EDITOR’S NOTE: Cats are omnivores and do not necessarily need nutrients from vegetables to thrive. However, if you’re looking to help an overweight cat trim down or just want to add some excitement to her bowl, all of these vegetables are safe for cats in small amounts. As always, check with your vet before adding anything new into his/her diet to be sure it’s right for your individual animal companion.
Rich in vitamins A and C and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, and copper. High in beta carotene, an antioxidant that positively impacts eyesight, reduces inflammations, and fights kidney and heart disease. Helpful for addressing and preventing digestive issues or diarrhea.
How to feed
Animals do not break down squash like humans do, so don’t feed this raw. Offer small amounts of roasted or steamed squash—chopped or shredded—mixed in with their regular food or on its own if your pet enjoys it. Be sure to remove the skin and seeds.
As its orange color suggests, pumpkin is a great source of beta carotene. It’s also high in fiber, iron, zinc, vitamins A and C, and potassium, and is good for hydration, given its high water content. It has added benefits for urinary health (especially incontinence), digestion, constipation, and diarrhea. A small amount daily (one to two tablespoons for dogs and half to one teaspoon for cats) will help keep your pet’s bowel movements regular. It can also aid cats who are dealing with excessive hairball issues.
How to Feed
Do not offer your pet raw pumpkin. Canned, pureed is the most convenient—as long as it’s 100 percent pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie mix—but you may bake or roast it yourself if you prefer. Your pet may eat pumpkin on its own off the spoon or spread on a toy, otherwise you can mix in with food.
Pumpkin seeds are safe for your pet as long as they are cleaned and roasted (without salt). They are high in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as the amino acid cucurbitin, which acts as a natural de-worming agent. You can crush them up and sprinkle on your pet’s food or slowly offer a whole seed (one at a time, since they can be hard to chew). And a little goes a long way, so be sure not to overfeed. Keep pumpkin seeds in a sealed container in the fridge to keep them fresh for up to a month. If not stored properly they can become toxic.
Zucchini is a good source of vitamins A, B, and C (good for skin and coat), calcium, fiber, folate, magnesium, and potassium. It has a high content of phytonutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote healthy eyesight. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory and provide plenty of antioxidants.
How to Feed
Unlike squash, zucchini may be offered to your pet raw. Some pets enjoy it cubed and added to their food as a topper, or given on its own as a healthy, high-quality, low-calorie treat throughout the day.
While this vegetable is a part of the nightshade family, which is known for being harmful for animals, if fed appropriately, eggplant is okay for your dogs and cats to eat.
Eggplant is rich in iron, fiber, copper, potassium, niacin, manganese, vitamins B1, B6, and K. It contains an anthocyanin phytonutrient called nasunin, reported to improve brain and heart functions and positively impact blood flow and circulation. Additionally, it has chlorogenic acid, known to fight cancer, along with anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
How to Feed
Bake, grill, or boil before serving. Be sure to remove any leaves, as they can make your pet sick and can be potentially fatal.
All of the veggies mentioned here are a great addition for pets who need to lose weight since they are so low in calories. Pumpkin is an especially ideal filler, since its high fiber content help pets feel full and more satisfied.
1. Even if your pets adore these veggies and the addition of some yummy human grub, be sure to start slowly. It takes time for an animal’s system to incorporate new foods without showing signs of irregular bowels, so go easy with your pet to be gentle on her tummy.
2. As with your own food, stick as much as you can to organic veggies to reduce exposure to pesticides.
3. When baking/roasting, feel free to rub the vegetables with a bit of coconut oil, and sprinkle on spices such as basil, dill, oregano, parsley, or rosemary. (See last month’s Pet Pantry for the low-down on appropriate herbs.) Spoiler alert: I roasted some winter squash and zucchini prepared this way and gave it to my own dogs and they both loved it and are eager for more!