Can cats eat rice?

I am lucky enough to have both dogs and cats in my life. I learned very quickly that if your dog has an upset stomach, then feeding it a plain diet of boiled white rice with a little chicken would help alleviate the symptoms.

But dogs and cats are different in so many ways, including the foodstuffs they can safely eat. What is good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander in this case. So, after my cat had an upset stomach, I decided to find out if cats can eat rice.

A short answer is that in small amounts, it is safe to feed your cat rice on occasion. Rice is not toxic for cats, but it also doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrition, and their digestive systems are not evolved to process rice and other grains.

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Is it safe for cats to eat rice?

Unlike dogs, which are omnivores, cats are classified as obligate carnivores. This may seem like a small matter, but it has a massive effect on what is safe for either animal to eat, and also what foods are beneficial for either species.

Obligate carnivores are meat-eaters pure and simple, they have evolved to source all their nutritions through a meat-only diet. Dogs on the other hand, and even their wolf ancestors, will quite happily derive their nutrition from both meat and plant sources.

In practical terms what this amounts to is that a cat’s digestive system has not evolved to process the high amount of carbohydrates found in foodstuffs like rice. They also have no nutritional requirement for the carbs that rice contains.

Feeding your cat excessive carbohydrates can cause a host of problems including: –

  • Diabetes (Symptoms to watch for include vomiting, excessive thirst, frequent urination, and a lack of appetite)
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Diarrhea

Other health issues have been tentatively linked with too many carbohydrates in a cat’s diet. I should reiterate here that these issues are highly unlikely if your cat is only given a small dose of rice as an occasional treat or supplement.

It is also worth noting that many commercial cat foods will actually contain a little rice or other grains. However, these are present in small amounts and are only intended as a bulking agent for the food.

So, although rice isn’t on any “danger list” of foodstuffs that are known to be for cats, there is very little reason to actually feed rice to your cat.

Unless, of course, your cat loves a little rice from time to time! In which case let’s have a look at the best types of rice to feed your cat and some of the dos and don’ts that you should be aware of.

Can cats eat brown rice?

Cats can safely eat a little brown rice. Generally speaking, brown rice has more nutritional value and roughage than white rice. Vets will sometimes recommend a little brown rice is added to their diet to treat mild cases of diarrhea and constipation. I would only recommend following this course of action if your vet has advised you to do so.

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Can cats eat white rice?

Yes, cats can safely eat a little white rice.

White rice is merely a processed version of brown rice. In white rice, the hull, germ, and bran are removed from the grains. This means that the grains are softer and easier to digest, but they also lose much of the nutritional value and fiber of brown rice.

As with brown rice, vets may recommend a little white rice is added to their diet if they have a mild stomach upset.

Is rice good for cats?

As I discussed, in some instances a vet may recommend adding a little rice to your cat’s diet if they are suffering from an upset stomach. Apart from these circumstances, cats will gain very little benefit from rice in their diet.

It is also worth remembering that the food you already feed to your cat may already contain rice, this should be taken into consideration when preparing rice for your cat.

Many vets will recommend that the maximum amount of rice or other grains in a cat’s diet should not exceed 25%. This figure is supported by the results of a recent study carried out by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

The study which ran for forty weeks concluded that cats whose diet exceeded 25% of rice bran suffered from taurine deficiency. Taurine is an amino acid that is crucial for a cat’s wellbeing, cats derive all their taurine from animal protein.

How to prepare and feed rice to your cat

Crucially, the first thing to note is that rice as the main component of your cat’s meal is a bad idea. Rice has too little nutritional value for your cat and too much rice will have a detrimental effect on their health.

If you decide or have been advised to feed rice to your cat, make sure you offer them a small amount, that is unseasoned and most importantly thoroughly cooked. This can then be fed to them plain or mixed with a little of their usual food.

The importance of cooking the rice thoroughly cannot be overstated. Uncooked rice is extremely difficult for a cat to digest (and for us humans for that matter) and cooking the rice also removes a natural pesticide called lectin from the grain. Lectin, if eaten in large enough quantities, can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Raw rice can also swell up in your cat’s digestive system before it is fully digested.

If you suspect your cat has eaten uncooked rice and seems to be in discomfort afterward, they should be taken to the vet as soon as possible.

Conclusion

Cat’s and rice, unless advised by your vet, are probably not a good idea. There is very little nutritional value that a cat can glean from rice, and although a little isn’t going to harm them, neither is there any benefit.

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