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Cat staring at a red apple

The essentials

  • Apples are generally safe for cats, but unnecessary — Cats are obligate carnivores who don’t benefit from fruit or vegetable-based diets.
  • Avoid seeds and stems — While the flesh and skin of an apple is okay, the seeds, stems, and leaves are poisonous to our furry friends.
  • Not all cats will have the same reaction — Every cat is unique, and owners must consider other health issues and sensitivities before feeding their cat new foods.

Rich in fiber and vitamins, apples serve countless nutritional benefits for humans. And with over 7,500 varieties of the fruit, they’re easy to come by. But what happens if you slip a piece to your favorite feline while baking an apple pie or chopping up slices for your salad? When it comes to cats, are apples the forbidden fruit?

Generally speaking, it is okay to feed most kitties a small apple treat, but there are several important considerations to keep in mind.

Are apples safe for cats?

As you sit on your couch enjoying the refreshing sweet taste of a juicy apple, you may be wondering if you could share a little with your whiskered friend.

First and foremost, you need to understand that cats don’t have the same nutritional standards as people. They are obligate carnivores who only benefit from vitamins and minerals found in animal-based cat food products, whereas humans and dogs are natural omnivores who can rely on both animal and vegetarian diets.

That’s not to say cats don’t get any benefit from plant-based products, as certain grains and fibers can be found in the digestive tracts of their prey. But for the most part, it’s unnecessary. So, while a little apple probably won’t hurt healthy cats, it won’t meet their dietary needs and absolutely shouldn’t serve as a substitute to their regular food.

Another important thing to consider is that only the flesh and skin of the fruit is considered non-toxic to cats. The apple seeds, stem, or leaves contain a poisonous chemical called amygdalin that releases a small amount of cyanide into the bloodstream. Your cat would likely have to consume a large quantity for any serious poisoning effects, but you should still seek veterinary care or call poison control if they’ve ingested any.

How to safely feed your cat apples

While the thought of a cat simply biting into a round apple is nothing short of cute, preparation is key when it comes to safely feeding the fruit to your little one.

  • Do the caloric math — Consult your veterinarian to determine your cat’s daily caloric intake, and then make sure you’re not devoting more than 10% of their allotted calories to treats. One whole apple is typically 95 calories, so you’ll have to do a little math to determine how many pieces you’re giving to them.
  • Wash, peel, core, chop — While the skin is safe for cats to ingest, it will make it harder for them to swallow. Likewise, cutting the fruit into tiny pieces will reduce the risk of choking. After rinsing the apple, remove the peel and poisonous stem, leaves, and seeds, and then chop, chop, chop!
  • Start slow…and don’t force it — No need to serve your kitty a whole apple platter. Give them a small nibble at first to see if they even like it. As it turns out, most don’t! Because they’re carnivores, cats don’t have the taste receptors for sweetness and commonly turn their noses up at the sugary fruit.
  • Monitor your cat’s reaction — Every cat is different. Even though apples are generally safe for the species, it might not sit well with your furbaby. If you’re concerned about any side effects they’re having, consult your vet.

Alternatives to apples for your cat

If you’re still not sure if you want to give your cat apples, or you did give them some and they had a bad reaction, there are other human foods deemed safe for the pet if consumed in small amounts. But just like with apples, owners should not feed their cats these items regularly or in place of their everyday food. Here are some feline-friendly staples for your feline friend:

