Can Cats Eat Rice? 8 Things to Know Before Feeding

cat food for kidney disease
© Lia Kos/Shutterstock.com

Written by Sanaphay Rattanavong

Published: July 7, 2023

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Can cats eat rice? Cats, as obligate carnivores, require a diet rich in meat. Their bodies can’t digest plants, including rice, efficiently. While cats can consume small amounts of rice, it’s not an essential part of their diet and doesn’t contain the important nutrients found in meat. This article provides insight into various types of rice, their impacts on cats, common misconceptions about cats and rice, potential risks, and suitable alternatives.

blue buffalo wet cat food

As obligate carnivores, cats, and even kittens, require a diet rich in animal protein.

©MaraZe/Shutterstock.com

1. Understanding Cats’ Dietary Needs

Cats require a diet primarily consisting of meat-derived protein. They require certain nutrients, like taurine, which are only found in animal tissues. Plant-based foods like rice can be included in small amounts, but they are not a main source of nutrition for cats.

2. Can Cats Eat Rice?

The short answer: Yes, cats can eat rice, but only in moderation, and it shouldn’t be a staple. A major benefit of rice is that it can provide carbohydrates and be a useful source of energy, particularly for cats with sensitive stomachs or those experiencing digestive issues. However, cats should not eat uncooked rice. Similar to humans, it can be difficult for them to digest and may cause issues.

The frame contains from L-R first 1/4 frame is ablack rice with a wooden spoon near the top of the frame filled with back rice, the next /4 frame is filled with a red/brown rice and a wooden spoon lower in the frame filled with red/brown rice. The 3rd 1/4 of the frame is covered with a mix of white, red/brown, and black rice. The wooden spoon in the section is even lower in the frame and filled with the mixed rice. The final Right 1/4 is filed with white rice and the spoon, which is wooden, is the lower of all the spoons and filled with white rice.

According to

USA Rice

, there are more than 120,000 varieties of rice. However, they can be broken down into a handful of categories: degree of milling, kernel size, starch content, and flavor.

©A_stockphoto/Shutterstock.com

3. Types of Rice and Their Impact on Cats

Different forms of rice and rice products have varying impacts on cats. These include:

Whole Rice: This is safe for cats to eat in moderation if thoroughly cooked. Make sure it’s cooked thoroughly to ensure it’s easy for your cat to digest. Raw or undercooked rice can lead to digestive problems.

Rice Bran: Rice bran, the outer layer of the grain, might be rich in nutrients for humans, but it’s not ideal for cats. It can cause diarrhea or other digestive issues if consumed in large amounts due to its high fiber content.

Rice Hulls: The tough outer shell of the grain is indigestible, even when cooked, and can cause digestive problems. Therefore, avoid feeding this part of the rice to your cats.

Rice Cakes or Puffs: These often contain additional ingredients like salt, sugar, or artificial flavors that are not healthy for cats. Thus, you want to avoid feeding this part of the rice to your cats, as it can cause digestive problems.

Seasoned Rice: Dishes like fried rice or rice mixed with sauces often contain ingredients like onions and garlic. In addition to being toxic to cats, such ingredients contain excessive amounts of salt and fat.

Rice Milk: While not toxic, it doesn’t offer any nutritional benefits to cats. Plus, cats are often lactose intolerant, so rice milk can potentially cause digestive upset.

4. Misconceptions About Cats and Rice

There are a number of misconceptions about cats’ ability to consume and digest rice. Let’s debunk some of them:

Misconception 1: Cats are omnivores like humans and can eat a diet similar to ours, including rice.

Fact 1: Cats are obligate carnivores. While they can eat some plant-based foods like rice in small amounts, their diet should primarily consist of meat-derived protein.

Misconception 2: Rice is a primary source of nutrition for cats.

Fact 2: Rice can provide carbohydrates, but it’s not a primary nutritional source for cats. It can be used as a filler in small amounts, or to soothe an upset stomach, but not as a staple in a cat’s diet.

Misconception 3: Uncooked rice is fine for cats to eat.

Fact 3: Uncooked rice can be difficult for cats to digest and may cause digestive issues. Always serve rice to cats fully cooked.

Misconception 4: It’s unsafe for cats to eat cooked rice.

Fact 4: Cats can safely consume cooked rice in moderation. While their diet should primarily consist of meat, fully cooked rice is not harmful. It can serve as a supplemental carbohydrate source and help soothe a feline’s upset stomach. However, rice should not be a staple in a cat’s diet.

