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Can Cats Eat Yams? Nutrition Facts & Potential Risks

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By Nicole Cosgrove

A heap of yams

The holiday season usually brings about an increase in dishes made with yams. The words “yams” and “sweet potatoes” are used interchangeably, and while the two are similar, they’re not exactly the same. In the United States, sweet potatoes are called yams, even though they’re not true yams. It’s difficult to find actual yams in the U.S. Everything grown and sold in the U.S. as a yam is really a sweet potato. Yams are grown in Africa and are rarely seen in markets across North America.

Cats can get into the trash or search plates for leftovers, especially when everyone is busy with holiday festivities. But is it safe for cats if they happen to eat yams?

The good news is that whether you’re having sweet potatoes or yams, they are both safe for your cat to eat. The ingredients used to prepare them might not be the best for your cat to have, however. Let’s find out more.

Yam vs. Sweet Potato vs. White Potato

Yam, brazilian potato, in a bowl
Image Credit: Nutricao em casa, Shutterstock

A yam is a root vegetable with a texture that is comparable to white russet potatoes. They are starchy and watery. Sweet potatoes are often called yams in grocery stores throughout the United States, but the two are different. Most of the yams that you can purchase in the produce section of your local market are orange sweet potatoes.

Yams have rough, brown skin and pale flesh. They have a neutral flavor. Sweet potatoes have thin, red skin and a sweet flavor.

While both yams and sweet potatoes can be eaten by cats, it’s important to note that true yams are toxic when consumed raw. They must be cooked before they’re eaten. This goes for white potatoes too. Cats should not consume raw white potatoes because they contain a toxin called solanine. If the potato is green, the solanine levels are higher. Solanine can cause stomach and neurological distress in cats. Sweet potatoes should also be cooked before your cat eats them, although they aren’t toxic in their raw form because they don’t contain solanine. They’re just much easier to eat once they’re cooked.

Yams are hard to find at U.S. grocery stores. Yams may be printed on signs, but what you’re actually buying are sweet potatoes. Even so, they’re still safe for your cat to eat.

Candied Yams

Candied yams are popular, especially during the holiday season. Whether it’s made with yams or sweet potatoes, this dish should be kept away from your cat. Brown sugar, marshmallows, and butter contain concentrated amounts of sugar and fat. Your cat’s digestive system isn’t made to properly digest these things. While plain yams are safe for cats to eat, the other components of the dish can lead to obesity, diabetes, and high blood sugar.

tabby cat eating cat food out of bowl inside
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Yams & Your Cat’s Diet

Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they require animal protein in their diet to survive. Cats get most of the nutrition that they need from meat. They don’t require many carbohydrates in their diet. Yams are full of carbohydrates and fiber. While yams may be healthy for people to eat, cats don’t need these things added to their diet. However, sometimes yams can be beneficial to them.

The added fiber from yams can have a laxative effect on your cat. This can help when a cat is experiencing constipation. On the flip side, it can also help cats suffering from diarrhea. Fresh, cooked sweet potato is bland enough for your cat to easily digest. The added fiber can help stop any runny stools.

While yams can be used as a treat or to help cats that are in digestive distress, they should not be fed to your cat in large quantities. This can cause weight gain and diarrhea.

Some cat foods contain yams or sweet potatoes. While they are fine to eat in small amounts, these ingredients are also blended with protein and other essential nutrients for your cat. Sweet potato is an ingredient that is often added to cat food. It’s an easily digestible, allergy-friendly food that provides fiber and a bit of protein. Your cat benefits from all the ingredients in the food together. The sweet potatoes are mixed with high levels of protein from animal sources, which your cat needs in their diet.

Image Credit: jiangdi, Shutterstock

How to Serve Yams to Your Cat

Yams should always be cooked before they are offered to your cat. They can be boiled, baked, or microwaved until they are soft enough to mash with a fork. You can serve the yam mashed or chopped into bite-sized pieces.

While some cats love yams as occasional snacks, just remember to give it to them in small quantities. A teaspoon per day is enough if you’re using yams to clear up a digestive issue in your cat.

The yams should never be cooked with any seasonings, oil, sugar, or other ingredients. Cook and serve them plain.

Before cooking, you can peel them to remove the rough skin. You can also cook them with the skin on and then scoop out the soft, inner flesh. Cats should only eat the flesh of the yams and not the skin. It’s too rough and may contain pesticides and other chemicals that are harmful to your cat.

Now that you know what you can safely feed your cat, it’s just as important to find a bowl that supports their health and well-being. With whisker-friendly bowls and a wide tray to catch any spills, our Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl is our favorite option.

hungry white cat hepper nom nom bowl licking lip


Yams are non-toxic to cats and may even provide digestive benefits. Yams can help a constipated cat find relief. They can also be used to help stop a cat’s diarrhea. Remember to only serve your cat cooked yams and to not give them the skin.

Any yam that your cat consumes should be free from all added seasonings, including salt, pepper, butter, and sugar. They should be cooked and served plain. By doing this, your cat will receive a special treat without any risk of illness.

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Featured Image Credit: outsideclick, Pixabay

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