Do you wish that your cat had more of a varied diet? Perhaps you look at their endless bowls of cat food and think they must be bored with eating the same thing every day. The truth is that nutritionally complete cat food gives your feline friend everything that they need in terms of nutrients. But that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a bit of variety. The key is knowing what is—and what isn’t!— safe to feed them as a treat. So, what about potatoes?
The answer is yes, cats can eat potatoes. But they have to be boiled or cooked without fats. Additional seasoning and salts are not healthy for a cat, and may even lead to gastrointestinal problems.
Potatoes are a starchy carbohydrate, which means they provide lots of energy as well as nutrients like iron, magnesium and potassium, and vitamins C and B6.
But just because they’re healthy, doesn’t necessarily mean your cat will enjoy potatoes. And even if they do, they can get these nutrients from their usual complete cat food or other, more appropriate sources.
The risks of raw potatoes
Potato peel that is green, unwashed, and uncooked may contain high levels of the toxic compound solanine. Solanine is found naturally in potato peel as a deterrent to stop scavengers digging potatoes up and eating them. Since solanine is toxic to cats, it might give your cat vomiting or diarrhea. If you think your cat might have eaten raw potato peelings, you should always contact your veterinarian immediately.
Raw potato poses another risk. Larger chunks of raw potato will be hard for your cat to digest and may get stuck in your cat’s gut, potentially causing a blockage. It is therefore very important that you never feed your cat raw potato, peeled or not.
What about cooked potato?
The method of cooking and seasoning is important. Fries, roast potatoes, or mashed potatoes with added butter have the potential to cause a stomach upset or even pancreatitis. Similarly, overly salty or spicy preparations are likely to irritate the gut.
What about sweet potato?
Sweet potato is not toxic to cats, but it can cause digestive upset. It’s very high in natural sugars and fiber, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Like white potatoes, sweet potatoes should never be fed raw to cats.
So, how can I feed my cat potato safely?
The safest way to feed your cat potato is to ensure the potatoes are washed, peeled, cooked, and prepared without cooking fats. Therefore, boiling would be a good, safe cooking method. Finely chopping the potatoes before cooking or mashing after cooking are both good ways to ensure that there are no large pieces that might be a choking hazard or cause a blockage in your cat’s gut.
Remember that a cat can be sensitive to any new food in their diet, so the best plan is to start by offering a small amount of cooked, mashed potato. If your cat likes it and doesn’t have any vomiting, diarrhea, or other symptoms of an unhappy gut, you can continue to offer it more regularly.
So, can cats eat potatoes?
Cats can eat potatoes, but only if they are peeled, cooked, and without seasoning or cooking fats. That being said, potatoes are not a substitute for nutritionally complete cat food, and even though they do contain some useful nutrients, these can be found in other foods that may be a better choice for your cat.