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Can Cats Eat Coconut? Health Benefits & Risks

Coconut has made a name for itself in the last few decades as a health food, thanks to the nutrient density of everything from coconut water to coconut oil. Although it is technically a type of fruit called a dry drupe, it can also be categorized as a nut and a seed, thanks to some loose botany rules.1 Regardless of how you classify coconut, it’s a popular ingredient in many dishes.

Due to its popularity, it’s likely for your cat to come into contact with food products containing coconut at some point, not to mention how popular coconut oil is in online pet groups as a magic cure for every issue from a dull coat to fleas. Let’s talk about the safety of giving your cat coconut-containing foods and what benefits coconut might have for your cat. The short answer is yes, cats can eat coconuts.

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Can Cats Eat Coconut?

Yes, cats can eat coconut-containing products. It is not toxic to cats and is generally a safe option. It should be fed with caution, though, as coconut oil and the fruit’s meat can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach upset due to the oil content.

Coconut water should be avoided since it contains high levels of electrolytes, especially potassium. It is easy to overdo it on coconut products for your cat, and too much coconut water can lead to electrolyte imbalances that could be detrimental to your cat’s health.

a kitten playing with coconut
Image Credit: Ekaterina Kolomeets, Shutterstock

Is Coconut Healthy for Cats?

Coconut, specifically coconut oil, does have some health benefits for cats. It can be applied topically or given orally to help with dry and flaky skin, skin allergies, dull coat, and excessive shedding. It can also be given orally to reduce hairballs, support dental health and reduce bad breath, support immunity, and reduce inflammation related to arthritis.

Although it can help with these issues, it is unlikely to cure medical issues. If your cat is experiencing medical problems, it’s a good idea to talk to your vet before giving any coconut oil or coconut products to your cat. They will be able to give you guidance to help you find a treatment plan involving coconut oil to help your cat. It’s especially important to talk to your vet if you are not sure what’s going on with your cat since coconut oil can worsen some conditions.

coconut and coconut oil
Image Credit: Thasneem, Shutterstock

How Can I Give Coconut to My Cat?

Coconut oil can be applied topically to your cat’s skin and coat simply by rubbing it on. Try to keep it minimal, using less than a teaspoon since your cat will groom the oil off and ingest it. It’s unlikely that you’ll need to use coconut oil topically every day for your cat. It can build up on the skin over time and lead to clogged pores, sometimes even worsening issues your cat already has.

If you are offering coconut oil orally to your cat, you can simply put a dab of room temperature coconut oil on top of your cat’s food. If you want to warm it to a liquid, it will melt easily in your hands. Do not heat coconut oil and then offer it to your cat since this can cause burns.

To reduce the risk of causing stomach upset and overfeeding calories, most cats need around ¼-½ of a teaspoon once or twice daily. Start with a tiny amount and work up to a full dose quantity to avoid stomach upset. Don’t forget that coconut oil contains around 39 calories per teaspoon, and most cats need fewer than 200–350 calories per day, including treats and supplements.

giving cat cbd oil
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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In Conclusion

Coconut oil can be a healthy addition to your cat’s daily diet when offered properly. Avoid coconut water, as the high potassium content can be detrimental to the health of your cat. Coconut milk and unsweetened coconut flakes are safe for cats but have fewer known health benefits than coconut oil.

Adding coconut oil into your cat’s daily regimen is easy to do, but the quantity you give your cat is important. You should make sure you are properly measuring any coconut oil you give your cat orally; otherwise, it may lead to stomach upset.

If you choose to use coconut oil topically for your cat’s skin or coat issues, you should be aware of how much you are using. Your cat will groom itself, removing topical coconut oil. If you apply a large amount to your cat and they groom it off, they may end up with stomach discomfort because of it. You should also avoid using coconut oil topically on a daily basis as this can lead to worsening skin issues over time.

If you’re planning to start using coconut oil for your cat, you should talk to your vet first. Coconut oil can do more harm than good for certain medical conditions and when fed improperly. To keep your cat healthy, your vet will be a great resource to help guide you in caring for your cat’s needs. If your cat has an issue you feel coconut oil may help with, call your vet to verify the potential of safety for your cat.