A healthy human diet starts with vegetables, even more so leafy greens. But it’s not always the case for our fellow companions. In order to keep them safe, you must be aware of the risks and the state of your furry friend’s health before introducing something new to their diet. Because though a cat can benefit from spinach, it could do the complete opposite.
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Can Cats Eat Spinach?
The answer is YES, but there are some caveats.
Is Spinach Healthy for Cats?
Yes, it can be. Spinach is low in calories, which will prevent weight gain. Plus, there are plenty of organic cat foods out there that contain a small percentage of spinach. Just be considerate of your cat’s medical needs. If your cat is predisposed to bladder issues and bladder stones, and already taking medication for those issues, or is averse to spinach, do not force it on them.
Can Cats Eat Too Much Spinach?
With that being said, if you do find yourself among the category of pet owners who can and want to give their cat some spinach, please do so wisely. It is possible for a cat to consume too much spinach. The reason for this is being the high number of oxalates present in spinach.
Oxalate is a negatively charged ion that naturally forms in many salts in many foods such as rhubarb, beetroot, nut butter, and spinach. Like humans, oxalates are present in a cat’s body and are dispelled as waste. What tends to go wrong is the potential for oxalate to turn into calcium oxalate.
Calcium oxalate is the chemical combination of calcium, carbon, and oxalate, a bind known to form stones and subsequent issues. It can be found in the urinary tract of both animals and humans. If high levels of oxalate were to bind with calcium in the urinary tract, it will eventually create crystallized minerals, or kidney and bladder stones. In cats, calcium oxalate forms bladder stones.
So yes. Since oxalates are present in spinach, too much spinach can create stones, with the possibility becoming more likely if a cat is dehydrated. A lack of water discourages oxalates from flushing out properly. Otherwise, large stones won’t affect not only their gallbladder but their liver and kidneys.
It can also block the passage of urine and cause internal bleeding. That prevents waste from being expelled. As you can imagine, not being able to do so can be fatal. Bladder stones are painful for cats and will require laser removal and even surgery. Even after the fact, preventative care would likely be necessary.
Nutritional Benefits of Spinach for Cats
However, if handled properly, spinach can be more nourishing than problematic. It’s comprised of several healthy nutrients to the benefit of humans. And despite the potential to create bladder stones, spinach can boost your pet’s health.
So if you’re planning to mix the ingredient into your cat’s food, you must take note of the nutrients present in spinach so that you can provide a balanced diet. According to Healthline, the nutrition facts for spinach include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Protein is the biggest nutrient in spinach. And since cats are omnivores (with emphasis on being carnivorous), protein is familiar to their system. The amino acids in proteins are necessary for cats to consume because they’re unable to make them for themselves.
Cats have an even greater need for protein than dogs: 6.5g/100kcal for adult cats and 7.5g/100kcal for pregnant/nursing cats and kittens. Because there are a variety of proteins out there, protein should be sourced from both plants and animals.
Fiber allows food to pass through a cat’s system, especially insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber bulks up stool, slows digestion, and helps your kitty feel full, similar to the effect it has on humans.
Insoluble fiber is particularly handy in cases of constipation, diarrhea, and diabetes. Fiber isn’t the main nutrient in a cat’s natural diet, but it’s okay to feed in small amounts. Plus, it may make cleaning their litterbox a little easier.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are seen as nutrition for preventative care. It affects the likelihood of cancer, arthritis, allergies, and more. It is a popular nutrient with pets, and you’ll often see it as a prevalent ingredient in a variety of seafood for cats.
Specifically, EPA and DHA are recommended for cats and dogs. So if you have a 10lb cat, it will benefit from 200mg of DHA per day and 25mg/kg of EPA per day.
Everyone’s aware of the presence of fiber and protein in spinach, but the list of vitamins and minerals is seemingly endless. Excluding some, spinach contains vitamins A and C. A lack of vitamin A is noticeable in a cat’s coat, skin, and demeanor. The AAFCO suggests that cats get 9000 IU of vitamin A per kilogram of food.
As you may be surprised to find out, cats’ bodies are able to produce vitamin C. It’s synthesized in their liver and helps the immune system and tissue growth. However, this is where you’d want to be careful when giving spinach to your cat because excess vitamin C can transform into oxalate.
The minerals in spinach happen to be essential for a cat’s health. They’re potassium, calcium, and iron. They contribute to pH balance, oxygen transportation, enzyme formation, and much more for a cat’s health. You can ensure that they meet nutritional standards by buying AAFCO-approved pet food.
As the most abundant mineral in the body, calcium supports bone and teeth development and helps muscles contract. Potassium aids in nerve function and muscular contraction, too, while iron is vital for creating hemoglobin. Iron also helps prevent blood clotting.
Is There a Difference Between Cooked and Fresh Spinach for Cats?
According to WebMD, a half cup of cooked spinach contains 755mg of oxalates. Cooking them lowers oxalate levels so much that it reduces oxalates by about 30% to 90%. Boiling spinach, in particular, seems to help more than steaming them.
On the other hand, 3.5oz of fresh spinach has 645mg of oxalate. Left alone, it may be enough to absorb quite a few nutrients from the body including calcium, which is necessary to fight against the amount of nutrients oxalates absorb.
To be clear, oxalate, in general, doesn’t need to be purged completely from a cat’s system. In fact, cats can function with small stones of calcium oxalate in their system. Oxalate only needs to be kept at low levels. Enough so that the net gain from the nutrients in spinach outweighs the losses. And enough so that calcium oxalate is able to pass through and out of their system via urine.
Therefore, it is best to soak spinach initially to release some of the oxalates before cooking and serving. Spinach is porous and naturally contains a lot of water, but cats must have fresh water available to them throughout the day. This will also help with the passing of oxalates and calcium oxalates.
So, can cats eat spinach? Absolutely. Cats with either bladder or bladder stone problems should not. On the other hand, there are some cats who won’t mind it at all. But though your cat may not mind it, there are additional caveats to consider.