Can Cats Eat Rice? The Truth


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Can cats eat rice?

Cat’s don’t need to eat rice as they are carnivores. Rice is a high carbohydrate grain that cat’s can digest in small amounts (less than 1/2 C cooked white rice per day). However, too much rice can cause digestive issues.

Are you not sure what you can and can’t feed your cat?

Many sites suggest giving rice as it’s seen as a bland and easy to digest food. The problem is cats have different bodies adapted to meat eating. Long term rice eating is a risk to your cat’s health and may increase the risk of kidney disease.

In this article I’ll talk about why cats can’t eat rice, and what you can feed your cat for optimal health.

Can Cats Eat Rice? The Truth

The goal of this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats. I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions.

The advice in this article is not intended as medical advice.

Let’s get into the article.

Can I give my cat rice?

You can, but only in small amounts. Rice is a starchy carbohydrate food. Cat’s can digest small amounts of rice (less than 1/2 cup cooked white rice per day), but too much will lead to digestive issues.

Rice is a popular food that humans like to eat because it’s a cheap and versatile source of nutrition. However, cat’s are different and have problems eating the same diet as a man.

Why is this?

Cat’s are obligate carnivores. In the wild, their diet consists of small prey such as birds, rodents, rabbits, lizards, and insects.

A typical diet of a cat on a macronutrient basis lines up with the following:

  • 1–2% carbohydrate
  • 30–68% fat
  • 30–68% protein

Cats tend to chew on grass which may help eliminate parasites. Aside from that, a cat seldom eats much else.

Cat’s have adapted to meat eating, and have several differences to their bodies. This includes:

  • Ability to maintain glucose for the brain eating a low-carbohydrate diet without ketosis
  • Higher dietary protein requirement than omnivores (e.g. humans)
  • No dietary need for carbohydrate
  • Inability to convert plant based forms of nutrients into active forms
    • Can’t convert tryptophan to niacin
    • Can’t convert beta carotene to Vitamin A
    • Can’t convert linoleic acid to arachidonic acid
    • Can’t make taurine in their body

Without the intervention of man, a cat can’t survive without eating animal based foods.

An infographic which provides dietary tips for cats.

Why is this relevant to eating rice?

When given a choice, domestic cats eat a diet that lines up with what they’d eat in the wild. Cats will eat a lower carbohydrate diet when given a choice of different foods.

Cat’s seem to reject foods that are higher in carbohydrate.

Scientists suggest that this is due to a ‘carbohydrate ceiling’ effect. Researchers think that cats can tolerate a carbohydrate intake of about 20g (~300kj or 71 kcal).

After this point, cat’s seem to reject further food as they can’t tolerate any more carbohydrate. This can lead to a deficiency of other nutrients such as protein.

This makes sense given that cats have fewer carbohydrate digestive enzymes. It also makes sense given cat’s liver, which stays in gluconeogenesis. That means a cat is always producing sugar (glucose) from protein.

Any more carbohydrate puts a strain on their body, raising blood glucose. Cats eating a high carbohydrate have more sugar in their urine (glycosuria), which may damage kidneys over time.

Back to rice:

Rice is a very high carbohydrate food. Here is the macronutrient ratio of rice:

The macronutrient ratio of cooked rice. This shows a breakdown of the amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrate in one cup of cooked white rice.

Going back to the carbohydrate ceiling effect, it would take only 1/2C of cooked white rice to hit the limit to acceptable carbohydrate intake for cats.

This means anything over this amount would risk digestive upsets or negative health outcomes (e.g. possible long term kidney disease and diabetes risk).

This is assuming your cats diet contains no other source of carbohydrate. If your cat already gets sources of carbohydrate in the diet (e.g. dry kibble) then this tolerable limit of rice is even lower.

So is there any reason to feed a cat rice?

Not really!

Rice doesn’t provide any other nutritional benefit. It is low in micronutrients and the protein is low quality.

At best, a cat can tolerate a small amount of rice without any harm to health. At worse, it can cause risks to long term health or digestive issues in the short term.

In short:

Limit your cats total carbohydrate intake to less than 20g per day from all sources. Don’t give your cat more than 1/2 cup of cooked white rice.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Rice Can I Give My Cat?

You can give cat’s a small amount of rice, but it isn’t recommended. Cat’s can only tolerate a low carbohydrate diet as they lack the digestive enzymes for digesting carbohydrate.

Cat’s only digest and tolerate about 20g of carbohydrate per day. This amounts to 1/2C of rice.

