Have you seen those absolutely adorable (and hilarious) videos of cats chowing down on watermelon? My first thought was that it’s crazy since they can’t really taste “sweet” things… but given some more thought, I realized it does actually make sense some felines would take an interest, considering its mostly just water anyway. And it’s a fun way to hydrate on a hot summer day!
But the biggest question on everyone’s minds is probably, can cats eat watermelon safely? Is it toxic or harmful?
After doing some diligent research I came to a conclusion…
Your cat can definitely eat watermelon, it’s not harmful if given in small amounts and as a treat (not a meal replacement). Watermelons are made up of over 90% water and can be a nice way for your cat to hydrate on a hot day. Just be sure to remove any seeds beforehand.
Why some cats love watermelon
No one is exactly sure why some cats love this fruit, but there are a few theories. The first being of course that it’s a way for them to hydrate – watermelon is over 90% water, after all! And considering it’s common for cats to not be huge water drinkers, it’s a good way for them to stay hydrated, especially in the summer heat when watermelon is in season, abundant, and affordable.
Another reason cats may like watermelon is simply the texture – some cats really enjoy chewing on different textures for some reason. Kind of like how some eat plants, chew on plastic, or even your hair.
The third theory I came across is the most interesting. An article on Farmer’s Almanac referenced a 2010 study from the Journal of Experimental Botany. The particular study noted that volatiles derived from amino acids are a major part of what gives melon its distinct odor. Many of the same amino acids that are in meat are also in melons but in much smaller amounts.
So in theory, it’s possible that melons smell like meat to cats. Even though this was in specific reference to cantaloupe, watermelons and cantaloupes are both in the same family – Cucurbitaceae.
Health benefits of watermelon for cats
Watermelon may seem like just a sweet summer treat, but it’s actually loaded with health benefits. If your cat has a taste for this fruit, it can be a great way for them to keep hydrated especially if they aren’t huge water drinkers.
- Vitamins A, B6, and C
- Antioxidants such as lycopene
- Amino Acids like citrulline
- 92% water
This melon is full of Vitamin A, which is known to help eye-sight, along with Vitamin B6, vitamin C, and many amino acids and antioxidants.
In fact, out of all fruits and veggies, watermelon actually has the greatest abundance of Lycopene. This antioxidant gives the melon its vibrant red hue and has been shown to reduce the risk of illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.
It’s also high in the amino acid citrulline which can help lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, and boost immunity.
But how much watermelon is safe for a cat to eat?
Even though watermelon is very healthy, it doesn’t contain the essential components for cats to thrive. It’s not part of a cat’s natural diet (remember, they’re carnivores!) It should be considered a special treat and shouldn’t be given in excessive quantities.
But how much watermelon is considered excessive for a cat?
Well, experts recommend no more than 10% of their daily nutritional needs should come from “extras” in their diets, whether that’s watermelon or any other human food you may give them. This equates to somewhere around 1/4 – 3/4 cup of watermelon, depending on your cat’s weight.
Just remember that the 10% figure is the max amount that ALL the treats you feed your cat any given day that’s not their regular food.
How to calculate safe amount for your cat
While this is probably not necessary, if you want to get technical and figure out the “safe” amount for your individual cat, you would first need to figure out just how much “10% of your cat’s daily calorie needs” actually is.
You’d start by calculating how many calories your cat needs per day. Just like humans, this is based on both weight and activity level. The caloric recommendation for indoor cats is 20 calories per pound of body weight, and 35 calories per pound for outdoor cats since they’re much more active.
So if you take an indoor cat that weighs around 8 lbs, they should be getting approximately 160 calories per day (8 x 20 = 160, which is about the number of calories in 1/2 cup of standard dry cat food). An outdoor 8 lb cat would need about 280 (8 x 35 = 280).
After you’ve figured out the approximate amount your cat should be eating per day, then you simply multiply 10% (0.1) by that number. 10% x 160 is 16 (calories).
Suggested amount of watermelon to “safely” feed cat, based on weight (indoor cats)
|Weight #||“safe” amount|
|6 lbs||1/4 cup|
|8 lbs||1/3 cup|
|10 lbs||1/2 cup|
|12 lbs||3/4 cup|
**Table represents generalized, rounded data, and is based on calorie recommendations for indoor cats only. This table is meant to give a general idea and not replace official veterinary advice.
Use this table as a general way to gauge how much is appropriate to give your cat. Exact weighing or measuring probably isn’t necessary.
Dangers of feeding watermelon to cats
While watermelon is generally safe to give your cat, the seeds are a potential choking hazard. If you want to be absolutely safe, remove any before serving or opt for a seedless variety.
Aside from that, feeding watermelon to cats could possibly lead to complications down the line, especially if given in excessive quantities on a regular basis.
Cats are natural carnivores, so eating too much fruit might cause digestive upset and also deprive them of their everyday nutritional needs if eaten in place of their regular food.
In addition, it could also lead to health issues down the line (such as diabetes) from increased sugar consumption.
What other fruits can cats safely eat?
These fruits are all OK to give your cats if they will eat them:
- Apples (skin and core removed)
- Berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries)
Just like watermelon, make sure to follow the guidelines of moderation.
What fruits can cats NOT eat?
While fruit is typically a safe choice, there are a few exceptions:
Grapes and raisins– have been known to make cats ill and cause kidney failure. The toxic substance contained in grapes that affects cats is actually unknown, so it’s best to avoid giving any of this fruit to your feline.
Cherries – the pits, stems, and leaves contain cyanide that is toxic to cats if consumed in large enough quantities.
Citrus fruit – limes, lemons, grapefruit, and oranges contain essential oils and psoralens which can be poisonous to your cat, especially the peels. Eating these may cause stomach upset, diarrhea or vomiting, but is unlikely to be fatal unless consumed in very large amounts. Fortunately, cats have a natural aversion to the smell of citrus so it’s unlikely they’d consume enough to get sick.
For a more complete guide on what’s safe or not for your feline, check out our Ultimate Guide of People Food Cats Can and Can’t Eat