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Can Cats Eat Okra? What You Need to Know

Oliver Jones

By Oliver Jones

Can Cats Eat okra

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Okra is an African vegetable that’s widely used in Creole, Cajun, Caribbean, and Indian food. It is also known as bhindi or lady’s fingers, which it is called because of its long and delicate shape. The green, somewhat fuzzy pod contains lines of small seeds that release a sticky, gelatinous liquid when chopped and cooked. Because this fluid is jelly-like, okra is often used to thicken soups and stews. If you enjoy okra, you may want to feed it to your cat, but is okra okay to feed to your furry friend? The short answer is Yes, cats can eat okra. Before giving your cat okra to eat, you should take great care over how the okra is prepared and monitor in what quantity it will be consumed by your cat.

Is Okra Safe For Cats?

Yes, cats can eat okra but complete and balanced cat foods are more beneficial. There are a lot of plants cats shouldn’t eat. But overall, okra’s one of the acceptable ones: it may even provide your cat with some health benefits. Like all foods, okra has its pluses and minuses. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they get all the nutrition they need from meat. Felines really have no need for vegetables in their diet. They should only ever eat okra in moderation, like any other plant-based food. A cat who eats too much okra may suffer digestive problems. There are several factors that can make okra-related gastrointestinal issues more likely.

Does Okra Contain a Deadly Poison?

Given that okra is consumed by millions of people around the world each day, you may be shocked at this question. However, the surprising truth is that, yes, okra contains trace amounts of a deadly poison named solanine. Solanine has caused dozens of deaths in humans, mostly because of the ingestion of green potatoes. It is not known how many animal deaths have been caused by solanine but is more usually a problem in farm animals.

What is Solanine?

Solanine is a poisonous substance found in okra as well as in potatoes, eggplant, blueberries, and artichokes. Solanine is mostly associated with the nightshade family of fruits and vegetables. Although okra is not a member of the nightshade family, it does contain small amounts of solanine, and this chemical is poisonous to cats (and humans) in sufficient quantities.

Image Credit: Santanu_Manna, Pixabay

Is Solanine Poisonous For Humans?

Solanine is toxic to all mammals. The most common symptoms of solanine poisoning are gastrointestinal and neurological. In humans, it can cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, localized skin irritation, burning throat, headaches, dizziness, itching, eczema, thyroid problems, inflammation, and joint pain. More serious cases have been reported with hallucinations, numbness, paralysis, fever, jaundice, dilated pupils, hypothermia, and even death. Moderate amounts of solanine can kill you. Studies suggest doses of 2 to 5 mg/kg of body weight can cause toxic symptoms, and doses of 3 to 6 mg/kg can be deadly. After eating high-solanine foods, symptoms usually occur 8 to 12 hours later but may happen as fast as ten minutes after eating.

Should Humans Worry About the Solanine In Okra?

You shouldn’t worry about consuming okra. Although many fruits and vegetables contain it, such as  eggplant, blueberries, and artichokes, human deaths associated with solanine are usually caused by eating green potatoes. As soon as the fruits and vegetables that naturally contain solanine ripen, the levels of this toxic compound drop. In normal quantities, solanine in okra is not harmful to humans. Even consumed in large quantities, not much of it is likely to enter your bloodstream, simply because the human body isn’t very good at absorbing it. The solanine in okra could only ever be a concern for humans if vast quantities of okra were consumed. It would be almost impossible for a human to eat enough okra to ingest a deadly dosage of solanine. There aren’t any studies suggesting that the public should reduce their solanine consumption. The main thing is to never eat green potatoes or the leaves of the nightshade family. But even though potatoes and eggplants are staple foods around the world, solanine poisoning is rather uncommon.

Can Solanine Be Harmful to Cats?

Overall, the level of solanine in okra is safe for cats. To cause problems for your cat, solanine would have to be consumed in large quantities, way beyond normal serving sizes. It is simply a matter of following safe preparation methods and serving okra to your cat in moderation. According to research, like humans, the gastrointestinal tracts of most animals also absorb solanine poorly, and the toxin is excreted rapidly in fecal matter.

Can Okra Be Harmful To Cats?

Although your cat is unlikely to be poisoned by solanine, die, or suffer immediate adverse effects from eating okra, it’s still recommended to tread carefully when giving okra to your cat. There are other possible health problems that this vegetable can cause in cats. The first thing to remember is that cats are obligate carnivores. Animal products should constitute most of their diets. Plant-based foods like okra can be enjoyed by cats on occasion, but too much of any vegetable can cause an upset stomach for your kitty. The most common symptoms of digestive upset are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Considering this, it is imperative that cats are fed okra in moderation. To give your cat the best chance of eating okra without suffering any ill effects, you should pay attention to how you prepare it.

