Potato chips are the ultimate snack. For us, anyway. But what about our cats? Can cats eat potato chips? Can they snaffle a potato chip or two without feeling any ill effects? Or is there something deadly lurking within that innocent package? Ultimately, potato chips are junk food. We know they’re not going to do us the world of good when we eat them, so it stands to reason they’re not going to be the ideal food for our furry friends either. But whether they’re ok as an occasional treat… well, that’s where things get a bit more complicated.
Can Cats Eat Potato Chips?
First up, let’s set the record straight. A bite of a potato chip isn’t going to kill your cat. It’s not going to do them much good (we’ll go into the reasons why shortly) but neither is it going to necessitate an emergency run to the vets. Potatoes and potato products might not have any nutritional value for your cat, but neither are they toxic.
A morsel of a plain, unflavored potato chip will add some empty calories to your cat’s diet, but it’s not going to do much else. If your cat happens to take a bite of your potato chip as it makes its way to your mouth, you don’t have to worry. That being said, it’s not a practice you should encourage. Why? Because potato chips are for humans.
Cats are many things, but human they ain’t. Their digestions are different, their needs are different, and their tolerance for junk food is different. So, no – a potato chip isn’t intrinsically lethal. If your cat likes to chew on the occasional morsel of a chip, no harm is going to befall them. But that’s in no way to say it’s a valid addition to your pet’s diet or a habit you should allow to go unchecked.
Why Your Cat Shouldn’t Eat Potato Chips
If you care about your cat, feeding them a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet is going to be one of your priorities. This doesn’t mean you have to spend half your wages on keeping them in super-premium, super-expensive foods fit for royalty. It does, however, mean ensuring their basic requirements are met. When it comes to cats, those basic requirements aren’t complicated. They involve protein, protein, and yep, more protein. Unlike dogs (who can basically eat most things and stay the right side of healthy), cats are obligate carnivores. They need meat, and lots of it. This isn’t a choice – it’s basic biology. Deprive your cat of animal-based protein, and you’re going to end up with one sickly feline on your hands.
As crazypetguy.com notes, a cat’s stomach is designed to use nutrients from animal sources, almost exclusively. What does this mean? It means that your cat needs meat to get every other essential nutrient in their diet: meat gives them protein, vitamins, and minerals in just the right amounts and the right kinds to keep their bodies in optimal condition. A few grains, a few veggies, and even a few fruits here and there aren’t going to do much harm, but strictly speaking, they’re not really needed. Not in the same way as meat is, in any case.
Now, a potato chip is many things. It’s crunchy, it’s crispy, and it’s full of savory deliciousness. What it’s not is meat. By that extension, it’s not really got a place in your cat’s diet. But what about as an occasional treat? A little potato, plain boiled and served without any additions, isn’t going to do your cat harm. It’s not going to do them much good either, but hey… we’re all allowed the occasional indulgence. The problem is, a potato chip has a lot more going on than just potatoes. There are vegetable oils, salt, sugars, and flavorings… and believe it or not, none of those things are going to do your cat the world of good.
Before you sneak your cat a chip, think about what’s in it. Things like…
Salt might be an essential mineral, but too much of it is never a good thing. In us, it can send our blood pressures soaring and our hearts racing. In cats, it can result in all kinds of equally unpleasant side effects, including diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pains, and more besides. While the sodium content in a bag of chips is unlikely to do us much damage, it’s important to think about the size difference between us and cats. Simply put, cats are a fraction of our size. As such, they need way, way less of certain things (even when those things are essential) than us.
As allpetmagazine.com notes, the sodium content in just a few chips far exceeds your cat’s recommended daily allowance. A 1-ounce portion of Lays potato chips, for example, contains 150 milligrams of sodium. Considering that an average-size cat only needs about 21 milligrams of sodium in a day (with the recommended upper limit being 42 milligrams), it doesn’t take a math whiz to work out the problem. Just one potato chip fulfills half of a cat’s daily requirement for sodium. As a single potato chip is unlikely to be the only thing they’ll be guzzling that day, they’re very likely to end it with far, far too much sodium in their blood to be healthy.
Cats need fat. It gives them energy, it keeps their coats and skins healthy, and it helps them optimize their uptake of essential vitamins. What they don’t need is the kind of processed vegetable fats that go into potato chips. The only thing this type of fat gives them is empty calories – and if there’s one thing most domesticated cats don’t need any more of, it’s empty calories.
As catster.com notes, when they are cooked properly, prepared simply, and served in very small portions, potatoes are not toxic to cats. But just because they’re not toxic doesn’t necessarily mean they’re healthy. Over time, the properties in potatoes can lead to all kinds of problems for cats, including obesity, pancreatitis, and arthritis. Cats, lest you forget, are obligate carnivores. They draw all the essential nutrients they need from animal protein. They simply don’t need the kind of carby goodness that potatoes are rich in. Ultimately, a cat’s digestion is a completely different proposition to ours. They don’t produce the enzymes needed to digest or process plant materials in the same way as you or I do. A single morsel of a potato chip might be ok, but give them much more than that, and you’re welcoming in a host of digestive complaints that aren’t going to be any fun for either you or your cat.
Is it Ok to Feed My Cat Potato Chips as a Treat?
A single bite of a potato chip once in a blue moon isn’t going to spell disaster for your cat. But anything more than that is unadvisable. There are plenty of healthy, delicious snacks for cats on the market – if you want to avoid problems, you might want to skip the potato chips and stick to those instead.
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