Dogs eat anything and everything (even when they shouldn’t). Cat’s eat meat. And sometimes barely that. So say millions of pet owners, but are they right? Should a cat’s diet extend beyond the animal kingdom? Should they be getting five helpings of fruit and veg a day, the same as us? And if they SHOULD be chomping down on the veggies, are there some in particular that are going to them more good than others? Or likewise, some that might do them more harm than good?
Take tomatoes for instance.. a fruit that for most of us, smacks of good health and good eating. But will your cat pick up the same good vibrations, or are you risking their health by including a little in the feed bowl? To an extent, the jury is still out. Some websites you’ve visited have probably implied that tomatoes have no place in your cat’s diet whatsoever. Wisegeek for instance, makes the bold claim that ingesting as little as a cherry tomato can cause severe gastrointestinal upset to a puss. Yet visit the pet store, and you’ll find no shortage of (often premium-branded) cat foods that list tomatoes as an ingredient. So what’s the truth?
Can Cats Eat Tomatoes?
Want the short and sweet answer? It’s yes. A cat can eat a slice of ripe, juicy tomato and live to tell the tale. As cat-lovers-only.com notes, regardless of whether its cooked, raw or used as an ingredient in commercial cat food, a ripe tomato is nothing to worry about (an unripe tomato, on the other hand, is a different story entirely, but we’ll get to that shortly).
Staying on the subject of ripe tomatoes, are there any potential benefits of tomatoes for cats? According to cancatseat.info, there are indeed. A small quantity of tomato can help:
- Slow down the effects of aging thanks to the high content of antioxidants
- Help prevent obesity (a growing problem with indoor cats in particular) through the power of its lycopene content
- Help keep skin in good condition
- Improve hydration levels (tomatoes are 90% water, which, considering how many cats are water-shirkers, is no bad thing at all)
What About Unripe Tomatoes?
So, now we know cats can happily chomp down on the occasional ripe red tomato and come off none the worse for the experience. But what about those green ones? If you see your cat nudging up against an unripe tomato, should you be worried? Unfortunately, the answer’s ‘yes’. While a ruby red tomato doesn’t do your cat any harm (and as we’ve seen, might even do them some good), an unripe tomato has far less benevolent intentions.
All tomatoes contain small quantities of tomatine, a toxic alkaloid that’s found mainly in the stems and leaves of tomato plants, but that’s also present in the fruits (albeit at much lower concentrations). The concentration of tomatine reduces with the ripening process, meaning that by the time a tomato reaches its ready-to-eat stage, the amount is too negligible to have any kind of negative effect on either you, your cat, or anything else that cares to take a bite.
But while that tomato is still green, its tomatine content is a real risk (at least to your cat – you’re probably fine to eat as many as you like and suffer nothing more inconvenient than an extra trip to the bathroom). The stems and leaves are even worse than the fruit itself – if you see your cat making eyes at your tomato plant, remove it quick sharp.
Equally, don’t think you can reduce the risk through cooking. While cooking will make sure the tomato doesn’t produce any more nasty poisons, it’ll have no effect on the ones already it. A fried green tomato, then, is just as toxic as a raw one.
What Happens If A Cat Eats a Tomato?
What happens if a cat eats a tomato? Providing it’s a ripe, red one, probably nothing more than would happen if they ate a fly. Too much isn’t a good thing (yep, fiber has the same effect on them as it does on us) and no-one (least of all your cat) is going to suggest you start skipping their meaty chunks for breakfast and replacing them with a couple of slices of tomato. But ultimately, you don’t need to get in a panic if your cat steals a sliver of tomato from your plate. Neither do you need to start writing nasty letters to pet manufactures if they start adding a little tomatoey goodness to your cat’s favorite kibble.
If, on the other hand, they indulge in a green tomato, you can expect a very distressed cat. Symptoms of tomato poisoning in cats include:
- Stomach pain
- Breathing difficulties
- Skin irritation
Can Cats Be Allergic To Tomatoes?
Even ripe, ruby-red tomatoes can be a problem for some cats. Although food allergies in pets are quite rare, they’re not unheard of. Some owners have reported allergy symptoms in their cats after they’ve ingested even a small amount of tomatoes. If your cat’s going to be trying some tomato in their food for the first time, play close attention to how they react: if they show any signs of tummy distress (this could include diarrhea or vomiting), start scratching excessively, bloat up, or develop any other unusual behaviors, you might have to take tomatoes of the table for good.
What Are The Rules of Feeding Tomatoes To Cats?
- If your cat really, really loves tomatoes, you don’t have to take them off the table completely. But you do have to play it safe.
- If you grow tomatoes at home, make sure your cat can’t reach them.
- Never let them come into contact with the stems or leaves of the tomato plant.
- Never feed them unripe, green tomatoes.
- Avoid giving them tomato sauces– the tomatoes in them might be fine, but the onions, garlic, salt, preservatives, and additives they usually come loaded with are anything but.