Can cats eat coconut and coconut products? Coconut is not toxic to cats, but that does not mean they should routinely take part in this tropical snack. Like most people foods, coconut is okay to give your kitty in small, infrequent portions but shouldn’t be part of their daily diet.
Coconut comes in many forms (fresh coconut, milk, oil, etc.) and is used in my ways (desserts, candy bars, an alternative to cow’s milk, etc.). Coconut oil is also gaining popularity as a natural anti-inflammatory, moisturizer, and hair treatment. With all of these benefits, it’s no wonder that we would want to share coconut with our feline friends. So, let’s learn how to responsibly give our kitties a taste of coconut without causing harm.
Can Cats Eat Coconut? What Are the Benefits?
Coconut meat contains high amounts of fat and fiber and other beneficial nutrients like manganese and copper. The fat is in the form of medium-chain triglycerides, which can be used for energy.
These fats also help promote healthy cholesterol levels, increase heart health, and help make you feel fuller for longer, possibly aiding in weight loss. The brain can also use these types of fats for energy, which could help older kitties with cognitive disfunction. Finally, medium-chain triglycerides also possess antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, which come in handy to give the immune system as little extra punch.
Coconut is high in fiber, increasing feelings of fullness in cats on a weight loss program. High fiber can also regulate digestion by increasing motility and helping to remove hairballs. Fiber is important for healthy microflora growth in the digestive tract.
Microflora are responsible for the digestion of many food products in the intestine and require specific nutrients to maintain a healthy, functioning environment.
What Are the Risks Associated With Feeding Coconut to Cats?
When feeding coconut to your kitty, more is not better. This is mainly due to the high-fat content of the meat and oil. While the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut have many benefits, it can cause digestive upset when given in high amounts, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
If cleaning up a few vomit or diarrhea messes don’t scare you, then maybe this will: high amounts of fat can also irritate the pancreas leading to a potentially serious and reoccurring condition called pancreatitis. Severe bouts of pancreatitis are not only painful, but they can also lead to diabetes.
If moderate to high amounts of coconut are given over long periods, it can cause hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, where the liver accumulates fat to the point that its function can be decreased. Also, high fat can lead to weight gain, which may already be a problem for most domestic kitties.
What About Coconut Oil for Cats?
Coconut oil has hit its stride lately in human medicine as a natural anti-inflammatory. It seems there’s no medical condition that coconut oil isn’t recommended for. Even with those benefits, coconut oil is still a “small-amounts-only” product for cats.
Coconut oil can be used topically or taken orally to help with dry skin, skin infections, or allergies. With topical application, you have to be sure that your cat isn’t immediately licking the oil off for a couple of reasons. First, it won’t get a chance to work where it needs to, and secondly, consuming too much can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
If given orally, coconut oil can boost the immune system, dental disease, bad breath, digestive health, and chronic inflammation like arthritis. Always speak to your veterinarian before giving your cat any supplement to determine the best usage and dose regime.
How to Give Coconut to Your Cat
Again, coconut should only be given to your cat as a small treat. It should not be considered part of their regular diet or used in high amounts or continuously for long periods. That being said, let’s look at the different coconut products and how your kitty can enjoy them.
1. Coconut Meat
You can share a nibble or two of coconut meat with your cat as the occasional treat. Stick with this product in its rawest form, with no sugar or other ingredients added.
2. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is another product that might pique your cat’s interest. Coconut milk is made by soaking coconut meat in water and then straining the solids. It is often used as an alternative to cow’s milk as it doesn’t contain lactose. Since most cats happen to be lactose intolerant, a milk alternative might seem like just what the kitty ordered. However, coconut milk can still cause digestive upset due to its high-fat content and can add to weight gain since it’s loaded with calories.
3. Coconut Oil
Applying coconut oil to affected skin two to three times per day can decrease itchiness; just make sure it has a chance to absorb before your cat’s tongue gets after it. If giving coconut oil orally, start small. Monitor your kitty for digestive upset and back off the dose if needed. It may work well to give it to your cat just two to three times per week.
4. Coconut water
This is the liquid found inside green coconuts. It is low in fat but high in potassium. While this is why many people drink it, too much potassium can lead to heart complications in cats. Coconut water is best given very sparingly or not at all to cats.
Coconut has many benefits as a human food that many cat parents want to share with their furry pals. But care needs to be taken to prevent digestive problems and more serious issues like pancreatitis. Always discuss the use of supplements for your cat with your veterinarian to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks.
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.