Can I Give My Cat Pasta?
Across many different types of cuisine, one of the big staple foods is pasta. Whether they are cold or hot, made with whole or refined grains, or even pressed into cartoon character shapes and smothered in fake cheese, pastas are commonly (and enthusiastically) eaten by many Americans. Many families make dishes such as spaghetti, mac ‘n cheese, or pasta salad at least once a week. Because pasta is so easy to prepare, many of us make double batches and put away the leftovers for lunch the next day. But, like most leftovers, there is one other place that pasta may wind up: in your pet’s dish.
This doesn’t seem like such a big deal when the pet in question is a dog (dogs eat anything), but if you have a cat, you may be wary. Cats may land on their feet when dropped, but in most other ways, they seem far more fragile than our dogs. So, are those leftover noodles safe? Can cats have pasta?
The answer: while plain pasta is not poisonous to cats, it is not a recommended food. Giving your cat a couple of leftover noodles every once in a while will not do any real damage to your cat’s body—so, if your cat’s already gobbled up your leftovers, you don’t need to bustle off to the vet—but feeding them pasta regularly can cause health problems. Pasta is often touted as a great source of energy for human athletes, but even whole grain pasta is not suitable for the feline diet. To keep your cat in peak health, keep the pasta to a minimum.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Cat Pasta
Are there any benefits to giving your cat pasta? No, not really. Whole grain pastas may be healthy in moderation for humans, but they do not belong in our cats’ diets. This is because, whereas humans are carb-loving omnivores, cats are obligate carnivores. Humans need complex carbohydrates like those found in whole grain pasta to stay energized and healthy, but cats have evolved to eat extremely low-carbohydrate diets.
In the wild, your housecat would have a very limited diet. So limited, in fact, that it only has one food group: meat. Cats and other obligate carnivores have spent the last several million years subsisting on whole prey, so they haven’t had the opportunity to develop many of the plant-eating adaptations that we have. While humans have carb-digesting enzymes and long digestive systems to deal with plant foods, our cats are protein-powered machines with short digestive tracts designed to process meat.
Simply put, pasta is useless for cats. The energy-rich carbohydrates in pasta may help keep your cat alive in the face of starvation, but they will not do anything to help your cat’s health in the long run. Pasta is lacking in most of the nutrients that cats need to thrive. If your cat’s diet consists of large amounts of pasta, they will end up with nutritional deficiencies that can cause permanent damage to their health.
In some cases, pasta may be worse than useless—all those carbohydrates can make your cat ill in the long term. High in calories and low in key vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, foods like pasta are likely to cause your cat to pack on the pounds, which can wreak havoc in your cat’s health. Our cats only need a fraction of the calories that we do, so it is very easy for them to wind up overweight or even obese. Just like obese humans, obese cats are far more likely to develop crippling health problems, including arthritis, insulin resistance, diabetes, heart and kidney disease, and even some forms of cancer. If your cat is already overweight, do not give them any pasta or high-carbohydrate foods.
Insulin resistant or diabetic cats should not consume white pasta. This pasta, which is made from refined flour, causes insulin spikes that can worsen their condition in the long term. Whole grain pasta has more fiber, which helps maintain blood sugar levels.
Things to Consider
If you decide to treat your cat to a small amount of pasta, practice extreme caution: many pasta sauces contain ingredients that can be extremely dangerous for our cats. The best pasta you can give your cat is plain pasta made from whole grains. Sauces containing garlic or onions should be completely off limits, as these foods can be deadly to cats even in small amounts. Be mindful, too, of the salt content of any pasta dish you plan to share with your cat. Too much salt can cause salt poisoning, which can be fatal.
While plain pasta certainly will not send your cat scrambling to the pet hospital, it really isn’t a recommended food for felines. Pasta is high in carbohydrates, yet low in almost every nutrient that your cat needs to thrive. To keep your cat fit and healthy, avoid this carb-rich source of empty calories in favor of more feline-friendly treats.