If there is no other source of carbohydrate in the diet, you can feed your cat up to 1/2C of cooked rice without harm, however I don’t recommend it. Rice doesn’t have any benefit to the health of your cat.

Learn more: 9 Tips To Feed Your Cat For Awesome Health

Can I Give My Kitten Rice?

Kittens don’t need to eat rice to grow and develop to healthy adults. Whilst they can tolerate a small amount of cooked rice, the food doesn’t offer much nutritional benefit.

Kittens benefit most from foods higher in protein and fat.

Although kittens do consume some lactose (a source of carbohydrate) from their mothers milk, it’s only about 20% of their energy intake. After this phase of life, they don’t need any carbohydrate.

Can I Give Rice To My Cat Daily?

You can feed your cat up to 1/2C of cooked rice per day. This gives your cat 20g of carbohydrate. Any more than this can result in digestive issues, food rejection, and/or long term health problems.

Cat’s have only a limited amount of enzymes involved in digesting carbohydrate. Too much puts a strain on digestion.

Do Cats Eat Cooked Rice, Potatoes, Tomatoes And Beans?

Cats don’t need to eat rice, potatoes, tomatoes, and/or beans. These are all high carbohydrate foods. Cat’s prefer and thrive on a low carbohydrate diet higher in animal based foods.

Some foods like tomatoes may be toxic to cats, particularly if not ripened.

Learn more: 17 Foods That Are Poisonous To Cats

Can Cats Eat Rice And Chicken?

Cat’s can digest both rice and chicken. However, these two foods don’t give cats the complete range of nutrients they need for optimal health.

When given a diet of only meat, cats develop a health problem called nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. This is due to a lack of calcium in the diet, which raises parathyroid hormone.

The hormone can cause bone strength and mobility issues. Kittens fed a diet of all meat can have depression, mobility, and bone growth issues.

As I’ve mentioned in this article, cat’s can only tolerate small amounts of cooked rice. This diet might be economical, but not a healthful diet for a cat.

Why Does Cat Food Have Rice?

Rice is a cheap grain that cuts down on producing costs, versus organic meat. Some cat food brands put rice in their product misleading consumers into thinking it’s a healthful choice for cats.

Often the line between cat and human is blurred. What is good for humans (e.g. fiber, grains, high carbohydrate diet, fruits, rice) is not appropriate for cats.

There is a lot of astute marketing in the cat food industry which helps to frame rice based foods as ‘simple’ and ‘healthful’. Some brands align their marketing with experts (e.g. vets) to increase authority and trust.

At the end of the day, rice is a high carbohydrate food that has little place in a cats diet.

Are Cats Allergic To Rice?

Rice allergies are rare in cats. Common food allergies in cats include fish, beef, chicken, eggs, pork, and rabbit. Signs of food allergies include pruritis (itchy skin), vomiting, and diarrhea.

If your vet suspects a food allergy, they may opt for an elimination diet. This involves giving a cat a novel protein (uncommon protein food source) diet and food challenge.

It’s an intensive process that takes time and care.

Learn more: 5 Best Cat Food for Cats With Diarrhea

Learn more: Best Dry Cat Food for Allergies

What Kind Of Rice Can Cats Eat?

All rice is inappropriate to give to your cat. All forms of rice are high in carbohydrate, a nutrient which cats have no dietary requirement for.

If you give your cat rice, limit the amount to less than 1/2 cup cooked.

Can Cats Eat Basmati Rice?

Basmati rice, as with all other rice forms, is high in carbohydrate. Cat’s don’t have any requirement for a high carbohydrate diet.

In humans, basmati rice is thought to be the healthful choice as it is a lower glycemic index food. It is unclear whether glycemic index benefits cats in any way.

Can I Mix Rice With Cat Food?

There’s no benefit to mixing rice with cat food. Cat’s don’t need to eat rice as part of their carnivore based diet needs. Rice is a high carbohydrate grain food that can cause digestive issues if fed too often.

There is really no reason to pop some rice with cat food. As I’ve mentioned, the line between human and cat is often blurred.

Conclusion: Can Cats eat Rice?

Cats can digest cooked starchy foods like rice in small amounts. If they eat too much carbohydrate it can result in digestive issues due to the carbohydrate ceiling effect.

The carbohydrate ceiling is a theoretical tolerable limit of 20g of carbohydrate per day in cats. If a cat eats over this amount of carbohydrate, they may have issues relating to a lack of digestive enzymes and high rate of gluconeogenesis.

I recommend limiting your cats intake of cooked rice to less than 1/2C of cooked rice per day. Rice doesn’t offer any nutritional benefit to cats.

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