Cats are known for being mischievous critters, and yours has certainly snuck some of your food before. While there are plenty of well known foods safe for cats, some are a little more ambiguous. What about potatoes? If your cat’s eaten some potato, or you’re worried about leaving some out, it can be questionable. Can cats eat potatoes, and is it safe?
When are Potatoes Safe to Eat?
There’s a big difference in cooked and raw potatoes when it comes to feline safety. If your cat eats a little of your baked potato, it might not be a huge deal. However, say you’re planning on making hashbrowns, and your cat eats some raw potato. That could be a problem.
The issue is that raw potatoes have glycoalkaloid solanine, which is toxic to cats. Of course, this toxic alkaloid isn’t really good for humans either, but it’s a bigger problem for cats.
When cooked, potatoes lose this alkaloid. Raw potatoes are never safe for cats to eat, regardless of the amount or type of potato. Cooked potatoes may be fine, if you’re careful.
The Types of Potatoes
Depending on the type of potato, the level of safety varies. We’re not necessarily talking about literal potato varieties (with the exception of sweet potatoes), but the processing is important.
Cooked potatoes lose the solanine alkaloid that’s toxic to cats, so some potatoes can be fine. For instance, if you boil or bake a potato, you can pretty much trust it won’t hurt your cat. However, we’re really talking about fully cooked potatoes without anything else added.
So if you make mashed potatoes without adding anything else (cream, butter, salt), it’s perfectly fine. Mashed potatoes from a box contain a lot of extra ingredients though, so avoid giving those to your kitty.
Marshmallows Cats – is it okay?
Any type of raw potato is toxic to cats, hands down, no exceptions. Even a small bit can really hurt your cat. If you find out that your cat’s eaten some raw potato, call your vet and get your cat in to see them asap.
Glycoalkaloid solanine isn’t just in the starchy ‘potato’ part of the plant. It’s also in the peel, which can be even easier for cats to get into. The alkaloid is also in the green parts of potatoes, so be careful and make sure your cat can’t get to any part of a raw potato before you cook it.
Even though cats can eat a lot of foods that humans do (to a certain point), remember that their bodies still work differently than ours. In particular, their digestive system simply can’t handle things the way ours does. While sweet potatoes are a tasty and nutritious option for humans, they’re not great for cats.
Technically, sweet potatoes aren’t toxic for cats. So if your cat sneaks a little bit, don’t worry too much. Still, if it’s a regular habit, it can have some pretty bad impacts on your cats health. Over time it can cause larger digestive issues, or nausea and vomiting.
Fries, Chips, and Processed Potatoes
Processed potato snacks, like fries and chips, are cooked so they don’t contain the toxic alkaloid. However, they do contain a lot of other extras that are bad for cats. These snacks are salty, fried in oils, and contain plenty of preservatives and other additives. Processed hashbrowns (like those you’d get from a fast food restaurant) are no different. They’re fried and very salty.
What About Potatoes in Baby Food?
Sweet potatoes are the top choice of any type of potatoes used in baby food. As we mentioned earlier, sweet potatoes really aren’t great for cats. These foods often also contain different veggies, additives, and sometimes sweeteners, so avoid ‘treating’ your cat with some baby food.
Can Your Cat Have Mashed Potatoes and Gravy?
It’s a holiday, and you want to treat your kitty with a taste of mashed potatoes and gravy. Is it safe? The mashed potatoes aren’t really the problem. As long as they’re fully cooked and don’t have any extras added in, a little bit is fine. The real problem is with the gravy. Gravy is salty, contains more fat that cats need, and it’s flavored too. Because it has seasonings, sodium, and plenty of other things, your cat shouldn’t be eating it.
Bear in Mind the Dangers
We already know that uncooked potatoes are dangerous for cats, and cooked potatoes aren’t so bad. Keep in mind that when it comes to cooked potatoes, it’s all about how the potatoes are cooked. If it’s boiled or baked, not fried, it can be a treat on a rare occasion.
However, you should really be careful about making potatoes a regular habit. Your cat’s food is designed to provide them with the full spectrum of nutrition they need. There’s really no necessity to add extras in their diet.
One danger of potatoes is the extra herbs and spices people like to add to them. In particular, garlic, chives, and onions pose a huge health threat to cats.
Even if you give your cat cooked potatoes with nothing else added, it’s a health risk over time. Potatoes are starchy and full of carbs. Just like a human consuming too many carbs, cats can end up gaining weight.
It’s often harder for cats to lose weight, especially as they age. Unfortunately, weight gain from eating too many potatoes can eventually lead to felines diabetes, or joint problems from supporting extra body weight.
If you really want to treat your cat to potatoes, make sure they’re prepared properly, without anything else added. Of course, it should only ever be a rare treat to avoid larger health issues.