Cats are curious animals with eyes bigger than their stomachs. Cats are known for going nuts when you open any food, but is it okay for us to feed it to them? Tapioca is safe for cats, but you’ll want to avoid feeding them too much of it as it isn’t nutritionally dense for them!
The honest answer to “can cats eat tapioca” is actually “why are you asking?” The answer will vary based on the exact nature of the inquiry. We’ll cover a few different variations of the question below.
Will My Cat Die If They Eat Tapioca?
No. Your cat is not in danger if you found them face-first in your cup of tapioca pudding. The bigger worry in your cat eating tapioca isn’t the pearls themselves. A common and trendy drink, Boba tea, uses tapioca pearls to add an extra dimension to the tea. Tea is very dangerous for cats since it’s naturally caffeinated, and caffeine is extremely dangerous.
On the other hand, tapioca pudding contains an absurd amount of sugar, which is terrible for cats. It also is made with milk products which cats are intolerant to.
In both cases, you are going to be far more worried about your cat consuming the thing that the tapioca pearls are in than the tapioca pearls themselves.
Now, this doesn’t mean that tapioca is healthy for cats. If they’re consuming any tapioca at all, they should be consuming very little of it. Tapioca absorbs liquids which can lead to dehydration or constipation. It’s also made of starch, sugar, and carbohydrates which is horrendous nutrition for any creature, let alone an obligate carnivore.
Cat Nutrition Made Simple
Cats are obligate carnivores. Obligate carnivores—sometimes referred to as “hypercarnivores—eat a diet of at least 70% animal proteins in the wild. A cats’ diet in captivity needs to be at least 30% proteins on a dry matter basis to keep them healthy, and they need a carbohydrate content of less than 25%.
Carbohydrates are a good form of fast energy for people and can even be healthy for cats on a small scale. However, they’re not nutritionally dense for these true carnivores, and they don’t derive the same amount of nutrients that people or dogs would.
Tapioca starch has become a common ingredient in grain-free cat foods, particularly dry kibble foods. Since the starch is used as a binding ingredient for kibble, it will be hard to avoid it entirely in kibble foods.
To Go Grain-Free or Not? That Is the Question
Many cat parents are currently facing whether they should put their cats on a grain-free diet. There are vocal proponents on either side of the debate, but veterinary science has answered that cats shouldn’t eat grains.
As we’ve covered, cats are carnivorous. While many people think that dogs are, scientific observation shows that they’re omnivorous. However, that same observation reveals that cats are purely carnivorous.
Carnivorous animals want to have a diet composed of primarily—if not all—proteins. Carbohydrates are not part of their primary food sources. Truthfully, carbohydrates aren’t perfect for anyone. While they’re great for someone who can burn them off through physical activity, the energy and satiation you get from eating them are burned through faster than that of protein-rich sources.
So, while going grain-free is a good start, you’ll want to look at reducing the number of carbohydrates that your cat is getting overall. Even without grains in their diet, cat food can have high concentrations of carbohydrates.
Tapioca Starch: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Tapioca starch is an excellent option for pet food companies that want to make kibble without grains. Since it’s grain and gluten-free, it’s become a popular replacement for wheat flour in kibble.
Since tapioca starch isn’t unsafe for cats, it’s becoming a popular option for pet food brands to use in their kibble recipes. Tapioca starch is also an essential ingredient for grain-free and limited-ingredient foods!
We mentioned earlier that tapioca absorbs many liquids, making it a great binding agent for kibbles. Not only does it help dehydrate the food and condense it into kibble form, but it also helps the kibble stay fresh when stored properly.
Tapioca starch is grain and gluten-free. So, any cats or pet parents who have sensitivities or allergies to gluten will be glad to know that it won’t cause them any harm. Tapioca is also an excellent binding agent that allows for foods to stick together more easily into the kibble form we all know and love.
Tapioca starch is still a starch. The carbohydrate content of tapioca starch is very high and can be just as bad as regular wheat flours when used in high concentrations. Additionally, tapioca starch can be high in sugars which isn’t suitable for cats (or any animal.)
There’s nothing really ugly about tapioca starch besides its high fluid absorption and carbohydrate properties. In quantities too high, tapioca starch can cause constipation in animals who eat it.
We usually soak it in fluid-dense surroundings like tea or pudding when we eat tapioca. If your cat were to overeat dry tapioca starch, they could become pretty sick, but you shouldn’t have any problems with that in commercial cat foods.
However, if you cook with tapioca starch and you’re here because you found your cat covered in the stuff, you might want to get them some liquid, dense foods, like canned wet food, to balance everything out.
Can I Feed My Cat Tapioca?
No. Tapioca pearls aren’t inherently toxic, so your cat won’t die if they get into them. However, the black pearls we all associate with pudding and tea are high in sugars and made with artificial syrups that improve their taste. Even though they aren’t toxic, you shouldn’t make a habit of feeding your cat tapioca pearls.
You definitely shouldn’t feed your cat tapioca pudding or boba tea since the pudding and tea can be dangerous for cats.
Curiosity can kill a cat. However, tapioca isn’t something that will kill your furred companion if they get into it. While tapioca is safe and non-toxic for cats, you should exercise caution when giving it to your cats. Most of the things we serve tapioca with are harmful at best to cats. Only give your cat tapioca if it’s a part of designated cat food.
Featured Image Credit: B. sunisa, Shutterstock