Coconut Oil for Cats: Superfood, or a Bad Idea?


Coconut oil is big in human nutrition these days. It is said to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, boost the immune system, and prevent diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer to Alzheimer’s. It can also be used as a skin and hair conditioner. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about whether these benefits apply to cats as well.

Fatty acids and cats

Cats only need to obtain two essential fatty acids from their diet: linoleic acid (LA) and arachadonic acid (AA), both of which can be found in meat. Theoretically, cats can synthesize all other fatty acids from those two. Adult cats can benefit from many other fats and oils for optimal health, particularly animal fats such as EPA and DHA, although they aren’t necessary. Kittens do require DHA for the development of the tissues in the brain and retina.

How does coconut oil affect cats?

Coconut oil contains only a about 2% of linoleic¬† acid. It is primarily made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), and that’s where the health benefits come from on the human side. However, according to veterinary experts, MCTs do not taste good to cats (although there are some cats that do seem to love coconut oil.)

We don’t know enough about how MCT’s affect cats, but one study found that MCT’s may be a contributing factor to hepatic lipidosis, a life threatening liver condition.

Topical use of coconut oil

Coconut oil has been shown to speed wound healing in rats, so it stands to reason that it may have the same effect on cats. Applying a thin layer to a cat’s wound or sore may help. However, keep in mind that anything you put on your cat will most likely be groomed off and ingested. Coconut oil is very greasy, so you may end up with greasy stains on your furniture and rugs even before your cat has a chance to groom it off.

The bottom line

We simply don’t know enough about how coconut oil affects cats, and what we do know is worrisome. Until there is more research, I would not advise the use of coconut oil for cats.

The best way to to supplement healthy fats is through Omega-3 supplementation, which has many benefits. Most commercial cat foods do not contain enough Omega-3.

7 Comments on Coconut Oil for Cats: Superfood, or a Bad Idea?

  1. Cali
    June 14, 2016 at 5:51 am (4 years ago)

    Best to avoid all plant oils for cats.

  2. Glogirly
    June 13, 2016 at 8:14 pm (4 years ago)

    Our vet recently told us she had some of the same concerns. We had no idea that it could potentially be problematic. Thank you for your thorough explanation! So for now, Glogirly is the only one who gets to enjoy coconut oil. …it’s her favorite to cook with.

  3. Connie
    June 13, 2016 at 5:20 pm (4 years ago)

    In humans, coconut oil is said to go right to the liver to be processed into energy.. since cats get hepatic lipidosis when their body is using their fat for energy, this seems like a no go for me.

    I will use it in very small amounts for topical applications. Sore behinds from urine or fecal scalding, a scrape, frostbitten pawpads.. and I’ve had some success with it.

  4. Margarite
    June 13, 2016 at 5:10 am (4 years ago)

    Thank you Ingrid, for your informative articles. They are most helpful. I had been one of those people who was curious of the health benefits (or not) of coconut oil for our kitties. Only once, about a year ago, I attempted a VERY SMALL amount (less than an 1/8th tsp) for my kitty. I read online somewhere that it would be beneficial. I have since learned otherwise. BTW, my Sabrina didn’t care for the oil. She smelled it, took a teeny little lick and rushed off. I guess that said it all LOL

  5. Summer
    June 13, 2016 at 3:23 am (4 years ago)

    Binga and I actually like the taste of coconut oil, and my human’s boyfriend gives it to us sometimes. Now my human will probably tell him to stop. She also made him stop giving me cantaloupe after I got a UTI (she was worried the cantaloupe messed up my ph balance). I’m beginning to think I won’t get ANY fun food!

    • Ingrid
      June 13, 2016 at 5:44 am (4 years ago)

      I’m sorry to spoil the fun, Summer!


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