In the mood for a sweet treat? One of the many, many options available to humans is adding a drizzle of honey to your snack of choice. Sometimes, though, people don’t like snacking alone, and would like to share a morsel with a friend – maybe even a feline friend!
But can cats eat honey? And if so, what sort of limitations should you put on honey consumption for your kitty companion?
Can Cats Have Honey?
“Yes, cats can eat honey,” says Dr. Emily Swiniarski, chief medical officer of PAWS Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. “However, they shouldn’t eat honey as a major part of their diet. It could be considered a treat.”
Dr. Swiniarski explains that treats should only comprise about 10 percent of a cat’s diet, and because of honey’s high sugar content, she doesn’t recommend offering it often, if at all. “You want to give your cats treats with a higher nutritive value,” she says.
It’s also worth noting that studies have shown that cats do not have the capacity to taste sweetness, which means that honey is not likely to be a very enticing treat for kitties.
Can Kittens Eat Honey?
Dr. Swiniarski notes that kittens can also have a bit of honey now and then if they show interest, but it should be restricted to an extremely small amount. “Kittens grow extremely rapidly and need good nutrition to support that growth,” she adds. “Honey doesn’t offer that nutrition.”
What About Raw Honey?
Raw honey is not recommended for cats or kittens. “Raw honey is not pasteurized, so there is a risk that it might have harmful yeast or bacteria in it,” Dr. Swiniarski says. “Cats, like humans, can get infections or food poisoning from eating unpasteurized honey.”
Manuka honey is ok for cats to eat, but cats can get more benefits from this type of honey if it’s used in other ways. “Manuka honey has fantastic antibacterial properties and has been shown to kill and prevent the growth of bacteria,” Dr. Swiniarski explains. “There’s not a strong medical basis for feeding a cat Manuka honey, but it is frequently used in medicine to help heal large wounds and even in some orthopedic and bone surgeries.”
Manuka honey has been used to preserve bone allografts and studies have shown that wounds treated with a wound gel containing honey have exceptional outcomes. Dr. Swiniarski adds that topical Manuka honey can also reduce edema in cats, which is swelling caused by excess fluid.
Is Honey Good for Cats?
In humans, honey does offer some health benefits. It has anti-inflammatory properties and contains essential nutrients like iron, zinc, and potassium. It’s also a natural way to relieve a sore throat. But what about in cats?
“There hasn’t been much, if any, research into how many nutrients that cats are able to absorb from honey,” Dr. Swiniarski says. “So yes, it’s possible that cats can get some nutrition from honey, but no one has really studied that, so it’s an unknown area.”
She adds, “Since we don’t know if honey is actually offering health benefits to cats, I wouldn’t recommend that owners put it in their cat’s mouth or in her food or treats if the cat didn’t express interest.”
When Is Honey Bad for Cats?
While honey won’t hurt most cats, there are some felines out there who should not be eating honey. “As mentioned before, honey contains essential minerals. Cats with chronic illnesses should not be fed honey as it could upset the balance of minerals in their system,” Dr. Swiniarski explains. “For example, cats with chronic kidney disease could have elevated phosphorus levels. Phosphorus is in honey, and it would be dangerous to give that cat even more phosphorus.”
Also, cats who have diabetes should not be fed honey as it can cause their sugar levels to spike. “There is one exception, though,” Dr. Swiniarski says. “Honey can be an emergency remedy for a cat or kitten that has passed out from low blood sugar. You can rub it on their gums and they will absorb the sugar,” she describes.
That said, you should always consult with your vet before administering any sort of emergency treatment.
Honey and Cats: Helpful Feeding Tips
While most cats can eat a small amount of honey without any health issues, it’s not something that should be in the regular treat rotation. There are a lot of options for cat treats that offer much more from a nutrition standpoint than this sweet goo.
However, if you’re enjoying a yogurt or some other snack with some honey, and Fluffy sneaks a bite, don’t fret. A little bit won’t hurt!