In the past few decades, coconut has gone from an obscure food to one that you can find in your local supermarket. From whole coconuts, coconut flesh, flakes, milk, and water just about everything from the coconut can be found in a store near you! So while a rich treat for you, are they safe for cats?
As you may likely have guessed, cats and coconuts never evolved near one each other so in nature, a coconut isn’t something a cat would eat. However, as a cat owner, you know that this never stopped your cat from eating things they wouldn’t have eaten in the wild. Or your house plants.
So are coconuts safe for your cat? And if they are, how can you incorporate them into your cat’s diet?
Can cats eat coconut? Yes, they can. A coconut isn’t like an avocado or chocolate, and isn’t poisonous at all. This of course doesn’t mean that coconut is completely healthy for your cat, as we’ll see below. If you need the short answer, yes your cat can eat coconut.
Can Coconuts Make Your Cat Sick?
Yes, in high amounts, coconuts can make your cat sick because they are high in sugar, fats, and potassium. These can lead to problems such as:
- Fatty liver disease
- Inflammation of the pancreatitis
- Loose stool
- Skin disease
Now, before you run to throw our everything coconut-related in your house, understand that these symptoms are not due to “coconut poisoning”, but instead the result of a cat’s diet that is high in sugar and fat.
Potassium, while very helpful for us humans, can easily make a cat have loose stool, which we’ll also discuss more on later. So the above isn’t just due to a diet rich in coconut, but rich is high-fat and high-sugar food.
The last thing to touch on is that while coconuts are high in protein, again very helpful for us humans, this protein is plant-based and not meat-based. Since cats are strictly carnivores, they require proteins from other animals and have a hard time digesting plant-based proteins. So overall, coconuts shouldn’t be a replacement for anything in a cat’s diet.
What Parts Of The Coconut Can Cats Eat Or Drink?
Besides the coconut shell, a cat can eat or drink anything a coconut provides. The water, the milk, the flesh, and even oil. Providing coconut in moderation works as a great treat for your cat, and with so many options to provide coconut your cat is sure to find something they like!
Is Coconut Milk The Same Thing As Regular Milk?
No. Coconut milk isn’t the same thing as dairy milks, as coconuts don’t produce milk at all. Instead, they have a liquid inside which we call the coconut water or rarely the coconut juice. Despite what you may think, or remember from cartoons, this substance isn’t coconut milk. Instead, coconut milk is a drink invented by us humans.
To create coconut milk, the flesh of the coconut is grated and mixed with a small amount of hot water. The grated pulp is then removed and the resulting white, milky liquid is what we call coconut milk! As you can already guess, being a non-dairy source there is no lactose in this milk. Instead, you have a high percentage of sugar and saturated fat.
Since cats are generally lactose intolerant, unlike what popular media would lead you to believe, coconut milk can easily be substituted into your cat’s diet is they have a taste for milk. You can even make coconut milk at home by adding grated coconut flakes into some hot water and then straining the pulp out!
This being said, on top of the high levels of sugar and fat, coconut milk is rich in potassium. A little potassium isn’t bad, but too much can lead to diarrhea. So only provide at most one teaspoon of coconut milk a day for your cat. Your cat can take this milk straight from the teaspoon, or you can add it to their wet food.
How Do You Incorporate Coconut Into Your Cat’s Diet?
Coconut is very easy to introduce to your cat given the wide variety of forms it comes in. While we stress moderation, you can still experiment with what ways your cat will like their coconut. So one day try flakes, the next day try milk, the day after water, followed by oil
As long as you only provide one teaspoon of liquid (the milk, water, and oil) a day, or two teaspoons for the flakes, your cat will be fine.
So, how do you introduce coconut to your cat? There are two ways to go about it, which involves directly introducing the coconut to your cat or mixing it with their food. Given that coconut is a treat first and foremost, we tend to recommend presenting it to your cat.
Mixing it with their food seems counter-intuitive to us, although a teaspoon of coconut milk, oil, or water can drastically change the taste of your cat’s food.
It’ll be for your cat to decide how best they take in coconut. Some cats enjoy taking it straight from the teaspoon, others enjoy taking it with their food, and of course, some just don’t like coconut to begin with and will refuse it either way. Since this is just a treat, if your cat doesn’t want coconut then there is no need to provide it for them
Is Coconut Oil Good For Your Cat?
For many years coconut oil has been praised as an alternative health remedy for a number of minor health problems. Such as keeping your hair nice and smooth, cleaning your teeth, helping with dry skin, etc.
While coconut oil isn’t bad by any means, it’s not exactly a super cure-all and due to the high fat and sugar concentration, it can easily lead to negative side-effects.
But that’s for us humans, what about for our cats? Is coconut oil good for them? Well, the results are mixed. Coconut oil isn’t bad per-say, unless you give too much to your cat, but much like for us isn’t a super cure-all either. Common uses of coconut oil for cats include,
- Helping with dermatitis.
- Helping with hairballs.
- Helping with upset stomachs.
- Helping with bad breath.
- Helping with arthritis
How effect coconut oil is with these health issues isn’t well documented. Some cat owners claim that coconut oil works wonders, others say it does nothing at all. Because coconut oil isn’t unhealthy to your cat unless in very large doses, you can see if it will help your cat or not by providing a teaspoon of oil a day.
If you notice no changes, stop providing them with coconut oil. If your cat gets worse, contact your vet right away.
Coconut oil may be good for very minor ailments, or at best assist with some problems your cat may have. Because research and facts aren’t well documented, you’ll need to exercise caution and never treat coconut oil as a cure-all. At best, treat it as a supplement and nothing more.
Can Coconut Be Given To Kittens?
No. Coconut should never be given to kittens. No coconut milk, oil, water, of the flesh of the coconut. Kittens require their own special diet, which is often received from their mother’s milk or by formulas designed especially for a kitten. Since their digestive system is still developing, anything coconut related will have too much unhealthy fat and sugar for a kitten.
This can in turn lead them to becoming quite ill. Not life-threateningly ill, thankfully, but still quite sick. It’s best to just leave coconut out of their diets altogether and wait until they’re old enough to eat solid foods. And even then, only provide maybe half-a-teaspoon if that of coconut to their diet.
Even if they can eat dry foods, their stomachs and digestive systems are still too small to handle that much fat and sugar.
What about a nursing cat, you may wonder? Can they have coconut? Well, they can. There is certainly nothing wrong with providing a nursing cat with coconut, especially if they were eating it before.
Just follow our rule of only one teaspoon of coconut-related food a day, and a nursing mother should be fine. If you notice anything different, stop providing coconut right away and contact your vet.
Cats can eat coconut, but you need to treat it as a treat exclusively. As we’ve discussed in-depth in our article, coconut is rich in sugars and fats, so only small amounts of the coconut should be allowed at any given time. This being said, coconut provides a great alternative for a treat if your not happy with the treats cat have.
And with a varied selection of ways to provide coconut for your cat, you can rest assured that unless your cat just outright hates coconut, they’ll find something coconut related to enjoy. Be it the flakes themselves of the added creaminess of coconut milk to their dinner.
And you can rest assured that you know what’s going into your cat’s diet and can easily change the amount given to make sure your cat remains healthy!
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