Potatoes are a staple in most households. They go well as a side for anything, they are great for all meals, and they are generally pretty affordable. They’re also easy to grow! So, all in all, potatoes are found everywhere and that means cats can get into them as well. Should you worry about your cat trying some of your mashed potatoes or getting into potato skins?
Can cats eat potatoes or their skin?
Well, the answer is both yes and no, depending on the circumstances. Cooked potatoes, in particular plain cooked potatoes, are generally safe for cats to eat, so long as they are not mixed in with a lot of butter, milk, and salt. Raw potatoes on the other hand are quite toxic, with effects running from a simple upset tummy to an emergency trip to the vet. And it depends on how the potato is prepared and what kind it is.
If your cat wants to try some potato, you’ll definitely want to follow some guidelines:
- Plain boiled, mashed, or cooked potatoes are best. And only a small amount
- Most sweet potatoes will give most cats a tummy ache.
- Fried potatoes (fries, chips) can give your cat a stomach-ache and in the long term, can cause health problems.
- Raw potato can be fatal if a cat eats too much and even if they only eat a little, can cause vomiting and diarrhea since raw potato is toxic (Raw sweet potato is not toxic; however, cats may have a bad reaction to it)
- Even plain boiled potatoes should just be considered a once-in-a-which treat and should only be given in small amounts.
Do Cats Like Potatoes?
A cat begging for a bit of potato is probably more curious about what you’re eating than actually wanting to eat it. Cats are obligate carnivores – they need a diet of meat in order to be healthy. Potatoes do have some vitamins and minerals in them that cats can make use of, but not in any high amount and too many potatoes won’t do anything good for cats.
However, some cats may enjoy the texture of mashed potatoes while others might like the salt. My cat will actually try to lick salt and vinegar chips, much to my son’s amusement. And there may well be some cats that genuinely like the flavor of potatoes! You just never know with cats.
Do Cats Hate Potatoes?
There are cats that like potatoes, so it follows there will be cats that probably won’t like potatoes. If this is your cat, don’t worry about it. Potatoes are nothing more than a treat for cats and they will not suffer for not eating them.
Can Potatoes Kill Cats?
The issue with potatoes is that they can absolutely be fatal if they are not cooked or they are prepared in an unhealthy way.
Raw potatoes are quite toxic to cats and can be a choking hazard because they are very hard. Raw potatoes contain glycoalkaloid solanine which is a compound that the potato produces in order to protect itself from getting eaten. As a result, it’s very toxic, not only to cats but to humans as well. Raw potatoes at best will likely cause an upset stomach. At worst, it can mean a trip to the vet as it is poisonous. And as stated before, raw potato is also a choking hazard.
Prepared potatoes can also be hazardous though. In this case, it’s more about how they are prepared and what else is on them. Plain potato that has been well cooked and in small amounts will usually be fine once in a while. But when you start loading on the salt, oils, butter, and other seasonings, they get increasingly harder on a cat’s system, making it more likely to make them ill.
This means that things like French fries (unless they are plain and only once in a while and baked, not fried), potato chips, and loaded baked potatoes are out of the question. (Sorry old cat who likes to lick chips…)
And a diet that is too heavy in potatoes will cause problems simply because it means cats aren’t getting the nutrition they actually need. The high carbohydrate amount in potatoes for example can quickly lead to weight gain and diabetes.
Sweet potatoes and yams are not well generally well tolerated by cats at all (even when cooked) because cats cannot usually digest them. This leads to stomach issues. They aren’t toxic and a small bit of mash probably won’t hurt your cat in a fatal way, but if your cat does have some, monitor it after for signs of stomach issues. Some organizations, like the ASPCA, classify yams and sweet potatoes as toxic while others simply say to monitor after eating and call the vet if unsure.
How Many Potatoes Are Safe for Your Cat?
Assuming you are sticking with plain boiled or mashed potatoes, a tablespoon or so mixed in with their regular food is probably the most they will need. Potatoes can also be offered as well-cooked, small-diced pieces with no seasonings. Potatoes should be fed as a special treat, not as a meal replacement.
The Benefits of Potatoes for Cats
Although cats should get most of their nutrients from a well-balanced diet of good quality cat food, potatoes do offer some small nutritional value. Potatoes are a source of:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
Potatoes are very carb-heavy too which is why you should only let your cat have a small amount (And why most humans shouldn’t have too much either!)
However, since cats can only have a very small amount, these nutrients are in such trace amounts that basically the benefits of potatoes to cats is really nothing. Sometimes the extra bit of fiber can aid with digestion, but otherwise, there’s not enough in a treat size amount of potato to be very meaningful.
What is the Best Way to Prepare Potatoes for Your Cat?
The best way for cats to have potatoes is to have them plain, well cooked, and then mashed or diced up in small pieces. They should not be served with any seasoning or toppings and can be mixed in with their regular food to add a bit of fiber and some interesting texture.
Potatoes aren’t the worst thing to feed your cat, but they aren’t really the best thing either. They are carb-heavy, they don’t have a lot of extra nutritional value, and raw or undercooked potato can cause stomach problems or be a choking hazard. But if your cat snuck part of a French fry or enjoys a bit of plain potato with their regular food, don’t worry too much about it. As long as the potato is well cooked and doesn’t have seasonings, it’s safe enough to eat, if not particularly healthy.
Does your cat like potatoes? Or does it go after potato chips like my geriatric feline?