We all know there are certain things that shouldn’t come anywhere near our cat’s food bowl. Onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, chocolate, raw dough… all toxic, and all potentially lethal in large quantities. But what about kale? It looks innocent enough, and it’s got enough vitamins, minerals, and other good stuff to be an essential part of every health-conscious human’s diet. But does the same apply to cats? Will a few leaves of kale do your cat the power of good, or could it all end in worry and a big veterinarian bill? If you’ve ever asked yourself can cats eat kale, here’s what you need to know.
Can Cats Eat Kale?
Cats have very different digestions and very different nutritional needs from humans. Whereas we need a variety of foods from a wide range of food groups to stay healthy, cats don’t. They need meat, and lots of it. As obligate carnivores, they can fulfill all of their dietary needs through animal products – without an adequate supply, they’re going to get sick, fast. But providing they’re eating a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet, will a few little leaves of kale matter? Essentially, cats don’t need leafy greens like we do. That doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally want them, or that you should be overly alarmed if they steal a few leaves from your plate. As excitedcats.com says, no one knows for sure exactly why cats occasionally like to nibble on grass or other leafy greens, but there’s definitely something in them that makes them purr. Some experts have suggested that the enzymes in leafy greens make it easier for cats to digest meats. There’s also some speculation over whether leafy plants could help make hairballs easier to cough up, add some additional nutrients to their diet, and even help clean out their digestive system. Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that some cats love a little bit of greenery now and again. If yours has a particular hankering for kale, don’t panic. Whether we’re taking cooked kale or raw kale, a few leaves here and there won’t do your cat any harm at all.
Is Kale Healthy for Cats?
The ASPCA is pretty hot on what’s toxic and what’s not, and if they say that kale isn’t toxic, we’re inclined to believe them. But there’s a difference between safe to eat and healthy to eat. So, does kale come with any health benefits? According to askmycats.com, kale comes with a long list of benefits. It can…
- Keep blood sugar and cholesterol levels healthy.
- Aid in blood clotting and wound healing thanks to its abundance of vitamin K.
- Maintain healthy bones and cells due to its calcium and potassium levels.
- Help reduce inflammation with its balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts because of its high content of lutein and zeaxanthins.
- Protect against free radical damage due to high concentrations of antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin C, flavonoids, and polyphenols.
- Support vision with its high vitamin A content.
Sounds good right? The problem is, most of those benefits have only been shown in humans. Cats derive all the nutrients they need to stay healthy from meat. Providing they’re eating a balanced, nutritionally complete diet rich in animal protein, they don’t technically need kale. But a little extra goodness never hurts. Think of kale as something like a multivitamin tablet – something not strictly speaking needed, but a nice little compliment to an already healthy diet.
Kale For Weight Management
As cancateat.com notes, kale could help cats achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Over the past couple of decades, cats’ waistlines have been expanding at an ever-increasing rate, to the extent that over half of all cats in the US are now overweight. It might give us more to love, but ultimately, a fat cat isn’t a healthy cat. Unless you want your cat to be at risk of impaired mobility, joint problems, diabetes, heart problems, and even certain kinds of cancers, getting on top of their weight issues is vital. Kale is full of fiber, which can help keep your cat full for longer. It also has very few calories, so won’t pack on the pounds. If your vet has recommended they switch to a low-calorie diet, adding some kale to their bowl could help them feel less hungry and unsatisfied on fewer calories.
Is Kale Safe for Cats?
We’ve seen that kale isn’t toxic and carries certain health benefits for cats. But is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? There is. If your cat loves kale so much, they end up gorging on it and lose their appetite for their normal food, then there’s a problem. While kale might offer certain benefits, it’s not a substitute for a well-balanced, meat-based diet. Cats simply can’t thrive on a plant-based diet, and aren’t able to process the nutrients in vegetables in the same way that we can. There’s also another, very serious health issue that could arise from eating too much kale. It’s called Heinz body anemia, a condition that can destroy a cat’s red blood cells and lead to numerous problems, including weakness, loss of appetite, fever, discoloration of the skin and gums, and reddish-brown urine. Typically, the condition is caused by eating onions, garlic, or shallots, but an excess of kale can also be to blame. Fortunately, it’s completely treatable if it’s caught early enough, Luckily, very, very few cats will wind up developing such a love for kale that they become at risk of Heinz body anemia. Providing they’re not eating huge bows of kale for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there’s no need to panic. As long as you keep in mind that meat is the most important aspect of your cat’s diet, and that anything else (including kale) is simply a nice little addition, it’s very unlikely that you’ll experience any issues.
Kale, in small amounts and as a complement to your cat’s usual diet, is a safe, healthy food to give your kitty. A few leaves twice a week will satisfy your cat’s desire for green veggies and add a few useful nutrients to their diet. If your cat doesn’t like kale but you still want to give them the benefit of the extra fiber and vitamins, chop it into very small pieces and mix it in with their usual food. If they still refuse to eat it, don’t worry. Kale might be safe and it may be healthy, but your cat will do just fine without it.