You know you're supposed to eat your veggies, but did you ever wonder if that saying applies to your cat? Some common human foods are poisonous to cats, and some of them are vegetables. Before feeding your cat anti-oxidant rich broccoli sprouts, make sure they're safe.
Why would you feed your cat broccoli sprouts? First and foremost, they're packed with antioxidants -- a 1997 John Hopkins University study found broccoli sprouts have 10 to 100 times the amount as is found in heads of broccoli. There's also something to be said for roughage in your cat's diet. Theoretically, broccoli sprouts can stave off certain kinds of cancer. It's even marketed as a pet supplement toward this end, although such health benefit claims aren't endorsed by the federal government.
Your cat's stomach is not like yours. It can process raw meat, for instance. In fact, they're obligate carnivores, which means they have to eat meat to survive, unlike humans or dogs. Your cat also has problems processing some chemical compounds in vegetables and herbs. Among them, famously, are onions, garlic and chives, although they sometimes show up in commercial cat food. That's because small doses probably don't cause acute issues, although larger doses can cause red blood cell damage and other problems. That being the case, the question of whether broccoli is safe for cats and whether broccoli sprouts are safe for cats are related, but not identical.
The Grass Ain't Always Greener
Broccoli appears to be safe for cats. Notably, it doesn't appear on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' toxic plant list or list of human foods unsafe for pets. Ergo, broccoli sprouts are likely safe for cats in small doses. Larger doses, which flood a cat's digestive system with concentrated compounds, could be taxing and cause irritation even if they're not poisonous. So, as with any new food, it's best to try small doses and see how your cat responds. As for the potential health benefits of broccoli sprouts, nothing's been 100 percent confirmed for humans, let alone cats, so weighing the potential risks and benefits is up to you.
If You Suspect Poisoning
It won't be hard to tell if your cat has an acute reaction to broccoli sprouts. Vomiting may simply signify an upset stomach. This means they're probably not a good match for your cat. If your cat has seizures, loses consciousness or has difficulty breathing, call your vet or a pet poison control hotline immediately. Given the wealth of factors at play, there's no telling what an individual cat's reaction to a new food will be. It's noteworthy that, until the late 20th century, veterinary science didn't know grapes and their shriveled cousins, raisins, are toxic to cats. It's still unknown why that's the case. Broccoli sprouts are probably safe for your cat in small amounts, but you need to watch for adverse reactions.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Toxic and Non-toxic Plant List -- Cats
- Johns Hopkins Magazine: A Nibble of Prevention
- Oregon State University: Micronutrient Information Center -- Isothiocyanates
- National Research Council of the National Acadamies: Your Cat's Nutritional Needs
- Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images