It’s our favorite time of the year. The leaves are changing, the crisp fall air is finally getting cooler, and pumpkin is just about everywhere to be found. From a pumpkin spice latte to a bowl of pumpkin pasta and just about everything in between, it’s hard to not reap the benefits of the delicious squash.
What many cat parents may not realize is that pumpkin makes a great addition to their feline’s diet as well. In fact, pumpkin (in its natural, pureed form) can be enjoyed all year round and can make an incredible difference for their cat’s digestive health.
In this article, we’ll cover all things pumpkin and why you may want to pick up a can or two the next time you make a trip to the grocery store. Let’s get to it!
Pumpkin for Cats… What’s the Hype About?
While many of our readers are likely familiar with the delicious pie filling, you may not realize that pumpkin is so much more than a decadent holiday treat. In fact, pumpkin can provide a variety of benefits for your feline ranging from digestive health to relieving hair balls to promoting a shiny, healthy coat.
What About Pumpkin Seeds?
If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin you’re familiar with the slimy “guts” that have to be removed in the process. Amidst the slime are pumpkin seeds. Some people enjoy roasting the seeds for a tasty snack, while others quickly dispose of the slippery mess. However, you may want to think twice next time as pumpkin seeds are full of antioxidants, vitamins, fatty acids, and minerals. Pumpkin seeds are also rich in lipids, a fat that is beneficial to include in your cat’s diet.
Pumpkin: The Basics
Pumpkin is a type of squash plant that is native to North America. It comes in a variety of forms, yet not all should be added to your kitty’s diet (More on that in a moment). Let’s first discuss how pumpkin is so beneficial.
Dietary fiber is made up of two main types: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Foods that are rich in fiber (such as pumpkin) have both soluble and insoluble fiber components.
What is Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is processed through the colon. Soluble fiber is known to help with weight management as it lowers fat absorption. It also lowers cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar levels, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, and promotes healthy gut bacteria.
Soluble Fiber Foods
Pumpkin, of course, is a great source of soluble fiber but it isn’t the only one. Other popular foods that contain soluble fiber include:
- Sweet potatoes
What is Insoluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber differs in the fact that it does not dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber remains intact as the food moves through the gastrointestinal tract. Insoluble fiber is known to help the body feel full for longer, as well as lower the risk of numerous diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome (just to name a few).
Insoluble Fiber Foods
Foods that contain insoluble fiber include:
- Whole wheat products
- Green beans
Benefits of Pumpkin for Cats
Many cat parents find themselves actively searching for all natural, safe remedies to not only cure specific ailments, but also serve as a disease preventative. We likely don’t have to tell you that being a pet owner isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. Health issues can arise at a moment’s notice and without any warning signs. In these cases, having pumpkin on hand can make a significant difference in no time at all.
Additionally, the use of pumpkin as a means to treat and prevent disease is certainly not a new trend that has recently been discovered. In fact, Native Americans used pumpkin to promote healing and eliminate intestinal worms. However, with the recent move towards all natural methods of easing our pets’ ailments, the conversation surrounding pumpkin is coming up more and more often (and we are thrilled about it). Let’s look at all of the ways pumpkin can benefit your feline.
Pumpkin for a Constipated Cat
Canned pumpkin can make a world of difference for a cat suffering from constipation. As we previously mentioned, pumpkin is an excellent source of soluble fiber, which helps to naturally get things moving in the digestive tract. Many over-the-counter laxatives will do the job, but are often times too harsh on the cat’s stomach and can result in diarrhea, especially if you give too much. When easing an ailment, the last thing you want to do is cure one issue only to create another. Canned pumpkin for cats won’t cause diarrhea but will effectively get your cat’s system back on track.
Experts recommend adding 1 tablespoon of pumpkin to your cat’s normal food in order to ease constipation. Additionally, we want to mention that constipation and dehydration often go hand in hand. It is essential to always make sure your feline has fresh water available.
Pumpkin for Cat Diarrhea
Interestingly enough, pumpkin for cats also treats diarrhea. Pumpkin is packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as potassium and iron. The combination of vitamins and minerals, along with the substantial amount of soluble fiber, help to add bulk to the cat’s stool by absorbing excess water in the digestive tract.
