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Can Cats Eat Vaseline? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

a tub of vaseline

No home medicine cabinet is complete without the legendary tub of Vaseline. Its uses in the home and on the person seem to be endless! But although it is proven to be safe for many personal human benefits, is it safe for our pets?

Generally, Vaseline and other petroleum jelly products are not toxic if ingested in small amounts. In fact, some vets even offer Vaseline as a treatment for hairballs in cats, but this is debated among professionals. There will be some risks associated with a cat eating Vaseline depending on multiple factors, including your cat’s general health and age and how the Vaseline is administrated.

Read on to delve deeper into this controversial topic so you can make all the best choices for keeping your cat happy and healthy.

Is Vaseline Safe for Cats to Eat?

While Vaseline is a super common household product, how many of us actually know what’s in it?

The main ingredient of Vaseline is petroleum (hence the name “petroleum product.” Other by-products of petroleum include gasoline and kerosene, which it goes without saying is not safe for ingestion by our cats or ourselves!

The petroleum in Vaseline is a by-product that has been proven to be safe for human use due to not containing all the nasties of petroleum, including carcinogenic (cancer-causing substances.) Instead, its chemical composition is helpful as acting as an “occlusive” or, simply put, a moisture barrier. It doesn’t add any moisture as it does not absorb into surfaces but forms an impenetrable protective layer.

For this reason, Vaseline is widely considered safe for cats to eat also. Of course, it offers nothing nutritionally, so giving it to them just because they may like the taste or texture is not good. However, it’s important to note that instead of being absorbed through the digestive tract of a cat, Vaseline will form a thick and oily layer on the inside of the digestive tract – this can be used as a medical treatment, but there are also some risks associated.

Vaseline as a Treatment for Hairballs

If you’ve owned furry friends for an extended period, then you will know there’s a lovely time of year where your home will be inundated with cat hair. Cat’s shed their coat twice a year, during spring as they lose their winter coat in preparation for summer, and in fall when they lose their summer outfit to fluff up for winter.

Cats can be prone to getting hairballs any time of the year, but these times of heavy shedding will increase that risk as there is simply a lot more fur about for them to ingest. Smaller amounts of ingested hair will often pass through their digestive tract without a hitch. Still, more significant amounts can cause irritation and conglomerate together as a hairball.

Usually, hairballs will not get too far and be regurgitated back up. But on occasion, they will make their way past the stomach and into the intestines, where they can cause some severe issues if they become impacted and cause a blockage.

While there are some ways to avoid excess hair ingestion and reduce the risk of hairballs there is also a range of internal treatments for further down the line. Vaseline as a dietary additive is one of them. Recommended by a few vets, Vaseline can assist by acting as a digestive lubricant. Its oily and barrier-like properties can help impacted hairballs move along the digestive tract and either be passed through the other end or successfully vomited back up.

It is also featured as a home remedy for constipation in cats for these same reasons. Vaseline is not the only product with this effect; natural oils can also offer the same benefit. While there seems to be some ground that Vaseline can be an effective treatment for cat hairballs, you should exercise some natural caution as an owner.

grey cat licking its paw
Image Credit: michal dziekonski, Unsplash

Risks of Vaseline for Your Cat

Nutritional Deficiencies and Dehydration

Alongside the benefits of a digestive lubricant, there come some risks. Vaseline can line the intestinal tract and create an impermeable barrier, meaning that the intestines will not be able to absorb very many nutrients or water from your cat’s diet. Processed food from the stomach that is not absorbed into the body will cause diarrhea, and prolonged diarrhea can cause dehydration and anal irritation.

Without the absorption of vital nutrients, your cat can lose condition and even suffer from nutrient deficiencies, each of which can cause further health complications. Vaseline can stick around in the digestive tract for a few days after last ingested, so prolonged use can lead to a longer time for your cat to not have the nutrients and energy they need.

One accidental consumption of Vaseline or one day added as a hairball supplement should not have any extreme ill effects on a healthy cat. Exceptions will be cats that are already ill in some way. For example, cats with diabetes can have their blood sugars altered by not properly absorbing their food.

Longer-term Vaseline treatment can be especially harmful to elderly cats who will lose condition a lot quicker than a healthy adult and kittens who need a specific diet for their rapid growth and development. If you do use Vaseline as a supplement, easy absorbing supplements should be provided.

sad lonely cat
Image By: medveda, Shutterstock

Aspiration Harm

As a natural mineral oil, there are also some associated risks regarding inhaling the fumes of Vaseline. While the risk is low, inhalation of mineral oils can cause aspiration pneumonia. This means if using vaseline externally to keep it away from the facial orifices of your cat, who may be more sensitive to harmful fumes than you are.

If using Vaseline as an oral supplement for your cat’s hairballs, then ensure you never force-feed it into their mouths. This force-feeding can accidentally result in the vaseline being inhaled instead of swallowed. Once in the lungs, the risk of pneumonia is a lot larger!

When using petroleum jelly, ensure they are triple-distilled and purified to be thoroughly processed to be free from toxic contaminants. Vaseline is well-known to be trusted as a pure and safer product.

Final Thoughts: Always Consult Your Vet

Suppose your cat has accidentally gotten into your Vaseline tub. In that case, there is not too much to worry about – just keep an eye out for irritation! If you are tossing up the use of Vaseline for other purposes such as external treatments or a hairball remedy, then we strongly advise you to contact your vet for professional advice.

As you can see, there is a range of things to consider for your cat’s health with using Vaseline orally. It’s no wonder it’s contested both between cat owners and veterinarians alike. While some home remedies may be suitable for your cat, you should always consult your vet before using any!

Featured Image Credit: JenJ_Payless, Shutterstock

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