Dear Doctor: Tinkering with a cat’s diet
Q. My wife likes to purée vegetables— like peas, carrots and sweet potato — and mix it into our cat’s canned food. Is this okay to do? Are there any vegetables that should never be added to the cat food? We also add some cranberry powder (made for cats), along with some hairball powder. We trying to be to health-minded, but could we be causing potential problems?
A. Dear David: While adding puréed vegetables to cat food is certainly not necessary, it shouldn’t be harmful if you avoid veggies such as avocado, onion and garlic, and if you keep the total calories of the mixture to less than 10 percent of your cat’s daily calorie intake (lower if your cat gets any other treats). For a typical cat, this means no more than 25 calories per day from veggies/treats.
I assume that you are using the cranberry supplement for urinary health. While there is a bit of evidence that certain cranberry supplements may reduce the risk of urinary tract infections from specific bacteria in dogs, I am unaware of evidence of a similar benefit in cats. Moreover, most urinary tract signs in cats — increased urination, urinating outside the box, straining to urinate — are not due to infection, so it is unlikely that the supplement will be of any benefit.
It is important to discuss all supplements with your veterinarian because safety and efficacy of supplements do not need to be proven prior to the products being sold. No doubt due to the lack of regulatory oversight of dietary supplements, there have been many reported quality control issues with supplements that should be safe based on the listed ingredients — sometimes what’s actually in the product does not match what is on the label.
Unfortunately, this can include products that are marketed as “veterinary approved,” so it is important to discuss with your veterinarian and thoroughly investigate any dietary supplements prior to administering them to your cat.
Cailin Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University