Nutrition

Can Cats Eat Tomatoes? Are They Toxic?

Cats eating human foods can be a big issue for pet owners. Many owners ask if their cats can eat human foods like tomatoes. We get into all the information feline owners need to know about cats eating tomatoes.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: December 13, 2023 | 8 min read

Domestic cat sniffs a branch of red tomatoes

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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Cat owners ask many questions when it comes to what cats can and cannot eat. While some human foods seem like they would be tasty to cats, not all human food are safe for feline consumption. Even healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, which are incredibly beneficial to humans, are not always safe for a cat to eat.

It can be challenging for a feline owner to remember what foods are safe, dangerous, or toxic to cats. It is common for feline owners to have a kitty that swipes a bite or two of their food. This can seem cute and even endearing. However, it can cause owners a lot of worries and, in many cases, discomfort to a kitty.

Tomatoes are one of those foods many humans love, some people really hate and are a food that kitties often seem mesmerized by. We dived into the available information to learn whether cats can eat tomatoes. Let’s sit back and discover what this food does to a kitty and whether tomatoes are safe for feline snacks.

What Are Tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a fruit that grows in the wild and in home gardens all over the world. It is used in a plethora of human dishes and foods. They are thought to have originated in the Andes Mountains, located in South America. The cherry tomato has been traced back almost 80,000 years to Ecuador. Those ancestral fruits were much smaller than the big juicy red orbs we look for today.

Tomatoes are said to be the most planted crop in home gardens in the United States. The country also leads the world in the commercial growing and production of this plump red fruit. All tomatoes currently grown were developed from one species, and some wild varieties grow in different areas of the world. The domesticated fruits are self-pollinating, making them an easy crop to grow and control. They are a member of the nightshade family of plants and are called the “love fruit.”

Can Cats Eat Tomatoes

It is generally not advisable to feed cats tomatoes. They contain chemicals called alpha‐tomatine, alpha‐dehydrotomatine, and solanine which are very toxic to felines as well as other animals like canines and horses. The stems and leaves are particularly dangerous and can cause serious concerns, including a slowing heart rate, lethargy, stomach discomfort, pain, lessened appetite, dilated pupils, weakness, depression, hypersalivation, and more. Cats should never consume unripe tomatoes.

Ripe tomatoes are safe for felines in extremely small doses, and tomato paste is sometimes an ingredient in pet foods. But the amount is usually minimal. A small amount of ripe fruit containing no leaves or stems can be safe for them to consume, but felines are not recommended to eat any variety.

Are Tomatoes Bad For Cats

The cat helps to cook a delicious dinner with cheese, salami and tomatoes
Tomato plant poisoning is a very real and grave concern.

Unripe tomatoes are extremely dangerous for kitties. The stems and leaves are also quite toxic. Solanine is incredibly harmful to felines. It is an emergency situation if a cat has ingested unripe tomatoes, stems, or leaves. Owners should contact their veterinarian immediately for guidance on what to do next. Owners will want to ensure that their cats cannot access any plants they have planted or have hanging around the fridge or pantry.

Felines are obligate carnivores who need meat and high-quality animal proteins to fully develop and be healthy as adults. Fruits and vegetables are not the food they would eat naturally. Fruits, and vegetables are extremely high in carbohydrates, which felines have difficulty digesting. Eating tomatoes has absolutely zero health or nutritional benefit for a kitty. If possible, it should always be avoided.

If felines eat a small amount of ripe tomato, they will usually be fine if they have not ingested any of the stems or leaves. A tiny amount of the ripe, sliced fruit may taste good and will likely not make them violently sick. As there is no nutritional value and an extremely high risk of harm, these fruits are one human food it is best to steer clear of for felines all the time. A tiny amount of cooked paste in commercial pet foods is safe. Beyond that, there is no reason a kitty would ever need to eat a tomato.

Tomato Plant Poisoning In Cats

Owners who suspect their kitty may have ingested tomatoes and be suffering from tomato plant poisoning need to take great care quickly to make sure their pet will be okay. While tomato plant poisoning is not necessarily fatal for felines, it is quite serious and will cause them to become terribly ill. They will need immediate attention as well as supportive care for several days while they recover. Owners who suspect their pet may have ingested a large amount of the plant or unripe tomatoes may need assistance from a veterinarian to help induce vomiting. This is often done using a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Veterinarians will also use charcoal as a method to neutralize other toxins remaining in their blood and system.

Tomato poisoning is a condition that can be awfully expensive when it comes to treatment. Feline owners may want to consider looking into pet insurance to help offset both emergency medical care costs as well as regular veterinary care. Many different pet insurance plans are available, some even from major insurance carriers. Check with your current insurance provider to see if they offer pet insurance or any other discounts.

Even a tiny amount of the fruit can cause a feline severe gastrointestinal distress, pain, and other symptoms. Felines who have ingested a large amount of tomato flesh or plant may need expensive tests, including ECGs, to test heart function, and veterinarians will likely want urine, vomit, and fecal samples in order to determine precisely what toxin is causing the bad reaction. Kidney function will likely be tested.

