Most of us don't want to worry about whether our cat is getting the right nutrition or not. We will feed a brand of cat food we trust that we know she loves the taste of. But it's still very enjoyable to watch your cat delicately eat a tasty side snack.
Cats often aren't interested in human foods. And even when they are, you have to be careful. Things that are completely harmless to us can easily be disastrous to a cat. It's important to always check the facts before offering your cat any new treat.
Avocado is one example of a food that you need to be careful with. Let's find out, can cats eat avocado, or is it harmful to our feline friends?
Can Cats Eat Avocado?
Yes, cats can eat avocado. The fruit's flesh is safe, but the pit and skin contain persin and are toxic to cats. Avocados contain healthy fats and many nutrients, but follow our vet-approved feeding guidelines as too much avocado may lead to obesity, diarrhea, and pancreatitis. Also, the pits are a potential choking hazard.
The fact is that both the flesh of the avocado and the oil is entirely safe for cats. They are frequently used as components of cat food because of their health benefits. What is toxic to cats is the pit and the skin of the avocado. Provided you don't let your cat get her little paws on these, she'll be just fine.
And obviously, moderation is needed. Too much of anything, avocado included, is bad.
Health Benefits: Are Avocados Good for Cats?
Here we've got to say a big, solid yes. Fed in the right quantity, avocados are as healthy for cats as they are for you.
There is lots of good stuff your cat can get from eating these fruits.
For years, the media has drummed it into our heads that fat is a bad, bad thing. But we're finally learning to recognize that not all fat is to be avoided. And good fats are actually an essential component of a healthy, balanced diet. It applies to cats as much as it does to humans.
Avocados are an excellent source of healthy kinds of fat. They contain none of the trans-fats generally found in heavily processed foods. They also don't contain the bad kinds of saturated fat. The oil found in avocado is great for the skin and helps the heart stay healthy. It also has powerful anti-inflammation properties.
Avocados are Nutrient-Dense
Nutrient-dense food is one that provides a lot of vitamins, minerals, and more without too many calories. Avocados contribute almost 20 vitamins and minerals in 160 calories per 100 grams.
It is the reason avocado flesh and oil extract are popular in cat foods. There's a lot of nutrition packed into a small amount of this food. And the fact that avocado doesn't contain any cholesterol, salt or sugars only adds to its appeal.
Adding an avocado treat every now and then will do your cat lots of good. Your cat's coat, skin, and entire body will benefit from this rich, healthy food.
Great Source of Antioxidants
It is yet another reason avocado is good for your cat. Life takes its toll on us all. Illness, aging, and environmental stress all leave their mark on your pet. Processed foods are not always healthy and may also stress your cat's body.
Antioxidants help to prevent and sometimes even reverse cell damage. They are a powerful immune system builder and anti-inflammatory agent.
Avocados contain antioxidant compounds like beta-carotene and lycopene. The highest concentration of these is found closest to the skin of the fruit. An occasional serving of avocado flesh will add some of these much-needed nutrients to your cat's diet.
Related reading: Best Foods for Cats to Keep Your Pet Healthy
Health Risks: Are Avocados Bad for Cats?
You might be thinking that a food this healthy really shouldn't have anything negative about it. And essentially, you would be right. Avocados are a very healthy food for cats. There are just a few things to remember when feeding them to your pet.
The Pits and Skins are Toxic
As long as you stay clear of the skins and pits, your cat will be safe.
While avocado flesh is excellent for cats, the pits and skins are not. They contain an organic compound called persin. Persin is harmless to human beings but very toxic to cats and some other animals too. Avocado stems and leaves contain this compound too. But we wouldn't expect anyone to try and feed those to their cat in the first place.
In short, as long as you stay clear of the skins and pits, your cat will be safe. While we're talking about this, the pits are also a potential choking hazard. Even if they weren't toxic, feeding them to your cat still wouldn't be a great idea.
Too Much May Cause a Tummy Upset
Avocados are sometimes recommended to people suffering from constipation—the dietary fiber and fat help the digestive system along. But there is another side to this too. Consuming large quantities of avocado may cause diarrhea.
Fat, however healthy it may be, is still fat. Too much at once may send you running for the toilet. And the same applies to cats. Eating too much avocado at once can give them diarrhea and leave them dehydrated.
Some cats have sensitive stomachs. Older, aging cats are also likely to have a more sensitive digestive system. Be careful when giving avocado to cats with irritable digestion, as it may cause them gastrointestinal discomfort. You can offer a tiny morsel and see how they take it before deciding whether it's safe.
