Canola oil is short for CANadian + Oil + Low Acid. It has many culinary applications, a high smoke point and certain properties that may or may not be beneficial. Numerous professional opinions exist both supporting and rejecting canola oil as an appropriate addition to any diet, human or cat.
General Canola Info
Canola oil is produced from the rapeseed plant and is processed in a way that changes its original makeup and chemistry. With a neutral taste and light yellow color, canola oil is low in saturated fat, high in cholesterol-optimizing mono-unsaturated fatty acids and rich in plant sterols, which may reduce the risk of heart disease -- at least in humans. Whether these benefits apply to cats is uncertain, given their different chemistry and carnivorous requirements.
One Vet Cooks with Canola
According to veterinary Dr. Susan Wynn, concerns she's read about canola oil include association with fibrotic heart lesions, vitamin E deficiency, platelet changes, growth retardation and lung cancer. Wynn notes, however, that she's not convinced of these concerns, and she cooks numerous homemade pet food recipes using organic canola oil. She uses canola oil because of its favorable omega-3 and omega-6 content, and she's comfortable with it as long as it's from a reputable organic source.
Another Doc Says No to Canola
Dr. Jeannie Thomason, veterinary naturopath and author of Whole Dog Journal, strongly discourages people from feeding canola oil to their pets. She states that rapeseed is a toxic weed -- even insects will not eat it. She adds that rapeseed's other uses include fuel, synthetic rubber base and other industrial compounds. The oil, she says, forms a "latex-like" substance in the blood and cause nervous system damage, respiratory problems, anemia, constipation and blindness in both humans and animals.
Focus on Animal Products
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they must eat meat to thrive and will wither without it. Therefore, meat should be the centerpiece of any cat's diet. Fat is also important, and a diet of about 80 percent meat and 20 percent fat strikes a reasonable balance. Meats have some fat, but if you're looking to supplement your carnivorous cat's diet with oils, using animal-based oils like fish oil reflects his natural diet more closely than canola oil.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.