products regularly, don’t be surprised if they start to pack on the pounds—coconuts have a lot of calories and little in the way of the nutrients your furry friend needs to be healthy.
In conclusion, pet parents do not need to panic if their cat finds a scrap of coconut meat on the kitchen floor, but they really should not give it to their cats intentionally. There is no real reason to feed a cat any coconut products (meat, milk, oil, or water), and doing so may result in health problems down the road.