There has been a lot of hype about the many amazing health benefits of coconut oil for humans. Can your cat reap the same benefits? Is coconut oil safe for cats?
What you need to know about coconut oil
Coconut oil is derived from the flesh of coconuts, and is often used in cooking and other food preparations, as well as an ingredient in personal care products.
When consumed, coconut oil’s main benefit is its medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are a type of fatty acids that are easily digested by the body. Compared to long-chain triglycerides, which are found in avocado oil, fish oil, olive oil, and soybean oil, the MCTs in coconut oil provide a quick source of energy and are, therefore, less likely to be stored as fats in the body.
These MCTs also contain antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, delivered by caprylic acid, capric acid, and lauric acid that are present.
There is still inadequate clinical data that support the health benefits of coconut oil in humans, and how coconut oil may affect cats is only supported by anecdotal evidence. The positive health effects of coconut oil are mostly theoretical and based on what is known about MCTs.
What are the supposed benefits of coconut oil for cats?
While still unproven, below are the potential benefits of giving your cat coconut oil.
- As a digestive aid, coconut oil can help remedy mild digestive issues.
- Help prevent hairballs; helps hairballs pass smoothly down the digestive tract.
- Support cognitive health in older cats.
- Help maintain a healthy coat.
- Alleviate skin dryness, itchiness, and other forms of skin irritation.
- Facilitate faster skin healing.
- Aid in weight loss.
- Ease joint pain from arthritis.
- Improve bone health.
- Protect against bacterial, fungal, or viral infections.
Is it safe to give your cat coconut oil?
If you’re using coconut oil and have been experiencing some benefits, it does not necessarily mean that your cat will also enjoy the same positive effects. In fact, different cats often respond in different ways to the same treatment, whether it’s a drug or an herbal medicine.
Coconut oil is not toxic to cats, but this does not mean that it can give your cat a health advantage when you add it to her diet. It’s always best to consult your vet before giving your pet a new supplement. Factors such as your feline companion’s overall condition, any underlying health issues, weight, age, and any medications she may be taking should be considered before supplementing her diet with coconut oil or other nutraceuticals.
Because the potential health benefits of coconut oil in cats are mostly claims made by manufacturers and sellers and have yet to be supported by research, most veterinarians do not recommend giving cats and other pets coconut oil.
If you do want to give this oil a try, here are a few reminders:
- Coconut oil is still high in fat and can cause weight gain or digestive problems, such as diarrhea, especially when too much is given.
- If your cat is already overweight or obese, or has a medical condition, such as cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, irritable bowel disorder, or pancreatitis, do not give her coconut oil.
- The correct amount to give your cat will depend on a variety of factors, including her weight, age, and overall condition. Your veterinarian is the most qualified to calculate the appropriate amount for optimal results.
- If you notice any adverse symptoms, immediately stop giving your pet coconut oil. You can observe if her condition improves within 24 hours before taking her to the vet, or you may also have her checked right away.
How to give your cat coconut oil
Again, consult your vet before using coconut oil for your cat’s overall wellness or to treat an ailment. And do as much research as you can about coconut oil for cats as coconut oil products are manufactured for human use only.
Using pure coconut oil topically to treat minor skin issues, such as dry, itchy, or flaky skin, may seem straightforward and safe enough. However, it is most likely that your cat will lick off the oil and this can lead to further irritation of the skin and even digestive issues, if it turns out that your pet’s stomach is sensitive to the oil. Another option you can take is using a cat shampoo with coconut oil.
Get your vet’s go-ahead before administering coconut oil to your cat orally. Again, because coconut oil is manufactured for human use, there are no standard recommendations for dosage when it is used for pets. Your vet should be able to determine the correct dosage and frequency.
Closely monitor how your feline friend reacts to her new dietary supplement. Report any worrying symptoms to your vet. If you do not observe any positive health effects within two to three weeks, ask your vet about upping the dosage.
Make sure you only get unrefined or virgin organic coconut oil; cold-pressed is even better, as this process does not degrade the oil’s flavor and nutritional quality. If your cat does not like the taste of the oil, you may simply have to try a different brand as different products also have different tastes. The easiest way to give the oil to your feline friend is by mixing it into her food or adding drops to her favorite treat.
Coconut oil for cats - Final Thoughts
Virgin coconut oil has many potential health benefits owing to the presence of MCTs, caprylic acid, capric acid, and lauric acid. Whether or not giving your cat coconut oil will be advantageous to her health will mostly be subject to trial and error; there’s still no scientific evidence that establishes the actual health effects of this oil on cats and other animals.
Consult your vet before giving your feline companion coconut oil to ensure optimal results.