Coconut oil has exploded in popularity in the last decade and is now used for everything from cooking to skin moisturizer. With the variety of uses and claimed health benefits that coconut oil has to offer for humans, it’s natural to wonder if it’s safe for your cat.
Is coconut oil safe for cats? Yes! Used externally on your cat’s coat and internally for the various potential health benefits, coconut oil is perfectly safe for your feline friend. In this article, we’ll examine the various benefits of this so-called “superfood,” as well as the potential concerns that you need to be aware of when giving coconut oil to your cat.
What is coconut oil?
Coconut oil is the edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of a coconut. It has a high saturated fat content (over 80%), making it slow to oxidize and thus resistant to rancidification. The oil can last up to 6 months at room temperature without spoiling.
The coconut tree belongs to the palm family, and its oil has been used for centuries as a staple ingredient in beauty products like moisturizers and soaps and as a treatment for burns, cuts, and wounds on the skin.
It’s important to note that while coconut oil has many anecdotal claims of efficacy as a health product, there is no scientific basis for these claims and the evidence is still unclear. Additionally, almost all the studies that have been done were on humans. Of course, coconut oil still has a variety of uses and is by no means harmful if consumed in moderation, but the widely toted health benefits may not be based on nutritional science.
Potential benefits of coconut oil for cats
Most of us know the great benefits of using coconut oil on our hair and skin, and it can provide similar benefits for your cat too. Cats suffering from dry or flaky skin can benefit greatly from using coconut oil both topically and internally. Coconut oil can be used topically to assist with mange, which doesn’t do well in an oily environment, and can also be applied directly to flea bites and mild skin conditions. The great part is that your cat can lick themselves as usual and ingest the oil safely. Adding around half a teaspoon to your cat’s daily meal will also benefit their skin and coat.
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are said to have antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. MCTs can also aid in your cat’s digestion and may provide relief from constipation and reduce the prevalence of hairballs.
Coconut oil contains essential fatty acids, including lauric acid, which provides extra energy and may have antimicrobial effects. Some believe these fatty acids may even slow down the progression of kidney dysfunction. Lauric acid may also help ward off and even kill fleas and ticks when used topically and is said to rid your cat of tapeworms and other parasites when ingested.
Remember, none of these benefits have been substantiated by scientific study, and all are the result of anecdotal observation. That being said, coconut oil is non-toxic, and it is definitely worth a try if your cat is suffering from any of the above conditions.
Potential health risks
While coconut oil is non-toxic, there are still a few things to be aware of before giving it to your cat, and although there are several potential benefits, these are not backed up by science for the most part.
If you decide to give coconut oil to your cat, it should always be given in moderation. Coconut oil is high in both calories and fat, and when given in excess, it can quickly lead to your cat getting overweight. We recommend using coconut oil in small amounts and adding it gradually into your cat’s diet. Excessive use has also been said to cause vomiting, diarrhea, and digestive issues in some cats.
There are a few different varieties of coconut oil on the market, and no matter how you want to give it to your cat, be sure to find unrefined or virgin coconut oil. Refined coconut oil may not have potential benefits and may even do more harm than good. Some coconut oils are odorless and have the coconut taste and smell largely removed. While some cats may prefer this, there may be fewer benefits with these varieties.
How much coconut oil should I give my cat?
The question of how much oil to give your cat is difficult to answer, as it depends largely on your cat’s weight and size, their activity levels, and whether they have any underlying liver or kidney issues. However, if you have an active cat with healthy body weight, we recommend around half a teaspoon mixed with their food daily. This should provide them with potential benefits without the risk of gaining excess weight.
Coconut oil alternatives for cats
If your cat won’t eat coconut oil or you are concerned about the extra calories, there are safe and healthy alternatives. Fish oil is a great substitute and contains highly beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, and your cat will love the taste. For topical use, olive oil is a great substitute, although it does not have the same anti-inflammatory effects as coconut oil.
Coconut oil is non-toxic and has a long list of potential benefits to provide your feline. But remember that most of these benefits are anecdotal and not backed up by science, so it should not replace advice or recommendation given to you by your vet. The main concern with feeding your cat coconut oil is the extra fat and calories, so when given in moderation, coconut oil is a safe and potentially healthy addition to your cat’s diet.
Featured Image: Thasneem, Shutterstock