Cats are usually interested in anything that doesn’t strictly concern them, and that includes our snacks! Crisps (or potato chips, for our American friends) might be one of the most popular snack foods in the world, but they are not known for being a healthy option. So, are crisps a safe choice for our cats? Are they healthy? Are our cats likely to be interested in our crisps?
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Do Cats Like Crisps?
In the wild, a cat’s diet is almost entirely made up of meat. Crisps, by contrast, are often vegetarian or vegan – even the meat-flavoured ones! So, are they likely to appeal to our pet carnivores?
Most crisps are high in both fat and salt. Generally, cats are attracted to both these ingredients. Fat is the high-energy part of meat, and our cats’ tongues can easily enjoy salty flavours (in contrast to sweet ones, which they cannot taste).
However, the texture of a crisp is very unlike any natural part of a cat’s diet. Or even any of the normal foods that we feed our domestic cats. So whilst cats may show interest in licking our crisps, they may be less keen to actually take a mouthful.
Do Crisp Contain Any Useful Nutrients For Our Cats?
Crisps are high in fat and carbohydrates, which are both good sources of energy. However, they contain very little protein or fibre, and few vitamins or minerals.
Most crips also contain a significant amount of salt. Some salt is necessary for our cats, but they should get everything they need from their regular cat food. So there is no benefit to giving them any extra.
This means that crisps would be considered a “junk food” for cats just as much as they are for humans – definitely not something that would add anything useful to our cats’ diets.
Can Crisps Be Bad For Cats?
None of the common ingredients used to make crisps are highly toxic to cats in the quantities used (although watch out for onion-flavouring made with real onion extract – that can contain enough to become toxic over time), so a small amount is unlikely to cause any serious harm. However, this doesn’t mean that our cats can eat crisps without worrying.
Crisps are high in both fat and carbohydrates. This means that they are a high-calorie snack for both humans and cats. Cats who regularly eat crisps are likely to start gaining weight, which can have serious effects on their long-term health. The fat levels may also cause an upset stomach (vomiting or diarrhoea) in some cats.
The high levels of salt in crisps should not cause a healthy cat any trouble. However, cats with kidney disease or heart disease should avoid taking in any.
What Could We Give Our Cats Instead Of Crisps?
Although crisps aren’t toxic to cats, they aren’t exactly good for them, either. So what could we offer our cats instead?
First off, it’s important to make sure that our cats are getting all the nutrients that they need from their food. This means that ninety percent of their diet (by weight) should be a complete and balanced cat food.
The other ten percent can also be made up of a balanced diet, or we can add in treats. The safest to use are ones that have been designed for cats, and there’s a huge range out there for you and your cat to try. Be careful, though – cat treats tend to be high in calories, just like human ones. If your cat is overweight, then you may need to reduce the number of treats that they are having.
If you are keen to feed them a bit of something different, then cooked meat is probably the safest option. A small portion of gently cooked (not fried) chicken or white fish may hit the spot nicely, especially in the winter months. If the weather is warm, then you can make your cat some iced treats – take some tinned tuna in spring water and tip the liquid (with a little meat) into an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid, then offer to your cat to lick or crunch, as they prefer!
Try and avoid feeding your cat any human junk foods, as these are often even higher in calories than cat treats. Some of them (like chocolate) can actually be poisonous to our cats.
Some cats may be interested in snacking on crisps, as they are high in fat and salt, which can both be appealing to curious felines. The good news is that they are unlikely to do your cat any immediate harm unless they have a health condition where they should avoid salt (such as heart disease or kidney disease).
However, there are no nutritional benefits to feeding cats crisps, and they have a high-calorie content. Cat treats or cooked meat may be better choices, but make sure that treats make up no more than ten percent of your cat’s food – the other ninety percent should be a complete and balanced commercial diet.