Of course, all cats are different so you’ll want to get an exact recommendation from your veterinarian once you discuss your cat’s individual problem and how long it has been going on. With that said, experts suggest adding 1 teaspoon of pumpkin to your cat’s food in order to help alleviate their diarrhea.
Another great thing about pumpkin is how quickly it begins working. Many cat owners report that they saw a difference in only a couple of hours.
Diarrhea… A Sign of Something More?
It is important for cat owners to recognize that while pumpkin is an effective and safe way to ease their cat’s diarrhea, it is not a “cure,” especially if there is a more serious issue involved. Additionally, if diarrhea persists after pumpkin is added, a vet appointment will be necessary. Diarrhea can quickly lead to rapid weight loss and dehydration. It is imperative that pet owners act quickly to ensure that diarrhea doesn’t lead to additional problems. Furthermore, diarrhea can be a symptom of other conditions such as intestinal parasites, bacterial or viral infections, or even certain gastrointestinal cancers. Getting to the root of what is causing your cat to experience diarrhea and irregular bowel movements is paramount.
Upset Stomach? Try Canned Pumpkin
Additionally, canned pumpkin for cats is a great way to prevent an upset stomach when switching foods. Pet parents may not realize that feeding one type of cat food over an extended period of time can lead to the development of food allergies. Therefore, changing up their food from time to time is very important but can also have some very unpleasant consequences. In these cases, adding pumpkin to your cat’s new food can make a world of a difference for their digestive tract (and for your carpet). Additionally, when switching food it is crucial that you slowly make the change. Incorporate small amounts of their existing food with the new food over a span of 1-2 weeks until their existing food is solely the new food. This will help to prevent gastrointestinal upset.
The fiber content of pumpkin may also help relieve hairballs in cats by moving them through their digestive tract.
Similar to diarrhea, an upset stomach is what veterinarians consider to be a “non-specific symptom.” In other words, gastrointestinal upset is a symptom of countless other conditions, ranging from mild to severe. Further testing will likely be necessary to make sure that there is not a more serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Weight Loss & Weight Management
We can’t deny the fact that fat cats can be pretty adorable. However, obesity and weight issues are directly correlated with severe health conditions that should be avoided at all cost. Pumpkin is an effective way to aid in weight loss and support weight management. The insoluble fiber in pumpkin helps cats feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time, thus preventing overeating. Additionally, in order to promote weight loss, experts recommend substituting a portion of your cat’s normal food with pumpkin since pumpkin is a low calorie yet highly nutritional food source.
Vitamins & Nutritional Benefits of Pumpkin
As we previously mentioned, pumpkin is full of powerful vitamins and incredible nutritional benefits. Let’s take a look at how they are able to help your feline feel their best.
Canned pumpkin for cats is loaded with vitamin A which help promote healthy eyes and vision.
Additionally, pumpkin is full of beta-carotene, an antioxidant (responsible for neutralizing free radicals in the body), which helps slow the aging process and may protect against certain types of cancer.
Just like people, cats can catch a cold when their immune system isn’t its strongest. Vitamin C is a great way to boost immune health. Additionally, vitamin C is also an antioxidant that fights molecules than can trigger inflammation. It also helps protect joints in aging animals, as it prevents the breakdown of cartilage.
Vitamin E, a fat-soluble nutrient found in pumpkin, is also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells against free-radical damage.
Essential Fatty Acids
Finally, pumpkin is full of essential fatty acids which are key players in promoting healthy skin and a silky, beautiful coat. If your cat is suffering from environmental allergies causing their skin to be itchy and irritated, try pumpkin! The fatty acids are sure to help.
Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
Remarkably, the benefits of pumpkin don’t stop there. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with their own list of nutritional advantages that cats can profit from.
A Natural Dewormer
Interestingly enough, pumpkin seeds can serve as a natural deworming agent, especially for tapeworms. The seeds have been used to combat intestinal worms dating back to when the Native Americans began using the squash. The amino acid called cucurbitacin in pumpkin seeds, paralyze the worms adhered to the intestinal wall, making them detach to be excreted in the feces.
