Nutrition

Can Cats Eat Sweet Potatoes?

Sweet potatoes are a root vegetable that is very healthy and beneficial for humans. Is sweet potato safe for cats? Should they eat this food? We have the answer.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: October 6, 2022 | 8 min read

White Siamese cat with sweet potatos

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What foods are safe for cats to eat? Kitties often show interest in our foods and try to sneak a bite. In some cases, this is ok, but not all human foods are safe for felines. Many are looking to the internet and other sources for answers. One food group frequently asked about is vegetables, like sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are a food that is considered healthy for humans and is a common ingredient in dog foods, but is it good for cats? The answer is not as clear-cut as one might think. Food safety is a complicated landscape for felines, and sometimes human food can be safe when prepared in specific ways but unsafe when served in other ways.

We jump into the discussion about if cats can eat the sweet variety of potatoes and find out if there are any benefits from eating this food. No two kitties are made the same, and they will all have unique and specific dietary and health needs. The information we present is not intended to substitute for advice from a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. It is for informational purposes only.

Can Cats Eat Sweet Potatoes?

This is both a yes and no answer. These root vegetables are not toxic to felines but do not provide much nutritional value. Yes, cats can eat them but only in certain circumstances. Additionally, they can only safely eat a minimal amount. Felines cannot taste sweetened flavors. However, they sometimes like the flavor of these. Kitties cannot eat every sweet potato dish. They can eat those cooked plain; even then, they should only have a tiny amount.

All felines are obligate carnivores and need meat high in protein and healthy fat. Human foods, including root vegetables like this, are not something they should eat a lot of, nor is it the food they would seek out in the wild. Feline digestive systems work differently than ours and do not break down starchy foods the same way. These are sometimes used as an additive in some pet foods because they contain fiber which can help digestion. As with many other ingredients in commercial pet food, this does not mean kitties can eat them daily, nor should they.

Cats should not these cooked in any way other than boiled or steamed plain, with no oils, butter, salt, sugar, cinnamon, or other additives. The skin should be removed as it can be tough to chew, may not taste very good, and can be a choking hazard. Kitties should be offered a small bite or two, only very occasionally. Felines should never eat these raw. Raw ones are much harder for them to digest. Though they are not toxic or poisonous, raw ones can cause a kitty to have stomach discomfort, pain, nausea, and diarrhea. As a side note, owners should know that raw white potatoes are toxic to felines. Kitties who eat raw potatoes or green potatoes will need to be seen by a vet as soon as possible.

Is Sweet Potato Good For Cats?

Raw sweet potatoes on wooden background closeup
Raw potatoes contain something called solanine, which is a substance that is poisonous to felines when they eat it.

The sweet variety of potatoes contains fiber which can be helpful for felines with digestive issues. It is also a source of vitamins and nutrients, including antioxidants, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, beta-carotene, and vitamin B6. They can provide some protein and carbohydrates, but they are not something that they should eat very often. A teaspoon-sized bite of boiled, plain vegetable flesh is just the right serving size. Too much of this food, even cooked, can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. They should only be an occasional treat. If your kitty has digestive issues and you are concerned he needs more fiber, contact your veterinarian before adding this veggie or any other vegetable or fruit to their diet.

Can Sweet Potato Hurt My Cat?

Yes, these root vegetables can be harmful to cats. If not prepared correctly, kitties can experience an upset stomach and painful diarrhea. Though this is not toxic or poisonous, it is not a food cats regularly eat or need in their diets. Potatoes do have some nutritional qualities and will provide minimal benefit to them. In truth, it does not do a lot for them. Additionally, kitties who overeat or eat foods high in fat and sugar may start to gain weight, which can lead to obesity and a whole host of other health problems, including cardiac disease and diabetes.

Sweet potatoes cooked with other ingredients, especially sugar and artificial sweeteners, can be very harmful to kitties. Many of these ingredients include artificial additives, as well as high levels of sugar and fat. Felines do not taste sweet things, so they will not seek these foods out for flavor, and they do not offer any nutritional value. Foods high in sugars, oils, fats, and salts are tough for them to digest. Kitties should avoid any human foods that have not been specifically prepared for them. Boiled, plain with no additives at all are the best way to prepare them for kitty consumption.

Can Cats Eat Yams?

Yams and sweet potatoes are often confused or thought to be the same root vegetable. The truth is that they are two different vegetables. True yams can be hard to find. A well-kept secret in the grocery world is that many products marketed as yams in the grocery store are actually orange sweet potatoes. Yams are also root vegetables, which have a texture comparable to white potatoes, and are full of starch and water. True yams are not orange. Their flesh is lighter and off-white colored. The skin is not smooth. It is rough and looks like thin bark. Yams are also used to help felines promote healthy digestion, as well as given to kitties who are working through gastrointestinal problems.

Yams are a little bit trickier for cats. True yams should never be fed to felines raw because they do contain solanine. Raw and unripe yams can cause stomach issues and neurological problems in felines. Yams should only ever be fed to them fully cooked with no other added ingredients. They should be plain, boiled, microwaved, steamed, or baked, and they can be mashed up. Some kitties may like them after they have cooled down and been cut into bite-sized pieces. Yams should also be peeled, so cats do not have to try and chew through the tough skin. The skin can contain pesticides or other unsafe chemical sprays for felines, so they should not eat it anyway.