Signs of Tomato Plant Poisoning Include:

  1. Increased to excessive drooling and salivation
  2. Lethargy
  3. Apathy
  4. Confusion
  5. Drowsiness
  6. Body weakness
  7. Slowing heart rate
  8. Nausea
  9. Vomiting
  10. Larger pupils
  11. Behavior changes
  12. Anorexia
  13. Stomach pain
  14. Kidney dysfunction
  15. GI tract malfunction

We have said this once, but we will repeat it. If you suspect your cat has ingested a tomato plant or unripe fruit, this is considered a medical emergency. Even a tiny amount can cause significant harm to your kitty. Contact your veterinarian immediately for advice on what to do next. If you find your pet in a state of lethargy, pain, or other distress, take them to the nearest pet emergency room as soon as possible. You can also call a local poison control hotline for assistance on what to do. Immediate veterinary care is the best option.

Can Cats Eat Tomato Sauce?

Cat making mess, playing with tomato sauce spaghetti on white place mat.
Unless the sauce is an ingredient in commercial pet food, it should not be fed to a kitty.

Tomato sauce is not something that should be fed to cats. This is partly because of the chance of an adverse reaction and also because of the added ingredients often involved in making the sauce. Most sauces contain ingredients such as garlic, salt, oils, and onions that are also very toxic for felines. Other additives like extra sugar, cheese, and other vegetables like mushrooms can also cause sickness in felines.

There is no reason for them to have this added to their diet, and the chance of them getting sick is far too high for owners to risk it. Also, felines will not taste the sweet flavor, so there is no reason to believe they would even enjoy eating tomato sauce.

Can Cats Eat Cherry Tomatoes?

Cherry tomatoes, just like every other form of this fruit, should be avoided, if possible, from feline consumption. Eating one or two small ripe ones will not likely cause any harm to a cat, though they may still have a mildly adverse reaction to it. It is best to avoid feeding pets any of them at all. Feline owners who allow their kitties to roam outside around the garden or those who grow these indoors need to take extra special precautions to ensure their pets are not swiping any of these treats. The cherry variety, in particular, may appeal to kitties, not because of their flavor but because they are fun to play with. They may enjoy batting these little orbs around the floor, and while that is great fun for them, owners should ensure their pets are not eating the fruit or plants.

Alternative Snacks

There are many different options of healthy treats available for cats that do not involve ingredients that can cause them great harm. Felines can eat a small amount of peeled bananas, blueberries, cucumbers, broccoli, or carrots, just to name a few. They can have a bit of tuna from a can or some nice plain cooked chicken. Learn more about what human foods cats can and cannot eat here. There are a plethora of high-quality, tasty treats developed especially for felines on the market. Owners can check with their veterinarians for ideas and recommendations, speak with other kitty owners, or even consult a feline nutritionist if they are looking for alternative treats to feed their kitty. Never assume human food is safe for a pet. Stick to those products that are made specifically for felines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Help! My cat ate an unripe tomato. What should I do?

If you suspect that your cat ate an unripe tomato, quickly try to determine how much they have eaten, check their vital signs, and immediately contact your veterinarian. If your kitty shows signs of extreme weakness, slowed heart weight, or severe sickness, take them to the nearest veterinary emergency care center as soon as possible.

Always treat possible tomato poisoning in felines as an emergency. This is always a case where owners want to be safe rather than sorry and should seek out immediate care for their pets. Some felines will even have an adverse reaction to eating ripe fruit or sauce, and owners should contact their veterinarians as soon as possible for advice on what to do.

Can cats drink tomato juice?

Cats cannot drink tomato juice. It does not serve any nutritional purpose for them, often has added ingredients, and has a high potential of making them sick. Rather than any kind of juice, kitties should primarily drink water.

Can cats eat ketchup?

Just as with any other tomato product, felines should not eat ketchup. Not only does it contain tomatoes, which can be toxic to them, but it also has elevated levels of sugar, preservatives, and other chemical additives that may not be safe for a kitty to digest. If possible, avoid allowing your pet to eat ketchup.

Can kittens eat tomatoes?

Kittens should never eat this fruit. This food does not have any nutritional benefit for them, and while it may taste exciting and feel good in their mouths, the risks of harm from eating this plant and its fruits are far too risky to allow felines of any age to eat them.

Fun Fact

Tomatoes are considered both a fruit and a vegetable. In the botanical world, they are technically some fruits, the offspring of the adult plant. In the culinary world, they consider them a vegetable as it is served in savory dishes, not sweet ones like most other fruits. Some states like Tennessee and Ohio consider it a fruit, even giving the humble tomato the title of state fruit. Arkansas lists them as both the state fruit and state vegetable.

Final Thoughts

Though it is common for our feline friends to want to taste our food and show interest in what we eat, it is not always safe to share human foods with them. Many human foods are safe for felines to eat, and many others are quite dangerous. Some foods that are commonly fed to dogs may not be safe for kitties either, so it is not wise to feed a kitty something knowing it is safe for a dog.

Never allow a kitty to eat unripe tomatoes or a plant’s leaves, stems, and vines. These are highly toxic to them and will cause them to become extremely ill. Tomato poisoning is a profoundly serious concern, and owners should always contact their veterinarians as soon as possible if they suspect their cat has ingested any amount of unripe fruit or plant. A bite or two of the ripened fruit is not an emergency. However, it is inadvisable. There are plenty of other options out there for healthy treats and snacks for felines that will not pose such a severe risk.

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