Strawberries are fruit, and fruit is healthy—right? While that may be true for people, feeding fruit to cats isn’t common… So are strawberries good for cats, bad for cats, or even poisonous?
Can cats eat strawberries? They can; they aren’t toxic and won’t make your pet gain weight. However, there are better nutritional choices out there. Some cats enjoy eating fruit and are able to digest it, albeit not as efficiently as they can digest meat. Strawberries are not a close match for the cat’s nutritional needs, providing almost no protein and fat while also containing too much pure sugar (fructose). Since there are snacks which do meet these needs, it would be better to feed these instead, although it’s not the end of the world if you offer strawberries/fruit instead. Limit portion sizes to one tablespoon and feed infrequently (e.g. once a week) so that your cat doesn’t go off its normal diet and experience nutritional insufficiencies.
The guide below first looks at a couple of myths around the idea of the ‘obligate carnivore’, before looking at the precise nutritional content of strawberries and how exactly they fall short. It ends with some basic guidelines on how much fruit it’s safe to feed to a cat.
Can Cats Eat Strawberries?
Cats can eat strawberries. They aren’t toxic, they wont make your cat gain weight, and, perhaps surprisingly, cats can enjoy them.
But just because your cat can do something, doesn’t mean it should. Strawberries aren’t a good choice of snack for your cat. That’s because they aren’t nutritionally suitable: they contain too much of some things and not enough of other things. This wouldn’t be a major problem if you fed your cat strawberries one time. But if you fed your cat fruit of any kind consistently, this could cause nutritional deficiencies particularly with regard to fats and proteins. There’s also the fact that there are snacks which are nutritionally suitable for cats and which cats enjoy just as much if not more. There’s therefore no need to ever feed your cat strawberries/fruit.
Do Cats Like Strawberries?
Cats are often called obligate carnivores, but this term can be easily misunderstood. ‘Obligate carnivore’ means that an animal in the wild needs to eat meat to survive. The domestic cat and its ancestors are therefore biologically better equipped to eat meat, which is why they have sharp teeth for hunting, and short guts that specialize in breaking down meat. Cats also need certain things like vitamin B12, arachidonic acid and taurine which are difficult (although not impossible) for it to find from plant-based sources. However, there are a couple of important caveats to the term.
What ‘obligate carnivore’ doesn’t mean is that a cat will only eat meat. Cats can and do eat a wide variety of foods aside from meat, and thrive in the exact same way. That’s why some cats like to eat all sorts of food in the same way that a dog does: human foods, random foods like fruits and vegetables, or whatever happens to be in the bin on a certain day! In the wild, cats have to take what food they can get when there isn’t much food around.
Another caveat is that just because cats are better at digesting meat, that doens’t mean they cannot digest carbohydrates. They can, which is why large proportions of certain cat foods are carbohydrate. Wild cats have to be able to digest the food that’s in their prey’s stomachs (typically grass and seeds), which serves as essential roughage and provides a small amount of nutrition. All of this is to say that, yes, some cats will very much enjoy eating strawberries.
Why Shouldn’t Cats Eat Strawberries?
It’s one thing to say that strawberries aren’t like your cat’s typical diet, so you shouldn’t consider feeding them. But it’s another thing to actually analyze your cat’s nutritional needs, check how closely strawberries match those needs, and draw conclusions from that. That’s what this section of the guide is about.
Nutrients in Strawberries
Through the marvels of modern science, we know far more about nutrition than anybody ever has. The table below details the average nutritional content of 100g of strawberries (data from NutritionValue.org). These data are presented alongside the nutritional needs of the average cat.
|Nutrients||Amount per 100g||Cat RDA* per 100g|
|Carbohydrate||7.7g (4.9g sugar)||Variable**|
|Protein||0.7g||26-30g dry matter|
|Fat||0.3g||9g dry matter|
*Recommended daily allowance. **Varies based on wet food vs. dry food.
It should be obvious from the table why strawberries aren’t the best choice if you’re looking for a nutritional snack for your cat.
Carbohydrates & Fiber in Strawberries
As stated above, cats are able to digest carbohydrate, although not as well as they can digest fat and protein. The amount of carbs that strawberries contain isn’t a problem for a cat’s digestive system. Many cat foods contain lots more carbs than strawberries do per 100g, and cats digest these just fine.
What is a problem are strawberries’ pure sugar content. Broadly speaking, there are two different kinds of sugar that can be found in food: complex and simple carbohydrates. You’ve probably heard these terms before. A complex carbohydrate is made of lots of simple carbohydrates strung together like a chain. They’re more difficult to digest because the digestive has to break them apart before they can be absorbed. Simple sugars, by contrast, can be absorbed straight away as they are. Simple sugars are things like glucose, lactose and fructose (fructose being the kind of simple sugar that’s found in fruit).
