Can I Give My Cat Sauerkraut?
In recent years, many people have started sharing their favorite super foods with their pets, too. Gone are the days when our cats and dogs lived on unwanted table scraps—now we are all too eager to share our favorite cancer-fighting, age-defying foods. But are fermented foods safe for our furry friends? Can cats have sauerkraut?
The answer is yes, cats can eat small amounts of sauerkraut. Though there is little research on cats and fermented foods, there is no reason to believe that sauerkraut would be dangerous to your cat. Raw cabbage is generally recognized as safe for feline consumption, with the biggest issue being indigestion and bloating. Fermentation may even aid in digesting this high-fiber plant food. Just remember, however, that your cat is an obligate carnivore who should only eat plant foods in small amounts.
When considering adding sauerkraut into the feline diet, it is important to remember that cabbage does not offer much in the way of nutrition. While cabbage contains some of the key micronutrients we need to thrive, it does not meet any of our cats’ dietary needs. Cats, unlike people, are obligate carnivores whose bodies have evolved to process meat foods exclusively. They have a different set of dietary needs. Though they need some of the same nutrients that we do (such as Vitamin A), their bodies are only capable of absorbing many of them in the forms that they exist in meat foods. Cats also require higher amounts of certain amino acids not found in plant foods, such as taurine.
It’s true that raw cabbage offers few if any health benefits for your cat, but sauerkraut may actually better for your cat than the raw alternative. The feline body often struggles to digest high-fiber plant foods due to an inhibited ability to process carbohydrates. The process of fermentation may make fibrous plants like cabbage easier to digest, because some of the food is ‘pre-digested’ by bacteria. This gives your cat’s digestive system a bit of a head start, which may prevent gas, bloating, and vomiting.
It is possible to make the argument that fermented vegetables would actually be a natural part of your cat’s diet. Carnivorous animals often consume the plants that are present in the stomachs of their prey—which are partially digested by the unfortunate critter’s gut bacteria.
Because it is easier to digest, sauerkraut can be a good way to sneak some beneficial dietary fiber into your cat’s diet. Felines do not need large amounts of fiber to get by, but incorporating small amounts of it may help regulate digestion, aid in weight loss, and reduce your cat’s risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
But of course, fermented foods are most often touted for their probiotic powers, and it is possible that they may benefit your cat, too. Sauerkraut is full of several billion living, breathing bacteria that can form colonies in your cat’s gut. Having large amounts of several different types of gut bacteria may protect against digestive diseases and improve digestion in the long term. There are also claims that probiotic foods can aid in protecting the health of the immune and cardiovascular systems.
There is some evidence that probiotics help cats recover from diarrhea more quickly than cats who take placebos. Their protective effects in the gut are thought to be thanks to the large colonies of healthy bacteria—by colonizing your cat’s gut with strong, healthy bacteria, there is much less available real estate for potential pathogens to take root. These gut bacteria help strengthen the protective barrier in the gut, break down difficult-to-digest foods, and produce B vitamins that may help support your cat’s immune system.
Things to Consider
While your cat should not eat store bought sauerkraut on a regular basis, supplementing their diet with tiny amounts of fermented food may improve digestion and protect against several diseases. Keep portion sizes small and watch your cat for any adverse effects.