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Can cats eat carrots?

cat next to some carrots

Cats can eat carrots but it must be introduced correctly.

© Shutterstock

Vegetables like carrots are great for human health, but what about for animals? Can a cat eat a carrot?

By Dr Holly Graham BVMedSci BVMBVS MRCVS

Updated on the 17/02/2021, 14:17

Fruit and vegetables are an essential part of the human diet. They’re full of vitamins, fibre and minerals and help to keep us fighting fit. Whilst the humble carrot is great for us and helps to keep our bodies healthy - can it do the same for our animal friends?

Is it safe to feed carrots to my cat?

Most cats won’t want to snack on a carrot, but they’re unlikely to do any harm to your pet. A nibble on a carrot stick won’t harm your pet, but it probably won’t have any health benefits either. Your cat might enjoy the texture of chewing on a carrot, or they may just be greedy and try anything that’s hanging around. They aren’t poisonous, and aren’t something to panic about, but nor are they something to include in your pet’s diet.

Cats are carnivores. Their bodies are designed to absorb all the minerals and nutrients they need from the animal protein in meat. Vegetables aren’t part of your cat’s natural diet, but fed in small amounts shouldn’t cause any issues. Many commercial cat foods are meat flavoured with different vegetables, but your cat doesn’t need their green beans or carrots to stay well. Unless vegetables are fed in huge quantities there shouldn’t be any ill effects, and mild gastrointestinal upsets are the most likely side effect we’d see of your cat eating a kilogram of carrot.

Humans and cats are different, whilst vegetables are great for us - they’re unnecessary for a cat. A good quality, formulated cat food should be all your feline friend needs to stay healthy and live a long and happy life. A carrot a day won’t keep the doctor away.

Are carrots good for cats?

You’ve got a greedy, adorable little cat staring at you, begging for a piece of carrot. Is it safe to let them try it? In short, yes. Your pet may sniff it and realise that actually, this carrot isn’t quite as exciting as some chicken. Or he may try it and think it isn’t so bad. A small piece of carrot won’t make him see better in the dark, or improve his health overnight. But it won’t make him need a night in the emergency vets either.

Carrots are filled with vitamin A, beta-carotene and fibre as well as sugar and multiple other minerals. Fantastic for humans, negligible benefits for cats. Possibly tasty, but probably pointless. Cats as obligate carnivores should have a diet primarily composed of meat in order for them to receive and absorb all the nutrients they need to be a healthy cat.

A small amount of vegetable as a treat (if your cat is that way inclined!) shouldn’t cause any lasting damage, but your cat shouldn’t live off a vegan diet. There are many commercially available, and good quality treats that most cats will prefer - but a small amount of carrot won’t cause a problem.

If you’re interested in learning more about the best diet for your cat, with or without carrots, speak to your veterinarian who will be able to help you decide on the best food for your pet.

How to safely feed carrots to your cat?

Once your pet’s diet has been discussed and approved by your vet, and if your cat is interested in carrot then it’s possible to offer a small amount as a snack occasionally. Raw or cooked are suitable, but chunks of raw carrot are more likely to pose a choking hazard. Cooked carrot should be unseasoned and no oil should be used to cook the vegetable. Flavourings or spices can be toxic, and should be avoided. Wash and peel the carrot to remove any dirt or pesticides that may have been used in the growing process.

Carrots aren’t a necessary part of a cat’s diet, and there’s no need to add them regularly. Small amounts as a treat can be offered, but they don’t need to be included in your cat’s dinner daily.

What are the dangers of feeding carrots to your cat?

Carrots in small quantities, or as an occasional snack are unlikely to pose any risks to your pets health. It’s unlikely your cat will want to eat enough carrot to cause any problems, but in extreme cases of exclusive vegetable feeding there may be some health problems. If your cat isn’t eating the correct meat based diet and lives solely on vegetables then we may see some problems.

Cats require particular nutrients from meat, such as taurine, If diets are deficient in taurine, i.e. with a carrot based diet there could be problems caused with multiple organs. Carrots contain sugar, and if fed in huge quantities have the potential to cause weight gain and associated conditions, like diabetes. A chunk of carrot won’t give your pet long-term health issues, and it’s easy to feed your cat an appropriate diet with or without the occasional carroty treat.

Carrots may, in some animals cause a gastrointestinal upset - but this can happen with any new food introduced. Carrots may not suit the GI tract of all felines, and it’s not impossible that it could cause looser stools, diarrhoea or some vomiting.

Large chunks of carrots could be a choking hazard if ingested too quickly and not chewed. Most cats are sensible and won’t attempt to swallow a large chunk whole, but should be observed in case of this. Cooking carrot reduces the chances of an obstruction.

Remember: a cat is a carnivore and should be fed appropriately.

Can kittens eat carrots?

Eating a small piece of carrot will not harm a kitten but you should stick to feeding a good quality kitten food. Kitten foods are appropriately formulated for their growth stage, and contain all the essential nutrients they need to grow into an adult. Kittens are often more sensitive to dietary changes, and introducing human foods may cause a gastrointestinal upset.

Can pregnant cats eat carrots?

Pregnant cats (like kittens) need a balanced diet in order to stay in perfect health. Diets should provide enough energy for herself, the kittens and milk production. A carrot won’t harm the growing kittens or the mother, but sticking to good quality cat food is a much better idea.

Can cats drink carrot juice?

It is often hard to distinguish juices made of natural produce from those made artificially. Artificially flavoured drinks will often contain chemicals that may be toxic to cats and should be avoided at all costs. Real carrot juice is of some benefit to humans (as a source of vitamin A) but of none to cats. An accidental lick of carrot juice is unlikely to do any harm, but drinking too much may cause vomiting or diarrhoea. Cats should only drink water.

Can cats eat carrot cakes?

Cake is a tasty treat for humans, but isn’t suitable for cats. Cake contains fat and sugars, and is high in calories. The carrot in carrot cakes doesn’t make it healthy for humans - or for cats! We can’t always stop our cats from stealing human food, but items like cats should be stored safely away from our pets. Carrot cake isn’t good for your cat - no matter how much they beg for it.

What vegetables can a cat eat?

Cats don’t need vegetables. They are of no benefit to their health, but small quantities are unlikely to be detrimental - provided these are safe vegetables. Most cats won’t eat them at all, and this is fine. Vegetables like onions and garlic are never safe to feed to your pet, and your vet should be contacted if these have been ingested. Small amounts of pumpkin or blueberry, green beans or courgette aren’t going to cause problems, but they aren’t required in your cat’s meals.

What human foods can cats eat?

Cats need cat food. This should be meat based, and good quality. If fed a vegetable diet your cat will suffer nutrient deficiencies which could lead to serious health conditions. It’s best to give your cat specially formulated cat treats and a good quality cat diet; whether that is wet or dry, or both! Human foods might be something your cat is interested in, but it’s best to avoid this. Allowing them regular tastes of your food may make them more fussy, obese or you may unknowingly expose them to something toxic. Small amounts of fish like salmon or tuna, or meat such as chicken is safe as an occasional treat but shouldn’t be fed too often.

Speak to your vet if you have any concerns about your pets weight or diet, or changes in their appetite.