Besides being a tasty topping for pizza or a salad, olives by themselves make a great snack for us humans. But should your feline friend be privy to this black or green fruit? Olives are not considered toxic to cats, but they’re not considered an everyday treat either. Should olives become a part of your cat’s diet? Read on to find out.
Possible Issues With Feeding Cats Olives
Besides not providing your kitty any real nutrients, eating olives in large amounts may be dangerous.
Immature olives are green and either ripen to black or stay green. Sometimes olives may be harvested green and cured in a salt brine to remove the bitter taste. This adds a lot of sodium, making them a risk for cats with heart or kidney disease. Eating too much sodium can also lead to sodium toxicity, which can be severe if left untreated.
Olives are also high in fat. In humans, that fat is used to produce the very healthy dietary staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil. Olive oil carries many benefits, such as decreased inflammation, heart health, and anti-cancer properties. However, in cats, too much fat or oil can lead to an upset stomach.
Cats fed high amounts of olives may experience diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps for a couple of days following consumption. If this is your cat’s first taste of olives, keep the amount small and monitor for these negative effects to help you decide if further olive snacking is in their future.
Along with those downsides to giving your cat olives, there is always the chance that they may choke. Olives happen to be the right size where a cat might consider eating them whole or with minimal chewing. And since they’re a fairly firm fruit, they may become lodged in the esophagus, creating discomfort and possibly even an emergency trip to the vet. Always supervise your kitty when eating olives and consider chopping them into more manageable pieces.
How to Give Your Cat Olives
If you’ve decided to give olives to your cat, keep a few things in mind:
- First of all, always run it by your vet first. This will help ensure that your cat isn’t at risk for kidney or heart disease that might be further exacerbated by a high sodium snack like olives.
- Keep the portion size small. We’re talking less than one olive once or twice a week. This will not only reduce the amount of sodium that your kitty is eating, but it will also help ensure that they aren’t getting a fat overload that could send the digestive tract for a messy loop. On top of all that, giving less than one olive per treat session will cut the risk of choking down significantly since it will be a more bite-sized portion.
- Stick with plain olives. Even though the hole in olives left when removing the pit invites for stuffing with pepper, cream cheese, or hummus, it’s best to leave that out of your feline friend’s olive snacks. Seasonings like garlic and onion, found in some olive fillings are toxic to cats, and of course, they don’t need the extra fats and calories that these tasty additives contain.
- Always monitor your cat for adverse reactions after eating olives. This can be choking or digestive issues. If your kitty shows any problems after eating olives, it’s best to find a different treat the next time they come begging.
The Benefits of Olives for Cats
Olives are a stone fruit (fruits with a pit, or “stone” in the middle) like lychee, cherries, peaches, and mangos. All of these fruits are packed with health benefits for humans, including:
- Antioxidants like vitamin E to boost the immune system and repair cellular damage
- Iron, copper, and calcium
- Oleic acid for anti-inflammatory effects, helps the heart, and may fight cancer and osteoporosis
However, cats don’t get many of these benefits from eating olives, other than a pleasing taste and even a little bit of a high. Olives, especially green ones, contain a similar compound to nepetalactone, the enticing oil found in catnip. This may make your kitty do their happy dance anytime you open a can of olives.
Whether due to the pleasing taste or the euphoric feeling, your cat may crave olives and beg for them anytime they’re available. However, olives shouldn’t be considered a main part of their diet and should only be given in minimal amounts infrequently. This is to prevent excessive sodium consumption, digestive upset, and even weight gain. Give your kitty olive treats only under supervision.
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.