Can I Give My Cat Cucumbers?
Few things make as valuable a contribution to salads as the humble cucumber. This crisp, watery, refreshing vegetable adds moisture and texture to fresh green salads (which means you can use less of your favorite fattening dressing!). It also makes a great addition to sandwiches, veggie trays, and a wide variety of other vegetable-based snacks. Fans of infused water have long ago learned that cucumber slices left to sit in a pitcher of cold water overnight give birth to a delicious, mild-tasting beverage. Some people even enjoy slicing up a cucumber and eating it by itself. And, because our doctors are constantly telling us to eat our vegetables, we get to take pride in eating cucumbers regularly.
But what should we do when our curious cats come sniffing at our salad? Is it okay to indulge their curiosity? Can cats have cucumbers?
The answer is yes, cats can eat cucumbers. Unlike some plant foods, cucumbers do not appear to be at all toxic to dogs or cats. If your cat gobbles up several slices of cucumber, there is no need to call your vet or try to induce vomiting—they will be just fine. In small amounts, safe, low-calorie vegetables like cucumbers may even benefit your cat’s health in the long term.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Cat Cucumbers
You may be wondering, what business does my cat have eating cucumbers? Aren’t cats carnivores?
Yes, housecats—just like lions, tigers, and cheetahs—are obligate carnivores. But this does not necessarily mean that all plant foods are forbidden! Obligate carnivores are animals who have evolved to meet all of their nutritional needs by consuming the flesh and organs of the prey animals they kill. Their biological machinery is set up in such a way that they can pull vitamins, minerals, and amino acids out of meat very efficiently.
In the process, however, they have lost many of the adaptations required for extracting nutrition from plant foods. This is why spinach provides a huge nutritional boost for humans, but does little to help your cat meet their dietary requirements. The stuff that cats need to build, repair, and fuel their bodies comes from eating meat, not plants.
This means that cats must eat meat (or, in some cases, specially formulated plant-based kibble) in order to get all of the nutrients they need. It does not, however, mean that feeding them small amounts of plant food will harm them. Cucumbers and other vegetables will not be able to give your cat much in the way of key vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, but they may benefit your cat’s health in other ways.
Possibly the best reason to give your cat cucumbers is the dietary fiber. Felines do not need anywhere near as much fiber as we do, but, in small amounts, it can work wonders on their digestion. Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of plants. It benefits our health not because it provides energy, but because it soaks up water and adds bulk to stool, which encourages soft, healthy, regular bowel movements.
In the wild, cats would eat whole prey animals. The indigestible animal parts (such as bones, hair, and other tougher body parts) would serve as a sort of fiber, which would help keep things flowing through the digestive system smoothly. Our housecats, on the other hand, are stuck eating kibble, which does not have these components. Giving them access to plant fiber—whether by giving them grass to eat or supplementing their diet with vegetables—is a great way to keep their digestion in great shape. If your cat struggles with constipation on a regular basis, cucumbers may be the answer.
Cucumbers also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help protect body cells from damaging free radicals. Incorporating foods like cucumbers into your cat’s diet may help protect against cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases. Some studies suggest that adding antioxidants into the diet may reduce swelling associated with arthritis, which alleviates pain and improves mobility.
Things to Consider
Of course, cucumbers are not a stand-in for veterinary care. If you think your cat is in pain, consult a veterinarian before altering their diet. It is also worth repeating that cucumbers are to be fed to cats in small amounts—your little carnivore does not have the ability to digest large amounts of plant foods, and they may suffer from bloating, indigestion, vomiting, or diarrhea if they consume more than a couple of slices. Unlike us, our cats do not need five or more servings of vegetables per day. Treat cucumbers and other vegetables as supplements, not staples.
In closing, cucumbers are a perfectly safe food to share with your precious pet. Though they contribute very little from a nutritional perspective, they are high in fiber and antioxidants, which may aid in digestion and overall health. Just remember to limit your cat’s portions and watch for any digestive troubles.