In two years of writing for Catster, I have learned three indisputable facts about cats. First, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that meat and its proteins must make up the bulk of a cat’s food for a cat to derive optimal nutrition from it. Second, cat behavior is unpredictable and capricious. Third, the total area of an indoor cat’s home territory is minuscule compared to their outdoor, wild, and feral counterparts. What does this have to do with pineapple leaves?
Taken as read, these three facts have a great deal to do with your cat’s fascination with pineapple leaves. It is safe to assume that any new element introduced into a cat’s territory will be an immediate source of curiosity. Whether that element is a fresh pineapple or a full-scale diorama of Nelson’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of the Nile composed solely of Precious Moments figurines, trust that your cat’s interest will be piqued.
I’ve delved far enough down the tunnel of online cat forums to know that cats do chew on, ingest, and regurgitate pineapple leaves. I can anticipate the objections of cat owners. If cats get all the nutrients they need from meat or meat proteins, why would they bother eating plant matter of any kind, much less pineapple leaves, in the first place?
We may never know for sure, but the answer likely falls on a spectrum between simple curiosity on one end and the pleasurable sensation of chewing on the other. Pet owners tend to think of dogs as the sort of creatures who enjoy digging and chewing, and of cats as scratchers and kneaders, but this is a false dichotomy. After all, cats chew on the thick, rubbery material that forms the outer lining of electrical cords all the time.
Care to guess what else has a thick, rubbery texture? Pineapple leaves! A cat may chew on an electrical cord just to satisfy its curiosity, relieve boredom, or assuage a need to work its jaws. The common house cat is oblivious to the risk of electrical shock, and doesn’t care a fig about ruining your favorite lamp. In the same way, if your cat ever found pleasure in the physical sensation of gnawing on a pineapple leaf, chances are she will do it again, heedless of any potential consequences.
If you are anything like me, a pineapple is a delicious treat, whether it is freshly diced, swimming in syrup within a can, or presented in juice form. If you’re curious about whether any part of a pineapple is fit for feline consumption, you’ve come to the right place. Is pineapple a human food that cats can eat? We’ve already stated that cats are obligate carnivores, but what bearing does that have on cats and pineapple?
As obligate carnivores, cats not only prefer meat, but the feline digestive system is simply not equipped to process or derive nutrients or energy from plant matter. From the smallest mewling kitten all the way up to the tiger, Earth’s largest cat, no member of the feline family is optimized for processing plants. Cats lack the digestive enzymes to break down and extract nutrients from fruits and vegetables.
Is pineapple toxic to cats? Not inherently, but proceed with caution if you decide that you must offer pineapple to your cat. The pineapple fruit contains an enzyme called actinidain, which some cats may be allergic to. The evolution of the cat digestive tract was mentioned above. Scientific research has shown that the taste buds of cats have evolved in such a way that, unlike their human owners, they are completely indifferent to the sensation of sweetness.
What about pineapple’s native sugar content? Canned pineapple will be saturated with sugary syrup. This isn’t toxic to cats either, but can cause vomiting or diarrhea. Cats are actually able to digest and process a variety of sugars, but not in large quantities or at high concentrations. Should the mood strike you and you wish to test your cat’s digestive capabilities — though we wouldn’t by any means recommend it — let the pineapple chunk be small and fresh.
It turns out that the crown of a pineapple — the spiky bouquet of pointed, waxy leaves that spring from the top — are actually good for very little. The fibrous leaves are a major source of waste in pineapple farming. They can be pulped and repurposed, but mostly as food for goats and other such livestock. These leaves have no substantive nutritional value to humans or their cats, but as we all know, that has never prevented a cat from doing anything.
Pineapple leaves are not particularly dangerous or toxic to cats, though they do contain sap, which, like the milky white goo that emerges when you pick a ripe fig, can provoke allergic reactions when it comes into contact with skin. A pineapple’s leaves and outer husk also contain an enzyme called bromelain. This enzyme is not especially toxic to cats either, but, as with the actinidain within the fruit itself, may spur swelling, bleeding, or other allergies in cats as well as humans.
Neither the leaves nor the fruit of the pineapple are toxic or poisonous to cats. There is a difference between foodstuffs that cats can eat and those that they should eat. Sharing a sweet treat with your cat is pointless, since they are incapable of recognizing sweetness. Giving the cat a piece of plant matter to eat is counterproductive, as they lack the digestive enzymes to make best use of it.
Allergic reactions and digestive upset are about the worst you can expect if you find your cat gnawing on a pineapple’s crown. On the other hand, there’s no good reason to tempt them to experiment with any part of this tropical fruit. If you regularly bring fresh pineapple home, the best thing you can do as a cat owner is keep it well beyond the scope of your cat’s curiosity.
About the author: Melvin Peña trained as a scholar and teacher of 18th-century British literature before turning his research and writing skills to puppies and kittens. He enjoys making art, hiking, and concert-going, as well as dazzling crowds with operatic karaoke performances. His cat, Quacko, recently passed away at age 17, and his online life is conveniently encapsulated here.