Whether you consider tomatoes to be a vegetable or a fruit, most of us love this juicy food eaten fresh on a salad or in a sandwich, cooked into a pasta sauce, or used as a topping on a margherita pizza. But if you’ve ever dropped a cherry tomato on the ground only to have your cat chase it around like their favorite new toy, you may have worried and thought to yourself, “Can cats eat tomatoes?”
In this article, we will explain whether cats can eat tomatoes, if tomatoes have any benefits for cats, and what pet parents should know before feeding their cats tomato-based dishes.
Can Cats Eat Tomatoes?
Ripe tomatoes are non-toxic to cats and can be fed to them in small amounts as an occasional treat. However, knowing what parts of the tomato can be fed to cats and how tomatoes should be prepared for cats is important, as there are some health concerns with feeding cats tomatoes.
Can Cats Have Tomatoes Raw?
Raw, ripe tomatoes of all kinds can be fed to cats in small quantities as long as the leaves and stems are removed (more on this later). When feeding tomatoes to cats, especially small varieties such as grape and cherry tomatoes, it’s important to chop them up into tiny pieces so that your cat doesn’t choke. And as with any unfamiliar food, it’s possible that some cats may not like or tolerate eating tomatoes.
Can Cats Eat Green Tomatoes?
Unripe green tomatoes should not be fed to cats, as they contain much higher levels of solanine, a compound that is toxic to cats, humans, and many other animals . You may be wondering why you haven’t felt ill after eating fried green tomatoes, a staple food item in the southern parts of the United States. Solanine is destroyed when it is cooked, which allows for the enjoyment of this food. So, theoretically, cats should also be able to eat cooked green tomatoes in small quantities, but they should not be fed fried green tomatoes, as the salt and fat content may cause an upset stomach.
Can Cats Eat Tomato Sauce?
Certain kinds of tomato sauce may be fine to feed your cat, but you must be careful that it doesn’t contain certain ingredients. Tomato sauce often has high levels of sodium, which can upset your cat’s stomach and may be risky if they have a health condition such as heart disease.
Toxic ingredients often found in tomato and pasta sauces include onions and garlic, which can cause anemia in cats . Many tomato sauces also contain added sugars, which can lead to tooth decay and obesity in cats.
Due to the potential risks associated with these common ingredients in tomato sauce, it’s safest to skip feeding it to your cat. This goes for ketchup and tomato soup as well.
Are Tomatoes Good for Cats?
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require certain compounds contained in meat in order to survive. For this reason, many cats are not even interested in eating tomatoes or other fruits and vegetables.
However, some cats like to eat a variety of foods and may benefit from nutrients contained in plant-based options. While cats cannot convert the beta carotene contained in tomatoes into vitamin A, they can benefit from the fiber, water, and antioxidants. In fact, tomato pomace, a byproduct of tomato manufacturing consisting of tomato peels and seeds, is a common additive in dry cat food. One recent study found that cat food containing a blend of fiber sources, which included tomato pomace, improved the beneficial gut bacteria in senior cats and reduced levels of certain harmful compounds associated with aging and kidney disease .
Tomatoes are also rich in a compound called lycopene. High lycopene consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers in humans . However, it is unknown whether cats can also benefit from this compound.
Are Tomato Plants Toxic to Cats?
The leaves and stems of tomato plants (like the green version of the fruit) also contain solanine, which is toxic to cats. However, according to the Pet Poison Helpline, the amounts of the plant that a cat would typically ingest are unlikely to cause severe illness, and its toxicity level is considered to be low .
If your cat ingests any green parts of the tomato plant, they will likely develop symptoms of gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting, diarrhea, and a reduced appetite. If you suspect your cat has eaten tomato plants, keep a close eye on them and be sure to contact your veterinarian if they develop any abnormal symptoms.
Precautions When Feeding Tomatoes to Cats
Start slow. If your cat does show interest in eating tomatoes, only offer them a small bit of a fresh tomato to start. If they like it and don’t have any stomach upset symptoms afterward, it’s okay to offer tomatoes as an occasional low-calorie treat.
Keep portions small. When feeding your cats tomatoes, make sure to dice them up into bite-size pieces to prevent choking and stick to small servings of no more than about one quarter of a cup per day.
Go simple. It’s best to feed raw or plain cooked tomatoes to your cats without the addition of any salt, oil, sugar, or other seasonings.
Consider other conditions. If your cat has any chronic health conditions, speak to your veterinarian first before feeding tomatoes to your cat.
- ASPCA. Toxic and Non-toxic Plants. Retrieved from: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/tomato-plant
- Pet Poison Helpline. Garlic. Retrieved from: https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/garlic/
- Ephraim, Eden and Jewell, Dennis. “The Influence of Fiber Source on Circulating Concentration of Age-Related Metabolites and the Gut Microbial Composition in Senior Cats.” Current Developments in Nutrition vol. 5 (Jun. 2021). doi:10.1093/cdn/nzab033_013. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2475299123105312
- Story, Erica N et al. “An Update on the Health Effects of Tomato Lycopene.” Annual Review of Food Science and Technology vol. 1 (2010): 189-210. doi:10.1146/annurev.food.102308.124120. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3850026/#:~:text=Lycopene%20is%20a%20non%2Dprovitamin,source%20in%20the%20United%20States