- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Blueberries have long been touted as one of the best superfoods you could eat. Thrown on top of yogurt or in blueberry pancakes, blueberries are delicious and not-too-sweet, proving to be one of the best fruits you can eat on a daily basis. Jam-packed with antioxidants, we want to spread the healthy love to our cats whenever possible.
Blueberries may be over the top with health benefits for humans, but our feline friends have different digestive systems. Antioxidant-rich foods are digested completely differently in a cat’s carnivorous stomach. Many human foods are non-toxic or even beneficial to a cat’s diet while others cause stomach issues that may have lasting effects.
Here’s what you need to know about whether cats can eat blueberries.
Health Benefits of Blueberries
The name “superfood” doesn’t come lightly! Blueberries have endless benefits for all types of health needs. According to health experts, blueberries have the highest amount of antioxidant levels of all common fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are no joke either: they help fight against signs of aging and cancer. Blueberries are also rich in Vitamin C, K, fiber and manganese.
With studies that link blueberries to lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease and improving memory, blueberries are indeed a superfood.
Can Cats Eat Blueberries?
The truth of the matter is, fruits are not part of a cat’s natural diet. Cats are carnivorous and due to their meat-eating appetite, cats lack taste receptors for sweetness. Scientific American explains they likely won’t be too excited by a sweet treat of any type, much less blueberries. If cats like blueberries, it is likely due to the texture.
Having too much sugar (even natural sugar found in fruit!) in a cat’s diet can cause digestive or diabetic issues over time. It’s recommended to not feed cats blueberries in large quantities, especially as a meal replacement. Interestingly, even though blueberries can be helpful to humans with diabetes, cats digest fruit sugar very differently. Raising their blood sugar levels with fruit on a frequent basis can create long term health issues.
According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, symptoms of feline diabetes include:
- Excessive thirst
- Constant urination
- Lack of appetite
- Inability to jump
Contact your veterinarian as soon as you notice these symptoms as it may be the beginning signs of diabetes.
If you’re worried about your cat’s sugar intake in general, check the food packages you purchase for your cat. Some cat treats may have excess amounts of sugar and carbohydrates.
What About Blueberry Extract?
There are many cat foods available on the market that are made with blueberry extract. These foods advertise antioxidant benefits for both dogs and cats and may be helpful in healing urinary tract infections. Most foods with blueberry extract do not affect the sugar or carbohydrate levels, however, so they’re generally safe in serving your cat. As with any new food you give your cat, monitor their behavior over the course of a few weeks.
Can Cats Eat Fruit?
The same rule of thumb with blueberries applies to most fruit. In general, “fruits are not problematic for cats although most won’t really eat fruit in any quantity,” Gary Richter, DVM, owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California and Holistic Veterinary Care, tells Rover. “Since they are not going to eat large amounts of fruit anyway, the sugar content is not a major concern.”
Strawberries or bananas might be okay in small doses, but there are certain fruits that cats should steer clear of:
- Citrus (all citrus contains some level of citric acid, which can cause central nervous system issues in large enough doses; it causes stomach upset in smaller amounts, according to the ASPCA)
- Grapes/Raisins/Currants (toxic to cats, according to the ASPCA)
- Coconut or coconut oil (technically a seed, but we’ll include it here — coconut can cause an upset stomach in cats, per the ASPCA)
Alternative Healthy Snacks
Instead of blueberries, consider vegetables as a good alternative to their regular snacks. “Pet owners can always try to give vegetables to cats in food or treats. Not all will eat them,” Dr. Richter says. “There certainly are good nutrients in vegetables when part of a balanced meal.”
These veggies are not toxic to cats, according to the ASPCA:
- Celery (they love the crunch!)
- Green bell peppers
- Spinach (Filled with vitamins A, C, and K!)
- Peas (Often found in many prepackaged foods for cats and dogs as a vitamin-filled addition)
- Pumpkin (Pumpkin is used often as a way to get fiber in your cat’s diet)
Whether it is fruit or vegetables that your cat is interested in, at the end of the day, remember: your cat is still a carnivore. Having full meals replaced with anything but their regular diet and they’ll miss out on vital nutrients of properly formulated cat food. “The large majority of what cats eat should be a balanced diet,” Dr. Richter says. “In general, treats are not balanced and should not make up a significant portion of their daily intake.”