Can Cats Eat Yams? - Cat Kingpin
Can Cats Eat Yams

Can Cats Eat Yams?

Many pet-parents are always on the lookout for ways to enhance their cat’s nutrition while bringing some variety to their meals. Oftentimes, this means adding healthy vegetables, such as yams, to the cat’s diet.

While yams may be healthy food for people, are they actually good for your cat to eat?

And, what exactly is a yam? It’s just a type of sweet potato, right?

In this article we’ll cover the following:

  • Cats and Yams, What You Need to Know
  • Can Cats Eat Yams?
  • Can Kittens Eat Yams?
  • Benefits/Drawbacks to Cats Eating Yams
  • Healthy Alternatives to Yams for Cats

Cats and Yams, What You Need to Know

Most people have heard of yams, but might not know that the edible tuber commonly referred to as a “yam” in North America is actually a variety of sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas. True yams, which are an important dietary staple in parts of Africa and Asia, are the tubers of an unrelated plant species in the genus Dioscorea and are pretty rare in North America unless you shop at an international  or specialty market.

True yams and sweet potato “yams” do share many superficial similarities. Both are rich in complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber, and they are close enough in color and texture to be able to be substituted one for another in most recipes.

Sweet potatoes, however, are much higher in vitamins A and C, while true yams are sweeter and contain much higher levels of potassium. Both sweet potatoes and yams are low-protein foods and are not a good source of essential amino acids.

Despite the fact that both sweet potatoes or yams are low in many of the nutrients your cat actually needs for a balanced diet, many kittys do seem to like them. Let’s watch the video below and see.

Can Cats Eat Yams?

Yes, your cat can eat yams and sweet potatoes! Yams can be a tasty and fun treat for your cat, if your cat is interested in them.

Since cats don’t generally like sweet things, don’t be surprised if they simply aren’t interested in yams.

The main thing to remember is that your yam needs to be cooked until it’s soft before cutting it up and giving it to your cat. Also, you need to limit the amount of yams your cat eats because too much can cause digestive problems.

Can Kittens Eat Yams?

Kittens tend to be even more susceptible than adult cats to most things because they are tiny and have not yet fully developed. Though rare, any toxins in yams are more likely to affect a kitten than an adult cat.

Similarly, kittens could be more sensitive to the laxative effects from the fiber in yams. This could cause diarrhea, possibly leading to dehydration and a trip to the vet.

Instead of yams, why not try giving your kitten a healthy kitten food like Blue Wilderness kitten food? This type of food has everything your kitten needs to grow up big and strong, and without anything that could cause harm.

Benefits/Drawbacks to Cats Eating Yams

While yams and sweet potatoes are generally a safe snack for your cat, you should know they won’t really benefit much nutritionally from eating them. This is because cats are obligate carnivores, which means all they really need to eat is meat.

In fact, cats are actually very bad at deriving nutrition from plants.

For example, humans don’t produce enough vitamin C in their livers, so they must eat oranges, grapefruit, and other vitamin C-rich foods, like sweet potatoes, or they will end up getting scurvy.

While cats need vitamin C to survive, they generally don’t need any additional vitamin C added to their diets. This is because cats make plenty of vitamin C in their own livers, so they don’t need to eat plant-based foods to get enough.

It won’t hurt your cat to get a little extra; they just don’t require it.

Similarly, yams and sweet potatoes contain moderate amounts of fiber. Cats don’t need fiber in their diet, and eating food containing fiber can have a laxative effect on cats resulting in runny stools and messy litter boxes.

Additionally, while true yams are not generally considered toxic to cats, the immature tubers of white and yellow yams may contain polyphenols or tannin-like compounds. These substances can act as anti-nutrients, interfering with your cat’s ability to utilize the vitamins and minerals in their regular food by inhibiting the action of the digestive enzymes that are essential for proper nutrient absorption.

Healthy Alternatives to Yams for Cats

There are many healthy alternatives to feeding your cat yams. First, if you can’t find true yams where you live, try sweet potatoes. Your cat will never know the difference!

Pumpkin, which has a similar consistency as yams, can also be healthy and fun for your cat. What’s most important, though, is to make sure your cat is eating a healthy, high-quality, meat-based cat food like Castor & Pollux Organix Dry Cat Food Chicken and Sweet Potato Recipe.

And, instead of trying to get your cat to eat yams, how about sending them out on the street to sell yams and bring home some extra money?

If you think I’m kidding, just watch the following video:

Ok, I might have been joking, but I love Japan, even if I don’t understand everything about the culture!

So, Can Cats Eat Yams?

Now you know that cats can eat yams, though true yams are difficult to find outside of Africa and specialty markets. Sweet potatoes, which are often referred to as yams, are a ready substitute in North America.

Because of their sweet taste, not all cats are interested in eating yams.

If you decide to give you cat or kitten yams, just follow these simple steps:

  • Wash the outside of your yam thoroughly and cook it until it’s soft before cutting it up and giving it to your cat.
  • Give yams to your cat in moderation as too much could cause your cat to have indigestion and loose stools for a day or two.
  • If you do want to incorporate the next best thing to yams, sweet potatoes, into your cat’s diet on a regular basis, consider a high-quality cat food like Organix Chicken and Sweet Potato Recipe, which provides all the nutrients your cat needs.
  • For a special treat, you can also try Merrick’s Thanksgiving Dinner canned cat food, which has satisfied the cravings of even the most finicky cats.
  • Another healthy treat for cats is Herbsmith Sassy Cat Freeze Dried Cat Turkey and Sweet Potato Treats, the perfect snack for cats that love yams!

If you have any questions or would like to share a story about your cat and yams, please tell us in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Phil R.

Phil’s lifelong love of animals began as a young boy growing up with three pet dogs. As a teenager and young adult, Phil spent six years working as a veterinary technician, later earning a B.S. in Animal Science. After college, Phil continued working as a vet tech part-time while caring for a private collection of mountain lions used in wildlife educational programs. During this time, Phil volunteered at the Dallas Zoo and was eventually offered a position as a zookeeper in the zoo’s naturalistic Wilds of Africa area. Phil became the primary keeper for a black leopard named “Grady” and a caracal named “Tut” in the predator/prey exhibit.

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