Can I Give My Cat Spinach?
In the era of green juice, spirulina powder, kale everything, and plant-powered superfood dietary supplements, many health-conscious Americans consider leafy greens to be the king of healthy food. Despite the recent popularity of kale, spinach remains a favorite to many of us. Our parents and grandparents were often coaxed into consuming canned spinach by being encouraged to follow Popeye’s example (after all, he didn’t get those bulging biceps by eating ice cream!), but today, eating spinach is almost a competitive sport. We are consumed by the desire to pack as many leafy greens into our diet as we possibly can, so we sneak it into salads, smoothies, pasta dishes, and even desserts. We do whatever we can to sneak it to our kids, too.
But what about our furry, four-legged kids? Should we give them spinach, too? Can cats have spinach?
The answer: technically, yes, but it is not recommended. This food may be considered extremely healthy for humans, but it doesn’t offer much for our feline friends. There are very few benefits to giving this food to your cat, but there are also a few risks to be aware of. Most cats do not leafy greens too terribly tempting, so you shouldn’t have any problem keeping them from snagging your spinach. If you want to give your cat a leafy vegetable, opt for a type of lettuce instead. They are safer for cats than spinach.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Cat Curry
Are there any upsides to giving your cat spinach? Actually, yes, there may be a few. Spinach is full of dietary fiber and antioxidants, which can both benefit your cat’s health in moderate amounts. If left to their own devices, many cats will find ways to supplement their diets with fiber on their own—fiber is what makes your cat eat grass and weeds and tear the leaves off your favorite houseplant. Dietary fiber, which is indigestible, can help regulate digestion and soothe upset stomachs.
Adding small amounts of high-fiber foods, like vegetables, into your cat’s diet may be a great way to manage indigestion, gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Dietary fiber can help stop diarrhea by soaking up excess water in the colon, making for firmer, fuller bowel movements. On the flipside, fiber’s ability to soak up water can help introduce fluid into the colon—it turns into a jelly-like substance when it gets wet, which can soften and lubricate stools. This is why fibrous foods are often recommended for both constipation and diarrhea.
Though there is very little research on the role that dietary fiber plays in the feline diet, studies performed on humans and other animals have shown that fiber may lead to a reduced risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and several forms of cancer. The strongest case is for colorectal cancer—which makes sense given the positive effects dietary fiber seems to have on digestive health.
High fiber foods like spinach can also assist in weight loss or weight maintenance. Because fiber is indigestible, it passes through the body without providing any energy to your cat. This means that fiber can fill up your cat’s stomach without adding any caloric value to food. So, by feeding your cat higher fiber foods, you can keep them feeling full while slashing their caloric intake. This can make weight loss far easier for cats who are on a calorie restricted diet. If you decide to use high fiber foods to help your cat lose weight, however, remember that they still have nutritional needs to meet. If you focus on giving your cat high fiber plant foods, they are likely to suffer from potentially dangerous nutritional deficiencies.
Things to Consider
There are, however, much better sources of fiber for your cat. Spinach contains high amounts of a chemical called oxalic acid, which may contribute to bladder and kidney stones that can cause serious problems for your cat. If your cat has had kidney stones in the past, avoid giving them any spinach at all. Symptoms of kidney stones often include abdominal pain, fever, bloody urine, a sudden increase or decrease in the production of urine, low energy, loss of appetite, sudden weight loss, and vomiting. If you think your cat may have kidney stones, seek veterinary care—they should not be treated at home.
In conclusion, though spinach contains certain nutrients that may benefit your cat’s health in the long term, there are far better ways to get these nutrients into your cat’s diet. Your cat has no need for spinach. Your cat is an obligate carnivore, so much of the nutrition inside of spinach is completely useless to them. Fiber is the best thing in spinach, and there are other, safer ways of getting fiber into your cat’s diet. If you want to avoid giving them high oxalate foods like spinach, opt for safer vegetables like lettuce and carrots.