I’m not sure why my domestic shorthair is so fixated on syrup. I’ve owned cats with odd cravings before: there was the one who would beg for frozen peas, the one who absolutely loved plain yoghurt, and several who had to be forcibly dissuaded from trying to eat plastic grocery bags. My American Shorthair will literally fight you for cheese. Maple syrup, though, is a new one for me. Cats can’t taste sweet things, so I assume she likes something about the texture or maybe the aroma. Luckily, this is a food obsession that won’t hurt her, although it’s not exactly a healthy food choice for a kitty.
Is maple syrup bad for cats? Maple syrup is not toxic to cats. It is not a healthy food for them to eat, and they shouldn’t be allowed to consume syrup of any kind in quantity. The syrup is high in calories and bad for a cat’s teeth.
You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about your cat and maple syrup. Maybe you’ve just caught your cat giving your pancakes an experimental lick, and you’re worried about the effect that maple syrup might have on her. Perhaps your cat pesters you for a taste every time you eat food with maple syrup, and you want to know if it’s a safe treat for her. Maybe you’re simply curious. Whatever your questions or your concerns, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to find out everything you need to know about cats and their odd food cravings.
Is Maple Syrup Bad for Cats?
While maple syrup isn’t actually toxic to cats, it’s still not something they should be eating. Maple syrup is high in fructose and other sugars, which aren’t substances you really want your cat to be eating. Out of all the odd foods that cats sometimes consume, it’s probably one of the most innocuous; non-toxic, however, is a very long way from being healthy. My own cat may beg to differ on the suitability of syrup for a feline diet, but I outrank her in the household hierarchy.
Cats do not possess the same taste receptors that we do. While humans have adapted to seek out sweet flavours since those indicate that foods would pack the kind of high-calorie punch our hominid ancestors needed to survive in the tough prehistoric world. Cats, by contrast, are adapted to consume meat. They are obligate carnivores and don’t need to be able to tell whether a fruit is ripe or not. Even so, there may be characteristics in maple syrup that cats find appealing. Perhaps the smooth, sticky texture is pleasant to lick, or maybe there’s some aromatic compound in maple syrup that piques a cat’s appetite. Perhaps it’s simply that the cat saw you eating something, and decided that if you were enjoying that food then it must be good.
In any event, cats really shouldn’t be eating maple syrup. First of all, it has absolutely no nutritional value to a cat. The syrup doesn’t contain any of the proteins, vitamins or amino acids that cats need in their diets. Syrups also contain a lot of calories. While this isn’t too much of a problem for an active young feline, more sedentary cats get all their caloric requirements from their food and don’t need anything extra in the form of empty calories. Older cats are also prone to diabetes, which certainly contraindicates maple syrup as a treat.
A more pressing concern for me would be tooth decay. While a cat’s mouth flora is very different from our own, there’s still a possibility that bacteria in the cat’s mouth could respond to the added sugar by producing acid (just as they do in humans). This could cause the cat to develop cavities, which are no fun at all for a feline.
You don’t need to worry if your cat eats some maple syrup now and again. Still, it’s not something they should have very often. Keeping cats away from potentially unhealthy foods is all part of being a responsible pet owner, as trying as it may be.
Can Cats Eat Pancakes? How About Waffles?
You should also avoid letting your cat eat any of the foods that are usually served with maple syrup. My cat just licks off the syrup and leaves the pancake alone, but some cats will scarf down pancakes, waffles and so on without any hesitation. Again, this is unlikely to be especially harmful; it’s still not great for your cat, though.
Foods like pancakes, waffles and so on are made with eggs, which are fine in moderation but fairly high in fat. Cooked eggs aren’t too bad for cats, but should only be given in moderation. Less fine is the flour used in many such breakfast foods. Cats really don’t need grains of any kind in their diets. Processed white flour, while not toxic, is very poorly tolerated by the feline digestive system. Eating products made with flour can cause all sorts of gastric distress, resulting in stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhoea and general tummy upsets. Most cats will be fine once the substance has passed out of their systems, but some might suffer more severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea which can lead to dehydration and more serious issues.
On the whole, while a bite of your pancake will probably do little harm, it won’t do your cat much good either.
Safer Treats for Your Cat
I discourage pet owners from feeding cats from their plates. It encourages begging at mealtimes, which can be trying. It also encourages cats to steal food from your plate, which can be actively dangerous in the case of certain foods. If your cat really won’t leave you alone at breakfast time, try distracting her with her own kitty treats or a small quantity of her favourite wet food.
If your cat bothers you for syrup when you’re eating it, try giving her a piece of fruit instead. Fruit isn’t a necessary part of a cat’s diet and they don’t get any real nutrition from it, but it does contain plenty of liquid. That’s always a plus since many cats don’t drink enough water. Peeled apple slices (with the pips carefully removed), chunks of canteloupe melon, small amounts of strawberry, and slices of banana are all acceptable. You could have these with your breakfast and safely give a bite to your cat as a little treat. Another possible alternative to syrup would be plain yoghurt. This is safe for cats in small amounts. Be sure that you only give your cat plain yoghurt with no additional milk products added after fermentation. Yoghurt is safe because all of the lactose has been consumed by the bacteria used to make the yoghurt, but some brands have added cream or milk powder that will contain lactose.
Cats and Snacking
Note that treats and snacks should not make up a large proportion of your cat’s overall food intake — anything more than about 10 per cent of her daily calories is excessive.
Chubby, cuddly cats are very cute, but too much weight gain can be quite a serious health issue in felines. Snacks and treats, especially high-calorie treats like maple syrup, can lead to obesity over time. It’s important to keep an eye on your cat’s diet and to take steps to fix her food intake if she starts to put on too much weight.
Obesity in cats can make their lives both less enjoyable and shorter. Carrying around all that extra weight can put a lot of strain on your cat’s joints, leading to pain and inflammation. If the condition isn’t dealt with, it’s very common for heavy cats to develop arthritis. Weight can also make your cat more likely to develop serious health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. It can cause circulatory issues and problems with respiration. Overall, it’s not fun for your cat and makes her less able to enjoy life.
Your cat’s main diet should consist of good quality wet food, with meat as the main ingredient. Avoid foods that list grains among the ingredients, as these can contribute to overweight while not providing nutrition.