Pet Consider

Can Cats Eat Olive Oil?

Can I Give My Cat Olive Oil?

For the last several decades, we have had a fickle relationship with fat. Our older relatives grew up frying everything in lard, while those of us who reached adulthood in the 1990s learned to avoid fat at all costs. When the Mediterranean diet gained popularity as a way to maintain health and fitness, more people began focusing on the types of fat they were eating, and olive oil earned a reputation as a heart-healthy superfood. Many of us learned to substitute olive oil for less healthy fats such as butter and margarine. Over the past few years, however, fats have once again come under scrutiny—the number of people following oil-free diets seems to be growing.

It’s bad enough not knowing whether or not we should include olive oil in our own diet, and it can be even more stressful trying to figure out whether or not this food is appropriate for our pets. Some people swear by olive oil as a remedy for skin problems, while others suggest that feeding it to pets will shorten their lifespan. So, are the oil-free folks right, or should we (and our pets) get some inspiration from the Mediterranean diet? Can cats have olive oil?

The answer is yes, cats can eat olive oil in small quantities. Fortunately, olive oil is not at all poisonous to your pet, so there are no immediate health risks associated with giving them a small (or not-so-small) amount. Even though your cat could survive eating a large amount of this food, it is important to practice moderation if you want to keep them healthy and fit—olive oil is extremely high in calories and may lead to weight gain. As a low-sugar food, olive oil is a much more suitable treat than many sweet junk foods, but it’s still a treat!

Health Benefits?

olive oilOlive oil definitely is not required for health—after all, it is a refined plant food that has no ‘natural’ place in your cat’s diet—but some sources suggest that there may be health benefits to using it as a dietary supplement. High-quality olive oil is loaded with Vitamin E, polyphenols, and healthy unsaturated fats that may protect your cat’s health.

One of the most commonly reported effects of an olive oil supplement is improved skin and coat health. Cats need healthy fats in order to keep their coat soft and shiny; without these fats, felines often suffer from dry, itchy skin, dandruff, hair thinning, or a fur coat that is dull and brittle. Dry skin and brittle hair can result in serious shedding, which can leave you covered in even more cat hair than usual. The unsaturated fats present in olive oil can keep your cat’s skin soft and hydrated and restore their coat’s natural sheen.

The polyphenols present in olive oil have antioxidant properties that may help reduce your cat’s risk of disease. Antioxidants defend against disease by destroying particles called free radicals, which carry a very high charge that causes them to mutate body cells. Many of these mutations don’t hurt your cat, but every once in a while, free radical activity results in a mutation that later leads to disease. Free radicals are thought to contribute to the development of dementia, many types of cancer, and inflammatory illnesses such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

It is impossible to get rid of free radicals completely, but antioxidant-rich foods may help decrease the number of these particles that are present in your cat’s body. So, while olive oil will not prevent disease, it may improve their chances of staying healthy in the long term.

Things to Consider

Some sources recommend using olive oil as a safe, effective treatment for constipation. If your cat deals with occasional constipation, giving them half a tablespoon of olive oil can help get things moving again. If their problems persist, make sure to see a vet—olive oil can’t cure the underlying problem!

As with most medicinal foods, olive oil has its drawbacks. It is a refined, high-calorie food that packs in a lot of calories without contributing many of the key nutrients your cat needs to maintain health. A single tablespoon of olive oil packs in well over a hundred calories. Most cats only need around 250 calories per day in order to maintain their weight! This means that, if you are not careful to monitor their overall caloric intake, they can very easily pack on weight once they start eating olive oil. If you choose to add this food into your cat’s diet, measure out a small portion and mix it in with their usual cat food.

Final Thoughts

When it is given in small quantities, olive oil is a safe supplementary food for most cats. It is high in healthy fats and polyphenols that can improve skin health and protect against disease. However, it’s also quite high in calories, so don’t get too carried away! Use measuring spoons and make sure to monitor your cat’s overall caloric intake to prevent weight gain.

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