More on Worms
We want to briefly discuss a bit more information when it comes to intestinal parasites. Unfortunately, worms can be quite common in both cats and dogs, so it’s important to know some common signs that your feline may have them. Keep in mind, some pets may not exhibit any stool changes with worms, so it is important to have a fecal checked at least one a year with your pet’s annual exam.
Clinical signs of intestinal parasites include:
- Frequent diarrhea
- Upset stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Mucus in or covering the stool
- Rice looking matter in stool
Worms and other intestinal parasites are typically contracted through ingesting feces directly or in contaminated soil or water. Ingesting fleas or other secondary hosts (including mice or lizards) are also the culprit with some parasites. Be sure that your cat stays far away from any unknown water source and always has fresh, clean drinking water available.
Furthermore, if you believe that your cat may have worms, please do not solely rely on pumpkin seeds to get rid of them. Pumpkin seeds may protect the pet from intestinal parasites but the research has been mixed its effectiveness as a dewormer. Some intestinal parasites can cause an extreme infestation and lead to horrific problems in the digestive tract. It’s important that a veterinarian is involved with the treatment process, even if you chose a natural form of treatment.
Rich in Antioxidants
Pumpkin seeds are also exceptionally rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties that promote cardiovascular health and overall wellness.
What Pumpkin is Best?
When it comes to pumpkin, not all forms are safe for your feline. When purchasing pumpkin, only buy plain, canned pumpkin. Do NOT purchase pumpkin pie filling or pumpkin that contains any additives, including added salt or sugar. These additives can have the exact opposite effect than what we have already described. Also, make sure that the canned pumpkin does not contain xylitol, a sugar substitute which can be extremely toxic for cats and dogs.
Additionally, while we typically promote all things fresh, we actually recommend canned pumpkin over fresh pumpkin. Canned pumpkin contains a higher percentage of fiber and a higher amount of nutrients than fresh pumpkin (surprising, we know).
Finally, once opened, canned pumpkin tends to spoil within a week unless kept in an air-tight container. If you are uncertain whether or not the pumpkin is still fresh, simply give it a whiff. You’ll be able to tell straight away if you should toss the remainder of the can.
How Much Pumpkin?
At this point, you may be sold on the idea of pumpkin for cats and wondering how to implement it into your feline’s diet. When adding pumpkin to your cat’s food, we recommend starting off with 1-4 teaspoons. We always believe in going slowly when introducing a new supplement, even though pumpkin is very safe for your kitty.
Additionally, cat parents can look for canned food that already has pumpkin in it. We recommend looking into brands like Weruva or Applaws.
Also, pet owners can freeze small portions of canned pumped for a nice, refreshing treat on a hot day. Your feline will have no idea that their new treat is actually boosting their overall health and wellbeing.
How Many Pumpkin Seeds
When treating intestinal parasites, experts recommend grinding up pumpkin seeds using a food processor. Once the seeds are in a ground-up, powder form, pet owners can add approximately 1 teaspoon to their cat’s food.
When in Doubt, Ask Your Vet!
Again, all cats are different and will likely require a different amount of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds in order to effectively treat and prevent their specific ailments. As always, we always recommend consulting with your holistic veterinarian regarding the amount of pumpkin that best suits your feline.
Pumpkin for Dogs
Additionally, we want to briefly mention the incredible benefits of pumpkin for dogs (spoiler alert… they are the same benefits that pumpkin has for your cat)!
When it comes to some nutritional supplements, pet owners must be careful as some may have different effects on dogs and cats. However, pumpkin has proven to be safe and effective for both of our four-legged companions! Just make sure to purchase plain canned pumpkin and sit back and watch your pets’ digestive systems improve.
Pumpkin for Cats: The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, we know that you want the very best for your feline friend. We don’t have to tell you that gastrointestinal issues are not ideal and can be the very opposite of what you consider to be a walk in the park. Luckily, there are natural ways to not only cure but prevent digestive complications. Clearly, one of our favorites is canned pumpkin.
Additionally, even if your feline isn’t suffering from stomach upset, consider switching things up by adding a bit of pumpkin to their diet. It can truly prove to be a delicious, healthy treat enjoyed by all!
The bottom line? Give pumpkin a try this fall… or any time for that matter! You won’t regret it.