Risk of Pancreatitis
It is a painful condition that occurs when cats (and other animals) consume too much fat. Feeding your cat with large quantities of avocado frequently can put your cat at risk. Diarrhea is not pleasant but is usually relatively mild. Pancreatitis, however, is a much more serious condition. Therefore, avocado should be fed occasionally, and only in small quantities.
Not for Overweight Cats
Obesity and related health problems in cats are unfortunately rather common these days. Our pets eat premium food, sometimes too much of it, while sitting confined at home. They don't get to exercise their natural instincts and tend to become lazy. And sometimes we just spoil them rotten with too many treats.
Whatever the case, if your cat is prone to being overweight or is already there, be careful. Vets will often recommend low-calorie, low-fat diets for such individuals. Avocado, with its high-fat content, is not an ideal food for overweight pets. You can still offer treats, but choose something better suited to your pet's dietary needs.
Serving Size and How to Feed?
For an otherwise healthy and active cat, avocado is an excellent choice of treat. But it should remain exactly that, just a treat. And if you're worried about overfeeding, you can get some advice from your vet.
One slice once a week is enough.
This is how to prepare avocado for your cat:
1. Peel the avocado and remove the skin before serving any.
2. Remove the pit. The pit should also go straight to the garbage bin.
3. Cut one slice. Once you've done this, cut one small slice for your cat and let her enjoy her treat.
To avoid overdosing your cat on fat, don't feed avocado daily. Once a week is enough. Your cat probably eats food specially formulated for her dietary needs. That means she's getting a well-balanced diet, including the right amount of healthy fat. Giving too much avocado will only take away from the benefits.
We could write pages and pages discussing each of its almost 20 nutrients. To sum it all up, though, you get a lot of useful stuff without any of the bad.
Avocado is a nutrition powerhouse.
Zero Sugar, Cholesterol and Sodium
Avocados are pretty calorie-rich compared to many other fruits. You get all of 160 calories from 100 grams. But the beauty of it is that those calories mainly come from fats, and healthy ones at that. Avocados simply don't contain any sugar. To add to the appeal, they're also cholesterol- and sodium-free. As long as you (or your cat) don't eat too much, there's no harm done.
Vitamins, Minerals and More
There are nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients packed into avocados. About the only missing key vitamins are A and D. Vitamins C, E, K, and the B complex all make a healthy appearance on this list.
When it comes to minerals, avocados contain several essential ones. There is phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, manganese, and copper. Calcium is the only notable mineral that fails to show up here. But you cannot get absolutely everything from just one food anyway.
If you're still wondering whether to feed your cat avocado or not, we'd say go for it. Unless your cat is overweight or has some other health condition, there's no reason not to. There are plenty of healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamins in this rich fruit. Your cat's skin, coat, and whole body will benefit from this gift of nature.
The only thing to remember is to remove the skin and pit. Doing this will remove any risk of poisoning your precious pet. And, of course, too much of anything, however good, can be bad. Feed a small amount as an occasional treat, and your cat will be just fine.
Can avocados kill cats?
Yes, avocado can kill cats, but only if ingested in very large quantities. It is unlikely that an adult cat would die from eating avocado, but it can cause an upset stomach. If you notice any signs of heavy breathing or a rapid heartbeat, you should take your cat to a vet to be safe.
The flesh of the fruit is safe for cats, but the skin and pit contain a toxin called persin. Most avocado varieties contain only small amounts of persin and are only mildly toxic to felines. However, the toxicity varies depending on the variety of avocado, growing conditions, and the time of the year.
Avocados can also be a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockages if your cat eats a piece of the tough skin or the pit.
Avocados are a great treat that you can give your cat. Watch your cat because they will try to sneak up on the counter and help themselves to an avocado when you are not looking. While it is pretty much impossible for them to eat the pit of an avocado, they can chew on it, causing a lot of problems.
Avocados can also cause your cat to become obese, so make sure to limit the amount that you feed to your cat.
- Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM
Sara Redding Ochoa, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, was raised in Calhoun, LA. She knew since she was a little girl that her dream was to become a veterinarian. Dr. Ochoa attended Louisiana Tech for her undergraduate school, and then attended St. George University to complete veterinary school. After graduating, Dr. Ochoa moved to east Texas and has been working as a small animal and exotic veterinarian.
NOTE: Advice provided within this article 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.