Can Cats Have Noodles?
Everyone loves noodles. This is why they show up in many of the most popular types of cuisine! We enjoy noodles both hot and cold, regardless of the weather, and we enjoy them in a wide range of dishes. We eat noodles every time we consume spaghetti with marinara, pasta salad, macaroni and cheese, chow mein, and, of course, instant noodles. Even if you follow a gluten-free or low-carbohydrate diet, you have probably found a way to include some type of noodle in your diet at least semi-regularly.
Noodles are delicious whether they are made with refined grains, whole grains, zucchini, squash, or even potatoes. We love spaghetti, angel hair, shells, gnocchi, penne, ravioli, and orzo. Though many of us turned our noses up at a portion of our mom’s cooking when we were little, it was rare that we hated our mom’s spaghetti. It is both a wonderful comfort food and the perfect fuel for athletes who need to replenish their glycogen stores before a big race. But are noodles an acceptable comfort food for our pets, too? Most of us are not at all afraid of sneaking a little bit of spaghetti to our dogs underneath the dinner table, but we have learned to be more delicate with our cats and their fragile stomachs. So, what should our pasta policy be? Can you give your cat noodles?
The answer to this question, like so many things, is: yes and no. Even though standard white pasta noodles are not at all toxic to felines, noodles in general are not in the group of recommended foods for your cat. If you want to give them a couple of plain, cooked spaghetti noodles while you are boiling your pasta to make dinner, it probably will not do any damage to their health, but it is not a good idea to give any noodles to them regularly or in large quantities. Even though foods like whole grain spaghetti are a solid source of energy for human athletes, even the healthiest types of noodles are not suitable staples for cats. If you give noodles to your cat at all, consider them a treat.
There are absolutely no health benefits to including any type of pasta in your cat’s diet. Whole grain noodles are often considered among the healthiest carbohydrate sources for adult humans, but they really are not suitable for felines and other companion animals. Unlike people, who are omnivores that have evolved to eat diets that include fairly high amounts of starch and other carbohydrates, cats are obligate carnivores—they are literally ‘obligated’ to be carnivorous!
People tend to thrive on diets that include sources of complex carbohydrates, like potatoes and noodles, but cats eating high-carbohydrate diets struggle to maintain health. The optimal feline diet is one that is quite high in protein and very low in carbohydrates.
This makes sense when you pause to consider what foods your cats’ ancestors have been eating for the past million years. Housecats, like lions and tigers, evolved to meet all of their nutrient needs by consuming the flesh and organs of whole prey animals. For lions, this is gazelles. For your cat, this would be mice, squirrels, and the occasional bird—if not for the fact that we feed our cats specially formulated kibble so they don’t have to hunt.
No matter how varied your cat’s natural diet may be in terms of species eaten, it would be incredibly varied in terms of food groups. Obligate carnivores have a food square instead of a food pyramid, and that square is made out of one block: meat!
Since our cats’ ancestors have been eating strictly meat for so long, housecats actually lack the biological equipment necessary for processing carbohydrate-rich foods. Humans have a special enzyme, called amylase, that helps us break down foods like potatoes, bread, and, yes, noodles. Cats do not, and so they struggle to break down the starches that make up our favorite carbohydrate-rich comfort foods.
Noodles have none of the nutrients that cats need in order to survive. The only thing they have that your cat’s body can use is calories—and, unfortunately, most cats are already eating way too many calories! In a country where one half of all domesticated cats are overweight or obese, we probably do not need to give our cats any empty calories. If you give your cat a lot of pasta, they will either develop nutritional deficiencies or gain weight. There is no way for them to eat a substantial amount of noodles while maintaining optimal health.
Things to Consider
Humans can handle eating the occasional bowl of macaroni and cheese when we want comfort, but cats are tiny creatures who have a fraction of our calorie needs—they don’t have any room for empty calories. This is especially true for that unfortunate 50% of American felines who are already too fat for their own good. Obesity in cats is just as serious as obesity in humans. Cats who are carrying around too much extra body fat are significantly more likely to develop health problems like insulin resistance, type two diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, and many types of cancer.
If your cat is already on the heavy side, or if they already have a condition such as insulin resistance or type two diabetes, they definitely should not eat noodles. Noodles are often made using refined flour that can cause insulin spikes, which can reduce insulin sensitivity and make their symptoms even worse.
Overall, giving your cat noodles is not a good idea—they are high in calories and difficult-to-digest starch, yet low in the nutrients your pet actually needs. If you must give your cat noodles, serve them plain. Most of the sauces we use to flavor noodles contain ingredients that are toxic or unhealthy for our pets. If your pasta sauce contains garlic, onions, or large amounts of salt, do not even let them have a lick of it! Garlic and onions can cause life-threatening toxicity symptoms, and salt can lead to dehydration and hypernatremia. This leaves instant noodles and most types of prepared spaghetti out of the picture.