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Can Cats Eat Seaweed? Yes, but…

While I personally love seaweed as a healthy snack, I know that not every human-friendly food is safe for pets. That’s why I had to do my research before letting seaweed anywhere near my Maine Coon cat’s lips.

Is seaweed on the approved list for cats? I’ll break it all down for you now!

Is It Okay to Give My Cat Seaweed?

Sure, it is. However, getting the “yes” on seaweed for cats is just the beginning of a complicated answer.

I’m going to be going through a ton of benefits of eating seaweed for cats in this post. I don’t want to convey that you should be piling seaweed in your cat’s food dish. The key to giving your cat seaweed is to provide seaweed in moderation. Too much seaweed can cause stomach pain and discomfort for cats.

I’ll also cover the best forms of seaweed to give your cat. While my cat pounced on this sea vegetable, not all cats are going to willingly dig into a slimy green pile without enticement.

What Type of Seaweed Can You Feed Cats?

“Seaweed is the common name for countless species of marine plants and algae that grow in the ocean as well as in rivers, lakes, and other water bodies,” according to the National Ocean Service. Some types of seaweed are better than others when the goal is to pack in as much nutrition as possible. These are considered the top edible forms of seaweed for feline health:

1. Wakame: Known for its sweet, silky essence, wakame is an incredible source of omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial for brain, eye, skin, and coat health in cats.

2. Nori: This is the seaweed that most of us know as the “sushi wrap” seaweed. Nori’s claim to fame for cat health is that it’s rich in an amino acid called taurine that supports vision, digestion, heart function, and a healthy immune system. Veterinarians warn that deficient taurine levels cause retinal cells of the eyes to eventually degenerate until vision is impaired. Taurine supplementation may slow or stop the progression of retinal degeneration!

3. Irish Moss: An easily digested type of seaweed, Irish moss is believed to support kidney, bladder, and lung health.

4. Dulse: Packed with iron, B12, and beta carotene, Dulse supports feline health. It’s also very easy to digest.

5. Acadian Sea Kelp: This form of brown algae that’s abundant in the world’s cold, crisp waters is full of calcium, protein, magnesium, and calcium. Its nutrient density makes it a popular ingredient in cat wellness supplements. Every bite can boost the immune system!

6. Kobu: The protein, iodine, and glutamic acid in this seaweed can help to benefit a cat’s stomach, liver, and kidneys.

7. Sea Lettuce: The yummy, oyster-like taste of this seaweed often causes cats to lap it up! Cat owners can love the abundance of protein, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, and iodine in this treat.

What Are the Health Benefits of Seaweed for Cats?

“Seaweed is rich in various minerals and trace elements,” according to Healthline. In fact, seaweed often contains higher levels of essential nutrients than most other foods. That’s important when you consider the small serving size needed for cat food.

The nutrient density of seaweed makes it act like a multivitamin for cats. Let’s explore!

Strong Gut Health

Seaweed is teeming with prebiotics. Prebiotics are natural forms of fiber that provide the “good” live bacterial cultures in the gastrointestinal tract with nourishment. This is important because “good” gut bacteria must be fed by prebiotics in order to fight off “bad” gut bacteria that can cause illness, reduced immunity, poor nutrient absorption, and digestive pain.

Consider putting seaweed on the menu if your cat is struggling with constipation, weight gain, or general digestive distress. It may just be the natural fiber source your cat needs to get everything moving again.

Many cat owners also swear by seaweed as a natural way to “deworm” cats. I personally always advocate for going to a vet over trying holistic treatments for cats at home. However, the fact that this is a thing does speak to how powerful seaweed can be for boosting gut health in cats.

Thyroid Support

“Hyperthyroidism is a common disease in cats, and mostly afflicts cats middle-age,” according to the Cornell University Feline Health Center. Seaweed just happens to be one of the best foods for thyroid health.

“Seaweed, such as kelp, nori, and wakame, are naturally rich in iodine–a trace element needed for normal thyroid function,” according to St. Luke’s Health.

Protection Against Oxidative Stress

We wish our cats could live forever. Like humans, cats are at risk for cell damage caused by oxidative stress and free radicals. Antioxidant-rich seaweed can help to undo some of that damage.

