Nutrition

Can Cats Eat Cherries? Are They Toxic?

Are cherries safe for cats? Cherries are heart-shaped stone fruit known for their sweet flavor and good-for-you ingredients, like antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. But, what about for cats? Should you be worried about your feline ingesting this fruit? Read on to learn about cherries and if they are safe for cats.

Tara Maurer holding cat smiling

Last Updated: January 10, 2024 | 4 min read

cat eating bowl full of cherries overhead shot

This article should not substitute contact with a veterinarian. Contact your local vet immediately if your cat is reacting poorly after consumption.

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When living with a curious companion, it’s essential always to be aware of potential health hazards. Cats are well-known for their interest in human food, and sharing your snack with your favorite feline may be tempting. 

While cats are carnivores, it doesn’t mean they’re not allowed the occasional plant-based snack. But do cherries fall into the category of safe-for-cat human foods? Unfortunately for your furry friend, the answer is no. Keep reading to learn why cherries are not appropriate for cats.

What Are Cherries?

The cherry is a small stone fruit that belongs to the same family as apricots, peaches, and plums. This fruit is native to Europe and West Asia. Cherries were named after the ancient Turkish town of Cerasus and date back to at least 300 B.C.E., when they were described by a Greek botanist named Theophrastus. Today, cherries grow in most areas of the world but are produced in commercial quantities in just 20 countries.

There are two types of cherries: sweet and sour. Among the more than 500 varieties of sweet cherries, 15 are popular in the United States. The Bing cherry is the most popular variety of sweet cherries in the United States. This cherry is large with purple-red flesh and burgundy skin that can appear almost black when fully ripe. Following the Bing in popularity is the Lambert, a smaller, heart-shaped version of the Bing. Lighter-skinned varieties of sweet cherries include the Rainer, a yellow-rose skinned cherry that is even sweeter than the Bing. The Royal Ann is another light-skinned sweet cherry that is typically canned or made into maraschino cherries.

More than 270 varieties of sour cherries are grown in the United States, including the Montmorency and Early Richmond. These cherries are a vibrant red, smaller, and softer than sweet cherries. They are usually too tart to eat raw but are often canned or frozen for use in pie fillings or sauces.

Cherry season is short, lasting a mere three months. Bing cherries peak in June and July, while Lamberts and other sweet, dark cherries are available mid-August. When purchasing sweet cherries, look for large, dark cherries with glossy, plump-looking skin. Consider supplementing tart cherries if you want more therapeutic benefits. You can find tart cherries as a liquid concentrate or in pill form.

Health Benefits Of Cherries

While sweet cherries make a tasty treat, sour cherries hold significant nutritional value and health benefits over sweet. Sour cherries are a fantastic source of vitamins A and C and a good source of copper and manganese. Sweet cherries are a good source of vitamin C and copper.

All cherries supply flavonoids—specifically anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins—which give this fruit its deep red color. The darker the cherry, the higher concentration of flavonoids and the better it is for you. These flavonoids reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. This is especially significant because cherries can reduce inflammation, like anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen and naproxen, without affecting the stomach lining.

Cherries may offer anti-cancer protection and are also helpful in treating gout. Gout is a form of arthritis associated with a high concentration of uric acid in the blood. The anthocyanidins in cherries have been found to inhibit the production of uric acid and, thus, are effective in lowering uric acid levels and preventing gout attacks. In addition, Montmorency tart cherries have been found to contain a significant quantity of melatonin, helping to regulate your sleep cycle as well as offering more antioxidant support.

Are Cherries Safe For Cats?

grey cat with a cherry stem dangling out of its mouth
Because cats are highly sensitive to cyanide, you should avoid feeding your cat this tasty stone fruit.

While cherries offer a variety of benefits to humans, unfortunately, it is not safe for your cat to eat fresh cherries. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), cherries are toxic to cats. While the juicy flesh of a cherry is safe for felines, the pit and other parts of the cherry plant are toxic to cats.

While cherries provide critical vitamins and minerals, all these nutrients can be found in high-quality commercial cat food and are not necessary to supplement. Consult your veterinarian if you are worried about your cat’s nutritional intake. Your vet may prescribe a different pet food or discuss a cat-specific multivitamin.

Why Are Cherries Bad For Cats?

While the flesh of the cherry is safe for your cat, the stem, pit, leaves, seeds, and flowers are toxic to felines. With the risk of poisoning being so significant, it’s best to avoid cherries entirely.

Cherries contain small amounts of cyanide in the aforementioned plant parts. Cyanide inhibits the transportation of oxygen to cells by destroying the enzyme needed for cellular oxygen transport. While the effects of cherry poisoning can be mild or moderate in cats, a feline that consumes a large amount of cherry plant parts may experience the following symptoms:

  • Bright red mucous membranes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Difficult breathing
  • Inadequate oxygen levels
  • Shock
  • Death

What To Do If Your Cat Eats Cherries

If you see your cat lick, chew, or eat a cherry, collect the plant sample and take it to the veterinary appointment. Your vet will run tests, including a physical exam and bloodwork, to confirm if your feline is suffering from cyanide toxicity. Your vet may immediately begin oxygen supplementation, as decreased oxygen supply results from cherry poisoning.

Treatment Of Cherry Poisoning In Cats

Signs of poisoning can begin within 15 minutes to a few hours after ingesting a cherry. If it is confirmed that your cat is suffering from cherry poisoning, your vet will provide oxygen while using fluid therapy to flush the cyanide from the body.

Can Cats Recover From Cherry Poisoning?

Depending on the number of cherries consumed and the speed of treatment, your cat will have a different recovery prognosis. If a diagnosis was made and treatment administered quickly, your cat has a good chance of recovering from cherry poisoning. The longer the chemical remains in the body without treatment, the less likely the opportunity for making a full recovery.

To prevent cyanide poisoning, remove all cherry trees from your cat’s environment and keep cherries safely out of your kitty’s reach.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Cherry Pits Poisonous To Cats?

Yes, cherry pits are poisonous to cats and should never be given to your cat. Only the flesh of a cherry is safe; even then, giving your cat cherries is not recommended.

Can I Give My Cat Canned Cherries?

It’s best to avoid cherries altogether, plus canned cherries may be full of extra sugar that can upset your cat’s digestive system and cause weight gain.

What Other Fruits Are Toxic To Cats?

The following fruits are considered toxic to cats:

  • Avocado
  • Citrus fruits (lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc.)
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Tomatoes
  • Raspberries

Final Thoughts

While it’s only natural to want to share your favorite foods with your fur baby, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with foods that are toxic to your pet. When it comes to cherries, it’s best to avoid this fruit altogether, but if you’re curious about which human foods are safe for cats to eat, check out our comprehensive guide.

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