Got seaweed snacks? Got a cat? Ever wondered if the two could mix?
Seaweed has been growing in popularity as a superfood over the years. But not everything that is beneficial for humans can be good for your cats too.
As healthy and nutritious as seaweed can be, can your cat eat seaweed snacks too?
Cats can safely cat seaweed snacks to an extent. It should only be given in moderation and as a treat. Even though seaweed has good nutritional value, too much of it can start to give your cat digestive issues.
In this article, we will be looking at the reasons that make seaweed so nutritious and the do’s and don’ts when feeding your cat this green snack.
What Exactly Is Seaweed?
Seaweed is a general term used to describe many different species of marine plants that grow in the ocean as well as in rivers and lakes.
Seaweeds are not technically considered plants but belong to a group of photosynthetic organisms known as algae.
They play a crucial role in marine environments often forming the basis of marine food chains. Just like how vegetation on land is crucial for humans and animals.
There are three main types of seaweed:
- Green seaweed (Chlorophyta)
- Brown seaweed (Phaeophyta)
- Red seaweed (Rhodophyta)
It is a good source of vitamins and minerals but is best consumed in moderation due to potential heavy metal contamination.
Can Cats Eat Seaweed?
Cats are obligate carnivores in nature and thrive on a high-protein diet. This protein needs to come from a meat source as cats can’t digest plant matter.
It might be tempting to start feeding our cats human foods that are healthy. But most cats do not need such extra supplementation if fed a good and balanced diet.
By feeding your cat good quality canned food or a raw meat diet, they are getting all the nutrients required to be healthy.
Small amounts of plant material can be processed by your cat without causing harm.
There are many cats that enjoy eating wheatgrass for a variety of reasons which are thought to be for their well-being.
Seaweed, given its soft texture when wet, is relatively easy for cats to digest compared to other plant materials.
Is Seaweed Good For Cats?
Not only are cat owners feeding their cats seaweed as a treat or supplement but a number of pet food manufacturers are also using it in their products due to its numerous health benefits.
Promotes Healthy Digestion
Seaweed might be good for cats that have a sensitive digestive system. Such cats tend to have chronic diarrhea or constipation.
Being high in fiber and prebiotics, seaweed helps to promote a healthier gut flora in your cat’s stomach which leads to better bowel movements.
Boost Immune System
Cats who are suffering from autoimmune diseases like FELV or FIV can benefit from eating some seaweed.
Seaweed can help boost their immune system which helps to keep infections and inflammation at bay.
It contains a high level of antioxidants which helps to reduce the number of free radicals in your cat’s body and promote overall good health.
Reduce Allergy Symptoms
Like humans, cats can get allergies too. Some cats are allergic to certain foods or even dust. Allergy symptoms in cats usually manifest as itchy and inflamed skin.
Seaweed is high in anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce the dryness and itchiness of your cat’s skin.
How To Feed Seaweed To My Cat?
If you wish to incorporate some seaweed into your cat’s diet for its nutritional benefits, make sure that you only buy human-grade seaweed for your cat.
Do not feed your cat any seaweed that is fried, seasoned or contains preservatives.
These contain too much salt and artificial ingredients that can cause more harm than good.
Look for seaweeds that are sun-dried, organic and tested for heavy metals and contaminants.
You can find these types of seaweed in most health food stores.
Your cat’s biological system is very sensitive so you have to be more careful when feeding it something that isn’t natural cat food.
Chop the seaweed into tiny pieces and sprinkle some over your cat’s food.
A little bit goes a long way so start with a small amount like 1/8-1/4 teaspoon.
I would strongly advise you to use seaweed as an occasional snack rather than a dietary requirement for your cat.
If your cat has special needs or an existing health condition, it would be good to consult your vet before feeding it seaweed to prevent any complications from happening.
What Types Of Seaweeds Should I Feed My Cat?
Not all seaweeds are made equal with some being more nutritious than others. Here are some types of seaweed that can be good for cats.
Acadian Sea Kelp
Sea kelp is a subset of the seaweed family and is usually quite large in size. The Acadian sea kelp is brown in color and grows in cold water.
It contains protein, vitamins, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and many more nutrients and minerals.
Acadian sea kelp is known to promote good bladder health, good skin and fur, boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
This brown algae is commonly found in commercial pet food due to its numerous health benefits.
Nori is most commonly known as the roasted or dried seaweed used in foods. It is low in sodium and high in nutrients and minerals.
It also contains taurine which is an essential nutrient that all cats need for a healthy heart.
Wakame is a brown seaweed that has been eaten for centuries. It contains fucoxanthin that helps to regulate metabolism which can be useful for cats with feline diabetes.
Wakama also helps to promote healthy skin and fur in cats and also lowers the risk of cancers.
Despite its name, the Irish moss is actually an algae or seaweed. It helps to promote healthy lungs and digestive systems in cats.
It contains calcium chloride which supports the healthy functioning of the kidney and bladder.
Word Of Caution When Feeding Seaweed
Even though seaweed is considered a healthy food, you still need to exercise some caution when feeding it to your cat.
Too Much Iodine
Seaweed is high in iodine and although all animals and humans require some iodine for good health, too much iodine can be harmful to cats.
Exposure to high levels of dietary iodine can lead to hyperthyroidism in cats.
This can lead to health issues like vomiting, diarrhea, excess thirst and urination.
Some seaweed can also contain heavy metal loads like mercury and lead. A study has found that brown and red seaweed tend to have high metal deposits in them1.
If eating such contaminated seaweed over a long time can lead to metal poisoning in cats which can be life-threatening.
Always get seaweeds that are organic or certified to be low in heavy metal content.
High In Salt
There are some seaweed snacks that aren’t healthy for your cat. This would be thin seaweed sheets that have been flavored with salt and other ingredients.
Too much salt can lead to sodium poisoning in cats.
Make it a point to only feed seaweed that has not been seasoned in any way.
Can Cats Eat Seaweed Chips?
Please do not feed your cat any form of seaweed that is sold as a snack like chips or crackers.
This type of seaweed contains a high level of salt and excess sodium is bad for cats.
Cats only need a small amount of sodium in their daily diet and too much sodium can cause vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite and lethargy.
In general, cats should not be eating snacks like Salt and Vinegar chips which aren’t healthy for them.
There isn’t any harm in giving your cat some seaweed for its nutritional benefits. Just be sure to feed the right type of seaweed in small quantities.
Cats don’t do well with plant matter and too much of it can cause a stomach upset in your cat.
It would be best to have a word with your vet before using seaweed as a dietary supplement for your cat.
1. Heavy metals and potential risks in edible seaweed on the market in Italy
Filippini M, Baldisserotto A, Menotta S, Fedrizzi G, Rubini S, Gigliotti D, Valpiani G, Buzzi R, Manfredini S, Vertuani S