When it came to selecting a cat food for our little ones, we went through dozen upon dozens of ingredient lists to make sure that we were feeding our cats food that was considered safe and suitable for them. Along the way, we learned about fillers like rice, wheat-related products, soy and a filler that became extremely popular after I became a pet parent, sweet potato.
In the past, we’ve covered some of the main facts you need to know about a cat’s diet, the most critical point being that cats have always been and still are carnivores. The reason I say “still are carnivores” is that we have witnessed, hypothesized and researched other animals become omnivores over years of evolution; however, even though cats have been domesticated for generations, their diets haven’t evolved a whole lot.
Although cats are carnivores, cats can still consume small amounts of grains and starches, which are often cheaper and effective ways of adding some fibre or binding agents into cat food. The biggest problem is the fact that it can be difficult to tell how much filler is actually in cat food, and some fillers are considered more unsafe for cats than others. So, is sweet potato any better?
IS SWEET POTATO SAFE FOR A CAT TO EAT?
Sweet potato is generally considered safe for cats to eat as long as it is fed in small amounts and does not contain any seasoning. Sweet potato should never be fed to a cat raw or fried, but instead should be offered sweet potato if it is steamed, baked or boiled.
Raw sweet potatoes are not considered safe for cats to eat, and although classified as non-toxic, they may cause severe damage or stomach upset to your cat’s stomach and/or nervous system.
BENEFITS OF FEEDING YOUR CAT SWEET POTATO
Sweet potato contains high amounts of fibre, making them an excellent treat for kitties who have issues with constipation. Vets will often recommend feeding your cat a little bit of home-cooked or pumpkin.
Pumpkin is usually recommended over sweet potato since it is easier to digest and has more nutrients that are beneficial to cats. However, a vet may recommend sweet potato over pumpkin dependant on which is more easily accessible in your area. In many cases, vets will start by recommending a pet-specific puré.
If constipation is a regular issue, your vet may recommend a change in diet that has a higher amount of fibre or fat. Sweet potato should never be used as a cure for ongoing constipation.
PROBLEMS WITH FEEDING YOUR CAT SWEET POTATO
If a cat is fed too much sweet potato, they may develop an upset stomach, which may induce nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or gas.
Cats who are fed large quantities of sweet potato for extended periods run the risk of becoming obese. If you choose to feed your cat cooked sweet potato as a treat, I strongly recommend running it by your vet to confirm that there are no problems as some breeds are more susceptible to problems with obesity.
Although sweet potato fed sparingly can be beneficial for cats, the truth is that the growth in sweet potato’s popularity comes from our canine friends. While dogs benefit from the beta-carotene because it can be converted into Vitamin A, cats will not benefit from this. Cats do need Vitamin A, similar to dogs; however, cats are unable to convert their own Vitamin A and instead must consume foods that already contain Vitamin A.
Since claiming sweet potato as a canine superfood, many pet food companies also started including sweet potato to kibble mixes. While the amount of sweet potato contained in kibble shouldn’t be enough to harm your cat, some cats will not be able to stomach these foods properly. I’ll cover a little more about my personal experiences with this later on in the post.
The best way to put it is, while the sweet potato is not considered the most beneficial for cats, it is still considered to be one of the better options for cat food fillers. Sweet potatoes, for example, have fewer carbohydrates in them than regular potatoes, making them easier for cats to digest.
NOT EVERY CAT IS MADE EQUALLY
In general, when it comes to what food your cat eats, choices are going to come down to the individual preferences and needs of your cat. For example, our eldest cat Beau spent the first year of his life eating high-quality cat food that had little to no fillers, but still, he kept getting Urinary Tract Infections and blockages, which ultimately lead to us having to get him surgery.
Post-surgery Beau was put on a different diet to ensure that he would never get blocked again. The thing is, Beau’s new diet contains more grains, and although he has gotten chunkier, it has ultimately helped extend his life by at least the 2 years since the operation.
The reason I bring up Beau’s operation and the food he used to eat is because out of the 3 cats in our family who were fed that food, Beau was the only one to experience such an extreme reaction. The other two cats were still fed the food with no issues, and there was no concern from the vets for us to switch their diets.
Beau’s health issues also further painted the picture for us about how different a cat’s health can be, even though they are in the same household and fed the same food, making us realize that what you feed a cat isn’t as cookie-cutter.
Intolerances to food can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. For us, it was in the form of UTIs, however for some cats, intolerances can show up as allergies which can manifest themselves in gastrointestinal problems, in skin irritation or whisker loss. Cats may appear to be perfectly fine with a food one day and may develop allergies the next or food companies may change the recipe for their foods, so make sure you’re always keeping a close eye on your cat, just in case!
At the end of the day, it’s going to be a good idea to talk to your vet about what food you feed your cat. Not every cat is going to need a vet specific diet, however, vets will be aware as to what brands or types of foods may put your cat in danger based on your cat’s overall health or potential to develop a long-term health condition.
So would I recommend feeding your cat sweet potato? Probably not, unless your vet has recommended it. As mentioned, some cats will do much better digesting certain foods than others or, in our case, will require a particular diet.
Would I advise against a kibble that contains sweet potato? Nah, it should be fine to feed your cat a kibble that includes sweet potato, unless your vet has recommended against it for some reason. The sweet potato remains one of the top fillers for pet foods, though as more research comes out, that may change.
So, I’m curious, do you feed your cat sweet potato? Have you tried cat food with sweet potato? What did your cat think? Let me know in the comments below.