Can I Give My Cat Honeydew?
The average dog seems to be the living incarnate of a powerful garbage disposal, but the average cat is more like an expensive car that requires the highest-quality fuel. Cats turn their noses up at much of the food we offer them, and of the new foods that they are willing to try, they seem to vomit up around 75% of them as soon as we turn our backs. We love our feline friends, and we know that they must get tired of eating the same foods over and over again, but it can be difficult to figure out how best to treat them.
Because honeydew and other melons seem to be mild, unthreatening fruits, they may seem to be a good option for finicky felines. But are they really? After all, if grapes are toxic, it seems likely that any other fruit can be, too. Can cats have honeydew?
The answer: yes, cats are able to eat honeydew in moderation. Melon happens to be one of the few fruits that many of our furry friends seem to adore—though cats generally find sweets boring, many pet owners have found that they go crazy for fresh, juicy melon. Fortunately, honeydew flesh is not remotely poisonous to felines, so there is no reason to worry even if they happen to overindulge once or twice. It isn’t good for your cat to eat too much honeydew, but it is not a medical emergency.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Cat Honeydew
Though this food is safe, and though cats seem to love it, there are not any real health benefits associated with giving honeydew flesh to cats. We thrive on diets that include high amounts of fruits and vegetables, but our cats are little more than tame, tiny tigers. They may be small and cuddly, but they have the digestive system of strict carnivores—this is why they are usually unimpressed by plant foods like apples and cucumbers. But being an obligate carnivore is about more than taste preference.
Your tiny tiger, and all obligate carnivores, have spent the last several million years sustaining themselves by eating the organs, muscles, and various other parts of the prey animals they manage to hunt. Because they spent so long eating whole prey almost exclusively, their bodies became highly specialized. Omnivores like us can pull nutrition out of many different kinds of foods, but the feline digestive system has no idea what to do with anything that isn’t meat. Our cats have lost the ability to efficiently gather necessary nutrients from plant sources—even ones that they enjoy, like honeydew melon. To make matters worse, many of the vitamins in honeydew are relatively useless to our feline friends.
A great example of this is Vitamin C. Humans eagerly gobble up fruit in order to get the Vitamin C that we need to prevent scurvy, but cat bodies synthesize Vitamin C completely on their own—they do not need to get any in their diet. Honeydew and most other fruits are packed with Vitamin C, but because our cats make it on their own, they don’t stand to gain much from eating these foods.
Also unlike humans, cats do not need to take in carbohydrate-laden foods to keep themselves energized and healthy. Cats actually thrive on low-carbohydrate diets—they are able to fuel themselves efficiently on diets that are high in protein. They do not process carbohydrates as well as humans do, so the ‘quick energy’ in fruit is more likely to upset your cat’s stomach than it is to help them feel fit and athletic.
All of this is to say that honeydew does not appeal to your cat for reasons of nutrition. It is possible that melons, especially cantaloupe, emit a scent similar to the amino acids found in meat products. This smell is thought to ‘trick’ your cat into eating melon. Your cat’s cravings are a mistake of evolution, not a result of true kitty intuition. As we find is often the case in humans, your cat’s cravings are not necessarily an accurate reflection of what the body needs to thrive.
Honeydew is not necessary, but it may provide some small health benefits. This fruit is high in antioxidants and dietary fiber, which are both thought to combat disease when given to cats in small amounts. Antioxidants protect body cells from damage caused by free radicals. Dietary fiber improves digestion, prevents constipation, and may aid in weight loss.
Things to Consider
In conclusion, honeydew is a safe treat option for cats. It is nontoxic, yet high in antioxidants, water, and fiber. If you decide to treat your cat to a bit of honeydew melon, remove the peel and seeds, then cut it up into bite-sized pieces to reduce the risk of choking.