Can I Give My Cat Sprouts?
Every few years, we have a new lineup of popular superfoods. Some of the current ones are kale and acai berries, but another nutrient-dense whole food favorite is sprouts. Often touted as extra nutritious vegetables, sprouts are essentially baby veggies: in order to get sprouts, you take a couple seeds, keep them in a humid environment, and wait until they ‘sprout’ into baby plants. They really are more nutritious than adult plants—much like eggs, sprouts have extra nutrition because they contain all of the energy necessary to help a baby plant grow and develop.
Today, many people eat sprouts raw in salads, sandwiches, and wraps. Others gently cook them before adding them to dishes that include seafood, pasta, or other grains. No matter what you put them in, though, if you have a pet, you’re left with a dilemma: is it okay to give them a taste of your leftovers? Could you prepare your furry friend their own sprouted vegetables to improve their health, too? We know that some of our favorite superfoods are good for our kitties, too, but does this hold true for the sprouted vegetables we mix into our salads at lunch? Can cats have sprouts?
The answer is yes, cats can eat sprouts in moderation. Both broccoli and bean sprouts are generally considered safe for feline consumption—these plants are not poisonous, so your cat should not suffer from toxicity as a result of eating any part of the plant. The nutrition within these baby vegetables may offer some small health benefits for your cat, too. Sprouts are not, however, without risk. Because sprouts are produced in a very warm, wet environment, they are more likely to be contaminated than fully-grown plants. The humidity involved in sprout production provides a great environment for dangerous bacteria to grow, which puts your cat at a risk of foodborne illness. If you give your cat sprouts, keep an eye on them to make sure they do not develop symptoms of food poisoning.
As plant foods go, sprouts are very dense in nutrition. They contain high amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and even some enzymes that may benefit your cat’s health. Sprouts boast higher levels of Vitamin C, B vitamins, and certain minerals than their fully grown counterparts.
Broccoli sprouts in particular have tons of antioxidants. One study performed in the late 1990s found that broccoli sprouts have at least ten times the antioxidant content of a head of mature broccoli! All those antioxidants may not be necessary for normal functioning—your cat will be able to perform all the life-sustaining metabolic tasks without them—but they can help protect against chronic illness as they age. Antioxidants have the power to neutralize dangerous, highly reactive particles called free radicals, which have been implicated in the development of diseases like arthritis and cancer. Broccoli sprouts will not cure cancer, but they may reduce your cat’s cancer risk.
Sprouts also have fiber, which can be good for cats in moderation. Your feline friend does not need nearly as much fiber as you do—they have a short digestive system that is set up to handle low-fiber, high-protein meat—but they can still reap some benefits from eating roughage. The most noticeable impact fiber will have on your cat is improved digestion. Fiber has the ability to combat problems on both sides of the spectrum; it can help alleviate both constipation and diarrhea in a way that is gentle and safe. The important thing is to remember to take it slow. Cats are not equipped to handle massive amounts of fiber, so, if you give them a huge helping of sprouts out of the blue, you might exacerbate their digestive difficulties.
Things to Consider
Probably the biggest health risk associated with sprouts is contamination. As previously mentioned, sprouts grow in a warm, wet environment—exactly the type of environment where bacteria thrive. There have been several outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with raw sprouts. The two most common contaminants are E. Coli and Salmonella, which can cause mild or severe food poisoning.
If you want to sanitize your cat’s sprouts, cook them thoroughly. When you give your cat raw sprouts, monitor them for symptoms of food poisoning. Most cats will experience symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever within 72 hours of eating contaminated food. Vomiting does not necessarily mean poisoning—your cat may just react poorly to sprouts. If, however, you suspect that your cat may have been poisoned, take them to see the veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to make a diagnosis and put together a treatment plan.
So, even though they do not need them to survive, it is generally considered safe to give cats small quantities of sprouts every now and then. They are high in vitamins, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants that may benefit long-term health. If you give your cat raw sprouts, just remember to look out for signs of food poisoning.