Cats aren’t great aficionados of vegetables and greens, and for a good reason, too. They are obligate carnivores, so their diet should mostly consist of protein and fat-rich foods.
But can cats eat lettuce? Does this green provide them with any benefits? Can it sometimes be dangerous? We’re answering these questions and many more in today’s article, so keep on reading!
Can cats eat lettuce?
It is quite difficult to give a straight answer to this question. In most situations, cats can eat lettuce, but it should obviously not make a good portion of their diet, as cats aren’t genetically engineered to have a lot of greens.
Cats can eat lettuce so long as it is properly washed, and it hasn’t been exposed to any potential contaminants or pesticides, weed killers, or any other chemical that farmers might use.
There are other risks involved in feeding your cat lettuce, especially if it is not hygienic, but we will discuss them below.
What nutrients can lettuce offer your feline friend?
Some of the main things that lettuce can add to your cat’s diet are vitamins A and K, fiber, as well as a decent amount of folate.
But perhaps the most important benefit to giving your pet lettuce every once in a while, especially if she seems to be a fan of it, is that it is very rich in water. As you know if you have been a cat guardian for a while, cats aren’t best known for their appetite for water.
If your feline buddy becomes dehydrated or just doesn’t consume enough water, this can lead to a variety of health conditions as time goes by, mainly kidney-related problems. You can, of course, invest in a good-quality pet fountain to give your cat a stimulant so that she drinks more water.
But lettuce is also rich in water, so that’s one less thing to worry about.
Another aspect that makes lettuce a recommendable food is that it contains fiber. True, it contains a significantly lower amount compared to other foods such as potatoes or grains. On the other hand, cats aren’t supposed to have carb-heavy foods, so the only healthy fiber source besides lettuce would be pumpkin.
Fiber regulates a cat’s digestion, so adding lettuce as a treat to your pet’s diet can improve conditions such as chronic constipation. If you didn’t know, this is a very common health problem of geriatric cats.
How else is lettuce good for cats?
If you have ever tried to lose weight, you probably know that the best diet is a low-carb and a low-fat one, with plenty of veggies and lean sources of protein. Lettuce is not a calorie-heavy food, so it doesn’t heavily add to the whole number of calories that your cat should have in a day.
If your cat is a lettuce lover and she is obese or overweight, you shouldn’t hesitate to add this food to her diet — keeping in mind that it should never make up more than 5 to 10% of the entire diet.
Lettuce vs. other greens
A very important fact about lettuce that we have to underline here is that, unlike kale and spinach, it doesn’t contain too many minerals, some of which can put your cat’s health at risk.
While small amounts of kale and spinach are definitely healthy for people, in pets, they can create various urinary pathologies and a considerable risk of calculi development. Fortunately, lettuce does not have the same effect.
Can lettuce be dangerous for cats?
In some cases, yes. We’ve already mentioned pesticide and weed killers, so we recommend always purchasing organic lettuce from your Farmer’s Market. You can, of course, grow your own lettuce, especially if you want to be absolutely certain that it hasn’t been exposed to any of these nasty chemicals.
Pesticides and weed killers might not necessarily be toxic right away, especially if only small amounts were used on the lettuce. But most such substances are carcinogenic, meaning they can unnecessarily increase your cat’s risk to develop cancer when she becomes a senior.
There have also been lots of problems with bagged salads in the past, such as Salmonella contamination. While you might do your best at cleaning this leafy green, it might have been contaminated with a super germ, so no amount of water is going to kill such bacteria.
Besides these microorganisms, lettuce varieties can be parasite carriers. One of the most common parasites that lettuce can carry is Cyclospora cayetanensis, which can cause food poisoning characterized by severe diarrhea.
But what if you grow your own lettuce in your garden? Even then, you can’t know for sure that it hasn’t been contaminated with bacteria or parasites. If your cat has access to the garden and tends to use it to go potty, your lettuce can become contaminated with any microorganisms from your cat’s urine and feces.
And even if you don’t allow your cat to ‘go to the bathroom’ in your garden, there could be other animals using it for the same purpose. Whether they are cats, rodents, or any wild animals, the risk still exists and should be considered.
Lettuce should be given to cats only as a treat. Meat or protein-rich commercial diets should still make the biggest part of your feline companion’s diet.
Clean, well-washed, and small-cut lettuce can be safe for cats and can also refrain your pet from nibbling on your house plants — some of which can be toxic. However, not all lettuce is safe, especially if it is not organic or if it could have been exposed to bacterial or parasite contaminants.