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13 July 2023 / Laura Garvin Gomez

Coconut Oil for Cats: Is It a Good for Them?

Exploring the potential benefits and risks of using coconut oil for cats' health.

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Ginger cat with its eyes closed and sat on a wooden floor

The highly concentrated nature of essential oils means they are not particularly beneficial to pets.

However, that may not be the case for carrier oils like coconut oil, as many cat owners believe it can help their treasured pets in several ways.

But is coconut oil safe for cats? And are there any risks to be aware of? We look at that and much more to help you make an informed decision about what is right for your cat.  

Is coconut oil good for cats?

Whilst there is not a lot of scientific research on coconut oil for cats, there is a belief among many cat owners that it can offer several benefits. This includes:

1. Improving the condition of your cat’s skin and coat

Coconut oil could help to prevent dryness and irritation when applied topically to your cat’s skin and fur. This is because the oil has antioxidant properties that can help to heal damaged skin.

It also contains antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties that can be useful for treating a range of bacterial or virus-led infections. Only apply a small amount of oil to your cat’s skin as there is a chance they could lick it off before it absorbs into the pores, and overconsumption can cause an upset stomach.

2. Using it to prevent hairballs

Shedding can be reduced if the oil is used to improve the condition of their coat, making it less likely that your cat will form hairballs in their stomach.

It is believed that coconut oil can reduce the inflammation that occurs in the respiratory tract when your cat coughs up hairballs, which could also add moisture to the stool, thus making it easier to pass.

3. Boosting their immune system

Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which, once inside the body, is converted into a molecule called monolaurin. This molecule is helpful in protecting the immune system, killing off disease-causing microorganisms whilst ensuring good bacteria remains unharmed.

The antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-yeast properties can also prove effective at dealing with allergic reactions.

4. Helping older cats

Some senior cats suffer from feline cognitive dysfunction, which can seriously affect their quality of life. The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) contained in coconut oil can help to raise ketone levels, which may slow the progression of the disease whilst prolonging their brain health.

If your cat is advanced in their years and is experiencing age-related conditions such as a dull coat, dry skin, lack of interest and mobility, coconut oil could help to restore and resolve some of these issues.

Ginger kitten running through a vibrant green field

Can cats eat coconut oil?

Coconut oil is not poisonous for cats and is perfectly safe for them to eat, although they should only be given small amounts to start with.

Some cats will tolerate coconut oil better than others and whilst it is rare, there is always a risk that they could also be allergic to it. Giving a cat too much coconut oil too soon could give them an upset stomach and possibly even diarrhoea.

Some holistic veterinarians recommend giving ¼ to ½ teaspoon of coconut oil to an average-sized cat once or twice a day, whilst others suggest as little as 1/8 of a teaspoon daily.

If you are using coconut oil to prevent or treat hairballs in your cat, you can reduce the dosage even further to a few times a week. The general recommendation is to start small and increase or decrease as needed.

Most cats do not mind the taste of coconut oil so you can give it to them directly. Alternatively, you can mix it with a couple of tablespoons of strong-smelling cat food.

Ginger cat with a blue collar and bell

What are the risks of coconut oil for cats?

The RSPCA states on their website that giving your pets small amounts of coconut oil should not cause serious harm. However, they also ask that pet owners are aware that the flesh and milk of fresh coconuts contain oils that can lead to loose stools, stomach upsets and diarrhoea.

Cats with pancreatic inflammation should avoid coconut oil as it is high in saturated fats, as they may be sensitive to it. Coconut oil contains a lot of calories, so to ensure your cat does not gain any unwanted weight, you may need to cut back elsewhere in their diet.

There are also some concerns about the consumption of coconut oil leading to pancreatitis, although currently there is no solid scientific evidence of this. So, just to be sure, keep a close eye on your cat if it becomes a regular part of their diet. 

Black and white illustration of a coconut

Carrier oils like coconut oil are much milder than essential oils and should not pose the same level of risk. From improving the condition of their skin and coat to easing the symptoms of cognitive conditions, it potentially has a lot of benefits to offer your cat. Of course, every cat is different, so if you are curious about using coconut oil, but are unsure about its safety or how best to use it, we recommend speaking with your vet to get some professional advice.

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