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Are Exotic Fruits Safe for Cats?

Berries, blood oranges, figs, and other fruits -- is it safe to share these with your cat?

Melvin Pena  |  Jan 7th 2015


The holiday season brings a wealth of traditions, old and new, that draw families together and allow us to celebrate making it through another year. Here’s one you might not be aware of: The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes December as Tropical Fruits Month. Did you receive a basket of exotic fruit during the holidays, or use a gift card to subscribe to a tropical-fruit-of-the-month club?

Our cats and kittens derive the vast majority of their nutritional needs from animal proteins. Cats are far more likely to fall asleep in a fruit bowl than to nibble at its contents. If you bring exotic fruits into your home, can they have any benefits or drawbacks to your cats? Let’s find out together!

Acai berries

For the better part of the last decade now, people have been preoccupied with the reputed health and weight-loss benefits ascribed to acai berries. While the ASPCA notes that acai berries are not toxic to cats, don’t make it the key to your cat’s weight management. Acai contains theobromine, a chemical compound which is the primary toxin found in chocolate.

If you’re looking for a solution to an overweight cat, don’t replace her water dish with a bowl of acai berry juice. The best plan is the simplest for cat obesity: smaller food portions and more regular exercise. Miracle weight-loss schemes don’t work for cats, nor for cat owners.

Blood orange

While the ASPCA has citrus fruit of all sorts in its list of plants that are toxic to cats, it is the essential citrus oils in a concentrated form that pose the greatest risk. This is one reason to keep any citrus-infused cleaning solutions well away from cats. PetMD actually recommends freshly squeezed citrus fruit juice as a natural flea remedy. If your cat is game to try a bite of a blood orange wedge, it shouldn’t do him any real harm.

Dragon fruit

Dragon fruit, containing the seeds of a cactus species, along with a sweet and fleshy pulp, is listed by the ASPCA as non-toxic to cats, a ruling that includes the plant itself and its fruit. Use discretion, though; too much of any fruit is a surefire way to encourage vomiting or diarrhea in cats.

Fig

I love figs, but my research has revealed that the milky white sap that oozes from a freshly picked fig, and which is inherent to the skin of a fig, can cause allergic reactions in some people, as well as in dogs and cats. A fig’s outer rind, as well as the leaves of the tree, contain an enzyme called ficin, which is responsible for skin irritation. If your cat is trying a fig for the first time, try scooping out a bit from a halved fig to avoid needless allergic responses or vomiting from ingestion of the sap.

Guava

I’ve found no evidence that guava is dangerous or toxic to cats, though the seeds within may present a choking hazard and should be removed. Guava also contains high levels of pectin, which is the principal ingredient in many over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications. Whereas too much of many fruits may cause diarrhea, too much guava might cause your cat to become constipated.

Kiwi fruit

With the fuzzy outer peel removed, a tiny bit of kiwi fruit poses no real danger to your cat. Be aware, though, that kiwi fruit contains an enzyme called actinidain, which can provoke allergic reactions, both in people and in sensitive pets.

Kumquat

Since kumquats are in the citrus family, like the blood orange above, it is unlikely your cat will have much interest in them. Many cats are repelled by the scent of fresh citrus.

Passion fruit

The blue and running pop varieties of the passion flower vine have a cyanide content that makes them toxic to people and cats. Of the passion fruits you might find in a market, the purple variety presents the least cause for concern to cats.

Persimmon

PetMD couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the potential dietary benefits of persimmons. In the past here at Catster, though, we’ve made sure to note that if you do choose to give your cat some persimmon, you first remove any seeds within. Persimmon seeds can cause inflammation as they pass through the digestive tract, or cause blockages.

Pineapple

Like kiwi fruit, a small bit of fresh pineapple is generally safe for a cat. Also like kiwi, pineapple contains actinidain. Cats who have reacted negatively to one should avoid the other. Further, canned pineapple should be shunned, as rings or chunks are frequently saturated in juices with high sugar content.

Pomegranate

As with any fruit, too much pomegranate can cause digestive upset in cats, but it appears otherwise non-threatening to cat health. We would advise readers to remove seeds, which might present a choking hazard or create blockages, before feeding pomegranate to cats, but the interior of a pomegranate is nearly all seeds.

Do your cats enjoy fruits, exotic or otherwise?

Being smaller, generally, than dogs, cats need much smaller quantities of strange or exotic foods to upset their stomachs. Since a cat’s digestive system is not built to process or extract nutrients from plant matter, there is very little need to experiment with what a cat can eat. There are always exceptions, though.

Do your cats seem to enjoy a bit of fruit now and then, or do they content themselves to treat fruits as toys? Let us know in the comments!

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