Pumpkin is a superfood. Or at least...it's super delicious, right? This time of year, pumpkin is everywhere. People sell pumpkins out of the back of pickup trucks. Your grocery store has them on sale for something like a dollar each. They're putting pumpkin in coffee, for goodness' sakes. Should you be giving your cat more pumpkin?
Pumpkin is Great for Cats
All "Basic" jokes aside, pumpkin actually has a ton of excellent health benefits. It's chock full of fiber which itself is great for your cat's digestive system, for preventing constipation, and even stopping diarrhea. Dietary fiber absorbs stomach acid and excess water and can actually help move any ingested fur through your cat's digestive tract. Pumpkin is also a great source of Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and beta-carotene, in addition to other nutritious compounds. Because it's such a healthy food, it's a great way to supplement an overweight cat's diet; replacing just 20% of her regular food can leave her feeling just as full but with fewer calories.
How to Incorporate Pumpkin Into Your Cat's Diet
By far the easiest way to incorporate more pumpkin into your cat's diet is by using canned pumpkin. Organic is a nice-to-have but what's most important is that you don't accidentally buy pumpkin pie filling as it can contain extra sugar and some spices (nutmeg!) that can actually be harmful to your cat's health. You could, of course, always get a whole pumpkin, empty the seeds, cut it into chunks, then roast or steam it, but that's a lot of hassle. However you decide to prepare the pumpkin, don't add any extra seasonings like salt, sugar, or cinnamon. When you begin incorporating pumpkin (or any new food) into your cat's diet, do so slowly. Just 2-3 tablespoons is probably enough at first - you don't want to shock your cat's system and give her an upset tummy. Over time, you can mix pumpkin into her regular cat food on a daily basis, freeze it into pumpkin-cubes to give as treats, or just offer it up as you feel like it. Your cat will let you know if she's not a fan!
What Other Fall Foods Should Cats Eat?
Glad you asked! Turns out squash of any variety (pumpkin is a squash) is pretty good for cats. They've got tons of vitamins and a lot of fiber, not to mention fatty acids that are great for urinary and digestive health. Just make sure you cook squash first...animals can't break down raw squash like we can. Other fall foods you can feel good about feeding your cat include apples, turkey, and peanut butter (is peanut butter a "fall food?") As with anything, just be sure to choose foods without additives to be sure you're not giving your cat anything you didn't intend to.