Are Sunflowers Toxic to Cats?


Sunflowers are an entire genus of about 70 species. Some of them have spread far beyond their place of origin. In contrast, others are at serious risk of becoming extinct. Having said that, when people think about sunflowers, chances are very good that they are thinking about common sunflowers. Said plant was domesticated by the Native Americans in prehistorical times. Generally speaking, sunflowers are believed to have been domesticated in what is now the southeastern United States about 5,000 years ago. However, it is possible that said plant was domesticated in what is now Mexico about 4,600 years ago. Whichever the case, sunflowers proved to be very popular, as shown by how it is now produced by a wide range of people in a wide range of places. Sunflowers have a fair number of uses. For starters, their seeds can be eaten in various ways. To name an example, sunflower seeds can be processed into sunflower butter, which is a common substitute for peanut butter because of peanut butter allergies. Furthermore, these seeds can be pressed to extract sunflower oil. After which, the resulting cake can be used as livestock feed. Besides these, sunflowers have a couple of other notable uses as well. One, they are a very popular ornamental plant, so much so that they have become invasive species in certain regions because of that. Two, they can extract toxic ingredients from the soil, thus making them a very good choice for phytoremediation.

Are Sunflowers Toxic to Cats?

It isn’t uncommon for cats to come into contact with sunflowers. As a result, it is natural for cat owners to wonder whether they are toxic for cats or not. Fortunately, sunflowers aren’t considered to be so. Unfortunately, interested individuals should still keep a watchful eye on their cat whenever the latter is interacting with these plants because there are other potential complications. In particular, it isn’t unknown for cats to take a bite out of a sunflower from time to time. One or two bites shouldn’t be cause for concern. Instead, the potential problem is that cats might become too accustomed to eating sunflowers. Should that happen, well, suffice to say that they aren’t very good at digesting fresh plant matter. As such, eating too much sunflower is a good way for a cat to get digestive issues.

Can Cats Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Moving on, some cat owners might ask if cats can eat sunflower seeds. If so, they should know that cats can eat sunflower seeds. The issue is that this isn’t the best idea because there are much better snacks for our feline companions. Chances are good that interested individuals can guess that sunflower seeds are packed full of nutrients. However, cats should be getting the nutrients that they need from their regular diet, so there isn’t much of a nutritional reason to feed them these seeds. Furthermore, most cats don’t seem to be very interested in sunflower seeds, so it might be better to offer them something that is more enjoyable specifically for them.

Having said that, if cat owners choose to feed sunflower seeds to their cats, they should keep a number of important things in mind. First, those sunflower seeds should be shelled. Cats aren’t very good at digesting the shells, so leaving them on increases the chances of digestive issues. Even worse, the shells of sunflower seeds can be sharp when they have been broken up, so there is a chance of internal injuries as well. Second, those sunflower seeds should be cooked. Raw sunflower seeds aren’t toxic for cats. Unfortunately, they do have a couple of other issues. One would be that sunflower seeds are like every other kind of food in that they can be contaminated by harmful bacteria as well as other microorganisms, meaning that cooking is critical for minimizing that threat. The other would be that cooked sunflower seeds can last longer than their uncooked counterparts because they have less moisture in them. Uncooked sunflower seeds can last for quite some time. Still, they spoil faster than their cooked counterparts. Third, those sunflower seeds should be unseasoned. Sunflower seeds themselves aren’t toxic for cats. Sadly, it isn’t uncommon for sunflower seeds to be seasoned with ingredients that can be when eaten in sufficient quantities. To name an example, cats are more sensitive to salt than humans, so it is important for them to avoid eating things that have been seasoned using salt.

Can Cats Eat Sunflower Oil?

Other than sunflower seeds, sunflowers are used to produce sunflower oil as well. Once again, sunflower oil isn’t toxic to cats. However, it isn’t something that cats should be eating because there are potential risks but either nothing or next-to-nothing in potential rewards. For example, sunflower oil contains a lot of fat, which can cause pancreatitis as well as other health issues in cats who eat too much. Similarly, sunflower oil contains a lot of calories, which can cause a cat’s weight to increase. On top of that, it is vegetable-based in nature, so it was never going to be a good fit for cats when cats are obligate carnivores.

Further Considerations

Cat owners should always consult their veterinarian when they are concerned by whether their cat can eat something or not. The species as a whole may or may not be capable of eating that particular thing but there is no guarantee that a particular cat will be capable of doing so because different cats can be very different in this regard just as how different humans can be very different in this regard. Veterinarians have access to their cats’ medical information, so said professionals should have the best idea of whether their cats can eat it or not. Furthermore, it is one thing to know that a cat can eat something, it is another thing to know how much of that thing a cat can eat. If cat owners feel that their knowledge in this regard is insufficient, well, veterinarians are in a good position to fill them in on the topic. Of course, cat owners should always start by feeding their cats new things in moderation. They can never be 100 percent sure of what will happen. As such, a bit of caution should minimize the chances of any complications coming up.

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