Being obligate carnivores, cats require high protein in their diets, with little to no vegetable matter. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to try some now and then. A food that people wonder if cats can eat is cabbage.
Cabbage is a perfectly healthy, nontoxic food for cats to eat in small quantities. It provides many beneficial nutrients and has a pleasing crunch. But how much is too much cabbage for a cat? Let’s find out.
Are There Any Risks Associated with Feeding Cats Cabbage?
Even with all of the healthy benefits that cabbage provides, it still shouldn’t be given to your kitty in large quantities. There are several concerns associated with feeding cats cabbage regularly.
- Digestive Upset: Any food that is high in fiber has the potential to cause digestive upset. While fiber is a fantastic product that can help constipation and diarrhea, too much can cause the opposite reaction. This is especially true in cats that don’t have the digestive ability to handle a lot of fiber. Cats eating too much fiber may show up with diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain, and gas.
- Thiamine Deficiency: Thiamine is a B vitamin that is needed to convert food to energy that can be used by cells in the body. Major systems that are affected by a thiamine deficiency include the nervous system, brain, and heart. Thiamine deficiency may result from eating excessive cabbage because it contains polyphenols that change the form of thiamine so that the body can’t use it.
- Thyroid Issues: Cabbage contains another compound, thiocyanate, that suppresses the thyroid gland. This compound is only found in raw cabbage. Cooking cabbage deactivates the thiocyanate so that it is safe for cats to eat.
How to Feed Cabbage to Your Cat
Cabbage is a nutrient-packed food that is on the plates of many human healthy eaters. However, since cats can’t digest vegetables the same way humans do, they might be missing out on some of those benefits. This means that cabbage isn’t required in a healthy diet for cats. Instead, it can be used as a crunchy treat from time to time to give your kitty a little variety plus any additional nutrients that they can glean from it.
The potential issues of thiamine deficiency, thyroid problems, and digestive upset can stem from feeding your cat too much cabbage, especially over a long period. Most cats aren’t going to want to eat that much cabbage anyway, but it’s best to keep your cat’s cabbage consumption to a minimum. Giving your cat one cabbage leaf shredded over their food every couple of weeks shouldn’t hurt.
Since raw cabbage can be challenging for a cat to chew and presents the potential for thyroid suppression, cooking the cabbage first will make it easier and safer for your cat to eat. One cooked cabbage leaf every couple of weeks should be all your cat needs.
Stay away from seasonings, like garlic, onion, and salt, on your cat’s cabbage as these are toxic to cats. Don’t give your cat’s coleslaw complete with dressing. The dressing adds unwanted calories and may be flavored with the above seasonings that can be toxic.
Can Cats Eat Sauerkraut?
Fermented foods, like sauerkraut, are packed with healthy probiotics that can boost your cat’s digestive system. They make a healthy treat for any cat, especially those who have had a recent digestive illness or are experiencing malnutrition. The issue comes from getting your cat to want to eat sauerkraut. It packs a distinctive smell and flavor that most cats aren’t going to like unless they’re accustomed to it from a young age.
The Health Benefits of Cabbage
Considered a superfood in the human world, cabbage can be the same for your cat. Cabbage has a rather impressive nutrient profile, and it does it all with very few calories.
- Vitamins: Cabbage contains significant amounts of vitamins K, C, and many of the Bs. It also has trace amounts of vitamin A. These vitamins work to boost the immune system, eyesight, blood function, and many other processes in the body.
- Minerals: Manganese, calcium, potassium, and magnesium are all found in cabbage, along with small amounts of iron. These minerals are essential for bone formation, immune function, and many other processes.
- Fiber: Cabbage is an excellent source of fiber, which is necessary for digestive health. Fiber also helps a cat feel full for longer.
- Antioxidants: The antioxidants found in cabbage can help reduce chronic inflammation and protect and repair cells against oxidative damage. Antioxidants may also play a role in a healthy aging process.
- Anthocyanins: These are plant pigments that can help protect against heart disease. Anthocyanins are highest in purple and other dark-colored cabbage.
- Other: Cabbage also contains protein and compounds that help reduce bad cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
Cabbage is an excellent superfood treat for your feline friend. However, it shouldn’t be a primary or everyday part of their diet as eating large amounts of cabbage over time can have detrimental side effects. Use cooked cabbage as an occasional treat, or use sauerkraut whenever your kitty needs a digestive boost to provide your cat with a bit of dietary variety without the risk of creating health concerns.
Dr. Chyrle Bonk has been practicing veterinary medicine since 2010. She lives in Idaho with her husband and two sons, where they spend their free time exploring the great outdoors that is right in their backyard.