Avocados are rapidly gaining in popularity due to their nutritional benefits, and the Mexican avocado trade is now worth 2.17 billion dollars. If your cat snacked on your avocado when you turned your back, you might be wondering if avocados are ok for cats.
We’ll look at whether cats can eat avocados, how much, and if they have any health benefits for cats.
What Are Avocados?
Avocados are the fruit of the avocado tree (Persea americana). The tree is native to Central America but is now widely cultivated worldwide thanks to the popularity of the fruits. There are a variety of cultivars of avocado, but the most common is the Hass avocado.
Avocado fruits are pear-shaped and have a green-brown leathery skin, which is responsible for its common name ‘alligator pear’. Inside, they have oily, pale, yellow-green flesh and a large, round pit.
The skin and pit are discarded, and the green flesh eaten sliced, ‘smashed’ (with chilli and lime), or creamed and made into a guacamole dip. Avocado has also been used by vegans and those following the paleo diet to substitute for fats such as butter.
Avocado Nutrition Stats
Avocados are often labelled as a ‘superfood’ due to the nutrients packed into these little gems. 100 grams of avocado is thought to provide:
Avocados are very high in fat, and therefore energy, for a fruit. They’re also high in fiber.
In addition, avocados contain the following vitamins and minerals in 100g:
Avocado Nutritional Benefits
As well as being high in fats, avocados also pack a nutritional punch with their fiber, protein and vitamin profiles.
Fiber is essential for regulating the bowel and feeding the ‘good’ bacteria of the gut. About 70% of the fiber in avocados is insoluble fiber, which regulates bowel movements.
The protein content of an avocado is interesting- they contain 22 different amino acids, including all eight of the essential amino acids for adult humans. Watch out though — cats need different amino acids to people, and avocados cannot provide all of the amino acids needed by cats.
Can Cats Eat Avocado?
The good news is that cats can eat avocado flesh! The toxin in avocado, ‘persin’, is not very toxic to cats.
Persin is a natural fungicide produced by the avocado plant. It occurs in high quantities in the plant itself, as well as in the avocado skin and pit. Persin is causes vomiting and diarrhea in cats if eaten in high quantities.
The flesh of the avocado, however, doesn’t contain much persin. And whilst according to the ASPCA it is still enough to be toxic to some animals, cats are not as susceptible to persin toxicity and would need to eat a lot of avocado flesh to have problems. In fact, you might be surprised to hear that avocado has been evaluated as an alternative source of dietary fiber for cats, and is even being used in some cat foods (Avoderm) due to its skin-boosting fatty acid content.
So avocado flesh is fine for cats to eat, but you should never feed the avocado pit or skin, and if you grow an avocado tree from the pit, you should keep it out of the reach of curious cats!
Of course, avocados won’t suit all cats. Obese cats should avoid avocado- it’s very calorific. Cats with IBD and other gut issues or dietary sensitivities should also avoid avocado, as it may upset them.
Don’t forget that avocado may be mixed with other ingredients that are more concerning. Garlic and chocolate are both combined with avocado and should both be avoided. Cats can eat plain, raw avocado flesh- but take care with guacamole and other preparations.
Are Avocados Good For Cats?
We know cats can eat avocados, but are they good for cats? The good news is that avocados contain a range of healthy nutrients and may even have some health benefits.
High In Healthy Fats
Most of the calories in avocado come from the high fat content, but they’re considered ‘healthy’ fats, especially the monounsaturated oleic acid. Oleic acid has been linked with reduced cancer risk and less inflammation in humans- although there are no studies on this in cats. Fatty acids are also important for skin health.
Another reason that fat is essential in the diet is because many vitamins are fat-soluble, not water-soluble. In fact, one study showed that humans can absorb more nutrients when avocado oil is added to low-fat food, probably because the extra fat allows absorption of fat-soluble nutrients.
Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables are an ingredient of joint supplements that has shown some promise in helping pain and inflammation associated with arthritis in humans. This ingredient is extracted from the oil of the avocado. However, cats would have to eat a lot of avocado to get any benefit from the unsaponifiables- it’s probably best to stick to getting it in concentrated form.
Avocados Are High In Antioxidants
Let’s not forget the antioxidants- avocados are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants known to impact eye health and fight free radicals. Lutein has also been shown to impact the immune system of cats.
How Much Avocado Can A Cat Eat?
Although there is not much persin in avocado flesh, theoretically avocado poisoning is a risk if a cat eats too much avocado.
However, the more common problem with eating too much avocado is that it unbalances the diet and can quickly cause weight gain. Cats can ‘fill up’ on avocado and then not want to eat their dinner, which contains essential nutrients not found in avocado.
As with all foods that are not formulated to be complete and balanced, it forms the ‘snack’ portion of your cat’s calorie allowance. Your cat shouldn’t have more than 10% of his daily calories from an unbalanced source- this includes all treats and human foods.
Avocados are very high in calories, meaning it’s very hard not to overfeed them to your cat (half an avocado contains 90% of your cat’s calorie allowance for the entire day!)
So, how much avocado can a cat eat? A 9lb cat is allowed 20 calories of treats a day. Assuming he has no other treats or human food, he can have 20 grams (three quarters of an ounce) of avocado per day. In practice, this about 1/8th of an avocado, or two teaspoons.
Remember, though, to take 20 calories out of your cat’s diet if you’re giving him avocado, and to reduce the amount of avocado if your cat has already eaten treats.
Cats can eat small amounts of avocado, but only the flesh. Remember, avocados are calorific so they can only have a very small amount to avoid weight gain.
Avocados won’t suit all cats, so make sure you introduce it to your cat slowly, starting with small pieces, and watch for side effects like an upset stomach.