If you’ve ever taken a good look at the ingredients list on the back of a bag of cat food (which you should totally do, by the way) you may notice some unusual ingredients.
While pet food companies have spent millions of dollars attempting to ensure that their foods contain all the best ingredients for optimal feline nutrition, not all cat foods are created equal. Many contain fillers (usually carbohydrates) that contain little to no nutritional value.
One ingredient that may give you pause is the potato. It certainly wouldn’t be a part of your cat’s diet in the wild, but can cats eat potatoes? Or is it simply a filler used to bulk up the food?
Perhaps more importantly, can you share a bit of your potato dish with your feline friend?
Potatoes are one of those tricky human foods that can be harmless in some instances and toxic in others.
In this article we’ll cover the following:
Potatoes are a staple food in the diets of human beings all over the world. First cultivated millennia ago, they’ve found their way into cuisines across the globe.
While they certainly seem innocuous enough, potatoes and cats don’t always mix. Their safety depends on one crucial element: whether or not the potato is cooked.
So, cats can eat potatoes, but only some of the time.
It’s not a good idea to give a kitten potato. While small amounts of cooked potato are unlikely to do your kitten any harm, potatoes contain no real nutritional benefit for kittens.
Because kittens are growing like weeds, they require optimal nutrition and should only be consuming nutrient-rich calories. That’s why it’s so important to choose a high-quality kitten food.
Whether you opt for wet food or dry (though we recommend dry, both because it helps keep their teeth healthy and because it helps prevent pickiness as adults), you should look for a kitten food that lists meat as the first ingredient and contains limited, high-quality grains, such as Blue Freedom kitten food.
With their white flesh and mild flavor, it’s easy to assume that potatoes won’t do your cat any harm. And in many instances it’s absolutely the case. Cooked potatoes, as long as they are only eaten in small quantities, are very unlikely to do your cat any harm.
Raw potatoes are a different story. Before they are cooked, the skin of potatoes contains a substance called “glycoalkaloid solanine.” This substance is poisonous to our feline friends.
Green potatoes, uncooked potatoes, and raw potato peels contain glycoalkaloid solanine and are toxic to cats.
In fact, potatoes belong to the “Solanaceae” family of plants, which includes the deadly nightshade.
So while it’s not the end of the world if your cat manages to take a bit of your baked potato, be very careful to store raw potatoes well out of your cat’s reach.
If your cat manages to eat some raw potato (though it’s unlikely that your cat will find it appetizing), be sure to keep a close eye on them and bring them to the vet if you notice any signs that they may be suffering toxicity.
Signs of toxicity in cats include:
This cat is enjoying potatoes in the safest way possible…by playing with one!
Yes, and sweet potatoes in small quantities can make a nice sweet treat for your cat (though pumpkin is even better). Yams, which are similar to sweet potatoes, can also be consumed in small quantities as long as they’re cooked. Since sweet potatoes are not in the nightshade family like regular potatoes, they do not contain the toxic compound “solanine” when raw.
It’s important to know which type of sweet potato you are giving your cat, though. There are many different types of sweet potato, some of whose vines contain properties that can be toxic to cats.
As long as given in very small quantities, a little bit of sweet potato can be a healthy addition to your cat’s diet. If your cat has a taste for them, prepare a plain, unseasoned potato and offer them a tiny bit.
If your cat shows any sign of digestive upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea, don’t offer them sweet potato again. If your cat doesn’t improve within 24 hours, bring them to the vet.
Yes. Since mashed potatoes are cooked, they do not contain any toxic substances. However, mashed potatoes often contain lots of extra goodies, such as butter, sour cream, or bacon, none of which are particularly healthy for cats.
So while it’s ok for your cat to eat a little bit of plain mashed potato, it’s best to keep the seasoned mashed potatoes away from them.
This cat is enjoying a bit of mashed potato…but careful…it might be hot!
Yes, in most cases.
Instant potatoes are simply dehydrated potatoes. Since they are often precooked before being dehydrated, they are unlikely to be toxic to your cat. However, they also contain additives such as butter and salt which are not good for cats, so keep their instant mashed potato enjoyment to a minimum.
Honestly, there aren’t really any benefits to feeding your cat potato. While potatoes contain a variety of nutrients that are beneficial to the health of human beings, cats derive all of their nutrition from their food.
Because cats really shouldn’t be eating too many “extras,” it’s especially important to choose a healthy cat food. While there are many varieties on the market, there are a few things you should look out for. The most important thing is that meat is listed as the primary ingredient, just like it is with Blue Wilderness Chicken cat food.
Raw potatoes, including the peels, are very toxic to cats and should not be given to them under any circumstances. In fact, it’s a good idea to store raw potatoes in a place where your cat can’t reach them, such as in a locked cabinet.
Even when cooked, potatoes are very starchy and essentially made up entirely of carbohydrates, which can be difficult for your cat to digest.
While small quantities of potato are unlikely to make your cat sick, if your cat gets their paws on a larger quantity, they may suffer from digestive upset which is characterized by diarrhea and vomiting.
So while cooked potatoes are unlikely to cause your cat any harm, you don’t want to go overboard and offer them more than a tiny taste. Which is actually pretty similar to how cats should be with beets as well.
While cooked potatoes don’t pose any danger to cats as long as they are eaten in very small quantities, the reality is that potatoes don’t contain much in the way of nutritional value for our feline friends.
It may be tempting to consider potatoes a vegetable, but from a nutritional point of view they are more like a carbohydrate. Most cat foods already contain all the carbohydrates that your cat needs (and they don’t need a lot) so it’s not necessary to offer your cat any supplemental carbs.
Luckily, you have plenty of options if you want to give your cat something besides meat. Instead of giving your cat a little bit of potato as a treat, you can purchase commercial cat treats that contain vegetables and fruits as well as meat.
A great option is a treat that combines meat and fruit and veggies is Wellness Kittles, which contain cranberry.
While raw potatoes (including the plant itself, the skin, and the flowers) are toxic for cats, cooked potatoes don’t pose any threat to your cat’s health as long as they are eaten in small quantities.
That being said, potatoes don’t really have much nutritional benefit for cats. If you want to give your cat a special treat, offering them a high-quality commercial treat such as Wellness Kittles is a better idea. Alternatively, you can simply give them little pieces of cooked, unseasoned meat, such as shrimp.
Is your cat crazy for potatoes? How do you satisfy their cravings without sacrificing their health? Let us know in the comments; we want to hear all about it!
After moving to New York City from Rome, Italy, I began working in the nonprofit world. Despite my day job, my passion has always been animals, especially dogs and cats, and writing. What better way to combine the two? I’ve been a pet owner for 15 years, and my menagerie includes dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional hermit crab. My beloved cat, Mozart, who I found as a newborn kitten, sparked my love for felines and is now nearly 15 years old. I am an enthusiastic volunteer at the local ASPCA, where I enjoy spending time with the cats and cleaning up after the dogs. I’ve been writing about pet ownership and care for the past five years.