You just opened a nice bag of chips for you, and your cat comes running and begs you to share your snacks with her. You are tempted to indulge her chips cravings but unsure whether this is a safe thing to do.
So, can cats eat chips? No, the general rule of thumb is that cats should not eat chips. They are true carnivores and thrive on meat-based foods. Chips are not meat-based foods and are heavily processed, which makes them unfit for cats. However, the good news is that you can indulge your cat’s cravings by offering one bite-sized piece of potato, tortilla, and banana chip as long as they are oven baked instead of fried and not flavored or enriched with a toxic ingredient. On the other hand, popular chips brands like Doritos, Pringles, Pita chips, or Nacho chips should never be purposely fed. These guidelines apply to adult cats. Kittens less than one year of age must never eat chips.
If you want to gain more in-depth information on the topic or looking into the specific types and brands of chips that can or cannot be offered to cats, keep reading. In this article, we will answer every question you ever had on the cats & chips topic.
Chips are thin slices traditionally made of potato that can be either baked or deep-fried until a crunchy consistency is achieved. Chips can be eaten as snacks, appetizers, or side dishes.
Although initially made of chips, today, the modern market offers various chips products made of alternative sources, including corn, fish, fruits, and veggies.
Well, it depends on the cat’s taste preferences. Some cats enjoy the unusual taste and smell chips offer, while the same features can repel others. The crunchy texture is another consideration – some cats like sharpening their teeth and some prefer smoother textured foods.
Reviewing the cats and chips topic is not an easy task. This is because most chips types are not directly toxic to cats, but on the other hand, they do not offer any specific nutritional benefits.
Therefore, drawing the line between feeding and not feeding can be challenging. Let’s start by determining the pros and cons of feeding cats chips.
To be honest the list of pros is fairly short and includes too points – satisfying your cat’s quirky preferences (in case she likes chips) and adding some diversity on the menu.
Adding different foods on your cat’s menu is important considering they are prone to palate boredom.
Simply put, chips are not part of the cat’s natural diet, and neither are the ingredients chips are made of. Unlike dogs, who became omnivores after being domesticated, cats remained true carnivores.
Basically speaking, chips are a mix of carb, salt, and fats. Plus, they belong to the group of so-called empty carbs. Empty carbs indicate they add calories without offering nutritional benefits, like wasting calories on foods with no real value.
Plus, the added salts, spices, and seasonings are a genuine concern. The same applies to the preservatives and added artificial flavor enhancers and colors. While some of these can wreak havoc on the digestive system and result in an upset tummy, others have the potential to cause serious intoxications.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that chips are usually manufactured in facilities that process products with high allergen potentials like soy, nuts, eggs, and dairy. In a sensitive cat, their presence can trigger a severe allergic reaction manifested with skin issues, digestive upsets, or even impaired breathing.
With the pros and cons covered, it is time to say a word or two about the main ingredients used in chips and see how they can fit into the cat’s menu.
The only acceptable form of potatoes for cats is cooked. This is because raw potatoes contain theglycoalkaloidsolanine – a chemical compound that is poisonous to cats and other mammals.
Cooking deactivates this toxic substance, thus making potatoes safe for cats. However, the cooking method is also a caveat – not all forms are suitable and acceptable for cats.
For example, boiled and mashed potatoes are a cat-friendly alternative as long as they are plain – no salt, spices, or seasonings. You can also serve baked potatoes if they are baked without adding oils. It goes without saying that salt and spices are once again a no-go.
Fried potatoes – the famous French fries are sadly forbidden to cats. This is because the cat’s digestive system is not equipped for processing oils. However, potatoes prepared in the air fryer are safe as this frying option uses airflow instead of fat.
The same principles of preparation apply to sweet potatoes – they can be safe if cooked plain and served in tiny amounts and on rare occasions.
Because of its low price and availability, corn is used as filler in many commercially available cat foods. However, when incorporated into kibble the corn is already processed and pulverized which increases its digestibility.
On the other hand, pure boiled corn is not easily digestible. Namely, if a cat eats one corn, chances are it will come from the other end looking same as it was when it entered the mouth.
Fruits and veggies can be safe and healthy for cats. However, their exact suitability depends on the specific type of product.
Fruit chips are usually made of bananas, apples, and coconuts, while veggies chips are made of kale, carrots, and beetroots.
