As cat owners, we often wonder whether certain human foods are safe for our feline babies. With exotic fruits becoming readily available, it is not uncommon to consider giving your kitty dates. But are dates safe for cats? And more importantly, are there any benefits or risks?
In a nutshell, dates are not toxic to felines, meaning you can give your cat a bite or two without having to rush to the veterinarian’s office. However, they are not a staple food, and if used too often or in large servings, dates can be dangerous, and cause tummy issues, tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes.
If this has you confused, keep reading as we discuss everything you need to know about cats and dates.
CAN CATS EAT DATES?
Dates are not straightforward toxic to cats. However, that does not mean they can be given regularly. Namely, dates are a high-sugar food and do not contain the proteins the cat’s body needs for growth and maintenance.
Therefore, dates are not part of the feline food pyramid and although not directly poisonous, they should not make a regular part of its diet. However, if your cat is healthy and in normal body shape, giving dates on rare occasions is not necessarily bad.
Do cats like the taste of dates?
To be honest, cats are not very well-known for having a sweet tooth. In fact, they cannot feel how sugary foods taste as they do not have receptors for sweet taste. However, every feline is different. Therefore, there is no way of saying whether cats like dates or not. Just like people, some will love them, and others will hate them.
The nutritional profile of dates
We all know that in moderate amounts, dates are healthy for humans. But let’s take a closer look at the nutritional profile so we can understand where the benefits come from.
Here is what you can find in one average-sized date (24 g):
- calories: 67 kcal
- protein: 0.4 g
- total fat: 0 g
- total carbohydrates: 18 g
- sugar: 16 g
- dietary fiber: 1.6 g
In addition to these nutrients, dates are rich in a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants every organism needs for health maintenance and proper functioning. However, as you can see, dates are also loaded with sugars and have a high glycaemic index meaning they can cause abrupt blood sugar spikes.
THE eFFECTS oF dATES fOR FELINES
Although dates are not toxic and they contain various health-boosting ingredients, they are still not recommended for regular use in cats. Here are the reasons why dates are not a feline-friendly choice.
- Dates can cause digestive issues
Basically, any food has the potential to cause an upset stomach when used irresponsibly – too much or frequently. In the case of dates, the upset-triggering factor is even stronger as this fruit contains more sugars than cats can process.
- Dates are calorie-high for cats
The average cat needs between 200 and 250 calories per day. Considering the one date contains 67 calories, it is easy to assume that cat eating dates will start gaining weight. Obesity comes with health risks like heart problems, diabetes, and arthritis.
- Dates contribute to dental problems
Dental infections and gum disease are common ailments in cats. Same as in humans, sugary foods support the decay processes in felines, thus harming the cat’s overall oral health. Things are even trickier in cats since brushing their teeth is hardly manageable.
WHAT ABOUT THE DATE SKIN AND PIT?
The date skin and pit are a no-go for cats. The skin or peel is extra sticky and can easily glue itself to the cat’s gums and mouth, causing constant irritation and discomfort. To make things worse, if the skin stamps itself near the throat triggering gagging and coughing.
The date pit poses a different type of risk. Namely, all fruit pits are considered to be choking hazards. While date pits are too big for the average cat, a crafty kitty may find a way of swallowing the pit. Keep in mind that choking is a life-threatening emergency. As a responsible pet parent, it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with the Heimlich maneuver for cats.
Bottom line when giving your cat dates, make sure you remove and dispose of the pit and peel. Prevention is much simpler than managing the consequences!
CAN CATS EAT MEDJOOL DATES?
Yes, cats can eat Medjool dates. But did you know there are over 200 types of dates, and they all have different shapes, colors, flavors, and textures? The good news is that all dates are similar when it comes to nutritional profiles and nutrients. In more practical terms, this means they are all safe for cats.
As a reference, here are some of the most widespread and cat-friendly date types: Medjool, Piarom, Deglet Noor, Mazafati, Barhi, Rabbi, Thoory, Sayer, Dayri, Halawy, Sukkari, Khudri, Zahidi, and Safawi. With these exotic names covered, the next time you are looking for healthy snacks for you and your feline companion, you will know what to look for.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF MY CAT EATS DATES?
As already stated, it is perfectly safe to give your cat particularly small amounts of dates as occasional treats. In such cases, nothing happens, except for kitty feeling extra happy for the sweet treat.
However, giving too many dates or serving them on a daily basis can lead to a myriad of health issues varying from temporary gastrointestinal upsets to long-term tooth decay and weight gain.
