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Is Pumpkin Good for Cats?

Most cats are quite food-oriented and love to be given some "people food" from time to time. We must be cautious when giving human foods to our cats, though, because they can cause gastrointestinal irritation or even be toxic. However, one human food with surprising health benefits for cats is pumpkin.

Potential Benefits of Pumpkin for Cats

Here are some benefits that may be seen from feeding pumpkin to cats:

  • Fiber: One of the key nutritional qualities of pumpkin is that it is rich in fiber (the material from plants that cannot be broken down by enzymes in the body). It can have up to five grams of fiber per ½ cup serving (122 gm) and is also rich in moisture. Some of the ways fiber is beneficial to cats are as follows:
    • Weight control: Fiber promotes a feeling of fullness, even if fewer calories are being taken in. This can potentially aid in weight loss due to decreasing the physiological need to eat more food , but as with all dietary plans, consult your veterinarian first about your cat's specific needs.
    • Treatment of diarrhea: Pumpkin contains soluble fiber, and this can absorb excess water in the digestive tract, reducing or relieving diarrhea.
      Consult with your veterinarian if your cat has diarrhea for longer than 24 hours or immediately if it is accompanied by any other signs of illness.

    • Constipation: Conversely, a pumpkin's high fiber content can act as a laxative, which is a good thing because you want the GI tract to keep moving in a regular pattern. The combination of fiber and moisture can be of great benefit in creating bulk that stimulates bowel movements.
    • Hairball treatment: Hairballs in cats can be relieved by pumpkin through the same mechanism as it relieves constipation.
  • High nutrient content: Pumpkin is packed with nutrients that are beneficial for various bodily systems in cats.
    • Vitamin A helps maintain a healthy immune system and good vision.
    • Vitamin C is a cofactor for enzymatic reactions and collagen synthesis.
    • Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant and enzymatic activity regulator.
    • Alpha carotene is an antioxidant that prevents damage to cells.
    • Calcium supports cytoplasmic functions and mineralizes bones and teeth.
    • Iron contributes to cellular respiration, oxidation, and hemoglobin production.
    • Lutein supports the health of the eyes, skin, and coat.

How to Feed Pumpkin to Cats

There are some "do's and don't" when it comes to feeding pumpkin to your cat.

Don't Feed:

  • The stem: it is prickly and rough on the digestive tract.
  • Pumpkin skin may not digest well.
  • Pulp: don't feed the soft gooey material in the center of the pumpkin.
  • Raw pumpkin.
  • Canned or fresh pumpkin or pie filling with additives, fillers, spices, or sugar.
  • Jack-O-Lantern that has been cut and left out. Molds or bacteria may have grown on these pumpkins, and that will cause illness in cats.

What to Feed:

  • Fresh pumpkin seeds can be fed to cats, but clean and roast them at 350 °F for 1 hour first. Do not add any salt or spices. The shelf life for dry, roasted pumpkin seeds is less than a month. Grind the seeds before adding them to food.
  • 100% canned pumpkin without additives, fillers, spices, or sugar.
  • Fresh pumpkin that has been baked until soft. Remove the seeds, and allow the pumpkin to cool before feeding.

How Much Pumpkin to Feed Your Cat

  • Discuss the following recommendations with your veterinarian.
  • Use a level measuring spoon to ensure that you are using the right amount.
  • Adult cats: 1/2 teaspoon - 1 teaspoon pumpkin daily.
  • Pumpkin seeds: start with a very small amount, 1/16 to 1/8 teaspoon. For higher amounts, consult your veterinarian.

Most cats find pumpkin quite palatable. If your cat doesn't enjoy the taste, the pumpkin can be mixed into a wet feline diet.

At every step of the process of introducing pumpkin into your cat's diet, be mindful of the activity of the GI tract and the firmness and frequency of the stools.

How to Preserve Pumpkin

  • If you use the pumpkin up quickly, use a cat food can lid and refrigerate the extra.
  • If you use it slowly, portion it into an ice cube tray and freeze it (this is good for fresh or canned pumpkin). The pumpkin can be defrosted daily as you need it.
  • Pumpkin will spoil if it is at room temperature for an extended time.

It is often thought that more of a good thing is better. In this case, that isn't true. Too much pumpkin can result in destabilization of the GI tract. Pumpkin is a natural laxative. Remember to check with your veterinarian and err on the side of caution: start with less and work up to the desired amount. Ensure that your cat always has plenty of fresh, clean water.

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