Can I Give My Cat Rice?
There are only a handful of foods that seem universally ‘safe’, nonthreatening, and good for even the most fragile of stomachs, and rice is one of those foods. When we are battling a stomach bug or dealing with food poisoning, rice is one of the foods we turn to in order to settle our heaving stomachs. When our kids are flopped out on the couch with the flu, we bring them bowls of rice in a mad attempt to convince them to eat something other than popsicles and chicken broth. We even feed rice to our sick dogs, at the recommendation of our trusted veterinarians.
But does this rule apply to our cats? Should we give our feline friends rice when they’re feeling under the weather, or as a treat? Can cats have rice?
The answer: yes, cats can eat rice, but it should be fed to them in fairly small amounts and only on occasion. Rice is not a ‘health food’ for our cats, who are obligate carnivores. Many cats will not even take an interest in rice if you put it in a bowl in front of them. Ideally, rice should only be fed to cats under the guidance of a veterinarian if your cat is recovering from illness or surgery.
Though rice is far from the ideal cat food, it is one of the best grains you could feed your feline friend. Cats often have a hard time digesting starchy, high-carbohydrate foods like pasta and potatoes, but rice is one of the high-starch grains that most cats can digest without too much difficulty. It is less likely than other starchy foods to result in severe stomach pain, vomiting, or constipation.
Since it is bland and easy on the stomach, rice can be a safe way to get calories into a cat who is dealing with a stomach bug or having difficulty keeping food down. While it will not keep your cat in peak health from a nutritional standpoint (rice doesn’t have any of the amino acids or micronutrients cats need), it will provide raw energy to help them get through their illness. Rice is best given to cats mixed with a heartier, more nutrient-heavy food like chicken chunks or broth.
Though rice may come in handy for supporting your cat’s body through brief colds, it is not a suitable staple in the feline diet. Cats are obligate carnivores. Your adorable housecat’s ancestors got all of their nutrition from eating whole prey animals. Millions of years of evolution have crafted your cat’s body into a meat-eating machine. Your cat has no need for even the ‘healthiest’ of plant foods (fruits and vegetables), so they certainly have no need for rice, which is almost pure carbohydrate.
Things to Keep in Mind
Feeding your cat large amounts of rice regularly can do serious harm to their health. If much of your cat’s calories come from high-carbohydrate plant sources like rice, sooner or later, they are going to wind up with possibly life-threatening nutritional deficiencies. One of the most common cat deficiencies is of the amino acid taurine, which is present almost exclusively in animal foods. Not only is rice completely lacking in the amino acid taurine, but it may actually reduce your cat’s ability to digest it in other foods—one study found that cats who eat rice experienced lowered amounts of taurine in the blood. This is thought to be due to the macronutrient ratios, which may hinder the cat’s ability to absorb this essential amino acid. The study even said that cats whose taurine consumption meets the minimum requirements may still develop a deficiency if they regularly ate rice.
When feeding your cat rice, make sure it is fully cooked. Humans can’t eat uncooked rice, so it should come as no surprise that our cats can’t, either! Uncooked rice is extremely difficult to digest, so cats who eat it may experience vomiting and severe stomach pains. Uncooked rice also contains trace amounts of pesticides, which can result in food poisoning if eaten in significant amounts. Fortunately, uncooked rice will not cause your cat’s stomach to erupt, so if your cat eats some unintentionally, there is no need to rush them to the vet’s office. As long as their digestive symptoms do not persist for more than 12 hours, your cat should recover just fine.
In general, there is no reason to feed your cat rice, but it is widely considered to be a ‘safe’ option. Rice offers no nutritional value for your cat, and may contribute to nutritional deficiencies or obesity if fed in large amounts over a long period of time. It does, however, make an excellent food for cats who are suffering from digestive distress, because it is bland, high in calories, and easy to digest. Don’t be afraid to give your cat rice when they are sick, but make sure it does not become a habit.
Cat Eating Rice Video: