January 28, 2021

Can Cats Eat Apples?

Vet Explains the Potential Risks

Veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Published by Sheila Wilson

Vet Approved

Cats are carnivores- true carnivores, in fact. This means the majority of their nutrition is going to come from animal fats and proteins.

But what else can cats eat? Many owners report their cats enjoying a stray potato chip that fell on the floor or even eating a pea that rolled away from off somebody's fork.

It's very tempting to offer your kitty the foods you love to eat- sharing is caring, after all. However, the digestive system of a cat differs from ours, and the foods we consume are not always best for a cat.

They taste great and come in many delicious varieties like granny smith apples and pink lady apples. And your cat may very well jump up and sniff at the apple you are eating.

But are apples safe for cats to consume, or do they come with health risks and are better avoided?

Can Cats Eat Apples?

Yes, cats can eat apples. In small amounts, apples provide a low-calorie snack with nutrients like Vitamin C for healthy cats. Still, apples are high in sugar and carbs, so eating them doesn't provide adequate nutrition for felines. Avoid seeds as they contain cyanide and are toxic and follow feeding guidelines to avoid health issues like obesity.

What it comes down to is this:

Cats are obligate carnivores, and 85-90% of their daily food intake should come from high-protein cat food that offers them a balanced and nutritious diet. Treats like apples and other human foods should only make up a small part of your pet's diet. However, if your cat has a condition like diabetes, apples and other sugary fruits should not be fed at all.

For kittens, apples won't hurt either. Even small kits can eat a piece of apple without worry. Still, the same health risks apply to kittens, so read further to know why apples are not a good idea in large quantities.

Just because apples are not toxic to cats, it does not indicate they should be fed daily.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM

Just like many other foods, apples are only good for your cat when fed in moderation. Later in this article, we'll discuss the health risks that come with feeding apples to your kitty and how much is too much when it comes to portions.

Although cats can have apples, the truth is that he or she probably won't want them anyway. Most owners will find that their cat sniffs the apple and then walks away. The reason for this is that cats lack receptors for the detection of sweetness, so sugary foods of any kind will not excite your feline buddy.

But every cat is different, and you may find that your cat wants a piece of the apple. Sometimes our pets just want to try whatever their humans are having.

Can I feed apple skin, leaves, core, or seeds?

Skin

The good news is that skin and peel are both fine for the cat. Just make sure the apple is washed before you cut off a piece to avoid any pesticides. Also, red and green apples are both OK for cats.

Leaves

In terms of the leaves of an apple, they should be avoided. Most apples we buy in the store are free of leaves, but a few leaves have been known to stay on. Make sure you pick that off and discard it.

Core and Seeds

The core and seeds of the apple must also be avoided when feeding this fruit. The apple seeds contain amygdalin, which is a substance that releases cyanide when chewed and digested. The amount of this poison contained in the seeds is small, but they could cause serious health problems for your cat, so just avoid the seeds at all costs.

Meanwhile, the core is simply too tough to chew since cats have small mouths. Even humans don't eat the core, so it should just be discarded.

As you can see, serving an apple to a cat is not as easy as it looks. Should I treat my cat to a piece of apple, or do the risks outweigh the benefits?

Health Benefits: Are Apples Good for Cats?

Giving your cat a piece of apple as a treat is a good thing because of the health benefits. Let's learn about those benefits now.

An occasional apple treat can have its benefits.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM

Vitamin C

Everyone can benefit from Vitamin C, even our feline friends. Yes, dogs and cats produce their own Vitamin C, so it's not necessarily needed in their diets in the form of a supplement. But Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can help, especially when it comes to acidifying the urine.

Although still under debate, an acidic diet is believed to help prevent uroliths, also known as bladder stones. A small piece of an acidic apple like Granny Smith may help with your cat's urinary health by increasing the acidity of his or her diet.

apples

Still, you shouldn't offer your cat apples too often, as too much Vitamin C in the diet can actually support the creation of crystals in the urinary tract and bladder stones. In the end, moderation is key.

Healthy, Low-Calorie Treat

Got an overweight kitty that's always poking around for something to eat? Look to apples as a healthy treat to help them feel full. The secret is in the fiber contained in apples, as well as pectin found in the fruit. 

Since fiber and pectin keep your cat feeling full, he or she is less likely to come back begging for a treat. And since apples are quite low in calories, they are a healthy choice for a treat – especially if your cat is in need of a little weight loss.

Anti-Inflammatory

Apples are fruits that are naturally high in polyphenols and antioxidants, which are protective compounds great for helping your cat stay healthy.

They work to reduce inflammations, which is especially good for older cats whose joints may be aching. The antioxidant properties of apples will help your cat avoid damage to their cells and also support their immune system.

Health Risks: Are Apples Bad for Cats?

At this point, you've likely come to the conclusion that feeding a piece of apple to your cat is OK but is not without some risks involved. The fruit itself is not a toxic food, and it is really the stems, leaves, and seeds you have to worry about. 

There's also the fact that apples are not nutritionally sound for cats – remember, cats are true carnivores. A small treat may be fine, but filling up your cat's stomach with apples will lead to deficiencies in nutrients they need from their food.

Indeed, your cat can go his or her whole life without eating an apple. Here are some of the health risks associated with cats eating apples.

High in sugar and carbs

To humans, apples are one of the healthiest foods we can consume. But for cats, sugar and carbs are just not necessary. Animal fats and protein should make up the bulk of their diet because that is what the cat's digestive system is used to metabolizing to energy.

Now that you know this, you can understand that only 2% of your cat's diet should consist of plant carbs and sugar. As you can imagine, this means giving your cat a very tiny serving of apple.

Diabetes and Obesity

If you planned on feeding apples to your cat on a regular basis, think again. Doing so could very well lead to conditions like obesity and diabetes in your pet.

Apples are quite high in sugar and may therefore be the cause of weight gain and health issues related to obesity.

Watch out for the following symptoms of feline diabetes: 

  • Vomiting
  • Unable to jump
  • No appetite
  • Urinating constantly
  • Extremely thirsty

Please note that even if you have not been feeding your cat sweet foods and you notice these symptoms, you should contact a vet for medical advice. It could mean diabetes is setting in.

The Seeds Are Toxic

It is vital for you to remember that apple seeds, leaves, and stems contain amygdalin, which releases a toxin called cyanide when the seeds are chewed and digested. All of these parts are toxic to cats, although they all contain a very small amount of the compound that converts into hydrogen cyanide.

Cyanide prevents the use of oxygen by the cells in the cat's body, which essentially leads to the suffocation of your pet. In addition to this, seeds pose a choking hazard since cats have small mouths and airways that can easily get blocked by small apple seeds.

Take extra care to remove all seeds, stems, and leaves before giving your cat a bite of apple.

Pesticide Concerns

Pesticides can be toxic and deadly to your cat, and it is common knowledge that such chemicals are used in farming. As a result, it is imperative you thoroughly wash all fruit before serving it to your cat. If possible, we always recommend buying organic to avoid all harmful chemicals.

Feeding Guidelines: Apples for Cats

How Much Apple Can I Feed My Cat?

Smaller is better. A thin slice once or twice a week, with the peel on, is perfect. Remember, cats don't need this fruit to be healthy, but small amounts given in moderation provide a tasty treat and some health benefits. Alternatively, you can cut up a few chunks of apple with the peel on and offer them to your cat.

As long as they are correctly fed and in moderation, apples can make a tasty and low-calorie treat for healthy cats.
-Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM

How to Prepare an Apple for My Cat?

First of all, never give an apple that is rotten. If you wouldn't eat it, your cat shouldn't, either.

  1. Check the apple over for any rotted spots.
  2. If it is safe, remove the stems and leaves.
  3. Wash it thoroughly to remove dirt, pesticides, and chemicals.
  4. Cut a small slice that your cat can handle, making sure it doesn't contain any seeds
  5. Serve apple in bite-sized chunks. Keep in mind that brachycephalic cat breeds (for example, Persians) prefer smaller chunks that easier to pick up.

When feeding apples for the first time, start with a very small piece to see how your kitty reacts. If you see any signs of an allergic reaction like itching, sneezing, wheezing, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you see any symptoms, contact a vet as soon as you can.

Always discard any uneaten fruit after a while so your pet won't have access to food that may have gone bad.

Can I Feed Other Apple Products?

Cooked apples are OK so long as they do not contain other items like brown sugar or cinnamon, which we sometimes add to fruit to make it more appealing. Additives like this can upset the stomach of your cat. Also, canned apples are far too sugary for cats.

Dried apples are OK so long as they are nothing more than just the dried apple – again, no seeds, stems, or leaves should be included, nor should sugar, cinnamon, or other spices designed to enhance the flavor of the apple.

Peels and fruit are the ONLY OK parts. Just keep in mind that dried fruit is very high in sugar and may easily lead to health problems even in small quantities. Dried fruit mixes are a no-go because they often contain raisins and nuts, which are highly toxic to cats.

Applesauce should be avoided unless it is homemade and you know what's in it. Prepackaged applesauce is often loaded with sugar and preservatives that you don't get in plain apples – and is way too sugary for cats. For homemade applesauce, a small spoonful is OK as a rare treat.

Nutrition Facts

According to the Healthline, here are the nutrition facts associated with a 100g apple.

  • Calories: 52
  • Water: 86%
  • Protein: 0.3 grams
  • Carbs: 13.8 grams
  • Sugar: 10.4 grams
  • Fiber: 2.4 grams
  • Fat: 0.2 grams

Apples also contain vitamins and minerals such as:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B-6

As you can see, apples are fairly low in calories yet high in sugar. They contain a lot of water, which makes a low-calorie food, but the sugar content is higher than what can be considered healthy for cats.

Bottom Line: Can Cats Have Apples?

The answer to the question is: Yes, cats can have apples, but there are LOTS of caveats that go with that answer. 

For starters, cats don't actually need apples. Provided you feed them high-quality cat food that meets the AAFCO guidelines for cat nutrition, and you provide them with plenty of clean, fresh water, their dietary requirements will be met.

Second, the stems, seeds, and leaves of apples are toxic to cats. Apples also contain a lot of sugar, which cats can't metabolize will or even taste.

The bottom line? If you are going to feed your cat apples, do so with extra care. However, there are many other tastier and healthier options if you want to treat your cat to an appetizing snack.

Vet's Comment

When it comes to cats, does an apple a day keep the veterinarian away? Well, the answer is no. Just because apples are not toxic to cats, it does not indicate they should be fed daily.

In general, fruits should not be a regular part of the cat’s diet. Cats are obligate carnivores that rely on animal-sourced nutrients rather than plant-sourced. However, an occasional apple treat can have its benefits.

As long as they are correctly fed and in moderation, apples can make a tasty and low-calorie treat for healthy cats. By correctly, I mean bite-sized chunks without the seeds, stems, and core and by moderately - a slice once or twice per week.

- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM

Ivana Crnec doctor of veterinary medicine

Vet-Approved by
Dr. Ivana Crnec

DVM

Ivana Crnec is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine specialized in domestic carnivores. She graduated from the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. Ivana is a certified canine nutritionist and also certified in HAACP food safety system implementation. She currently works as a veterinarian while completing her postgraduate studies. Her research has been published in international journals.

NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your cat's specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.

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