Can I Give My Cat Raw Potatoes?
Though folks in the middle ages supposedly thought they were Satanic, these days, there are not many foods less intimidating than the humble potato. These affordable, versatile, versatile root vegetables are a common staple food in households of all economic and cultural backgrounds. Because they boast such a long shelf life (you can store those guys forever!), potatoes have played an important role in human nutrition for hundreds of years. If you’re strapped for cash, buying hearty foods such as potatoes can be a great way to make your dollar go further. Potatoes are also known for their blandness—they are easy on the stomach and mild in flavor, so even the pickiest of eaters will usually eat them without much fuss. They’re also a great choice for people dealing with tummy troubles.
All of these qualities make them seem like a good human food to give to your pets. Our intuition also tells us that it is probably healthier to feed potatoes to our pets raw—after all, their wild cousins certainly don’t cook their potatoes! But is it safe to drop chunks uncooked potatoes into your pet’s dinner? Can cats have raw potatoes?
The answer is no, cats cannot eat raw potatoes. This food is considered toxic to cats. They may occasionally eat potatoes that are peeled and fully cooked, but it is not recommended to feed any types of potatoes to your cat with any regularity.
We often consider potatoes to be healthy, whole food sources of complex carbohydrates that can help fuel us through our workouts, and today’s raw food fad would suggest that raw potatoes would be even better. Where cats are concerned, however, our gut instincts are sadly mistaken. Giving your cat chunks of raw potato will almost certainly result in illness, and feeding them cooked potato isn’t great for them, either. If you must give your cat potatoes, make sure that they are fully cooked. This will give them the best chance of avoiding digestive problems.
The good news: there is no reason for your cat to eat raw potatoes anyway. It is possible to make the argument that there are small quantities of Vitamin A present in potatoes, but the amount that they would actually be able to absorb is negligible—unlike people and dogs, cats can’t efficiently convert beta carotene into Vitamin A. There are trace amounts of other vitamins and minerals in potatoes, but it is doubtful that your cat would be able to consume enough potatoes for these to have any effect on their health. Your cat should get all of their nutrition from their specially formulated cat food.
While we can benefit from the complex carbohydrates present in the baked potato we had with our dinner, our cats really can’t. Humans are omnivores who are well-suited to eating large quantities of plant starches. We have adapted to eating starches, so we have long intestinal tracts and special digestive enzymes that help us process carbohydrates. Dogs, who have evolved alongside us, have some of these qualities, too.
Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores who have a limited ability to digest starches. So, while complex carbohydrates make potatoes a fantastic food for people, they are a detriment to our cats’ health. Our feline friends are designed to eat the flesh of prey animals almost exclusively, which means that their bodies are very adept at processing meat. They are good at processing protein, not carbohydrates. This is why even cooked potatoes, if fed regularly, will cause digestive problems, nutritional deficiencies, and maybe even weight gain.
Things to Consider
At best, cooked potatoes are nutritionally empty foods that are rough on your cat’s stomach. If you make a habit of giving your cat cooked potatoes, they can quickly end up overweight or obese, which will increase their risk of developing dangerous, painful diseases like insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer. If your furry friend is already too round in the middle, skip the potatoes altogether.
Raw potatoes are even more dangerous for our cats—they are toxic! Raw potatoes and potato peels contain large quantities of an alkaloid called solanine. In small amounts, solanine will give your cat the standard symptoms of an upset stomach: stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, behavioral changes, and loss of appetite. If your cat gets a substantial dose of solanine, however, they may experience potentially life-threatening toxicity. Heat destroys this poison, which is why you may find potato flesh used as a filler in your cat’s store-bought food.
Though we usually consider raw food to be more nutritious, raw potatoes are not safe for cats—they are poisonous! There is no reason to give your cat any amount of potato with any regularity, but if you really want to give them some as a treat, make sure it is peeled and fully cooked. This will destroy the solanine and make it easier for them to digest.