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Can Cats Eat Tomatoes? Facts & FAQ

Can Cats Eat tomatoes
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Christian Adams

The tomato is a fruit that is widely used in the culinary arts. It is a member of the nightshade family and is believed to have originated in Mexico. The tomato has smooth, red skin and contains numerous small seeds. It has a sweet, acidic flavor and is used in salads, sauces, and pizzas. There’s no doubt that humans love tomatoes—they are a staple part of cuisines from all over the world. What about cats? Can they eat tomatoes?

There is some debate about this question. Some say it is unhealthy for them, while others say it is perfectly fine. Under certain conditions, tomatoes can be eaten by cats in small quantities, but it is not recommended because the fruit contains high levels of acidity and sugar. While the fruit may not always be harmful to cats in small doses, it does not provide any major nutritional benefits and can actually lead to some pretty serious health problems if consumed in large quantities or the wrong state.

Read on to discover the difference the various parts, stages of ripeness, and methods of preparation make to how dangerous a tomato is for your cat.


When Are Tomatoes Dangerous for Cats?

Tomatoes are most dangerous for cats when they are unripe because at that point they contain a chemical called tomatine that can cause neurological damage in felines. Tomatine is found in the tomato plant’s leaves, stems, as well as unripe fruit. When ingested, tomatine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain in cats. In severe cases, tomatine poisoning can lead to seizures and even death. For this reason, it is important to keep unripe tomatoes and tomato plants away from cats.

The effects of unripe tomatoes on cats vary depending on the individual feline. However, it is generally advised that cats not consume unripe tomatoes. The leaves of the tomato plant are also toxic.

Image Credit: Julia Cherk, Shutterstock

Should I Worry About My Cat Eating My Tomato Plant?

There is some dispute over whether or not cats actually eat tomato plants and other garden plants. Some people believe that cats simply shred plants out of boredom, while others believe that they actually eat the plants. There is evidence that suggests both sides are correct. Cats will sometimes eat plants, but also often shred them with their claws for fun.

One way to keep a cat away from toxic plants is to identify which plants are toxic to cats and then place these plants in areas that the cat cannot reach. Another way to keep a cat away from toxic plants is just not to have them in your home in the first place. If you can’t do either of these, you must keep a close eye on your cats around your tomato plants and any other potentially toxic plants in your home.

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What Should I Do If My Cat Eats My Tomato Plant?

Despite being less toxic than potato plants or eggplants, tomato plants can still cause health problems for your cat. If your cat eats part of a tomato plant, you should take them to the vet immediately. Your vet may induce vomiting.  Be prepared to explain what the cat was exposed to and how much of it was ingested. Treatment will then be given to neutralize or remove the poison from the cat’s system.

a red long-haired tabby cat is being checked up by a vet
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

What Is Tomatine?

Tomatine is a glycoalkaloid poison found in plants of the nightshade family, such as tomatoes. It is a natural defense against insects, pests, and animals. It’s a plant’s way of keeping its seeds from being eaten before they are ripe enough to germinate. The concentration of tomatine in food plants varies with the species of plant, its stage of maturity, the climate, and the method of cultivation. The highest levels are found in unripe green fruits and the leaves and stems of older plants. Tomatine poisoning can cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in cats. In cases where a very large amount has been ingested, it can also cause heart problems, paralysis, and death.

Are Ripe Tomatoes Safe for Cats?

It is generally accepted that tomatoes are safe for cats to eat very occasionally in moderation. The keyword here is moderation, as tomatoes do contain high levels of acidity which can cause stomach upset in cats if they eat too many. As with any new food, it is always a good idea to introduce tomatoes slowly and watch your cat’s reaction to make sure they don’t have any adverse effects. Ripe tomatoes are a good source of fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium, all of which are beneficial to cats.

Are Cooked Tomatoes Safe for Cats?

This really depends on how the tomatoes were cooked. Many times, tomatoes are cooked with onions and garlic, both of which are absolutely not safe for cats. Both plants contain compounds that can be harmful to cats if ingested in large quantities. These compounds can cause gastrointestinal problems, damage the red blood cells in cats, and even lead to death. For this reason, it is important to keep both onions and garlic away from cats.

Despite the fact that a simple tomato sauce is usually made from ripe tomatoes, it also contains a lot of salt. The effects of salt on a cat’s digestive system can be numerous, including excessive thirst and urination, seizures, or even sodium poisoning. Similar effects can also be seen when ketchup and tomato soup are consumed.

Tomato Sauce
Image Credit: TJENA, Pixabay

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What Happens If a Cat Eats A Small Amount Of Ripe Tomato?

There is no need to worry excessively if your cat has eaten a small piece of ripe tomato it’s not harmful to cats unless ingested in large quantities. However, too much tomato can cause gastrointestinal upset in cats, so it is best to limit their intake to a small amount. It is always important to monitor your cat’s diet and ensure that they are only eating foods that are safe for them.

cat eating food in the bowl
Image Credit: Okssi, Shutterstock

Why Do Some Cat Foods Contain Tomatoes?

The inclusion of vegetables in cat foods is a recent trend that has arisen in response to the changing dietary needs and preferences of cat owners. A growing number of people are looking for ways to include more healthy and nutritious ingredients in their cats’ diets, and vegetables are a natural way to do that. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and they can help to improve the overall health and wellbeing of cats. Vegetables also add bulk to the food, which can help cats feel full after eating.

Why Does My Cat Want To Eat Tomatoes?

There can be a few reasons why a cat may want to eat tomatoes. One reason could be that cats are natural scavengers and they may see it as an available food source. It could simply be because the cat enjoys the taste of tomatoes and finds them appetizing. Another possibility is that the cat may be seeking out the nutrients that tomatoes contain. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium, all of which are important for cats’ health. So if a cat is deficient in any of these nutrients, it may seek out tomatoes as a way to compensate.

Munchkin cat eating
Image Credit: Twinsterphoto, Shutterstock

If I Want To Give My Cat Fruits & Vegetables, What Are Some Better Options?

The options for feeding a cat fruits and vegetables depend on the individual cat. Some cats may have allergies to certain vegetables or fruits, so it is important to carefully introduce new foods to a cat’s diet. In general, vegetables such as green beans, peas, pumpkin, carrots, and broccoli are good options, while fruits like blueberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe are also good choices.

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The effects of tomatoes on cats vary depending on the individual feline. Some cats may be able to tolerate tomatoes without issue, while others may experience gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration.  Tomatoes contain a moderate level of acidity, which could potentially cause problems for cats with sensitive stomachs. While it is generally unnecessary for a cat to consume tomatoes, there may be cases where a cat’s diet can include small amounts of ripe or simply cooked tomatoes as part of a balanced meal plan.

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Featured Image Credit: Devanath, Pixabay

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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