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You might associate the bright orange pumpkin with Halloween, but this tasty vegetable isn’t just for making Jack O’ Lanterns in October! Pumpkin is delicious and nutritious, and not just for us humans. Despite the fact that it’s not something they’d naturally eat in the wild, pumpkin has a surprising range of health benefits for cats and dogs.
Pumpkin is a great, natural way to help with kitty constipation, as well as working the other way and stopping diarrhoea due to the amount of fibre in pumpkin flesh. If your cat is constipated, the fibre in pumpkin will bulk up and soften the faeces inside him, making it easier to pass and also helping his body to pass it more quickly. It might sound surprising that pumpkin also stops diarrhoea, but the fibre also absorbs any excess water, giving your cat firmer stools.
We first started adding pumpkin to Charlie’s diet when he was diagnosed with IBD and suffering from loose stools. Shortly afterwards, when we realised just how good pumpkin was for cats we added it to everyone’s daily meals. All our cats are medium-haired and previously had regular hairballs, regardless of how frequently we groomed them. Today, hairballs are a rare occurrence in our household.
The ‘bulking’ effect that the fibre in pumpkin has doesn’t only help with digestive problems, it’s also great for preventing hairballs. Your cat naturally ingests hairs as he grooms himself, and what doesn’t pass through him in his faeces ends up as a hairball in his stomach. Adding pumpkin to your cat’s diet will increase his fibre intake and help trap and pass any fur that your cat ingests, reducing or even preventing the amount of hairballs he suffers from.
Healthy Coat and Skin
There are a number of things that can help your cat look sleek and groomed, and pumpkins contain a number of them. The antioxidants and essential fatty acids in pumpkin flesh and pumpkin seeds are wonderful for keeping your cat’s coat shiny and his skin healthy.
Immune System Benefits
The antioxidants, such as beta carotene (which gives pumpkin its bright orange colour) and vitamins A, C and E, also help your cat by strengthening his immune system, meaning that he’s better equipped to fight off many diseases and infections.
Urinary Tract Benefits
The high water content of pumpkin (around 90%) dilutes your cat’s urine which makes it good for preventing urinary tract infections and the formation of crystals, which can cause dangerous blockages. The flesh and seeds also contain oils which are great for boosting general urinary tract health.
If your cat has a weight problem, pumpkin can make a wonderful addition to his diet. The fibre within pumpkin makes your cat feel fuller, meaning that he’s less likely to overeat or ‘complain’ when his portions are smaller. Pumpkin is also low in calories, so it’s a double win!
How to Get Pumpkin Into Your Cat’s Diet
Your cat can eat fresh, cooked pumpkin, pumpkin from a tin (just plain pumpkin, no added ingredients) or pumpkin seeds (dry roasted and ground into powder). You can feed him one or two teaspoons of pumpkin a day for optimum results, but as with any dietary change (and especially if you are treating other health conditions) chat to your vet first and seek their advice.
Do you incorporate pumpkin in your cat’s diet? Have you noticed the health benefits?
Top image: James Saunders via Flickr