Cats are obligate carnivores that require a primarily meat-based diet to thrive. Yet, pet food manufacturers include fruits and vegetables in their cat food formulas. You may wonder if some foods on the ingredient list benefit your kitty. Sweet potatoes, for example. What purpose do they serve in cat food, and are they safe for your kitty?
In short, cats can eat sweet potatoes that are steamed, baked, or boiled without seasoning or salt. However, while sweet potatoes are non-toxic for cats, it’s still not something that should constitute a significant portion of your kitty’s diet. Read on to learn more about the appropriateness of sweet potatoes in your cat’s diet, including its benefits and risks.
What Are Sweet Potatoes?
Sweet potatoes are an underground tuber that belongs to the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae. You might be surprised to learn that, despite its name, sweet potatoes aren’t closely related botanically to the common potato. However, its large, starchy, sweet-tasting root is used as a root vegetable like a regular potato.
Can Cats Eat Sweet Potatoes?
Cats can safely eat steamed, boiled, or baked sweet potatoes provided seasoning or salt hasn’t been added and that it is offered in moderation. However, as an obligate carnivore, just because your cat can eat them and not be poisoned doesn’t mean it’s necessarily something you should offer.
What Do Cats Eat Generally?
Obligate carnivores require meat to thrive and survive. They need much more protein when compared to other mammals like dogs. In fact, your kitty gets most of the nutrition he needs from the animal protein he eats. While vegetables can certainly contain some protein, they aren’t considered a complete protein source for felines, and most biologists agree that wild cats only munch on plant material as a digestive aid.
What Are the Benefits of Sweet Potatoes for Cats?
You may have noticed that sweet potatoes are one of the ingredients in your cat’s food and wondered what purpose they serve for your little obligate carnivore. They are nutritious and can provide texture and structure to your pet’s dry and wet food.
Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, and potassium. Kitties need vitamin A for vision, bone, and reproductive health, and B6 (pyridoxine) helps metabolize amino and fatty acids. Potassium is an electrolyte necessary for nerve function and heart rhythm. Sweet potatoes are also a complex carbohydrate, providing a natural energy source.
What Are the Hazards of Sweet Potatoes for Cats?
Though sweet potatoes are non-toxic for cats, that doesn’t mean that they don’t come without risks.
The high fiber content can cause gastrointestinal issues for your cat if he eats too much.
Cats that eat this root veggie too often may put on excess weight, putting him at risk for obesity and its related health conditions like diabetes mellitus, cancer, and heart disease.
How to Offer Sweet Potatoes to Your Cat
If you want to give your kitty a taste of sweet potatoes, we recommend using them as a special treat and only if your cat absolutely loves them. Though they have some nutritional value, there are plenty of other species-appropriate treats your cat will likely choose over sweet potatoes.
Only offer cooked sweet potatoes that have been boiled, steamed, or baked. Do not add any seasoning or other ingredients during cooking as they can be toxic (e.g., garlic or onions).
While sweet potatoes may be non-toxic, they’re not something we recommend feeding your cat often. Though they are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, sweet potatoes are not a species-appropriate food. Your kitty is an obligate carnivore requiring a primarily meat-based diet to thrive.