Fruits and veggies are not part of the cat’s natural diet, but they can bring some benefits to the table as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Last but not least, we should mention that certain fruits and veggies can be dangerous or even toxic to cats. Therefore, when determining the safety of fruit/veggie chips for cats, the first consideration is the chips’ main ingredient.
As mentioned different chips come with different pros, cons and feeding guidelines for cats. To make sure you are well-informed we will cover some of the most popular types of chips.
Potato chips are obviously made of potatoes and tortilla chips are made of corn. Potatoes can safely be added in the cat’s diet in fact many bland diets include potatoes, therefore, potato chips are allowed in small amounts. Tortilla chips made of corn are also safe considering corn is a common filler in many commercial cat food formulas.
However, there is one trick – they must be plain and preferably, oven baked instead of fried.
Safe amount: two bite-sized chunks once a week
If plain, oven-baked and free from additives, grain chips can be safe for cats. Whole-grain chips are the best alternative. However, even whole-grain chips are still chips and must not be overused.
Safe amount: two small pieces one a week please
Cats love cheese – this is an undeniable statement. However, cheese chips are not a good idea for cats. Simply put, cheese chips are way too salty. Not to mention cheese can cause many tummy issues in cats and it can be addictive.
Safe amount: one tiny offcut (but not purposely fed)
Spicy, jalapeno, and dill pickle chips are a big no-go for cats. Giving your cat some of these options is the recipe for disaster. Chips can wreak havocon the digestive system even without the added spicy taste enhancers and flavors simply because they are deep fried and not a natural part of the cat’s diet.
Spicy chips are a no-go because cannot spices. Even small amounts of spices can be detrimental and cause severe digestive issues, including ulcers.
Jalapeno chips contain a chemical compound capsaicinwhich irritates both the digestive system and the cat’s eyes and nose.
Dill can be beneficial for cats but only when served raw. The combination of dill and pickles is not suited as pickled foods are loaded with salt and harmful preservatives.
Safe amount: none, even sniffing at spicy chips can irritate the nasal passages and cause coughing and sneezing.
Vinegar is not something you want to offer your cat. Although some cats can tolerate apple cider vinegar, in others its consumption is followed with bouts of vomiting and diarrhea.
Safe amount: one hunk (if your cat accidentally eats it)
Onions are toxic to cats. While it is true that sour cream & onion chips contain pulverized onions or sometimes just onion aromas the risk is still present and definitely worth considering.
Sour cream is no good for cats because it is a dairy product and most cats are lactose intolerant. On the other hand, onion represents a greater risk because it is toxic. If a cat eats onions it risks developing life-threatening anemia.
Safe amount: one wedge (but not offered intentionally)
Can cats eat popular chips brands? (Pita, Nacho, Barbecue, McDonald’s chips, Ahoy, Sunchips, Doritos and Pringles?
These options are irresistibly tasty but sadly, when it comes to cats, they are a no-go. They are flavored, salted, and contain additives cats are simply incapable of handling and digesting.
Pita chips are made of white flour and are rich in carbs and starches which cats cannot digest properly. Plus, they are overly salted.
Nacho chips are made of corn but they are still not suitable for cats because of the added ingredients – salt, spices, and preservatives.
Barbecue chips are a big no-go for cats because the barbecue seasoning always contains powdered garlic and onion which are toxic and cause life-threatening anemia in cats.
The McDonald’s chips or popularly known as fries are not cat-friendly because of their preparation method which includes deep frying.
Ahoy chips contain as much as 11 grams of sugar per serving. That is way too sugar even for you, not to mention your cat.
Sunchips are made of whole grains instead of potatoes but they are still risky because of the added flavors.
Doritos chips are very fatty and what is even more concerning is that most of the fats are saturated (the bad type of fat).
Pringles chips also contain high amounts of saturated fats and all flavor versions are heavily salted.
Safe amount: one bit upon accidental encounter.
Seaweed can improve your cat’s digestion and is actually considered safe for cats. Fish are undoubtedly a cat-friendly food. However, when these ingredients are used to make chips the answer is not as straightforward.
Namely, seaweed and fish chips can be used if they are free from added salts and harmful preservatives.
Safe amount: two bites once a week
Grain-free chips are usually made of cassava and cassava is toxic to cats as it contains the cyanogenic glycoside linamarin. Therefore, grain-free chips made of cassava are not safe for cats.
