Few things are more satisfying to us humans than the salty, vinegary crunch of a fresh pickle. Since we very often are tempted to think that if we enjoy and benefit from certain food, our cats must also, we may wonder: is it safe to give a cat a pickle? After all, it’s basically a vegetable, right? Not exactly. Read on to find out why this food may cause more harm than good.
Cats Don’t Need Vegetables
Pickles are just pickled cucumbers, so it’s easy to think of them as a healthy snack for us and for our cats. It may surprise you, however, that your feline friend doesn’t need vegetables or really anything other than protein in their diet according to Darwin’s, a natural pet food supplier. All of the nutrients a cat needs to function and thrive are either taken in from meat sources or are synthesized internally.
While we may need to struggle to get the proper number of fruits and vegetables into our diets, your kitty is off the hook! They can safely stick to meats for their meals, there’s not much benefit to adding vegetables to their dishes.
So, Cucumbers Aren’t Good, But What Makes Them Bad?
It’s not that cucumbers are detrimental to your cat’s well-being. In fact, Pets WebMD suggests offering your cat some fresh cucumber as a part of their diet from time to time. They state that there are some marginally beneficial vitamins cats can get from cucumbers and some other vegetables. They also say that the water content in cucumber can help your cat get the hydration it needs. The issue really comes with the pickling process.
The First Issue: Salt
The first issue with pickles comes with the salt content. Cucumbers are often pickled using vinegar, salt, and some combination of herbs and spices. While humans are able to process salt fairly easily, the sodium content in pickles is simply not suitable for your cat.
Salt is a staple in our diets, but experts maintain that it’s not healthy for pets in the quantities we consume. Pet Poison Helpline warns that high salt consumption by our feline friends can cause a myriad of health issues including upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea, and it can even lead to salt poisoning and be toxic in large quantities.
The Second Issue: Garlic
It’s a fairly well-known fact that vegetables used for seasonings like garlic and onion are dangerous for cats to consume, and experts at Preventive Vet say that they can be fatal.
While there are many different kinds of pickles available to us, many are made with garlic for flavor. While the amount of garlic found in pickles or pickle juice may not be enough to cause issues with your cat, it’s better to err on the side of caution and avoid giving your cat pickles altogether.
What About Homemade Pickles?
Of course, there’s a loophole when it comes to pickles having too much salt or being made with garlic: make them yourself, and then give them to your cat. Would that be okay?
Provided you make your pickles without salt and without onion or garlic, this could be acceptable. Research by PetNet shows that vinegar is safe for consumption by cats. So as long as no salt, garlic, or onion is added to the pickling liquid, your homemade pickles should be safe for your cat to eat.
We’ve walked about cucumbers and vinegar being safe, so really the only question left is regarding the dill that may be added. We’ve got you covered there as well! The ASPCA has dill listed as “non-toxic” for cats. So, if you’re making homemade pickles with cucumbers, vinegar, and salt, your cat can safely snack on them in moderation. You may, however, find that pickles without salt don’t suit your own fancy!
The Bottom Line
Most pickles are unsuitable for cats, and consumption should be avoided. The salt content of the pickles we tend to enjoy is too high to be safe for your kitty, and since many pickles are made with garlic and onions for flavor — both of which can be toxic to cats — pickles aren’t generally a cat-safe snack. However, if you’re willing to go through the trouble of making non-salted pickles at home with no garlic or onion, those should be safe for your cat. Many cats don’t like vinegary or acidic foods, so don’t be surprised if your furry family member turns up his or her nose when presented with your hard work.
Featured image credit: Amber Kipp from Unsplash, Pexels