The problem with having too much pure sugar in the diet is that it causes blood sugar level spikes. The amounts of pure sugar found in strawberries won’t cause type 2 diabetes all on their own, but if your cat is overweight, pre-diabetic, or diabetic, then this could be a problem.
As for fiber, this isn’t a problem in your cat’s diet. Cats are used to getting small amounts of roughage/fiber in their diets through their prey’s stomach contents, bones, fur, feathers and the like. The small amount that strawberries contain therefore won’t cause a problem.
Protein & Fat in Strawberries
Where strawberries are nutritionally unfit is in their protein and fat content. Protein and fat are the two most important nutrients to pay attention to in your cat’s diet, protein especially. Cats need lots of protein (roughly 30g per 100g of food) to maintain their relatively high level of muscle mass; cats have the bodies of lithe and agile predators, and without protein, they can’t maintain and/or build muscle. Cats need fat because they’re not good at absorbing carbs, so it’s an essential provider of calorific energy.
Meat contains lots of protein and fat. Strawberries don’t. In fact, there’s only 0.7g of protein and 0.3g of fat in 100g of strawberries. Cats need lots more (30g of protein and 9g of fat in 100g of food). This wouldn’t be an issue if you only fed small amounts of strawberry to your cat every once in a while. But if you fed your cat a large amount of strawberry every day—particularly to the point where your cat neglected its food to beg for snacks—it could experience nutritional deficiencies. Needless to say, that’s also the case if you fed your cat nothing but strawberries.
Another problem with the protein in strawberries is this: they aren’t complete proteins. Proteins are long strands made up of lots of amino acids chained together. Amino acids are called the ‘building blocks’ of protein for exactly that reason. Cats require 22 different amino acids to maintain health, only 11 of which they can create in their own bodies; the other 11 have to come from the diet. While it is possible to find each of these proteins in plants, meat contains all of them in one place (in the form of complete protein, i.e. protein that contains all of the amino acids a cat needs). A plant, by contrast, has some but not others; a wide variety of plants are needed to provide every protein, almost like separate jigsaw pieces being put together.
Water in Strawberries
Strawberries are almost entirely water (around 90%). Most fruits and vegetables are the same.
This may seem like a lot, but it wouldn’t be too much for your cat. Wild cats are used to eating raw prey, which is on average around 50-60% water. Furthermore cats get most of their water through their food rather than through drinking anyway, so even foods that are very high in water like strawberries shouldn’t be a problem. That being said, this high proportion of water would pose a problem if you fed your cat nothing but strawberries. This would result in your cat’s stools being much softer than usual, which wouldn’t be pleasant either for you or your cat (considering you would have to clean up after your cat goes to the toilet).
If anything, the fact that strawberries contain lots of water is a good thing. That’s because many cats struggle to get all the water they need from their diet. Cats prefer getting water from food rather than drinking it, so if you feed your cat kibble instead of wet food, it may not get enough. This can cause problems like kidney failure in later life. Strawberries as snacks would provide much-needed water to a cat that otherwise doesn’t get enough.
Calories in Strawberries
The calories in strawberries aren’t a major problem either. That’s because cats are used to eating calorie-dense meat. So, even though strawberries contain lots of sugar and are very easy to eat, they won’t make your cat gain weight in practical feeding scenarios.
It is, of course, possible for strawberries to make your cat gain weight. If your cat continued eating its normal maintenance diet, but added a few strawberries every day to that diet, they would eventually make it gain weight. But what would realistically happen is that your cat eats less food because the strawberries take up physical room in its stomach and gut. This means that any potential weight gain is balanced out when your cat eats less of its normal food.
Vitamins & Minerals in Strawberries
What people value fruits like strawberries for, though, is their vitamin and mineral content. Below is another table, again with data from NutritionValue.org, that lists the vitamins/minerals that strawberries contain large amounts of:
|Vitamin/Mineral||Amount per 100g|
That’s an impressive range of B vitamins, some important minerals, and of course, all-important vitamin C. The trouble is that when we approach pet nutrition with human nutrition in mind, it’s easy to make incorrect assumptions. One assumption here is that since strawberries contain vitamin C, they must be good for your cat. In reality, the vitamin C content of strawberries is irrelevant to your cat, and doesn’t make them any better (or worse, for that matter) for your cat.
