A popular tropical summer staple, coconut can be found in everything from pies to fruity warm-weather cocktails. Coconuts are technically a fruit, nut, and seed that are all rolled into one, and after harvesting from the tree, it can be processed into a variety of different products, from coconut meat to milk to oil.
Some curious kittens may be attracted to its strong and fresh aroma. But can you share some coconuts with your cat?
Is coconut safe for cats?
For starters, sharing a slice of coconut cream pie is not the same as giving your kitty some regular grated coconut. If you’re considering sharing coconut with your cat, keep in mind that it must always be the most natural, unprocessed coconut, as added sugars and other ingredients can be harmful to pets.
Coconuts are not toxic to cats, and experts believe they can occasionally eat coconut if they happen to like its taste. So you can safely give your cat a little coconut every once in a while – as long as the risk of diarrhea doesn’t bother you.
Dangers of Feeding Cat Coconuts
As always, there are some caveats to this rule. First, be sure to consult your veterinarian before offering any human food to your cat, as every feline has different health needs, your veterinarian can advise you on the best food for your quadruped friend food.
Additionally, coconut is high in fat—the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut are not safe for a large number of pets. Eating too much coconut over time can lead to a buildup of fat, leading to hepatic steatosis, a condition found in cats that occurs when the liver contains too much fat. This condition is dangerous and can be life-threatening.
Other health problems associated with coconut’s high fat content are hyperlipidemia or pancreatitis. Since coconuts are also high in calories, there is always a risk of obesity and other weight-related problems in cats if they eat them regularly.
What about coconut milk, water or oil?
So what about coconut milk? Coconut milk is made by soaking shredded coconut meat in water and then straining it, and it is sometimes used as a milk substitute. It’s a misconception that cats can and should drink milk. While many kittens love the taste, their bodies don’t handle dairy very well (they lack the enzymes needed to break down lactose), and drinking milk often ends up giving them diarrhea and other tummy problems. As far as coconut milk is concerned, it has the added benefit of being less likely to give your cat diarrhea – however, the fat and calories in coconut milk can cause cats similar problems to coconut meat itself.
For all these reasons, cat owners may not want to give coconut to kittens, cats with sensitive stomachs, or cats with health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease. The same rule applies to coconut milk and coconut water.
A liquid found in unripe green coconuts, coconut water doesn’t actually contain much fat at all — however, it’s rich in potassium (which is what makes it such a popular healthy drink for humans). But the problem with potassium in cats is that it can cause hyperkalemia, a toxic excess of potassium that acidifies a cat’s blood and can even affect their heart function. Therefore, coconut water should not be offered to cats.
Another way to give your kitty a coconut flavor is to use coconut oil, which the cat can taste in small amounts (like adding a few drops to wet food). Even better, it can be used when baking homemade kitty treats. But again, don’t forget about its high fat content, which poses a risk to pets.
Since many people have discovered the beauty benefits of coconut oil, keep in mind that it can also be used on cat fur to soften tangles and promote healthy, shiny coats. Just like human skin, coconut oil is also effective in treating any exposed or irritated skin on cats. The vitamin E and fats in coconut oil are effective in soothing and moisturizing sore skin in felines and humans.