Sadly, you can expect more severe side effects and adverse reactions if a diabetic cat eats dates or any other particularly sugary fruit. If your feline friend with diabetes steals a date, it is best advised to call the vet. Depending on the sugar level variations and the consumed amount some cats may need hospitalization for a full recovery.
You also need to seek veterinary attention if an allergic cat gets its teeth on your snack with dates. Although date allergies are not particularly common, they are possible. And, more importantly, they can be life-threatening.
All in all, do not hesitate to call the vet for a quick consult for each scenario that does not involve the correct use of dates as snacks in cats.
CAN KITTENS CONSUME DATES?
No, kittens should not be offered dates. Youngsters have sensitive tummies and can easily develop digestive issues (mainly vomiting and diarrhea) if offered high-sugar foods. Plus, kittens and young cats have unique nutritional needs and would not benefit from the nutrients found in dates.
When feeding kittens, it is best advised to stick to age-appropriate cat food. While many fruits are safe for cats, it is not recommended to start experimenting before adulthood (after the cat is over one year old). Even then, you need to be extra mindful about the nutrition choices you are making.
HOW CAN I SAFELY GIVE MY CAT DATES?
First of all, a quick reminder – dates are not part of the cat’s regular diet and are not generally recommended for cats. However, if your kitty has sweet cravings and you decide to indulge it with dates, there are various safety precautions worth considering.
For example, make sure you buy organically grown dates. This is because when commercially produced they often contain sulphur dioxide which is a major allergen and can even cause asthma. Also, always choose plain dates, free from added sugars and sweet syrups.
Before serving, remove and safely dispose of the pit. Then, you need to peel the date, which depending on the date’s freshness level, can be easy or tricky. Finally, to let your cat enjoy in the treat, chop the chunk into several pieces.
Finally, you need to know how many dates to give your cat. Since dates come in different sizes, the recommended serving size for an average is around ¼ of a date. If treating your cat with dates for the first time, start with a smaller amount.
ARE DRIED FRUITS GOOD FOR CATS?
If you are a fan of mix trails, chances are you want to know which dried fruits are cat-friendly and which are best kept outside the cat’s food bowl.
The list of cat-friendly dried fruits includes:
However, there is one more caveat – these fruits must be always plain. Namely, most dried fruits are additionally sweetened using natural or artificial sweeteners. If sweetened, they are not safe and should not be used for cats.
Sadly, some dried fruits are considered toxic or otherwise dangerous and must never be served to cats. This is because they cannot be properly metabolized or contain hazardous ingredients. You must never give your cat:
DRIED Vs. FRESH FRUITS FOR CATS
The winner of this battle is obvious; same as for humans, fresh are a much better alternative to dried fruits. They contain more nutrients, contribute to hydration, and lack added ingredients.
However, not all fresh fruits are safe and beneficial for feline companions.
Here is a list of the fruits you can occasionally share with your cat (or include in homemade treats):
When offering your cat fruits, you need to buy organically grown pieces, give them a thorough washing, and remove the inedible parts (skin, pit, stem, leaves). It is also advisable to chop the serving size into small bite-sized chunks.
As mentioned, not all fruits are safe. For example, pets must never be offered grapes (and raisins) as they are extremely toxic and can cause fatal kidney failure.
If you are not sure whether certain fruit is safe for cats or not, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid giving it. Unless 100% sure the fruit is cat-friendly, treat your furry baby with something else.
WHAT CAN I GIVE MY CAT INSTEAD OF DATES?
Luckily, just because dates are not the ideal option for cats, it does not mean you should deprive your furry companion of sweet indulgences. There are many cat-friendly alternatives.
For example, you can purchase sweet cat treats specifically formulated for felines. If you prefer all-natural solutions, you can bake your cat some homemade treats using healthy and safe ingredients such as oats, peanut butter, and coconut oil. For extra flavor, add berries or apple chunks.
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In theory, the answer is yes – cats can eat dates as they are not directly toxic. However, in practice, feeding your cat dates is not the best idea. Namely, dates are not part of the feline’s natural diet and, despite being sweet and tasty, do not contribute to the overall nutrition. Plus, cats do not even have taste buds for sweetness.
However, if you accidentally drop a date and kitty manages to steal a bite or two before you pick it up – do not worry; she will be perfectly fine. Also, if you insist on adding this fruit to your cat’s menu, make sure you buy organic dates, remove the skin and pit, and offer your cat a bite-sized chunk every now and then. Alternatively, it would be better to use healthier snacks like apples and bananas.
Happy Cat Keeping!
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