The reason for this is cats are one of many animals that can synthesize their own vitamin C. In simple terms, this means they make their own vitamin C in their bodies. Your cat therefore doesn’t need to eat any vitamin C to maintain its health. Humans are actually the exception, because almost all other animals can do this apart from us. As such, the fact that strawberries contain vitamin C is irrelevant in terms of your cat’s health and whether they make a good snack.
As for the other vitamins and minerals, these can prove useful to cats. But again, don’t think of them as a reason why they make a suitable snack. The problem this time is that your cat should be getting all the vitamins and minerals it needs from its core diet. If it isn’t, then you should switch it to a better kind of cat food, or offer snacks that are more in line with your cat’s nutritional needs. Failing those two options, you can talk to a vet about nutritional supplements—and definitely not jump straight to feeding your cat fruit.
Are Strawberries Poisonous to Cats?
Strawberries aren’t poisonous to cats. Your cat can eat them with no complications barring those related to eating ridiculous amounts, like an entire bowl a day. That applies to the flesh of the fruit itself, the small seeds on the outside, and the stalk/leaves on top. Every part of a strawberry is edible, and unlike certain other fruits, no part (like the seeds or leaves) contains any kind of poison, in small amounts or large.
Are Cats Allergic to Fruit?
Cats aren’t allergic to strawberries, and aren’t allergic to fruit. Certain kinds of fruit can cause stomach problems, but not in the sense of an allergic reaciton. Citrus peel, for example,
It is hypothetically possible for your cat to be allergic to fruits. However, this would be something that developed in your cat on its own, in the same way that a person can randomly be born with a certain allergy. There is no species-wide allergy towards fruit in cats.
Is Fruit Poisonous to Cats?
This is a good question, because there are some fruits which are poisonous to cats, and some fruits which aren’t. Strawberries are an example of a fruit that isn’t poisonous.
Other fruits like apples are somewhere in between. The flesh of an apple isn’t poisonous to a cat, although the exact same concerns about nutritional insufficiency apply. However, the seeds of an apple contain small amounts of cyanide, so it’s best that your cat doesn’t ingest them. Cherries are the same: the flesh is fine, but the pit contains cyanide just like an apple seed.
Other fruits are bad for different reasons. It’s well-known that cats don’t like citrus, but that’s not because citrus is poisonous. Rather, it’s because citrus fruits are highly aromatic, and cats have sensitive senses of smell. The smell of citrus fruits like lemons and oranges is therefore overwhelming for a cat, hence why people say citrus peel keeps cats out of gardens and the like. And while a person could eat an orange peel, a could would experience gastrointestinal distress if it did—although a cat never would.
What you won’t find are fruits that have flesh which is poisonous to cats. The only exception are raisins, which can cause acute kidney failure. The reason why they do isn’t clear, but it’s clear that they do.
How Many Strawberries Can Cats Eat?
Because of the health concerns described above, it would be best for you to feed your cat a more appropriate snack, e.g. something made from meat. These snacks meet your cat’s nutritional requirements, and cats love them.
However, if you are planning on feeding your cat strawberries, you can do so. There are certainly worse foods that you can choose to give to a cat, so while our key advice is to pick another snack, it’s also not the end of the world if you pick strawberries instead. Just ensure that you don’t stop your cat from eating its normal diet by feeding too many. Limit the amount of strawberry you feed your cat to one spoonful, ideally chopped into small chunks that your cat can easily chew and swallow. By only feeding a small amount, you won’t put your cat off its food, so it will still get the nutrition it needs.
How Often Can Cats Eat Strawberries?
Again, it’s best if you limit the amount of strawberry that your cat eats. One way is by only feeding small amounts; another way is by only feeding strawberry infrequently. Set a basic schedule so that you only feed your cat a snack once a week. This means that the nutritional insufficiency of strawberries won’t become a problem in the short or long term.
This is good advice no matter what snack you feed your cat. If you give your cat constant snacks, it will learn to beg so that it can have more and more. If you only feed snacks on a schedule, e.g. one snack every Saturday night, then your cat will learn that it can’t get snacks through yowling and begging.
Should Cats Eat Strawberries?
Overall, no; strawberries aren’t a good choice of snack. There are far better choices of snack out there that provide your cat with the nutrients it needs, which your pet will love. There’s no rational justification for feeding strawberries instead.
That being said, strawberries are far from the worst choice you could make. They are low in calories, so won’t make your cat gain weight; they contain water, which can prove useful for a cat that doesn’t get much water from other places; they’re cheap and easy to find, and you may already have some in your house. As such, feel free to consider offering them to your cat, but remain aware that too many could stop your cat from getting the nutrition it needs from its diet.