Safe amount: none
Yes, rye is a safe green for cats and rye chips can be offered to cats as long as the general rules are considered – no salts and spices, prepared in oven instead of deep fryer, and served occasionally in tiny amounts.
Safe amount: two to three lumps once per week.
Fruit chips can be made of many fruits but the most popular forms are banana, apple, and coconut chips. All options are safe as long you pay attention to two factors.
Firstly, they must not contain artificial sweeteners as xylitol is toxic to cats. Secondly, fruit chips are naturally sugary and cats cannot handle high-sugar foods if offered excessively.
Banana chips can be good for cats as they are rich in dietary fiber, potassium, and healthy fats.
Apple chips are great because they are low in sugars yet loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Coconut chips are recommended for because it promotes healthy skin and shiny coat.
Safe amount: one or two bites every two weeks.
Veggie chips are usually made of carrot, beetroot, and kale. Carrot and beetroot chips are safe for cats while kale is toxic and can cause severe anemia.
Carrot chips promote strong vision and protect the body from oxidative stress because carrots are rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene.
Beetroot chips are checked as safe and beneficial due to the fact that beetroot is rich in dietary fiber and keeps the intestines running smoothly. This helps cats get rid of the hairballs within the intestines and stomach.
Kale chips are toxic because kale is an oxidizing agent that causes a specific type of anemia in cats (Heinz body anemia).
Veggie chips are considered a healthier alternative to regular chips and are usually oven-baked. If planning to share your veggie chips with your cat look for plain options.
Safe amount: one to two offcuts a week for carrot and beetroot chips and none for kale chips.
Unlike regular chocolate which is toxic to cats, carob is a safe alternative. And so are carob chips, especially if home made using exclusively cat-friendly ingredients.
For example, you can melt unsweetened carob chips and use the melted carob to cover small pea-sized chunks of berries. Your cat will love this luxurious and savory treat.
Safe amount: one carob chip every two weeks.
Cats and kittens have different nutritional needs. Adult cats can thrive practicing certain dietary indiscretions, compared to kittens who have particular feeding requirements that need to be met for proper growth.
Plus, kittens have more sensitive digestive systems and cannot process new foods as well as adults.
Therefore cats can start eating chips once they reach adulthood –over 1 year old. Kittens less than one year old should not be served chips.
Chips are addictive for us and if your cat is a fan of chips they can be irresistible to her too. However, chips are not safe in larger amounts.
If your cat really loves chips you can follow the guidelines and serve the same amounts of the cat-friendly chips options mentioned in this list.
Alternatively, you can prepare some cat-friendly chips at home. Just select the most popular chips ingredients and make your own healthier version. That way you will be sure you are feeding your cat healthy snacks.
Recipe for homemade cat chips
Here is a simple and healthy recipe for homemade cat chips.
- Two cups of baby spinach (preferably organic)
- One teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (also preferably organic).
- Preheat the oven to 350⁰F
- Spread each baby spinach leaf over a baking mat (if using regular pan cover it with a baking sheet)
- Sprinkle the virgin olive oil over the baby spinach leaves
- Bake for around five minutes
- Let the chips cool before serving them to your cat.
Basically, you can prepare homemade chips using any cat-friendly fruit or veggie. Instead of adding olive oil and baking in the over, you can put the fruit/veggie slices in an air-fryer.
Instead of chips, opt for safer and healthier snacks like:
- Boiled egg
- Fresh fruits (berries, apple, banana, melon)
- Fresh veggies (carrots, cucumber, spinach)
All in all, it is safe to say that chips are not healthy for cats because of the same reasons they are not fit for us – they are highly processed and empty carbs enriched with tons of salt, sugar, additives, spices and oil.
The good news is that when served as a one-time thing or if you accidentally drop a piece of chips on the floor and your cat manages to pick it up before you do, you will not have to rush to the vet’s office. In general, adult cats can safely have one to two bites of plain and baked chips while fried chips should always be avoided.
Sadly, kittens (less than one year old) are more likely to develop tummy troubles even if the amount of ingested chips was small.
However, offering chips, in the long run, is always associated with health risks and severe consequences. If your cat is fond of crunchy snacks, there are many healthier alternatives – from store-bought treats to homemade cat-friendly chips.
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