Can cats eat french fries? What a Vet recommends

We love our cats as we are sure you do too.  And boy do our cats love to eat and snack. It’s very common for pet owners to offer their feline fur babies scraps of human food, and french fries are a common favorite. We’ve been guilty of this ourselves. We’ve been asked this many times by pet parents in our veterinary clinic. Can cats eat fries?

In this article, you’ll learn the nutritional value of french fries, can cats eat french fries, the risks, and what you should feed your cats instead.

An orange cat pawing at a pile of french fries seeming to ask, can cats eat fries?
Can cats eat french fries? The better question is, should they?

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Table of Contents

Nutritional Value of Fries

French fries and even potato chips are a universal snack food made from sliced raw potato slices that are deep fried. While they are a staple in many fast food restaurants and households, they aren’t nutritionally balanced and can even be harmful to our health when eaten in excess. In our travels, we’ve found french fries in every country we’ve visited. It’s kind of sad given how poor they are for our health, no matter the type of oil used. Sure they are delicious, but quite unhealthy.

A medium sized order of french fries from McDonalds for example contains 320 calories, 175 grams of fat, and 443 grams of carbohydrates. They also contain small amounts of fiber (4 grams), protein (5 grams), and minerals such as potassium (670 milligrams), and iron (1 milligram).

Can cats eat fries? Picture of a McDonald's drink, french fries, and a carton marked McNuggest.
French fries are available everywhere. But should you feed fries to your cat??

However, these nutrients are overshadowed by the high salt content (260 milligrams) and unhealthy fats found in french fries. Raw potatoes are sliced and deep fried in oil, making them high in unhealthy fat (175 grams) and saturated fats (2 grams). Excessive consumption of these unhealthy fats and high levels of salt can increase the risk of heart disease, obesity, and other health problems like high blood pressure. Yes. This is the same for your cat as it is for us.

Can cats eat french fries?

Yes. But you don’t want to give them much or often. The better question is, should they? Like, ever? While our cats are super curious (aren’t they all?) and have a taste for human food, their dietary needs are vastly different from ours. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they lack the enzyme needed to digest plant materials so they don’t get all the nutrition they need from them.

Fries, on the other hand, are high in carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, and way too many milligrams of sodium.  This makes them a poor choice for cats. Further, the high salt levels in fries can be harmful to your cat as they are more sensitive to sodium than humans.

Feeding fries to cats can also lead to weight gain, which can lead to a variety of health risks, including diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease, and heart disease. Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the most common problems we see in our veterinary clinic.  For more information on obesity in cats, please read our article, 10 Dangers of Obesity in Cats.

A grey striped cat sniffing a pile of raw potatoes. Cats can eat french fries but not raw potatoes.
NO ! Keep your kitty away from raw potatoes.

French fries are commonly made from Russet potatoes (McDonald’s proudly states that their world famous fries are). Russet potatoes contain a substance that is toxic to humans, cats, dogs and most animals. This substance is a glycoalkaloid called solanine. It is also found in the tubers of green potatoes and the green parts of the potato plant itself. You can read more on solanine and potato toxicity in this article in the National Library of Medicine:Toxicology of solanine: an overview.

What about sweet potato fries?  Thankfully cooked sweet potato without the skin is okay to give to your cat in small amounts.

If your cat jumps up onto your counter and eats slices of raw potato or potato peels, please consult with your veterinarian right away.  Try to figure out how much your cat ate and give that information to your veterinarian so they can gauge the level of potato toxicity.

Furthermore, feeding your cat human food as a treat can create bad habits and encourage begging behavior. It’s important to remember that cats have different dietary needs than humans. It’s essential to provide your furry feline friend with a balanced and nutritionally complete diet that meets their specific needs.

Are fries toxic to Cats?

They can be. Cooked potatoes aren’t toxic to your cat. But they are if there is onion or garlic on them. That said, feeding your cat fries can lead to a variety of potential health issues, including:

  1. Obesity: Fries are high in calories and unhealthy fats. This can lead to weight gain in cats. Obesity can cause a variety of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems.
  2. Digestive problems: Cats can’t digest carbohydrates well. Consuming foods that are high in carbohydrates can cause digestive problems such as diarrhea and vomiting.
  3. Salt Poisoning: Cats are more sensitive to sodium than humans. Eating large amounts of salt can lead to sodium toxicity. Symptoms of sodium toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and seizures.
  4. Pancreatitis: Consuming large amounts of fatty foods can cause inflammation of the pancreas. This leads to a condition called pancreatitis. Symptoms of pancreatitis include vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

French fries also contain various additives and preservatives that can be harmful to cats. For example, some French fries and potato chips may contain onion powder.  Far beyond giving your cat an upset stomach, onion powder is toxic to your cat. In fact, all forms of onion (raw, cooked, or in powder form) are toxic to your cat. If your cat eats any form on onion, that can cause anemia, leading to a decreased red blood cell count and anemia symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, tremors, and coma. Garlic is commonly added to french fries.  It too won’t just give your cat stomach upset, it can be toxic too as both onions and garlic are from the same Allium family. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat has eaten any form on onions or garlic.

