Everybody gets an upset tummy sometimes- even cats! Luckily, nature has provided us with a remedy that works well for both cats and humans. Pumpkin is a great nutritional supplement for any cat (or human) experiencing digestive issues.
Title Photo Credit: Christina Cantrill via Flickr
The Nutritional Value of Pumpkin
Pumpkin is an excellent source of non-grain dietary fiber. Just one cup (245 g) of canned, purèed, 100% pumpkin is 7 grams of fiber and only 83 calories! It also supplies a lot of great vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin is high in potassium (505 mg/cup), iron (3.4 mg/cup), Vitamin A (734% of daily value for a human/cup), and beta-carotene (17006 mcg/cup). The seeds are full of antioxidants and essential fatty acids.
For cats, feeding non-grain sources of dietary fiber is really important. As obligate carnivores (strict meat-eaters) cats’ bodies are not designed to handle the carbohydrate load found in grains. Pumpkin has a good amount of carbohydrates as well, but not nearly the amount found in grains like rice. Grains tend to carry very few vitamins and minerals, while pumpkin has all of the nutrients listed above and more. However, while pumpkin is a great supplement, it should not be a cat’s sole source of nutrition.
Pumpkin as a Natural Remedy
There are several different health problems in cats that pumpkin can help alleviate. First things first, check with your veterinarian to make sure that pumpkin is an appropriate dietary supplement for your cat. You want to make sure that you are treating the correct problem and that the symptoms you are observing are not caused by an underlying illness.
Pumpkin is a soluble- dietary fiber meaning that it dissolves in water. In order to dissolve in the water, it must absorb water (it becomes a gel-like substance). If your kitty is having diarrhea, the fiber in pumpkin can help absorb some of the liquid while adding substance to the stool.
The water-absorbing quality of soluble fibers draws water into your kitty’s digestive tract. This causes the stools to become softer and move more easily.
- Urinary Tract Health
Pumpkin seeds provide essential fatty acids which can help regulate the PH of your cat’s urine. As a bonus, these essential fatty acids can help your kitty’s skin and fur too!
Soluble fiber helps to keep the digestive tract running smoothly. A well working digestive tract can push the swallowed hair through so it doesn’t turn into a hairball.
- Weight Management
The soluble fiber found in pumpkin slows the digestive system down. It can make your kitty feel fuller longer without a ton of extra calories.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Pumpkin can provide the necessary fiber to help keep things moving properly along your cat’s digestive tract. As it slows digestion, it can also help more important nutrients to be absorbed.
- Management of Diabetes
There is another great benefit to the slow-down that soluble fiber offers your kitty’s digestion. It causes the carbohydrates and sugars to be processed more slowly and steadily, which keeps blood sugar levels from spiking. It gives your cat’s body a chance to process everything through. There is some evidence that pumpkin extracts can restore function to damaged beta cells and thus restore proper insulin production.
The Pumpkin Recipe and Dosing
You can buy canned pumpkin at the store or you can make it fresh yourself. If you choose to purchase it, make sure that it is 100% purèed pumpkin and NOT a pie filling or something containing sugar or spices. To make it yourself, all you will need is a pumpkin, a scoop, and a blender. DO NOT use the remains of the pumpkin you set on your porch for Halloween because this has picked up a lot of bacteria in the time it has been carved. Put the pulp and the seeds into your blender and blend it until it has the consistency of baby food. The pumpkin must be pureed to break down all of the cellulose or your cat will not be able to digest the nutrients within.
All your cat will need is 1 teaspoon of the pureed pumpkin per meal! Alternatively, your cat can eat pumpkin as a snack if he/she enjoys it. If you have a small cat or a kitten, a 1/2 teaspoon might be plenty. Don’t worry too much about getting the dosing exactly right – this is a food product and not a pharmaceutical.
If you feel that your cat might have a hard time accepting the whole teaspoon of pumpkin, start smaller and work your way up. You can even use a little more than a teaspoon if you feel that your cat needs it. It is possible to have too much fiber (which causes gas, bloating, and cramping), but just pull back on the amount and things should return to normal. As always, talk to your veterinarian about any problems you experience.