5 min read

Can Cats Eat Sweet Potatoes?

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By Leslie Ingraham

Published: 08/18/2022, edited: 08/29/2022

Reviewed by a licensed veterinary professional: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

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Overview

Sweet potatoes have become a popular choice for people who want to limit their consumption of white potatoes or simply love the sweet taste. Packed with nutrients, sweet potatoes are traditional favorites at holiday feasts and frequently grace the everyday dinner plate as well.

With all this sweet potato action, it won’t be a surprise that your cat has watched you eat them, possibly wondering what all the ruckus is about. They may sample a piece offered to them or snatch that bit that accidentally dropped to the floor and decide they like it. Cats don’t have sweet sensors on their tongues, so their enjoyment may arise from other subtle flavors or textures. 

Is it safe to give your feline friend some sweet potato? The answer is yes! For cats, a sweet potato that's been cooked and offered as an occasional treat is best, but it should never be a replacement for their regular food. As obligate carnivores, cats rely on meat protein to stay healthy. Some commercial cat foods may include sweet potato on their ingredient list, but it should not make up too much of the diet.

If you choose to treat your purry friend to some sweet potato, read on to discover how to do it safely.


Do cats like sweet potatoes?

As previously mentioned, cats aren’t able to taste sweetness. This is because they’re lacking the taste resceptors that detects that specific flavor. But if your cat asks for sweet potato, they may be attracted to the aroma, texture, or a secondary taste, or they may just want what you have. Whatever the reason, many felines will gladly munch on a cube of the delicious tuber.

If your cat tastes the sweet potato, then turns and gracefully leaves the area, it’s a good bet it won’t become one of their favorite foods. This isn’t a problem as they don’t need sweet potatoes to satisfy their hunger or nutritional needs. As obligate carnivores, cats rely on meat protein to stay healthy, and while fruits and veggies like sweet potatoes are a fun treat, they aren't able to satisfy a cat's dietary requirements.


Sweet potatoes in the garden - Can Cats Eat Sweet Potatoes

Health benefits of sweet potatoes for cats

Most feline nutritionists will tell you that sweet potatoes don’t have any benefits for cats. This is based on longstanding evidence that cats lack the ability to process and metabolize carbs. In the wild, the only carbohydrates consumed by big cats are whatever might be in a prey’s stomach. It’s thought that modern cats share this trait because they lack certain enzymes, and their colon is shorter in the section that processes carbs in other mammals. However, not everyone agrees. 

A study in 2018 did show that cats’ digestive systems may be able to adjust over time to fruits and vegetables and actually derive some of the nutritional benefit from them. While this debate continues and further studies are necessary, most nutritionists and others agree they contribute some important benefits to cats. 

Relieves GI problems

The fiber in sweet potatoes is both soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber absorbs liquid from the intestines to help soften and bulk up stool, making it easier to pass. Insoluble fiber acts as a stimulant to help keep things moving by stimulating the intestinal muscles. The water in sweet potatoes then acts as a bulking and softening aid, as well as a lubricant. These effects can be useful for cats with constipation or diarrhea

Keeps your cat satisfied longer

Sweet potatoes are starchy and break down more slowly than sugars, which means they stay in the stomach longer. A sweet potato snack in mid-morning or mid-afternoon can help the cat stay full and comfortable until their next meal.  

May supplement the nutritional benefits of meat

While not everyone agrees whether cats can extract the vitamins and minerals contained in carbs, sweet potatoes do contain lots of these nutrients, and some may benefit your feline. Also, the energy produced from burning the calories in the tasty tuber can help keep them active and engaged with the world and the people in it.


How much sweet potato can I give my cat?

Moderation is the key when feeding your cat sweet potatoes. Due to the high fiber and sugar content, sweet potatoes should be seen as occasional treats, which should only constitute about 5 - 10% of a cat’s daily intake. That translates to between one and two tablespoons of sweet potato per day, or about 20 calories. Sweet potato morsels should be calculated into the cat’s daily caloric needs to prevent overeating, obesity, and diabetes. Other healthy treats should be offered along with sweet potato to round out this part of the cat’s intake.

Sweet potatoes should always be cooked for kitty eaters and served without any fats, herbs, spices, or seasonings that could be potentially harmful, such as additional sugar or nutmeg.


Sweet potato casserole on table with other holiday fixings

Can my cat have some of my favorite sweet potato casserole for a special occasion?

No, cats should only eat plain, cooked sweet potato without any salt, spices, fats, or sweeteners such as Karo or maple syrup. Many sweet potato casseroles include toppings like marshmallows, which contain too much sugar for a cat’s health. And that goes for sweet potato pie as well, which always contains additional ingredients that may not be healthy for your cat.


Can cats eat the sweet potato’s skin?

The skin of a sweet potato is very fibrous and can be difficult for a cat to digest. This can cause an upset stomach, and result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The skin should be peeled off either before or after cooking. The bulk of the sweet potato should be mashed or cut into small cubes for easy digestion, as well.


Is the sweet potato’s vine safe for my cat to eat?

Sweet potato vine, the part that remains above ground, can be poisonous to a cat if eaten in large enough quantities. In smaller amounts, eating the vine may cause allergic symptoms such as hives, itching, or blisters on the cat’s skin.

The vine contains the chemical LSD. Large quantities of ingested sweet potato vines and leaves can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and hallucinations. If your cat has eaten a significant amount of the leaves and vine, an immediate visit to the veterinarian is recommended to remove as much of the vine as possible from the cat’s stomach and support them until their system is cleared of the toxin.


Can sweet potatoes settle my cat's stomach?

If your purr baby is experiencing vomiting, bloating, and/or diarrhea, your first step should be a call to your veterinarian to rule out a serious underlying condition. The vet may recommend a bland diet to give the stomach and intestines a rest until things get back to normal. Typically, bland diets are made up of boiled lean protein like chicken or turkey, mixed with a starch like rice or potato. 

Sweet potato not only adds flavor to a bland meal, but its soluble fiber helps to counteract intestinal issues like constipation or diarrhea by regulating the amount and characteristics of the kitty's stool. In addition, sweet potato can soothe upset tummies with its easily digestible soluble fiber, and it contains potassium, which can be lost during bouts of vomiting or diarrhea. Lastly, sweet potatoes help increase the healthy bacteria in the intestines, leading to better GI health.


While it’s safe to give your feline some sweet potato from time to time, moderation is the key to prevent some potential risks of stomach irritation, weight gain and sugar consumption. Making sure your cat only eats the cooked, non-spiced flesh in moderation, and without any peel, can give them a beneficial treat they'll be purring about!




If you suspect your cat is at risk of GI, diabetes or other problems, start searching for pet insurance today. Wag!’s pet insurance comparison tool lets you compare plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!


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