Benefits of feeding fries to cats?

None. While there are no real benefits to feeding fries to cats, some cat owners may argue that small amounts of fries or potato chips are safe as an occasional treat. However, it’s important to remember that cats have different dietary needs than us and their treats should be nutritionally balanced and shouldn’t make up a significant portion of their diet. Also, you don’t know if there is onion powder or garlic in those tasty fries that you got from your favorite restaurant.

Black kitten with a white spot on it's neck with it's mouth open about to eat a potato chip.
Can cats eat fries and chips? We don’t recommend it.

What should cats eat?

As a vet, I recommend a meal high in protein. As mentioned earlier, cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they require a high protein diet to thrive. Your cat needs a diet rich in animal protein and fat. They also require the amino acid taurine. Taurine is an essential amino acid that is needed by your cat for their vision, digestion, reproductive health, and heart health. Thankfully taurine is found in meat and fish which your cat (and ours) love. Thankfully, all commercial cat food contains taurine.

Cats should be fed a diet that consists of high quality animal based protein sources such as chicken, turkey, fish, and beef. These protein sources should be complemented with other essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. This is easy to do as high quality commercial cat foods provide a well balanced diet for your four legged fur baby.

It is important to note that cats shouldn’t be put on a vegetarian or vegan diet. The reason is that your cat doesn’t have the ability to digest plant matter to get all the nutrients from them.. Feeding a vegetarian or vegan diet to a cat can lead to malnutrition and health problems.

It is also important to provide cats with fresh water at all times. Cats require water to keep their bodies hydrated and healthy. A lack of water can lead to various health problems such as urinary tract infections and kidney problems. To learn everything you need to know about feeding your cat, see our article How to feed your cat.

If you want to treat your cat to something special, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to feeding them fries and chips. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Cooked Meat: Cats require a diet that is high in protein. Try small pieces of cooked beef, chicken, or turkey are healthy as a safe treat option for your cat.
  2. Cat Treats: Cats (ours especially) love cat treats.  There are many available that are healthy additions to their diet.  We often use a piece of food (kibble) as a treat. Make sure to count the treats caloric value in your cat’s total food intake.
  3. Catnip: Many cats enjoy the smell and even the taste of catnip.  We’ve used it to get our cats to use a new scratching post that they were ignoring.  A little catnip on it and they were all over it.

Can cats eat french fries summary

To summarize, while cats may be interested in eating french fries, they aren’t nutritionally beneficial and can be toxic to them. Your cat require a diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Feeding them fries can lead to a variety of potential health problems, including obesity, digestive problems, sodium toxicity, pancreatitis, and even death.

Instead of feeding your cat fries, it’s important to provide them with a nutritionally balanced and complete diet that meets their specific needs. If you want to treat your cat to something special, there are plenty of healthy and safe alternatives available, such as cooked meat, catnip, and commercial cat treats.

Remember, your cat’s health and well being should always come first. It’s essential to provide your kitty with a diet that meets their specific nutritional needs. By avoiding feeding your cat french fries and providing them with a healthy and balanced diet, you can help ensure that they live a happy and healthy life.

You have learned the nutritional value of french fries, the potential risks of feeding them to your cats, and what you should feed your cats instead. This will go a long way towards a healthy and happy life together with your beloved cat. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.

FAQ

Question: Can cats eat fries?

Answer: Yes. While technically you can give your cat a french fry, we do not recommended it. They can cause health issues and even be toxic if they have onion or garlic on them.

Question: What are the potential risks of feeding fries to cats?

Answer: Feeding cats fries can lead to health problems such as obesity, digestive issues, sodium toxicity, and pancreatitis. French fries may also contain additives and preservatives that are harmful to cats. Worse, onion or garlic often put on fries are toxic to your cat.

Question: Are there any benefits to feeding fries to cats?

Answer: No. There are no benefits to feeding fries to cats. Treats should be nutritionally balanced and shouldn’t make up a significant portion of their diet.

Question: What should cats eat?

Answer: Cats should eat a high protein diet that consists of animal based protein sources such as chicken, turkey, fish, and beef. They also require taurine which is essential for their health. It’s important to provide fresh water at all times.

Question: Can cats eat raw potatoes?

Answer: NO ! Raw potatoes are toxic to your cat.

Question: What are some healthy treats instead of french fries for cats?

Answer: Healthy treat options for cats include cooked meat (chicken or turkey), cat treats, catnip, and commercially available cat treats that have some nutritional value for your cat.

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