You may have wondered why some cat food manufacturers include tomatoes in their food recipes. And you may have heard that some people claim tomatoes are bad for cats, if not even poisonous.
So why do some kitty foods include tomatoes? Can cats eat tomatoes safely?
Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that have both a yes and no answer. It depends on numerous factors, including your own pet’s tolerance towards acidity, as well as on the type of tomatoes.
But don’t worry, I’ll explain everything you need to know in further detail below.
What’s the deal with tomatoes in cat foods?
Some cat foods are based on a limited-ingredient recipe, whereas others use a plethora of different ingredients. You may find tomatoes in the latter ones.
Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, potassium and fiber.
All of these are essential for kitties of all breeds and ages. However, there are better (meaning more nutritious) sources of these crucial nutrients than tomatoes.
Cats benefit way more from other vegetables when it comes to dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
I’m not a fan of cat foods with tomatoes. They’re a bit too acidic and the tomatoes are stacked in there as fillers instead of actual nutrients.
Felines have different nutritional requirements than humans. As such, tomatoes aren’t as healthy for them as they are for people.
My advice? Stick to high-quality cat food that’s based on meat and derives fiber from green veggies or fruits with anti-oxidant properties.
But are tomatoes safe for cats to eat?
In some cases, tomatoes are indeed perfectly safe for cats to eat, whereas in others they pose a toxic danger.
The following factors play a key role in defining exactly how safe tomatoes will be for your cat. Of course, keep in mind that they can’t be universally applied to every single furball out there.
- The part of the plant (stem, leaves, fruit)
- The type of tomato (raw or cooked, ripe or unripe, less or more acidic)
- Your cat’s tolerance towards acidity and fiber intake
- Any current health complications
As I said, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no. There’s a chance your kitty’s digestive system won’t tolerate tomatoes, be they raw or cooked. However, there’s also a chance that this popular fruit (yes, the tomato is a fruit) won’t harm your furball.
When are tomatoes toxic to cats?
Tomato plants, similarly to potato plants, do pose some health risks to cats and other animals. Some toxins found in the tomato plant can cause gastrointestinal complications and other problems.
If your pet is trying to eat the leaves or stems of a tomato plant, you have to intervene immediately. The same goes for the fruit of unripe tomatoes.
In general, cats won’t find unripe tomato fruits or tomato plants appealing.
Unfortunately, kitties are curious and unpredictable. If they do happen to ingest some of the toxins, they might suffer some health complications. Diarrhea, dilated pupils, vomiting, loss of appetite and other symptoms will occur depending on the severity of the toxicity.
The same toxic reactions can happen to dogs. The Pet Poison Helpline has a short article on the subject. I’d follow their advice and call the vet immediately if your cat has gone near a tomato plant.
Apart from unripe fruits, leaves or stems, tomatoes can also be harmful to cats in the following forms:
- Tomato soups
- Pre-packaged tomato juices
- Store-bought tomato-based sauces
Don’t ever feed any of the above-mentioned items to your cat!
Ketchup and other tomato sauces are heavily processed and preserved with tons of chemicals. What’s more, they often contain seasonings that could trigger an allergic or toxic reaction.
The tomato juices from your local store are just as bad. Nothing in them is 100% all-natural, contrary to what you’ll read on the label.
And lastly, tomato soups are also bad for cats, even if they’re homemade. Let’s face it, you’ve put some herbs, spices, and seasonings in there, haven’t you? Furthermore, that tomato soup can’t offer anything beneficial that will satisfy your pet’s dietary needs.
When are tomatoes safe for cats?
The fruit of ripe red tomatoes is safe for cats under the following conditions:
- Moderate amounts
- Unseasoned, fresh fruits
- No current health complications
Should your pet have any diseases or a sensitive stomach, you shouldn’t press your luck with tomatoes. However, if the kitty is overall healthy, nothing will happen if it munches on a slice or two.
Keep in mind that there are far more nutritious fruits and vegetables (spinach, pumpkin, blueberries, peas, green beans, etc) that offer a healthy dose of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and all other benefits that tomatoes have. They are healthier options that won’t upset your pet’s stomach. And hey, they’ll be tastier than a slice of raw tomato!