5. Risks of Feeding Cats Rice

The risks associated with feeding cats rice include potential digestive issues if uncooked, lack of essential nutrients if used as a staple food, and potential risks associated with the various forms of rice as mentioned earlier. While rice is not inherently bad for cats, feeding them too much may lead to nutritional deficiencies. Rice does not contain all the nutrients that cats need. Also, due to rice’s high carbohydrate content, cats that eat excessive amounts of it may become overweight or obese.

Colorful organic vegetables at a local farmers market.

While cats can’t taste sweetness, some may enjoy and derive valuable nutrition from select vegetables. Try steamed asparagus or broccoli, or a fresh slice of cucumber. Always double-check if something is toxic for your cat, though.

©Jason Person/Shutterstock.com

6. Alternatives to Rice in Cats’ Diets

While rice can be a part of a cat’s diet, there are other foods that can also be safely given. This includes pumpkin for additional fiber, and certain vegetables like green beans and carrots, which should be cooked and finely chopped to aid digestion. Always remember to consult with your veterinarian before making major changes to your cat’s diet.

7. What Human Foods Are Safe for Cats?

In case of an emergency or due to a shortage of cat food, temporary meals using safe alternatives such as cooked chicken, vegetables, and rice can be prepared. However, these should never replace a proper, balanced diet. Always remember to consult with your vet before introducing new foods to your cat’s diet.

8. Conclusion – Key Takeaways

Remember, what your cat eats plays an important role in their overall health and well-being. Always prioritize a balanced and species-appropriate diet. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the options, we’ve got you covered: “The Best Cat Foods (Kitten, Adult, Senior)”. And when in doubt, consult your vet.

Lastly, avoid letting your cat ingest such things as avocado, alcohol, caffeine, grapes, onions, and chocolate. While we enjoy them, they are toxic to cats. If they do get their paws on something toxic and ingest it, it is not advised to attempt to induce vomiting in your cat. Instead, call the vet right away. A comprehensive list of safe and unsafe foods for cats can be found in our other articles, like “Can Cats Eat Dog Food?” or “Can Cats Eat Chocolate?

Please share this article if you find it helpful. Explore other articles on our site for more cat-related insights.

Useful Resources

  • AAFCO’s guide on Understanding Pet Food (Please note, this does not provide veterinary advice)
  • ASPCA’s People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets
  • Balanced, a trusted resource for creating balanced meals for dogs and cats
  • Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s article on Feeding Your Cat, which provides information on selecting an appropriate diet for cats, including different types of commercial cat food and considerations for homemade diets.
  • The Pet Nutrition Alliance, a global collaboration of veterinary organizations providing pet nutrition resources and education
  • VCA Hospitals’ guide on Feeding Your Cat

Literary Journals

CategoryStudy Details / FindingsSource
Alternative Fiber SourceMiscanthus grass could serve as an alternative fiber source for cat foods, providing benefits for hairball management.“Miscanthus Grass in Cat Food,” Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition
Alternative ProteinRice protein concentrate can serve as an alternative protein source in cat foods, but it lacks certain essential amino acids.“Rice Protein Concentrate in Feline Foods,” Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2023
Carbohydrate SourceSorghum and corn-based diets can lead to lower insulin and glucose concentrations, caloric intake, and weight gain compared to a rice-based diet.“Sorghum and Corn-based Diet for Cats,” Journal of Animal Science
Dietary ModulationDiets high in fish oil and supplemented with green-lipped mussel extract and glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate can help cats with DJD.“Dietary Modulation for Cats with DJD,” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Food AllergiesA comprehensive understanding of the clinical aspects, diagnosis, and etiology of food allergies in cats is needed for appropriate treatment.“Food Allergy in Dogs and Cats,” Journal of Small Animal Practice
Functional FoodsFunctional foods can provide health benefits for cats but more research is needed.“Functional Foods in Pet Nutrition,” Research in Veterinary Science
Phosphorus IntakeHigh phosphorus intake may have adverse effects on kidney function in healthy cats.“Impact of High Phosphorus Intake on Kidney Function,” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
TaurineTaurine is essential for cats. Diets with significant rice bran content may require higher levels of taurine.“Taurine in Cat Diets,” Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology


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About the Author

Embracing the interplay between the arts, nature, and technology, Sanaphay Rattanavong sculpts narratives through both data and human/animal-focused lenses at A-Z Animals, primarily in the realms of weather, culture, cleantech, and climate resilience. His specializations also include creativity and animal intelligence. And cats. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College and has labored for more than 10 years in the trenches of journalistic, blog, magazine, and fiction writing. An outdoor enthusiast who also enjoys the finer things in culture, Sanaphay resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with stints in Toronto, Ontario.

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