Are tomatoes toxic to cats? If you took the time to research the topic before, you might have come across a number of web pages according to which cats and tomatoes don’t mix. But then why do some cat food varieties include tomato as an ingredient if that’s the case? Should you be worried if your cat seems to have a preference for this fruit (yes, it’s a fruit, not a veggie)?
In case you want to save time and you don’t want to read about some tomato toxicity facts or why tomatoes are present in cat food, we’ll answer the question right away.
So, can cats eat tomatoes? Yes, but that doesn’t mean that they should. Plus, the fruits have to be completely ripe. Ripe tomatoes do not contain the same levels of toxins that make stems, unripe tomatoes, as well as the leaves of the plant dangerous to our feline friends… but they do contain other potentially dangerous things.
Feel free to read the longer answer to the question below.
Reasons to avoid feeding tomatoes to your cat
Both the HSUS website and the ASPCA website say that tomato leaves and stems (the green parts) are toxic to pets. ASPCA mentions that tomatoes could contain a poison by the name of solanine. By the way, solanine is also present in the potato plant and that’s why using the green parts of it is also not recommended.
It appears that the toxic substance disappears from tomatoes once they become ripe. In fact, solanine is not the primary toxin in tomatoes — they actually contain a worrying amount of tomatine. As the fruit ripens, tomatine levels decrease significantly. But what’s important to note here is that tomatine is nearly not as dangerous as solanine, so it poses less of a health threat to a cat even if she nibbles on the raw fruit by accident.
Are tomatoes bad for cats and if so, when?
As we have already mentioned, the toxicity level in a tomato fruit drops as it becomes ripe. Tomatoes are toxic to felines when they are unripe.
In general, and based on my veterinary expertise, I wouldn’t recommend feeding tomatoes to a cat in any situation. Naturally, if you feed her a very small amount, almost nothing bad could happen.
Unless you grow your own organic and completely pesticide-free tomatoes on your farm, using this type of food as a treat for your cats is a bad idea. Consider for a moment that cats are much, much smaller beings compared to humans and that they have sensitive metabolisms. That’s what makes it so difficult for their bodies to be able to process artificial substances like pesticides and preservatives.
I do not recommend feeding your cat tomatoes that you bought from the supermarket, especially if they are not marketed as organic. Even in those cases, I would be wary of how ‘organic’ the fruit really is. Plus, there are situations where someone starts organic farming on land where heavy pesticides were used for decades, so the residues would be present in the produce for a long time still.
Pesticides could cause a variety of health issues in cats and they range from digestive disorders to much more serious consequences in the long term, such as being at the root of cancer cases. Most pesticides are carcinogenic.
Another thing that makes tomatoes and the pesticides in them dangerous consists of their so-called design. If you were to feed your cat watermelon as a treat every so often (not the rind), you wouldn’t have to worry about the core of the fruit being exposed to any toxins because the rind is so thick that it makes it almost impossible for the pesticides to get through. Now think of a tomato and you’ll realize that its skin is very thin and therefore, capable of absorbing every nasty drop of the pesticide.
Not made for them
On top of everything, cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they are genetically engineered to eat meat and meat alone. It is true that some tend to get constipated, which is a problem that’s typical for older cats, so in such situations, you would have to add unusual things to their diet, such as fiber sources (pumpkin, for example).
Another thing in tomatoes that could cause digestive issues would be the seeds of the fruit. As you can expect, a being that’s used to eating just meat is almost incapable of digesting not only fiber but also seeds. Besides, they are known to ferment easily so your feline friend could end up with a really bad case of indigestion and diarrhea.
Some cats could be allergic to tomatoes
This might be true as well, but it’s often that the pesticides in the tomatoes will cause adverse reactions that we would misinterpret as being typical of an allergy. If your cat is allergic to a type of food, his or her reactions could vary between mild stomach discomfort and diarrhea to anaphylactic shock, which could, unfortunately, lead to death. If you care about the health and safety of your cat, keep her away from tomatoes (even if she loves them).
It’s also worth noting that you should avoid feeding your cat ketchup, tomato juice, or tomato soup, especially if they are store-bought and have lots of artificial colors and preservatives in them.
So why are tomatoes in commercial cat food?
Good question. The same reason why you’d find corn to be in cat food. It makes no sense whatsoever, but these companies will put anything in cat food so long as they don’t have to add too much ‘real’ meat. Of course, these brands’ representatives will always say that the tomatoes they add are always ripe so they contain practically no tomatine, but what about the pesticides and about the fact that tomatoes aren’t made for cats in the first place?
To sum up, while theoretically, tomatoes aren’t exactly bad for cats, they aren’t good, either. So, your beautiful feline friend might just as well go without any.