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Cat Nutrition

Tomatoes and Cats: Made for Each Other or Not?

Cats don’t have quite the same reputation that dogs do for eating everything. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t try some unusual things sometimes.

If they didn’t eat some unexpected things sometimes, you wouldn’t see warnings against so many foods.

Tomatoes have a reputation for being unhealthy for pets. With their tendencies to be fussy about food, it can be hard to imagine most cats eating enough tomato to cause concern.

However, stories of foods sickening pets should never be dismissed out of hand and you should always learn about the circumstances as much as possible.

So, can cats eat tomatoes? The short answer is yes, with some precautions, but take care to make sure they never ingest either the leaves or stems, which are problems. 

What’s the Best Way for Cats to Eat Tomatoes?

Whenever possible, consider getting organic tomatoes to give your cat. When tomatoes are organic, they are free from hazardous pesticides that can cause contamination. The chances of accidental pesticide-related poisoning are reduced to almost zero.

According to Furry Tips, the biggest possible threat to cats from tomatoes is choking. Cats have relatively small throats and mouths, increasing the choking risk if that big a piece is swallowed.

Another possible choking or blockage hazard comes in the form of the seeds. Too many swallowed at much can make a cat, especially a kitten, choke.

These seeds can also end up lodged in the digestive system, leading to dangerous, life-threatening blockages.

When feeding ripe tomatoes, cats should only eat washed, de-seeded tomatoes in bite-sized pieces. They are a nutritious ingredient in many varieties of cat food. Even though they should not form a large part of the cat’s diet, they still have value.

Cat Kingpin points out that tomatoes contain Vitamins A, C, and e, as well as the minerals potassium and copper. However, they also note that most quality cat foods also have these nutrients.

If you’re so inclined, you might want to look for foods with tomatoes. Even as an occasional treat, they are a nice break from the usual.

The best way to give your cat tomatoes depends on how receptive he or she is to new foods. Some cats who are naturally curious about new foods will benefit from being given the tomato pieces as a treat. However, not all cats will willingly consume them.

Another easy way to give your cat the nutritional benefit that comes with tomatoes is by pureeing them and adding them to kibble. This method is usually an all-around win for you and the cat, especially if he or she enjoys getting new foods.

When Are Tomatoes Dangerous?

According to Dr. Marie Haynes, there is no harm in and of itself of feeding tomatoes as an occasional treat, despite many worries.

Although the fruit itself is non-toxic, the leaves and stems of the plants are poisonous to cats. Since cats have a known tendency to try to sample plants, the risk of poisoning in this form is high among cats allowed outside totally unsupervised.

According to food writer Jess Kapadia, the plant is part of the nightshade family. The compounds that make the toxicity are more hazardous to cats than to humans.

The taste of the tomato plant itself and the unripe fruit are unappealing to most cats. Because of this, there is less of a chance of poisoning. However, it’s impossible to predict how an animal might react to something they are curious about.

Younger cats have a somewhat higher risk because they are more likely to explore new things by chewing, just as puppies as likely to do with the unfamiliar.

Inside cats who have not explored outside much may also have a higher risk due to greater curiosity.

Using fencing around your plants will help keep them and your cat safe. Cats and other animals cannot usually get past the barrier.

Another option is to use an outdoor cat enclosure. These pens allow your cat to enjoy the outdoors without dealing with the hazards of roaming at large. 

Are Cooked Tomatoes Safer?

The toxic compounds found in tomatoes are not completely killed with cooking, contrary to popular belief. Only the enzymes responsible for creating the poisons end up being destroyed, not the poisons themselves, debunking this common belief. 

However, the same principles apply with cooked tomatoes as apply to tomatoes served raw. The owner needs to be diligent about removing the seeds and cutting the fruit into small enough pieces to avoid choking or gastrointestinal obstructions.

When the tomatoes are ripe and prepared properly, they are not as likely to pose problems. Whether to cook the tomatoes or not will depend on personal preference. Some cats take better to cooked foods, while some do better with raw foods.

Cooking can, in fact, prevent a lot of problems with possible contamination, according to writer Kristen Torres. Good rinsing prior to cooking makes a difference in eliminating toxins.

Can Cats Be Allergic to Tomatoes?

Cats having allergic reactions to tomatoes is rare but does happen. Some cats might also have an intolerance and both of these situations are difficult to predict. As much as some cats enjoy tomatoes, they should be treated as a treat, not a necessity.

According to Cattention, which treats tomatoes as questionably safe for cats, allergic reaction signs include runny eyes, itchy skin with scratching, and coughing or sneezing.

A cat that shows signs of an allergy to any food is best avoiding it, which takes care of most of the problem. Otherwise, they will experience a lot of discomfort and the possibility of even more serious reactions over time.

Since tomatoes are likely to be an ingredient in natural cat foods, you will need to get into the habit of reading ingredient labels to spot problem ingredients. 

Is There a Toxicity Level for Tomatoes?

Barring an allergy, most cats will experience mild reactions to ingesting tomatoes, if at all. According to KittenToob, tomatoes contain the alkaloid solanine.

This compound mostly affects the lower GI tract, leading to symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. When severe enough, symptoms might include confusion, lethargy, or weakness. When such symptoms occur, a vet visit will help restore your kitty to health.

Writer Susan Paretts notes that the plants, particularly leaves, contain tomatine. When the tomatoes are still green, they contain more of the chemical.

Symptoms of tomatine poisoning include drooling and behavioral changes, in addition to stomach upsets. Seizures or tremors are also possible. When you suspect poisoning is the culprit, you should seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Should you catch your cat in the act of consuming a tomato plant, it is best to err on the side of caution and get veterinary help. Your vet will be in a position to help mitigate the worst effects of your cat has consumed the toxins.

Although ingesting enough of these poisons to result in death is thankfully rare, the signs of poisoning should always be taken seriously. It is always better safe than sorry where these types of situations are concerned because declines may be rapid.

The Bottom Line

Tomatoes can be a fun treat for cats when given in moderation. Knowing how to prepare this food and give it to your cat properly is a good way to eliminate any possible problems and help your cat associate the new addition with good times.

Even though there are possible health risks, they are not usually serious enough to warrant keeping the vegetable completely out of your cat’s diet. Your cat eating a tomato is nothing that ought to cause serious concern if you are aware of risks.

If you have any doubts about cats and tomatoes, this video shows how much cats can enjoy them. They may not be every cat’s favorite treat, but they’re not the worst option available, by any means.

The next time you’re wondering about introducing tomatoes to your cat’s diet, consider giving this popular treat a try.

If your cat doesn’t like them, they haven’t lost anything. If they do like them, they have a great nutritional treat to enjoy.

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