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Can Cats Eat Dried Cranberries?

“Don’t let cats eat human food” is a good rule of thumb, but it can be hard to prevent your cat from occasionally grabbing a food item from time to time. In some cases, this is a cause for concern, as a lot of our food really isn’t good for cats at all. Some foods, however, are perfectly safe, if not especially nourishing. Many fruits are okay for cats to eat, although they don’t provide much in the way of nutrients. Cats are obligate carnivores, with short digestive tracts that are adapted for a meat diet. Still, some cats just seem to like fruit.

Can cats eat dried cranberries? Yes, plain dried cranberries are safe for cats to eat in moderation. They don’t contribute any meaningful nutrition, but if your cat enjoys them it’s okay for her to have them sometimes. Sweetened or flavoured cranberries should not be given to cats, however.

You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about your cat’s ability to eat dried cranberries. Maybe your cat has raided your snack bowl, and you’re worried that eating cranberries might harm her. Perhaps your cat begs for a treat when you eat dried cranberries, and you want to know if it would be safe to let her eat a few. Maybe you’re worried about your cat developing a urinary tract infection, and you’re hoping that dried cranberries might be a way to prevent or treat such infections. You’ve come to the right place. Read on to find the answers you’re looking for.

Can Cats Eat Dried Cranberries?

Yes, cats can eat dried cranberries — with a few caveats. Firstly, I would avoid letting my cats eat any dried fruit that was sweetened or flavoured. While sugar won’t actually harm your cat in the short term, large amounts of sugar in her diet are bad for her in all the same ways that they are bad for us. Some artificial sweeteners can cause stomach upsets in cats, which are not pleasant to deal with and which can result in dehydration. Flavourings are a mixed bag; some are harmless, of course, but even so, I’d err on the side of caution. Dried cranberries with a chocolate coating shouldn’t be given to cats. They’re less sensitive to theobromine than dogs, but chocolate still isn’t good for them. Again, any kind of sugary coating contributes additional calories, which a lot of house-cats really don’t need. I’m not a fan of “fat-shaming” pet owners, but the fact is that excessive weight gain really can impact a cat’s health.

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Another concern with any fruit is that it has little to no nutritive value for a cat. They don’t require fruits or vegetables in the same way that we do. Dietary fibre isn’t really much of a concern. While some fruits and vegetables do contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that might be beneficial to a cat, this is largely irrelevant because the cat can’t digest them properly. Their guts simply can’t process fruits or vegetables the way ours can. I know that many high-end cat foods include vegetables in their recipes, but this is really just to add buyer appeal (and cheap ingredients).

With fresh fruit and vegetables, there is some value in their water content. In general, cats are absolutely terrible at staying hydrated. They’re not really motivated to drink much, tending to get much of their fluid from their food. (This is why I stress wet food as preferable to dry for most cats.) Because dried cranberries don’t contain much water, however, they don’t really contribute anything to your cat’s diet besides a few empty calories. They can be a fun treat if your cat happens to like them, but don’t have any real benefit from a food perspective.

In general, your cat really shouldn’t eat human food too often. Much of what we eat is toxic or at least unhealthy for cats. While one or two pieces of dried fruit won’t do any harm, you should not be feeding your cat large quantities of dried cranberries.

Cranberries and UTIs

One argument I see for letting cats eat cranberries is that they can help prevent or treat urinary tract infections (UTIs). There’s very little evidence for this, though. It would be great if there was food you could give your cat that prevented this, as cats do get UTIs quite often and they’re very distressing for the animal. Unfortunately, studies into the effectiveness of cranberries as a UTI prophylactic or treatment don’t really show much in the way of positive benefits.

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In fact, eating too my cranberries could potentially irritate your cat’s bladder and cause urinary issues. Cranberries are quite high in oxalate, which is theorised to aggravate bladder issues in cats.

Trying to treat UTIs with home remedies like cranberries is a bad idea. At best, you may prolong the illness. At worst, you could exacerbate it. The best way to deal with UTIs is to ensure that your cat has access to plenty of water, and seek treatment from your vet.

One reason that cats are prone to UTIs and kidney issues is the aforementioned lack of hydration. Make sure that your cat’s water dish is always topped up with fresh, clean water, and wash it regularly. It’s a good idea to have a water dish in any room where she hangs out a lot. My favourite solution for kitty hydration is a pet water fountain as cats often prefer running water to water in bowls.

Other Fruits for Cats

While fruit isn’t necessary for your cat’s diet, many cats enjoy it. It’s fine to give certain fruits to your cat, as long as you’re sure they’re safe. Some fruits, such as citrus, are okay for most cats but can cause irritation in sensitive individuals.

Note that some fruit pits contain cyanide. Apple pips, cherry stones, peach stones and apricot kernels all have a small quantity of cyanide, not enough to harm you but certainly sufficient to cause problems for a cat. Make sure that any stones or pips are completely removed before offering fruit to your cat.

As we’ve already seen, fruit isn’t nourishing for cats, but it’s a great source of water. Chunks of canteloupe melon, banana slices, apple slices and berries (blueberries, sliced strawberries, raspberries, blackberries etc) can be enjoyable for cats. You can also give slices of cucumber, and tomatoes if they are fully ripe and red. Green tomatoes can harm your cat, so don’t give her any that aren’t perfectly ripe. You should also be sure to remove the stalk and any leaves or flower remains, as these are toxic to cats. I like to mix a little chopped tomato into my cats’ food during the summer; they love it, and the extra fluid is very good for them.

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Other Treats for Your Cat

The best treats for your feline companion are those made and sold specifically for cats. The recipes are formulated to be cat-safe, avoiding any concern. My British Shorthair, American Shorthair and domestic shorthair all go absolutely wild for those snacks with a crunchy shell and a soft filling.

You can give your cat pieces of cooked meat, poultry or fish as a treat. Make sure that you remove all the bones and cook the meat thoroughly. Yes, I know cats eat their prey raw in the wild, but farmed meat can contain salmonella, E. coli and other nasties that could make a cat very sick. They could make you sick, too, if she happens to transfer the bacteria to any surfaces you might touch.

Very small slivers of hard cheese are okay on occasion, as are small portions of cooked eggs. These are both quite fatty, so keep that in mind.

Cats can eat plain yoghurt, as long as it doesn’t have any dairy products added after fermentation. Cream or milk powder in the yoghurt will contain lactose, which adult cats can’t digest. Do not give flavoured yoghurts, as these contain sugar and other things that aren’t great for your cat.

Treats and snacks should not make up more than about a tenth of your cat’s daily food intake. Overfeeding your cat isn’t good for her, and should be avoided.