If you love eating honey yourself, you probably know that it has antibacterial properties and is packed full of antioxidants and vitamins. It’s good for us humans, but does that mean it could be good for our cats too? Can cats even eat honey, and if so, is it safe to give your cat some as a sweet treat every now and again?
In short, while honey isn’t toxic to cats, it’s not a recommended food either. So a little bit of honey eaten by accident shouldn’t do any harm, but most vets would suggest avoiding purposeful feeding of honey to your cat.
Let’s take a look at why.
What’s good about honey?
Honey can be used to help with a range of issues for humans:
- It’s thought that local, unpasteurized honey can soothe allergies
- Honey is rich in antioxidants
- Honey has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties
It’s also thought that honey may help allergies in cats too, but currently, there isn’t any scientific research to back up this claim.
Cats and sugar
Did you know that cats are “sweet blind?” Thanks to their obligate carnivore digestive systems, cats actually lack the ability to taste sweet flavors. So while you might think they would enjoy a sweet substance like honey as much as we do, the sweet taste of this sticky food is totally lost on them.
Cats are more likely attracted by the fat content of things we consider “treats” like cream, ice cream and, of course, honey.
If you want to treat your cat, you’re far better off selecting a high-quality treat that’s been formulated specifically for cats.
What’s bad about honey?
Cats can eat a small amount of honey without suffering any adverse effects, but whether or not their digestive system can actually extract any goodness from it is another matter. Cats are carnivores, and their digestive systems are designed to process meat, meat, and more meat.
Of course, they also need some fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. But they certainly don’t need to eat the varied diet that we, as omnivores, do.
Honey is primarily made up of fructose and glucose, and a cat’s digestive system simply isn’t designed to break down these sugars.
If you’re tempted to give your cat honey to help ease allergies, or because you think they may benefit from the antioxidants it contains, we recommend holding off. Speak to your veterinarian first, and the chances are they will be able to suggest a much more effective and safer alternative.
Never feed a diabetic cat honey. Because it’s basically pure sugar, honey should definitely be off the menu for a diabetic cat.
The same goes for an overweight or obese cat. Obesity is a health threat, and with an estimated 60% of cats in the United States being overweight or obese, it makes sense to reduce the amount of sugars your cat is getting in their diet. And honey is one sugar that doesn’t provide them with any nutritional benefits!
What might happen if my cat eats some honey accidentally?
Most cats won’t eat honey intentionally, but they may eat some accidentally. A small amount is unlikely to do them any long-term harm, but it could cause minor health complications including:
- Abdominal pain
If your cat has eaten a little bit of honey, monitor them carefully over the next 24 hours, and call your vet if they exhibit any of the above symptoms or show any other signs of discomfort.
Should you give your cat honey intentionally?
Honestly, it’s probably best to skip this ingredient as a home remedy.
Local, unprocessed honey is thought to help with allergies, but you’d need to seek this out from an independent apiarist. Supermarket honey is almost always pasteurized, so won’t offer this benefit (which, as you’ll remember, is unproven as it is). It also needs to be local honey, otherwise, the pollen content won’t correspond to your area. As we mentioned already, there are other more effective allergy medications that you can speak to your vet about.
Manuka honey from New Zealand is well-known for its incredible anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and antioxidant benefits, some vets may use it as a wound treatment, but you shouldn’t attempt to replicate this at home without their guidance.
Can kittens have honey?
While adult cats should be able to process a small amount of honey, you should try to make sure your kitten never has the opportunity to eat any honey. Their delicate digestive systems are more prone to picking up botulism from the bacterial clostridium botulinum spores sometimes found in raw honey.
Wrapping it up
There are plenty of reasons to avoid giving your cat or kitten honey and no real reason to add this ingredient to their diet.
Honey is packed full of sugar in the form of fructose and glucose, neither of which can be processed by your cat’s specially designed digestive system. Honey can put your cat at risk of becoming obese, suffering from tooth decay, or suffering from complications if they have diabetes.
While a small amount of honey eaten by accident shouldn’t be a serious issue for an adult cat, it can still cause diarrhea and vomiting. If you’re worried that your cat or kitten has eaten honey, speak to your veterinarian if they seem unwell.
In the meantime, leave the honey on the table for the human members of your family, and keep it well out the reach of your curious feline friends!