Antioxidants help cells to repair themselves. This can make a cat more resilient against illness, chronic disease, and the hard impacts of aging.

“Seaweed antioxidants play the function of free radical scavengers – they prevent or repair damages caused by oxidative stress and have a high potential for treating various diseases,” according to a 2022 study looking at the antioxidant effects of seaweeds and their active compounds on animal health and production. This study actually found that antioxidants applied as feed additives improved health, performance, and resistance to environmental stress.

Help for Sensitive Skin

Did you know that seaweed is actually used in many skincare and beauty products? It turns out that seaweed is packed full of minerals that speed up the body’s collagen production. This can be big for cats with sensitive skin.

Collagen is a protein that helps to strengthen skin and hair. It also helps the body to fight off infection. This is a win-win for a cat with sensitive skin that is prone to rashes and scales because collagen may help cats to develop “thicker skin.”

Collagen is actually just the beginning of why seaweed is great for cats with sensitive skin.

“Seaweed is full of naturally occurring lipids, polysaccharides, proteins, vitamins, minerals + antioxidants which deeply moisturize and nourish the skin,” according to the Marine Institute. The anti-inflammatory effects of seaweed can also help to tame embattled skin.

Seaweed Is Like Nature’s Toothbrush for Cats

“Researchers have found that an enzyme found in the bacterium on the surface of seaweed actually attacks and removes plaque from the teeth and gums,” according to the dentists at Palo Alto Oral Health.

Seaweed also contains a bacterium called Bacillus licheniformis that is known to help prevent tooth decay by stripping bacteria away from tooth plaque. Seaweed can also help to keep breath fresh! While humans have discovered seaweed as a hack for maintaining a bright smile, using seaweed for dental health can save cats from pain and misery.

Dental diseases and tooth decay are common in cats.

“More than half of all cats over the age of three have some form of dental disease,” reports VCA Animal Hospitals. Gingivitis and periodontal disease caused by plaque buildup and gum inflammation are the most common feline dental problems. They can lead to discomfort, pain, infection, and the need for expensive tooth extractions. It’s also known that bacterial infections in the mouth can increase chances for life-threatening kidney and heart diseases.

Will My Cat Actually Eat It?

Most cats will love the taste of seaweed. My own Maine Coon cat was enticed by the natural aroma of seaweed. The idea that a cat would excitedly tuck into a plate of seaweed isn’t shocking when you remember that seaweed often has a strong fishy, oceanic odor. Generally, any cat with an affinity for seafood is going to like seaweed.

What Is the Best Way to Feed a Cat Seaweed?

Cats can eat fresh, powdered, dried, roasted, or cooked seaweed.

Can cats eat seaweed meant for humans? Yes, cats can technically eat plain seaweed sheets.

I caution against getting in the habit of giving cats those popular dried seaweed snacks that many of us eat. While these aren’t technically any different from other seaweed options, they are intended for human consumption. That means that they may contain salt, spices, additives, and flavorings that are unhealthy for cats.

Sprinkling a little seaweed over a cat’s food is an easy way to get your cat to eat seaweed. You can also consider adding some seaweed to homemade cat treats for your cat. This homemade cat treat recipe from Alan Stewart, DVM, DACVIM that I found on YouTube could easily be adjusted to add some seaweed.

Plenty of brands also sell powdered cat seaweed supplements that can be discreetly mixed into food.

What Happens If My Cat Eats Too Much of It?

Seaweed is a treat that should be given to cats in moderation. A small serving about once a week is honestly enough.

Due to the high nutrient concentration in seaweed, overloading your cat with seaweed could actually trigger a nutritional imbalance. Too much seaweed for cats can also cause bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea. Excess iodine can throw the thyroid out of balance.

Final Thoughts: Should You Give Your Cat Seaweed?

Giving your cat seaweed as a special treat is like giving your cat a tasty vitamin injection. Seaweed should be given sparingly.

I also want to say not to “force it” if your cat isn’t going for the seaweed. Listen to your cat’s “no” if they aren’t interested. Giving your cat high-quality cat food is technically all that’s required for good feline health.

Finally, chat with your vet before making seaweed part of your cat’s diet. This is especially important if your cat has any underlying health issues because the nutrient density of seaweed can sometimes cause “overdoses” in cats requiring diets that are low in specific nutrients.

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