  • Fruits:
    • Bananas — Though your four-legged friend might not take to the sweetness, bananas are non-toxic to cats, so long as you’re careful not to feed them too much sugar.
    • Strawberries — Though not a superfood to cats, strawberries can serve as an occasional treat for the pet.
    • Blueberries — Rich in antioxidants, Vitamin C, and fiber, blueberries can make a great alternative to apples. Although they’re small, owners should cut them into even smaller pieces for their kitty.
    • Cantaloupe — The scent of the amino acid in cantaloupes mimics the proteins in meat for cats, making the fruit a favorite among our little carnivores. Just remove the seeds and rind before serving!
    • Cucumbers — With the highest water content of any food, cucumbers are a good treat for dehydrated kitties. They’re also not very sweet, making them more appealing to cats than sugary fruits.
    • Pumpkin — High in fiber, pumpkin may be good for cats struggling to do their litter business.
  • Vegetables:
    • Broccoli — If your cat is having trouble resisting the temptation to get into your houseplants, you may be able to offer them up broccoli as an alternative. Steam and then cool it first so it’s easier for them to chew and swallow.
    • Carrots — Cut them up into small pieces and fork them over to your whiskered pal as a healthy snack. Owners can also cook carrots until they’re soft so they’re less of a choking hazard.
    • Celery — Another high-water food option, celery can be hydrating for cats. As with the other veggies, chop it up well so it’s easier to digest.
    • Green beans — Green beans offer a crunch similar to cat treats!
  • Animal products (if cooked, not raw):
    • Eggs — With a high amount of protein fit for their high-protein diets, eggs are an ingredient in a lot of cat foods.
    • Lean meats — Though it shouldn’t serve as a replacement for their regular cat food, cooked lean meats will satiate their carnivore appetite.
    • Fish — Water-canned or cooked fish can be beneficial to your cat’s eyesight and help with heart disease.
  • Grains
    • Whole grains — Rich in fatty acids, whole grains are an easy-to-digest protein with a taste reminiscent of the herbivores they naturally prey on.
    • Bread — While you shouldn’t fix your cat a seasoned avocado toast, plain white or wheat bread that’s either toasted or untoasted is fine for them. No bread dough, though!
    • Rice — A little rice is okay for your cat to consume and may aid their upset stomach, but be careful it doesn’t cause them to fill up too quickly and miss out on essential nutrients in their regular diet.

When to avoid apples for cats

Bear in mind that every cat is unique. Although apples are generally considered safe for the pet, owners will need to determine if feeding their specific cat the fruit is a good idea or bad idea based on any pre-existing conditions or sensitivities they have. For instance, kitties who are more prone to gastrointestinal upset may have an adverse reaction to the high amount of fiber in apples. The fruit also has high sugar content (with some types higher than others), which can be bad for cats with diabetes or elevated blood sugar.

Unfortunately, you likely won’t know if your cat is allergic to apples until you try giving it to them. That’s why it is advised you only feed them a very small amount at first and then monitor their reaction, keeping an eye out for allergy symptoms like itching or wheezing. As with any dietary consideration, it’s best to consult your vet to get a sense of which foods are safe relative to your specific cat.

As pet owners, we naturally want to make sure we’re always doing right by our four-legged friends and keeping them in good health. If you are too nervous to branch out from your kitties regular food to give them some apple bits, you can rest assured that they won’t be deprived of any important nutritional needs, as fruits just aren’t an important part of a cat’s diet. But if you do wish to share some of your granny smith with your healthy kitty, they will likely be perfectly fine.

Frequently asked questions

Can cats have apples with skin?

While the skin is considered safe for cats to ingest, it is recommended that you peel apples first so it’s easier for them to digest.

Why do cats like apples?

You may be surprised to learn that most cats actually don’t like apples. This is because they lack the taste receptors for sweetness. Cats who do enjoy the fruit might not mind the sugary taste, or they could just be mimicking their owner’s behavior.

How much apple can a cat eat?

Owners should start by giving their cat apples in small portions so they can monitor their reaction to it and ensure they’re not exhibiting allergy symptoms like itching or wheezing. Also keep in mind their daily caloric intake and make sure you’re not allotting more than 10% a day to treats.

How should I prepare an apple for my cat?

First you should rinse the apple, then remove the peel, core, seeds, and stems. Next, cut the apple into tiny pieces to avoid choking.

Is apple juice okay for cats?

As long as it’s fully natural with no added sugars or ingredients, it is safe to feed your cat apple juice so long as you are aware of the high sugar intake. As with regular apples, the juice will not offer any of the nutrients or minerals necessary for a cat’s balanced diet.