One of the best seasons is right around the corner: summer! With summer comes an abundance of fresh, in-season fruits. An absolute favorite? Watermelon. Watermelon is a sweet, refreshing fruit from the gourd family that can be enjoyed in recipes, in drinks, or all by itself.
However, the question of the day is, can cats have watermelon? Is watermelon bad for cats?
First of all, cats are known for their pickiness. Some will eat nothing but fish and cat treats, and others you may seeing dragging a slice of pepperoni pizza from the kitchen table. (No judgement!) Also, cats don’t always process some “human” food very well, and their digestive systems are as picky as their taste buds. So, what about watermelon? Good question. Let’s dive right in.
Can Cats Eat Watermelon?
The short answer is yes, in most cases, cats can have a few bites of watermelon (just the pulp, not the seeds or the rind).
However, cats are carnivores, meaning they need meat more than anything else. That is where they get their vitamins and minerals to support their bodies. However, a few bites of watermelon here and there may be beneficial to cats, assuming they will eat it.
Watermelon is a great source of Vitamins A and C, magnesium, and potassium. Cats naturally produce Vitamin C (how cool is that?), so they don’t really need it; however, Vitamin A is good for a cat’s skin health. Potassium is good for cats; in fact, insufficient amounts can lead to hypokalemia. Magnesium is also essential to cats; low magnesium levels can lead to hypomagnesemia, which can result in problems with the cat’s muscular and skeletal health.
Watermelon is also high in fiber, which is essential for digestion. While cats get their share of fiber from their cat food, a little extra shouldn’t hurt and may even be helpful.
In addition, watermelons are approximately 92% water. Cats consume most of their water through their canned cat food, not through their water bowl. (Fun fact!) The extra hydration in watermelon is good for cats.
Overall, though, watermelon does not hold much nutritional value compared to other foods that cats need, like meat and protein. Obviously, watermelon is not a meat source, and while some of the vitamins and minerals can be beneficial, it should only be an occasional treat.
Is Watermelon Safe for Cats?
Watermelon pulp is safe for cats in most instances, but there are a few precautions.
First, if your cat suffers from diabetes, the high sugar content of watermelon is not a good choice. Diabetic cats should have a low sugar diet, even if the sugar is “healthy” like in fruit. However, if your cat is in a healthy weight range and does not suffer from diabetes, watermelon in small quantities is perfectly safe.
However, watermelon seeds, whether they are the black ones or the white ones, are NOT safe for your cat. Seeds contain cyanide, and a cat’s body cannot digest these seeds as our bodies can. If your cat swallows a seed whole, it’s unlikely to hurt her, assuming it will just pass right through her digestive system. However, if your cat breaks a seed in half while eating watermelon, cyanide will enter her body, which could cause intoxication. Make sure you remove every single seed before giving your cat a bite of watermelon.
Along with seeds, watermelon rinds are not safe for cats. The rind cannot be digested properly and could cause intestinal problems. If you notice that your cat has already bitten into a watermelon rind, watch him for any odd behaviors or pain. If he shows any weird symptoms, it’s time to take him to the vet ASAP.
Then, there are food allergies to watch for. Just like humans are allergic to certain foods, cats can have them too. If you feed your cat watermelon, be sure to monitor her. Signs of a food allergy in cats are frequent scratching at the heads and necks, diarrhea, or vomiting. Use your common sense, of course, but if you think your cat may have an allergic reaction to watermelon, take him to the vet right away.
Will My Cat Even Like the Taste of Watermelon?
You have probably heard that cats cannot taste the sweetness in foods. According to Scientific America, this is because two genes, Tas1r2 and Tas1r3, contribute to the ability to taste sweetness, and the sweetness signals that the food is a carbohydrate! Carnivores don’t need carbohydrates in order to live, so as a result, all cats from lions to tigers to domestic cats lack the amino acids that come from the Tas1r2 gene. This means that cats are incapable of tasting anything sweet and why cat food and treats contain no sugar.
Considering that the sweetness of watermelon is one of the reasons why this fruit is enjoyed, your cat may not even like it. However, he may like the texture of the melon and the refreshing aspect. You won’t know if your cat likes or doesn’t like watermelon until you offer him a piece.
Moderation is Key (as always, sigh)
Personally, I love watermelon, and when I was younger and not-so-wise, I ate one and a half huge melons by myself in one sitting. While it was so tasty and refreshing going down, I was sick for days afterward. Here are some side effects of eating too much watermelon, if you’re interested.
Moderation is pretty much key to everything, so they say. Too much watermelon for your cat can be seriously detrimental to her health, especially her digestive system. A few pieces here and there should be fine; a whole bowl every summer day would not be fine.
What’s the Bottom Line?
The bottom line here is that most healthy cats can have a few bites of watermelon on occasion. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water, which can benefit a cat’s health. Remove the seeds and the rind, watch for allergies if you are feeding it to her for the first time, and if she just sniffs at it and walks away? Oh well, more for you! (Just make sure you don’t eat more than one watermelon in a single sitting.