We love dates. They are delectable, nutritious, and have a bundle of health benefits for us. But not all that is safe for us need not be safe for our cats as well. Like everything else, this is true for dates as well.
Can Cats Eat Dates?
Cats can eat dates, but in a limited quantity and under supervision. Technically speaking, dates are not toxic or poisonous to cats, but their high sugar content, along with decreased nutritional value for cats, does not make them an ideal treat for your cat to nibble on.
Health Benefits of Dates to a Cat
Dates contain many healthy nutrients like proteins, fiber, manganese, iron, and copper. They also have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acid. These nutrients help minimize damage to cats’ cells, especially the immune system’s cells. Additionally, dates are a rich source of B complex vitamins, selenium, and potassium. These electrolytes promote your feline friend’s cardiovascular and eye health, along with boosting her immune system.
However, the risks posed by dates outweigh the benefits they provide, as most of the nutrients present in dates are unnecessary for cats. A high amount of sugar can cause tooth decay, obesity, and atherosclerosis, while a considerable amount of fiber can cause a stomach upset in your cat. These health concerns will be discussed further.
Cats lack a sweet receptor on their tongue. Therefore it isn’t possible for them to relish or crave the sweetness of dates. Your feline friend might always show interest in what you are eating, but that doesn’t mean that they will enjoy it.
The skin of the date cannot be adequately chewed by a cat’s teeth, causing it to stick to her palate or throat. Be sure to remove the skin and the hard pit inside the date. Both of these pose a choking hazard to them. Dates may be chopped into small and digestible chunks or even better, ground in a food processor. For softening and tenderizing them, dates can be boiled in plain hot water to make them easier to chew and swallow. Despite following these steps, dates should not be a regular constituent of your cat’s staple diet.
Here is why.
Cats need a maximum of 200 – 250 calories per day. Dates alone contain 67 calories. This means that consuming only one date can push your cat’s calorie intake to unhealthy levels, especially when combined with other meals. This may cause your cat to put on a few unhealthy pounds. A cat’s digestive system is designed to consume and digest ingredients like meat, chicken, turkey, and other forms of protein. The high amount of fiber in dates cannot be easily absorbed by a cat’s gut. Therefore, consuming only two or three dates might make your kitty’s gut movement become erratic, causing her diarrhea and vomiting.
What to Do if Cats Become Unwell After Having Dates?
There is no need to panic if your cat has consumed dates. Observe and monitor her for any adverse effects closely. Make sure that she has regular and normal bowel movements. If you notice that your cat is passing loose stools or is vomiting, be quick to contact your vet. Excessive diarrhea and vomiting can lead to dehydration that may prove life-threatening for your sweet pet. If you find your cat gagging or choking, seek immediate veterinary care.
Possible Health Concerns of Cats Eating Dates
Feeding dates to cats can cause many health risks. A few of them are listed below.
Dates naturally have a purgative effect and accelerate bowel movements. This might prove hazardous for your furry friend and can wreak havoc on your cat’s digestive system. Feeding dates may cause diarrhea and vomiting in your cat. If the situation gets worse, you must consult your vet.
Some cats may suffer from constipation, but self-medicating and feeding her dates is not recommended. This will only worsen the problem—therefore, it is best to consult a qualified vet.
Dates contain a hard pit or seed in the center. Though humans are able to remove it, cats are not. This may get stuck in your cat’s trachea, causing her breathing difficulty or to gag, which could even lead to her death. Once swallowed by a cat, date pits may cause an intestinal obstruction. Moreover, dates have a sticky texture, which is hard to chew and swallow. Dates’ skin can stick to their mouth and throat, making it difficult for felines to eat it.
Dates have a gooey and sticky texture causing them to accumulate in your kitty’s teeth. Knowing that cats do not brush their teeth, the high sugar content of dates won’t do much to benefit your cat’s dental health either. Tooth decay will follow due to dental plaque and tartar formation. Furthermore, sugary foods support and hasten inflammatory and degradation processes.
Dates are roughly 70 – 80% sugar. The high amount of calories and carbohydrates, in addition to other meals, will cause your pet to gain an unhealthy amount of weight which may lead to obesity. The increased amount of spikes in blood sugar levels will cause cats to be more at risk of diabetes and hypertension, resulting in other health complications.
Alternative to Dates for Cats
If you’re set to give your cat a treat, there are always better options than dates that they can actually taste and relish on. These include chicken, beef, or lamb, along with fruits and vegetables like celery, broccoli, cucumber, zucchini, asparagus, and blueberries.
The bottom line is that dates are non-toxic to your feline fellow. However, eating dates will cause her more health risks than benefits that have been discussed in detail above. You can go for other healthier and better alternatives than dates that your cat can snack on. Otherwise, always keep the number of dates below one—a quarter of date, maybe? Always be sure to do your homework and consult with your vet before making any significant dietary changes for your pet. This will save you from trouble, all the while ensuring a healthy and happy lifestyle for your beloved cat.