Can I Give My Cat Olives?pizzas, and often mixed into pastas and other savory dishes. In fact, most people do not even recognize this food as a fruit!
Small, tangy, and higher in fat than many fruits, olives are a must for pizzas and salads year-round. Those of us who are interested in nutrition have also heard of the health benefits associated with this strange little food.
Since we use olives in so many dishes, our cats have a lot of opportunities to eat them… but is this a good thing? After all, many pet owners have learned that seemingly harmless ‘people foods’ like garlic and onions can seriously harm their pets. Can cats have olives?
The answer: yes, cats can eat olives in small amounts. There is nothing in olives that is in any way poisonous to our feline friends—unlike garlic and onions, which can cause a deadly condition called Heinz body anemia, olives are poison-free and safe for our cats to eat. Olives themselves do not pose any real threat to your cat, so feel free to give them one every now and then. Just remember to remove the pits first!
What about all the supposed health benefits of this strange little fruit? From a nutritional standpoint, there is no reason your cat would ‘need’ to eat olives. Cats are obligate carnivores whose bodies have evolved over billions of years to get all of their nutritional needs met by eating the flesh of prey animals. This means that their bodies are calibrated to handle nutrition differently when compared to humans—and even when compared to dogs.
This is evident both in the nutrients they need and how they can acquire these nutrients. For example, though humans have to eat fruits and vegetables in order to get our Vitamin C, cat bodies produce all the Vitamin C they need. On the other hand, both cats and people meet our Vitamin A needs through diet, but the way we do it is different. People can get Vitamin A by eating foods high in beta-carotene. Cats, however, have to eat Vitamin A fully formed in the flesh of prey animals.
Things to Keep in Mind
All of this is to say that your cat is not going to meet any of their nutritional needs by eating olives. If there are any benefits to giving your cat olives, they are small and more medicinal than nutritional. Different types of olives contain varying amounts of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, which can improve your cat’s health by destroying dangerous free radicals that may cause the cell damage that leads to cancer and other illnesses. In addition, anti-inflammatory foods may ease the symptoms of diseases like arthritis. Arthritic cats who supplement their diet with anti-inflammatory foods may experience reduced pain levels and improved mobility.
Though olives are not poisonous, they also do not come without risk. Canned olives in particular are often extremely high in salt, which cats can’t handle in large amounts. Just a couple of canned olives may push your cat over their daily limit for healthy sodium consumption! Salt can be extremely damaging to your cat’s health in both the short and long term. In the long term, elevated sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, which increases your cat’s risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. In the short term, too much salt can cause salt toxicity. Symptoms of salt toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, extreme thirst, excessive urination, loss of appetite, swelling, tremors, poor coordination (stumbling or walking like they are intoxicated), tremors, seizures, and even death. If you think your cat has consumed too much salt, take them to the vet’s office immediately.
Overall, it’s safe to give your cat an olive every now and then—most cats love olives, and there is no real risk of poisoning associated with eating them. It’s important to keep portion sizes small and infrequent, though, because olives are nutritionally empty and extremely high in salt. Use olives as a rare treat and not a dietary staple for your feline friend.