There is nothing better than sharing your favorite foods with your pet. Unfortunately, not all of our favorite snacks are safe for them to eat. For cats, while they are carnivores and therefore need the majority of their nutrients to come from animal proteins and fats, they can eat some vegetables to help enrich their diet and provide them added nutrients.
Feline nutrition based on life stage
Like any other animal (including humans), nutritional requirements change throughout life for cats. Plus, cats with other health issues may require different nutrition altogether. Kittens will wean off Mama’s milk at around 8 weeks, and their biggest needs during this time are proteins, healthy fats, and calcium to support a healthy and strong immune system. This would not be a great time to let Mister Whiskers munch on some plant foods, as the leafy greens can create digestive distress for kitty.
Young adult and adult cats (ages 1-10) have much more robust digestive and immune systems, allowing them to eat a larger range of foods (and all the other things they happen to get their paws on). They still need plenty of water and protein, and this may be a good place to add some fiber into their diets as well, which can be especially helpful for sedentary cats to promote fullness and avoid overeating.
Senior and geriatric cats (ages 11-15+) will need more specialized diets based on their health. Older cats can develop conditions like kidney and bladder infections, and even arthritis, cancer, or heart disease.
Always check with your vet to determine the best possible diet for your cat at any stage of its life.
A quick note on preparation for your cat’s vegetables
Veggies for your cat should be plain and simple — no cooking in oils or butter; no spices or herbs; and no sauces. Raw or steamed vegetables are going to be the best options for Mr. Whiskers. Veggies should also be chopped for easier chewing and swallowing to avoid choking hazards.
Broccoli: steamed, this veggie is high in antioxidants.
Carrots: these are non-toxic to cats, but also don’t provide much of a nutritional boost for our feline friends.
Celery: if it is appropriately chopped up, it can be a great addition to for cats due to its high water content, which can be hydrating.
Chickpeas: high in protein, iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium, these can be a great addition to kitty’s meals.
Green Beans: these are one of the best snack options for cats due to their crunch (like treats), and high fiber content.
Peas: these are a great source of protein, carbs, potassium, and vitamins K1 and K2. Always remove the outer shell (peapod).
Pumpkin: pumpkin contains a bacteria that helps promote gut health, and can be helpful for cats having trouble with bowel movements.
Spinach: a great source of vitamins C and E, however is not supportive for any cats with a history of bladder stones.
Sweet Potato: a great source of carbs and fiber, and a great addition to a high protein meal. Stick with a small amount of steamed or baked sweet potato (dogs love them, too!).
Winter Squash: contains a fermentable fiber that can help alleviate some bowel troubles.
Zucchini: high in potassium, magnesium, and manganese, this veggie can help reduce urinary tract and digestive issues.