Spinach is a common food found on healthy eaters’ plates, but does it have a place in your cat’s food bowl? Spinach isn’t toxic to our feline friends and can provide many health benefits. However, spinach isn’t food meant for every cat and should be given with caution to cats with specific health concerns.
What are Possible Issues With Feeding Cats Spinach?
With all of the positive nutrition that spinach can provide to cats, it’s hard to think that there may be a downside. The truth is, spinach can be very detrimental to cats with urinary tract issues.
The main problem with feeding spinach to cats with previous urinary tract complications is that spinach contains calcium oxalate, one of the main culprits behind certain types of urinary stones formed in the feline bladder. The treatment for these stones is almost always surgery. If left untreated, they can lead to chronic urinary irritation and frequent bladder infections.
Another issue with cats eating spinach is getting too much fiber. Fiber can effectively relieve and prevent constipation, but too much of it can lead to diarrhea and abdominal discomfort.
How to Feed Your Cat Spinach
Unless your cat has a history of urinary tract issues, the occasional spinach treat will be alright. Also, don’t worry if your cat raids your salad plate and grabs a few tasty leaves. Giving small amounts of spinach is okay for the short term.
What you don’t want to do is try to make spinach a large part of your cat’s regular diet. After all, a cat’s digestive tract is perfectly honed to digest a high protein, primarily meat diet. It’s simply not made to digest a lot of greenery. With this in mind, keep the spinach content to under 10% of their daily food or only give it as an every-once-in-awhile treat to tide them over until the next meal.
Feeding spinach in larger amounts for the long-term is where cats can run into issues. If your kitty has previously had kidney or urinary tract problems, it’s best to steer clear of spinach. Also, if your cat is enjoying their senior years, spinach might not be the best option. That being said, the amounts of spinach present in commercial cat foods differ, and your cat may or may not be able to handle it there. Ask your veterinarian if you are concerned about spinach in your cat food.
What Are the Benefits of Spinach for Cats?
Spinach is a nutrition-packed superfood for humans, and in cats, it’s no different. Many commercial cat foods use spinach to provide necessary nutrients to hungry kitties. Some of those nutrients include:
- Vitamins and Minerals: Spinach is packed with vitamins A, E, C, and K, as well as many of the B vitamins. It also provides magnesium, calcium, and potassium, things your kitty uses every day.
- Fiber: The fiber content in spinach can help keep your cat’s digestive system in check. Fiber is important in preventing constipation and helping your cat feel full in between meals. However, large quantities of spinach can turn your cat’s digestion the other way and cause diarrhea, but this usually only happens in amounts that your cat won’t willingly eat.
- Low Calories: With high fiber and water content, spinach doesn’t have much room left for calories. This becomes especially important in the majority of our domestic cats. They don’t need additional calories making spinach an excellent food choice.
- Omega Fatty Acids: While not in the amount you would get from fish oil or flaxseed, spinach has enough omega fatty acids to help reduce inflammation and help promote a healthy hair coat and skin.
- Others: On top of all of the above, spinach also contains lutein and zeaxanthin for healthy vision and nitrates to promote blood flow. This goes a long way in preventing heart disease. It has some anti-cancer properties and antioxidants to help prevent and repair cellular damage.
Spinach is known as a human superfood, and it can act that way for cats as well. Feeding your cat small amounts of spinach can provide a nutrient punch that will help combat many health issues. However, spinach should not be a regular food for cats with urinary tract issues or given in large enough amounts to cause digestive problems. Still in question as to whether or how much spinach your cat can have? Speak to your veterinarian.
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.