Pumpkins are one of the most popular foods globally and grow in all the continents except Antarctica. In the US, pumpkin seeds are planted in the last week of May and middle June. They take approximately 90 to 120 days to grow and are ready to be picked in October.
The harvest of pumpkins goes hand in hand with the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays. Pumpkins are used to make desserts, soups, bread, and it is very common for them to be included as pie in the Thanksgiving meal. The ritual of carving pumpkins into Jack-o’- lanterns have been around for many centuries and is practiced to date by the Americans.
Due to their popularity, you are likely to find pumpkins in the kitchens where our furry friends may come across them. This means that not only can they eat pumpkins, they are also delighted to have them in their diets.
Nutritional Benefits of Pumpkins to Cats
- Fiber, one of the key nutrients in pumpkins, is a mineral from plants that are not broken down by enzymes in the body. Benefits of fiber include;
- Weight Control
Fiber creates a feeling of fullness, even when fewer calories are consumed. Whenever you are trying to get your kitty to lose weight, it is advisable that you substitute some of the cat’s diet with pumpkins as the psychological need to eat more will be reduced hence losing weight in the prompting weight loss. It is advisable to contact the veterinarian on the amount of food to be substituted to ensure the cat remains healthy as losing weight rapidly might lead to liver disease in cats.
- Hairball Treatment
When a cat grooms, they swallow some hair in the process. Some cats vomit these hairballs, but others do not. Those hairballs not vomited become large hence obstructing their gastrointestinal tract. The fiber contained in pumpkins has laxative properties that move the fur in the cat’s intestinal tract rather than expelling it as hairballs.
When cats are constipated, pumpkin consumption is recommended as the laxatives stimulate bowel movements hence soothing constipation.
- Treatment of Diarrhea
The Soluble fiber in pumpkins absorbs excess water in the digestive hence relieving cats of diarrhea.
Cats usually don’t drink water and rely on their diets for water; hence the reason why veterinarians recommend wet cat food that contains moisture instead of dry cat food. Since pumpkins are rich in moisture, they offer a hydrating effect to cats.
Vitamins and Minerals in Pumpkins
Apart from fiber, pumpkins are rich in other minerals and vitamins, which are beneficial to various functions in the body.
- Alpha Carotene. This antioxidant prevents damage in cells hence preventing diseases like cancer. It is associated with an anti-aging effect and prevents autoimmune diseases like arthritis and kidney failure in cats.
- Vitamin A. It is responsible for maintaining normal vision as well as maintaining an optimal immune system.
- Calcium. This mineral is responsible for strong bones and teeth and promotes strong claws, which help a cat defend himself in case of an attack. It moves easily, and cats can maneuver in all places. Strong teeth make it possible to crack bones, and due to their obligate carnivorous nature, they require protein for survival.
- Lutein. Responsible for the health of skin, eyes, and coat.
- Vitamin C. Responsible for metabolic functions such as tissue growth and maintenance and acts as an antioxidant that protects cells as they age.
- Iron It promotes the production of hemoglobin, contributes to cellular respiration as well as oxidation.
- Vitamin E. It essential and can be used to treat eczema, mites, and allergy hence providing great benefits to a cat’s skin.
How to Feed your Cat Pumpkin.
Although Pumpkins are good for cats, feeding them wrongly could pose health risks to them. It is therefore important to adhere to the provided guidelines;
The stem and leaves are covered in short sharp little hairs, which could cause tiny cuts in the cat’s intestine when ingested. The pumpkin skin is not digested well and could lead to constipation. The pulp, which is the soft gooey material in the center of the Pumpkin should not be consumed as well.
Pumpkins with additional additives, spices, and fillers, whether fresh or canned should be avoided at all costs. Jack-o-lantern that has been cut and left out could have molds and bacteria growing in them, and consumption of these could lead to illness in cats. Finally, you should never feed raw Pumpkin to a cat.
The simplest way to feed Pumpkin to your cat is by incorporating spice less, unsweetened, pure canned Pumpkin into the kitty’s diet. If the cat does not enjoy the taste of Pumpkin alone, feel free to mix it with wet cat food to make it palatable.
It is recommended that Pumpkin be refrigerated as it spoils when left at room temperature for some time. Fresh pumpkin seeds can be fed to acts after they have been cleaned, roasted at 350˚ F for 1-hour, and ground for easier ingestion. The seeds which should be served without adding spices or salt are rich in omega fatty acids and antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation making them great supplements for cats experiencing chronic urinary issues and arthritis. Their shelf life is not long and should be consumed in a month after preparation.
It is said more of a good thing is better but this is not true in this case. Since Pumpkin is a natural laxative, it may result in destabilization of the gastrointestinal tract. You must understand while Pumpkin is suitable for cats, having a balanced diet is the main goal. Ensure that your kitty gets all the required nutrients to avoid being deficient in some vitamins and minerals, which would pose a health risk. Kindly check with your veterinarian on the right quantities for your cat depending on his health history since it is not recommended for cats with existing medical conditions such as diabetes and chronic kidney disease.