Coconut oil has been big in human nutrition for quite some time. Widely marketed as a superfood, the unique combination of fatty acids in coconut oil may have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and boost the immune system. 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.
According to some veterinary experts, MCTs do not taste good to cats. I have not found that to be true. Allegra loves coconut oil as a treat “straight up,” and I’ve heard many reports of cat parents mixing it with food with no issues.
Benefits of coconut oil for cats
If you were to believe everything you read about coconut oil on the internet, you’d think that there’s nothing this simple oil can’t cure. There are no studies on the benefits of coconut oil in cats that I’m aware of, but holistic veterinarians have found it successful in treating a number of conditions.
I would take claims that coconut oil can cure cancer and thyroid imbalances, contribute to weight loss and prevent dental disease with a huge grain of salt. However, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, coconut oil has been shown to help with dermatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, poor bowel absorption, cognitive dysfunction and wound healing. It also helps boost the immune system, aids digestion and improves skin and coat condition when taken internally.
Internal and topical use of coconut oil
When used topically, 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 an oily mess on your furniture and rugs even before your cat has a chance to groom it off.
When given internally, it’s best to start at a very low dose and work your way up gradually. The usual recommended dose is 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight. I’d start with 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon and slowly increase over a period of a week or two.
Coconut oil is very high in fat and may not be a good choice for cats who are overweight.
Raw Paws Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
There are numerous brands of coconut oil available (I frequently use it in cooking, it makes a great butter substitute!) For use as a supplement, look for a therapeutic grade oil, preferably organic, that is sourced responsibly.
We like the Raw Paws brand. Sourced from coconuts naturally grown in the Philippines, it has a shelf life of 2 years, and contains only one ingredient: USDA Certified Organic Coconut Oil. It is cold-pressed and unrefined, not bleached or deodorized like some cheaper oils.
If you’re not familiar with coconut oil, it’s important to understand that it will liquefy at 76° F. Whether liquid or solid, the benefits remain the same. I’ve found that Allegra likes it better when it’s melted.
Allegra gets 1/4 teaspoon twice a day. I place it in a small dish and she licks it clean within seconds. Some cats will lick it right off the spoon.
For more information and to purchase, visit RawPawsPetfood.com
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This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.
*FTC Disclosure: The Conscious Cat is an affiliate partner of Raw Paws. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.