Okra Slice
Image Credit: Red Confidential, Shutterstock

Raw Versus Cooked Okra For Cats

While okra is quite safe and even nutritious for cats, the next question to address is whether to feed raw okra to your cat or cook it first. If you plan to serve your kitty okra, we recommend that you prepare it in a simple way, such as boiling or steaming it. Cooked vegetables are easier for your pet to digest. Go slowly as you introduce okra to your cat’s diet, only offering a small amount at a time. Give your feline friend a tiny portion of boiled or steamed okra, mixed in with their kibble, and see how it goes. If it doesn’t cause any reaction, you can increase the amount you serve your pet slowly over the next two weeks.

The maximum amount of okra that you should ever feed your cat at one time is around a ¼ cup. As raw okra contains more minerals and nutrients than cooked okra, you may wish to give your cat the uncooked form of the vegetable. Clean the okra well under running water to make sure it’s free of pesticides.

Can Cats Eat Pickled Okra?

It’s not advisable for cats to eat pickled okra or any other type of pickles. Pickle brine contains too much salt for a feline diet: too much sodium is dehydrating for cats and bad for their kidneys. In addition, pickling liquid often contains garlic or chives, both of which are poisonous to cats.

Can Cats Eat Spicy Okra Recipes?

You can give okra to cats occasionally, as a treat, in moderation. In small amounts, okra is relatively safe, but the spices it is often cooked with can cause problems. You may love spicy food, but don’t feed it to your cat. Many spicy foods have capsaicin in them, which can upset your cat’s stomach and make them vomit.

What Vegetables Are Ok For Cats To Eat?

It’s fine for cats to eat most vegetables, especially if they’re mixed into their normal diet. The nutrients in vegetables, like magnesium, potassium, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, work to boost your cat’s immune system and digestion. Your cat may not appreciate okra. Therefore, if yours doesn’t, there are many other healthy vegetables you can give your cats that include asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, green beans, lettuce, peas, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and zucchinis. For these vegetables to be more digestible for cats, they should be served cooked, preferably boiled or steamed.

cat eat vegetable
Image Credit: Patrik Kraus, Shutterstock

What Vegetables Should Cats Avoid?

Many veggies and fruits are okay for cats, but some aren’t. The produce to watch out for includes onions, garlic, and chives, grapes and raisins, green tomatoes, and raw potatoes. These vegetables are especially bad for them, causing gastrointestinal problems and even damaging their red blood cells.

Health Benefits of Okra For Cats

Whether you like veggies or not, everyone knows that they have a lot of health benefits for humans and our pets can also reap some of these benefits. In addition to magnesium, folate, vitamins K, B1, and C, okra also contains considerable amounts of vitamins A, B2, B3, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc among other minerals. An occasional fruit or vegetable snack can be a guilt-free way to bond with our pets. Do remember that too much of a good thing can cause your pet problems. Only give okra in moderation and follow serving size guidelines for feeding vegetables to cats.

Why Can’t Cats Eat All the Same Foods as Humans?

Cats don’t devour human food with the same indiscriminate gusto that dogs exhibit. Cats can be picky eaters and may turn their noses up at foods we expect them to find delicious. That doesn’t mean cats won’t eat some “people food” if they’re given the chance. Although certain foods can be delicious and nutritious for us, they may really make your cat’s health suffer. Just because we can eat something and gain benefits doesn’t mean the same holds true for our pets. There are lots of safe veggies for pets, but some are toxic. Plus, even if a veggie is on the safe list, too much of it can still be bad for a cat. Their bodies are quite different from ours.

sad lonely cat
Image By: medveda, Shutterstock

Why Are Cats More Sensitive to Poisons?

Unlike us, cats don’t have certain liver enzymes that help break down toxins. Therefore, they are more likely to get sick from small amounts of harmful food. Also, their bodies are so tiny compared to ours and when they’re sick, they hide away on their own. Because of all this, ingesting a small amount of toxic or harmful food can cause quite serious health problems. If you know a particular food has the potential to cause your cat gastrointestinal upset, you should just avoid it altogether.

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Your cat is not in immediate danger from okra. As with any cat-safe fruit or vegetable, it’s best to provide only a small amount for your cat, as part of a meat based balanced diet. Okra does contain a toxin called solanine that causes gastrointestinal distress, and which can cause more serious health problems if eaten in large amounts. However, the amount of solanine in a small quantity of okra is safe for cats. That being said, overall, it’s probably safest to stick to specially formulated cat treats if you want to spoil your kitty.

Featured Image Credit: LC-click, Pixabay

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