- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Watermelon has been enjoyed for eons as a summertime treat. Used as a refreshing palate cleanser, watermelon has also been made into different drinks due to its pleasing slushy-like texture. Most importantly, this giant fruit is meant to share with friends and family in abundance. Since your cat is part of your family, can they have in on this satisfying fruit too?
Watermelon is not only delicious, it’s filled with health benefits for us. However, for our feline friends, it can be a different story. Cats are carnivorous and have digestive systems that differ from dogs and humans. Since we’re omnivores, we can digest plant matter easily. For cats, it’s a case by case basis. While some “human” foods may be non-toxic or even beneficial to a cat’s diet, others may cause an upset stomach or worse.
Can cats eat watermelon? Here’s what you need to know.
Health Benefits of Watermelon in Humans
When it comes to humans, one of the most important benefit of eating this ruby-colored fruit is that it keeps you hydrated. Because watermelon is 92% water, it helps you feel fuller longer.
Another advantage of having high water content means that watermelon is lower in calories. Even low-sugar fruits like blueberries, which ring in at about 85 calories per cup, can’t compete with watermelon’s 46 calories per cup.
However, if you think watermelon is only water, you are mistaken. Watermelon is packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and carotenoids. Lycopene, the compound that gives watermelon and tomatoes their bright red color has several wonderful uses in our bodies like lowering blood pressure and is linked to helping fight cardiovascular disease.
Can Cats Eat Watermelon?
Cats not only can eat watermelon, many cats enjoy it. During the summer months, watermelon isn’t only enjoyed for the texture, but it keeps cats hydrated.
However, fruit is not part of a cat’s natural diet. Having too much sugar (even natural sugar found in fruit) can cause digestive or even diabetic issues over time. It is recommended to not feed cats watermelon in large quantities, especially as a meal replacement.
If you do decide to feed your cat watermelon, make absolutely sure that the seeds have been removed. Watermelon seeds can present a choking hazard.
How Much Is Too Much?
Though watermelon is mostly water, it also contains sugar. In general, if fruit was introduced to your cat’s diet regularly, it could lead to obesity or diabetes symptoms. Raising blood sugar levels on a frequent basis in cats 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 beyond the fruit, consider checking the packages. Some cat treats may have excess amounts of sugar and carbohydrates.
Can Cats Eat Fruit?
Though cats are known for liking watermelon, there are many fruits that cats have no interest in. 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 watermelon is nontoxic, there are 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)
Alternative Healthy Snacks
If you’re looking for something beyond the hydrating watermelon, consider vegetables as a suitable alternative. “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)
“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.”
Though it is fun to experiment with different food options, remember that your cat is a carnivore. If you replace full meals with veggies they’ll miss out on vital nutrients of properly formulated cat food. Try introducing these new foods sparingly and thoughtfully and you and your cat will reap the benefits.