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7 Health Benefits of Coconut Oil for Cats – Based on Science

Coconut oil has become popular over the last few years and can offer impressive health benefits for us humans.

Can these health benefits apply to our cats too? Just because something works for humans doesn’t mean it’s going to show the same effects on felines. Before trying any new treatment, it’s important to do your research and speak to your veterinarian.

The good news is that in this case, coconut oil offers plenty of health benefits for our feline friends too. In this article, we’ve rounded up seven health benefits of coconut oil for cats, all backed up by science.

cat face divider 21. Coconut oil can help skin conditions

cat scratching skin
Image: Pixabay

If your cat suffers from dry or irritated skin, coconut oil can help soothe and heal. You can give the oil orally or apply it directly to affected areas.

Coconut oil is antifungal, antimicrobial, and anti-viral, so if your cat has picked up a skin infection, it can be a good alternative if you want to avoid harshly medicated shampoos.

Coconut oil is becoming popular as a treatment for atopic skin allergies in cats, with owners reporting an excellent improvement in their cat’s condition.

Coconut oil also can be fed orally to help improve your cat’s skin. It contains high levels of vitamin E, which your cat’s body needs to repair skin and promote healthy growth.


2. Coconut oil can boost your cat’s immune system

happy cat
Image: islam zarat, Shutterstock

Coconut oil contains caprylic acid and lauric acid. Both have anti-viral properties and can help improve your cat’s immune system response.

Giving your cat a small daily dose of coconut oil orally can help keep them fighting fit.


3. Coconut oil can help prevent hairballs

young cat sitting on wooden table with hairball_RJ22_shutterstock
Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Because coconut oil improves the condition of your cat’s coat and skin, an added benefit of this is that it reduces shedding. This means your cat will be less prone to suffer from hairballs from grooming shed fur, and the hairballs that do form will pass more easily.

Coconut oil can help lubricate your cat’s digestive tract, which makes passing hairballs easier. It can be a good alternative to some of the harsher mineral oil or petroleum-based hairball remedies. As well as using pure coconut oil, you can also buy hairball supplements containing coconut oil blended with other beneficial ingredients.


4. Coconut oil helps reduce inflammation

tired sick cat_natata_shutterstock
Credit: Natata, Shutterstock

Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which makes up around 45-53% of its composition. Lauric acid is responsible for the antimicrobial and antifungal properties of coconut oil, as well as working as an anti-inflammatory.

A number of studies have found coconut oil can provide moderate relief from both inflammation and pain. So far, it seems as though oral administration offers the most benefit.



5. Coconut oil can heal gingivitis

cat getting teeth brushed
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Gingivitis occurs when your cat’s gums become inflamed, and it can be common in cats who don’t have their teeth brushed regularly. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, coconut oil can help manage gingivitis, as well as provide pain relief.

You’ll need to apply a small amount of coconut oil directly to your cat’s gums for maximum effect.


6. Coconut oil can help your cat’s digestion

cat eating from his dish
Image Credit: Africa Studio

Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids. These are easily absorbed in your cat’s intestines and can aid the absorption of other nutrients too. The antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of coconut oil can also help keep your cat’s gastrointestinal system healthy and functioning at its best.


7. Coconut oil can help with arthritis

Sick Cat
Image Credit By: George Hodan, public domain pictures

As your cat gets older, they may start to suffer from arthritis. This can cause inflammation and pain in your cat’s joints, making it painful and difficult for them to move comfortably.

Some preliminary research suggests that treatment with the polyphenolic fraction of coconut oil can help reduce inflammation and swelling. What hasn’t been tested yet is if whole coconut oil (rather than an active compound that’s been separated off and used on its own) would have the same effect.

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How to use coconut oil

If you want to start using coconut oil for your cat, it’s easy. But before feeding coconut oil or applying it topically to your cat, speak with your veterinarian to make sure they agree. The use of coconut oil orally for some cats is not recommended.

As with anything, it’s best to start off using very small amounts and adjust this upward if your cat shows no adverse reactions.

To feed coconut oil, start adding 1/8 teaspoon to your cat’s regular food. This will be easiest to mix with a canned food, although some cats will eat it when mixed in with their kibble. For an average weight cat, you can work your way up to increasing this amount to ½ teaspoon, twice a day.

For some conditions, such as treating hairballs or managing a seasonal skin condition, you can feed this three times a week. For others, you may prefer to feed it every day.

Most cats find coconut oil palatable, but if your cat is turning their nose up at their dinner, try mixing a smaller amount with a canned food that your cat particularly loves. A strong flavor like fish will help mask the coconut oil. Other cats like coconut oil so much, you can feed it to them on its own! You can also buy canned cat food that already contains coconut oil.

To use topically, you can take a small amount of the oil and rub it into any affected areas of your cat’s coat. You may want to monitor your cat after application and use an e-collar to make sure your cat doesn’t lick the oil off.

Disadvantages

Coconut oil has high-fat content, so it’s probably best to avoid giving it to an overweight cat. If you do want to feed coconut oil to your cat regularly, you’ll need to reduce their rations elsewhere to compensate for the additional fats and calories provided by the oil.

As with any supplement, speak to your veterinarian about whether it’s something suitable for your cat. Some vets won’t recommend using coconut oil if your cat has a condition, such as pancreatic inflammation, that could be made worse by the high fat levels of coconut oil.

Due to the lack of peer-reviewed science relating to the effects of coconut oil in cats, your veterinarian probably wouldn’t suggest this supplement unless you ask them about it directly. Many of the success stories for using coconut oil in cats is anecdotal rather than proven through science. That said, there are plenty of studies proving its efficacy in other species.

Not all coconut oil is created equally, so you need to take care when selecting which one to buy. Most of the scientific studies looking at the efficacy of coconut oil use virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil. Manufacturing processes that use heat or chemicals at any stage can reduce the potency of the oil.

Choosing a cold-pressed, virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil means you’ll make the most of this superfood. If possible, select one that’s been USDA Organic certified as well, like this kin+kind Raw Coconut Oil for dogs and cats.

Some cats simply won’t tolerate the taste of coconut oil. You can still use it topically, but you may need to find an alternative for oral administration. Fish oil that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids is a good alternative, although it doesn’t share exactly the same health benefits as coconut oil.

You may have seen articles about the fact that coconut oil can help fight cancer in humans. While there have been scientific studies looking into this, it’s important to note that there’s no evidence to suggest that coconut oil can help cure cancer. As with anything, be careful of what you read on the internet, as often the results of scientific research can easily be misconstrued. You should definitely not be using coconut oil in the hope of curing your cat’s cancer.

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Bottom line

Coconut oil has been hailed as a superfood, and it certainly seems to offer impressive health benefits that could help your cat in certain scenarios.

It’s anti-inflammatory, antifungal, anti-viral, and antimicrobial properties are well documented in other species, so at the moment, the assumption is that the same will be true for our cats. Anecdotal evidence from cat owners who use coconut oil regularly for their cats does seem to suggest this is the case.

Don’t be fooled into thinking coconut oil is a “cure-all” that can help with anything and everything, though, as that’s simply not the case.

As a complementary treatment, it can be a great addition for some cats. Just be sure to check with your veterinarian before you start using it, and choose a high-quality oil for the most benefit.

Do you use coconut oil for your cat? Have you noticed an improvement in the condition you were trying to treat? We’d love to hear from you!


Featured image credit: DanaTentis, Pixabay