Felines should only be fed yams occasionally and in moderation. They may like the flavor of yams better because they are not as sweet. The flesh of yams is much paler. Yams have rougher, brown-colored skin, while sweet potatoes have yellow to orange flesh and thinner, reddish skins.

Whether it is sweet potatoes or yams, felines should avoid sugary, syrupy dishes like candied yams and the famous Thanksgiving marshmallow sweet potato casserole. While humans may be unable to resist the sugary flavors and aromas, these foods are not safe or appropriate for felines to eat.

Alternatives To Sweet Potatoes & Yams

Tuna and Pumpkin Fruitables Cat Treats

Fruitables Cat Treats tuna and pumpkin
  • Less than 2 Calories per treat.
  • Made with real tuna and nutrient-rich superfoods of flaxseed, pea fiber, and pumpkin.
  • Free from animal by-products, including weat, corn, soy, and artificial colors and flavors.
  • Simple ingredients easy on tummies.
  • Gratifying crunchy treat with a flavorful, flaky inside.
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There are plenty of alternatives that kitties will like much better and benefit them more than root vegetables. Because they are obligate carnivores, their diets should be heavy in high-quality animal protein, which also goes for treats and snacks. Cats should not get in the habit of eating or sharing human food. Even some fruits, and vegetables, which are healthy for humans, can cause problems for them. A good selection of meat-based treats for felines will be far more beneficial for them and be tastier.

Pumpkin is a much better alternative to feed felines than root vegetables. Plain pumpkin puree can offer kitties a healthy source of fiber, which is often recommended by veterinarians treating cats for constipation. This can be beneficial in remedying mild constipation cases. Pumpkin is also a healthy source of vitamins A and C which boost vision and immune system health, among other things. Zinc is also present, which is beneficial for skin and coat health. Plain, canned pumpkin puree can be mixed with cat food, about one to four teaspoons once or twice a day. Always talk to your veterinarian about the proper amount for your kitty.

Felines will not usually need fruits and vegetables to supplement for vitamins or minerals. Suppose you are concerned about your cat’s fiber intake or believe he is not getting enough vitamins and minerals. In that case, you should speak with your veterinarian before adding anything to his diet.

There are a wide variety of fresh, freeze-dried, and raw food options on the market. These are a better choice for felines than root vegetables. They are specifically formulated to provide nutritional balance and contain ingredients and elements that are healthier for cats.

Fresh cat food is one of the most expensive options to feed cats, but it can also work well as a supplement and treat. Even if owners cannot afford to feed their pets fresh food at every meal, they can give them the occasional meal of fresh food or mix it in with a kitty’s regular kibble. One of the best options on the market for fresh cat food is from JustFoodForCats. Their recipes are very rich in high-quality animal proteins and have high moisture content. They are easy to digest and made with high-quality, fresh, human-grade ingredients.

Freeze-dried foods are also a great option to give cats a boost of flavor and nutrition. Stella & Chewy’s is a brand that makes tasty, nutritionally balanced freeze-dried raw cat food. They use a variety of proteins and offer a truly delicious meal for cats.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if my cat ate sweet potatoes with added ingredients?

If your cat managed to sneak a bite cooked in one of those delicious casseroles, it is not necessarily an immediate cause for alarm. While one or two bites may cause only mild symptoms, it is not enough to cause severe issues. However, owners should observe their pets for signs of discomfort or illness. If your cat seems to be having trouble, it is a good idea to contact the vet for advice. This may not be an emergency situation where a cat needs immediate medical care, but seeking medical advice is always a good idea. Observe your cat, call the vet, and offer your cat plenty of fresh water, food, and high-quality kibble instead of human dishes.

What other foods help a cat with fiber?

Along with pumpkin, some other high-fiber foods can be given to cats who need a boost. These include peas, broccoli, carrots, apples, lettuce, and spinach. Owners can also look for a high-fiber cat food formula.

How much sweet potato can I give my cat?

Felines should only be fed one or two teaspoons of this. This should be given in extreme moderation and not something that happens daily or even weekly. If your veterinarian has instructed you to feed your cat root vegetables for digestive support, make sure to follow their directions exactly. Even foods considered healthy can harm cats if consumed in large amounts. A large amount for a cat is much different than what is regarded as a large amount for a human. Even just a bite that is a bit too big can trigger issues.

Are cat foods with sweet potatoes safe?

Cat foods with sweet potato as an ingredient are usually safe for cats. Never switch a cat to a plant-based diet. There is no possible way they can get enough protein to survive, and plant-based protein does not support them the same way animal-based protein does. Always look for cat foods that list high-quality animal proteins as the first ingredient. Cat foods made with these root vegetables will not contain a harmful amount.

Final Thoughts

Sweet potatoes are a food that humans love, but they are not always safe for cats. While there are some circumstances where a cat can eat these root vegetables safely, they can also cause some gastrointestinal issues. Raw ones are tough to digest and cause stomach upset, pain, and diarrhea. Cats should only ever be fed this food cooked without any other added ingredients, spices, sweeteners, or seasonings. Never feed a cat this food out of a can. Only ever feed them plain root vegetables that are prepared specially for them.

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