- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Plucked straight from the vine or stirred into a sauce, tomatoes are a rich fruit that come in a variety of colors and flavors. From cherry tomatoes you throw on top of a salad, to the plump heirloom you cut up for your famous BLT, does your cat seem overly interested in your tomato-filled lunch?
There’s no denying that tomatoes have wonderful health benefits for humans. Often times, however, our feline friends cannot process most “human foods” easily. Some foods may be non-toxic or even beneficial to a cat’s carnivorous diet, while others cause digestive issues that may be temporary or long-lasting.
Before you hand your cat a slice of this juicy fruit, here’s what you need to know about whether cats can eat tomatoes.
Though tomatoes are part of the fruit family, they are often prepared as a vegetable due to their more savory nature. With a ton of vitamins and minerals and an appetizing flavor, it frankly doesn’t matter what a tomato is as long as we can eat it.
For starters, tomatoes have vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K1. One regular-sized tomato gives about 28% of your daily vitamin C intake. Vitamin C is quite literally a building block of our bodies. It helps with growth, collagen building, eye health and even helps prevent our skin from wrinkling.
Found in tomatoes, grapefruit, and other pink-to-red fruit, there is something called lycopene. In a fascinating study, people who took 40 grams of lycopene-filled tomato paste every day for 10 weeks experienced 40% fewer sunburns. The nutrient seems to help protect the skin from the inside out from ultraviolet rays.
Lycopene has also had a long-standing relationship with helping prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease risk. Red is the color of love and heart health.
The short answer is, “Not recommended.” According to ASPCA, tomatoes have something called solanine which is not only toxic to cats, it’s also harmful to horses and dogs. If the stems and leaves are ingested, they are at risk of stomach issues, lethargy, slower heart rate and more.
That being said, ASPCA points out that the ripe fruit is safe. Some commercial brands of pet food put tomato paste in their ingredients, but because paste is usually made from ripe tomatoes and with a small quantity, this shouldn’t be cause for concern.
The answer is still no. Though tomato sauce is made with ripe tomatoes, it is also made with a large amount of salt. According to ASPCA, salt can cause many issues in a cat’s digestive system including excessive thirst and urination, seizures or even sodium ion poisoning. This also goes for ketchup and tomato soup as well.
In general, small amounts of some fruits are okay, but as meal replacements, it’s not a good idea. Gary Richter, DVM, owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California and Holistic Veterinary Care, tells Rover, “Fruits are not problematic for cats although most won’t really eat fruit in any quantity. Since they are not going to eat large amounts of fruit anyway, the sugar content is not a major concern.”
That being said, though ripe tomato itself is not toxic, there are certain fruits that cats should always 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)
Vegetables, on the other hand, have a little more leeway than fruit due to their lower sugar content. Richter continues, “Pet owners can always try to give vegetables to cats in food or treats. Not all will eat them. There certainly are good nutrients in vegetables when part of a balanced meal.”
If you’d like to experiment with different vegetables, 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)
For all treats, introduce your cat to them slowly and sparingly.
“There is no reason cats can’t be given human food as long as it is nutritionally appropriate.” Dr. Richter explains, “That said, cats tend to be very specific about what they will eat and they like consistency. Most are not enthusiastic about changes in their diet.”
At the end of the day, remember that your cat is a carnivore and should be fed a diet nutritionally appropriate for their digestive system.
“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.”