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Can Cats Eat Sunflower Seeds? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

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

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Sunflower seeds are a yummy treat millions of people around the world love. For some of us, the fun of cracking the shells to get to the seed is an enjoyable and even relaxing little activity. While sunflower seeds are nutritious for humans, can cats eat sunflower seeds?

The answer to this question is yes, cats can eat sunflower seeds in moderation. However, there are a few things you should know before you open a package and pour them into your cat’s dish. Let’s take the time to learn more about cats and sunflower seeds so you can safely let your cat enjoy these little gifts the gorgeous sunflower plant has given us.

Are Sunflower Seeds Safe for Cats?

According to the ASPCA, both sunflowers and their seeds are safe for cats to consume.  However, this just lets us know that they are not toxic to cats, which is good news if they happened to sneak some from your plate. This doesn’t mean you should toss your cat an entire sunflower seed. While we humans, birds, and even some rodents can crack the sunflower seed and reach the kernel inside, your cat can’t. These outer shells are hard to digest and can even cause intestinal distress due to their sharpness. If you plan on feeding your cat part of the sunflower plant, make sure you remove the shell and only give them the kernel.

Another thing to keep in mind is the potential issues store-bought sunflower kernels may cause your kitty. As we all know, certain brands of sunflower seeds and kernels are seasoned. Those seasonings may be tough on your cat’s digestive system. If you plan on purchasing kernels for your kitty to try out, choose those that are all-natural and avoid added seasonings and flavors.

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Image Credit: Pezibear, Pixabay

The Nutritional Value of Sunflower Seeds

While sunflower seeds are good for us humans, the big question is, do they provide any nutritional value for our cats. The answer to this question is yes, they can. Let’s take a look at the nutrition sunflower seeds offer our cats so you can better understand why they are considered a healthy snack for them.

Protein

Cats are obligate carnivores and get most of their nutrition from animal-based protein. That doesn’t mean they can’t get the protein they love from other sources as well. Sunflower seeds have high protein values which makes them quite appealing to some kitties. Plant sources of protein are fine for your cat here and there as long as meat remains the main part of their diet.

Vitamins

Vitamins provide our cats with lots of health benefits. Luckily, sunflower seeds are high in two vitamins cats need quite a bit of. The first is vitamin E. This vitamin helps your cat maintain a healthy coat while also being great for their skin. It is also known for its help in fighting certain types of cancers as it helps defend against oxidative cell damage . Having this vitamin in their daily diets is essential for healthy cats that feel and look great.

Vitamin B1 is also found in sunflower seeds. This vitamin is also known as thiamine and is very important for your kitty’s health. Many cats, unfortunately, suffer from thiamine deficiency. Offering sunflower seeds as an occasional treat can help fight this issue.

Cute cat beside a sunflower
Image Credit: Sagittarius_13, Shutterstock

Fiber

Foods with healthy amounts of fiber are good for your cat. The trick is to not feed them too much. While healthy amounts can make their digestion better and promote healthier trips to the litter box. Too much can be a problem. Sunflower seeds have a high fiber content. Always give your cats moderate amounts and they will reap the healthy benefits of fiber and not the upset too much in their diet can cause.

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Feeding Your Cat Sunflower Seeds

While you may see how nutritious sunflower seeds are and want to ensure your cat gets all the health benefits they provide, it’s important to only feed this treat to your feline friend occasionally. Cats have small stomachs which means the things they eat should come in moderation. If you’re introducing sunflower seeds to your cat for the first time, remember to remove the shell, then give them only 2 or 3 kernels to start. After you’ve monitored them for 48 hours to ensure there are no gastrointestinal issues, you can begin working sunflower kernels in as treat 1 or 2 times a week. Remember to only give them a few at a time and always remove the shells.

What About Overweight Cats?

If your cat is struggling with weight issues, adding sunflower seeds to their diet will not help their weight loss journey. Sunflower seeds do contain fats. These fats may be healthy, but they still cause weight gain. If you want to provide an overweight cat with sunflower seeds as a treat, make sure they are natural and have no additives. Only provide them with the kernels and only give them a small amount. It is best to wait until your kitty’s weight is under control before you allow them to indulge in this treat.

a tabby cat eating from a bowl
Image Credit: Astrid Gast, Shutterstock

Wild Sunflower Seeds

Occasionally, you may find your cat enjoying the sunflower seeds from your garden or that of your neighbors. Cats are curious creatures and may eat novel items they come across. Cats should be on a complete and balanced cat food to ensure their dietary needs are met. Check the labels of your cat’s food for nutritional content and consider choosing another if it isn’t supplying him or her with the things they need. You may also need to inspect your kitty’s mouth after consuming wild sunflower seeds. Without you there to crack the shells, they may have an injury in their mouth that could be sore or need a trip to the vet.

Conclusion

As you can see, sunflower seeds aren’t only healthy for humans, they are also good for your cat. If you want to give your kitty a new, healthy, and delicious treat, sunflower seeds are a novel thing to try. Make sure they are shelled and free of any harmful additives. Once you’ve made sure they are safe, feel free to let your kitty try them out occasionally. Hopefully, they will love this nutritious treat just as much as their owner does.

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