One of the most popular questions we get from cat owners is "can I use coconut oil with my cat?" The answer is yes! Coconut oil, which has been used for centuries to help maintain a healthy diet and promote good health in humans and animals alike, can also be great for your cats. In this post, we'll explore 5 ways coconut oil can benefit your cat (and 2 concerns you might have).
Coconut Oil: A True Superfood
As one of nature's true "superfoods", therapeutic virgin coconut oil can benefit all kinds of pets. These include carnivores such as dogs and cats, as well as large and small herbivores like goats, horses, hamsters, rabbits, and even birds.
If you share your life with one or more of the estimated 94.2 million cats in the US, you probably are keenly aware of their unique emotional and physical needs and how they differ from dogs. As cat parents, we undoubtedly want to provide them the healthiest, safest foods that will enrich their lives, and you may have wondered whether or not coconut oil is safe for cats.
We at CocoTherapy are big cat fans – and we've experienced first-hand how coconut oil can keep them happy and healthy. In the next section of this post, we'll highlight 5 ways coconut oil can benefit your feline friend.
1) It Supports Your Cat's Skin and Coat
When applied topically to your cat's skin and fur, coconut oil can help prevent dryness and irritation from developing. It will also keep their coat shiny and healthy thanks to its moisturizing effects!
Coconut oil is an effective healer of damaged skin due to its antioxidant properties. It also has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties thanks to its high lauric acid content. This makes coconut oil ideal for treating a range of infections caused by viruses and bacteria inside and outside the body.
You might have noticed that your cat has experienced “cat acne”, also known as follicular keratosis, which is common in cats and can occur at any age. These asymptomatic pimples or blackheads may appear on the chin, lower or upper lip, and if left untreated, can form pustules and develop a secondary infection. If your kitty has cat acne, we suggest first cleaning the area with a sterile saline solution, then applying virgin coconut oil to the cleansed area. The anti-bacterial properties of coconut oil soothe the skin, and quickly heal cat acne and prevent infections.
Coconut oil also kills parasites such as mange, fleas, and ticks which are suffocated by the fat content in the oil. And because coconut oil is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, it prevents bites from parasites becoming infected and helps heal inflamed skin.
A little coconut oil fed daily works from the inside out, promoting healthy skin and fur. It's rich in vitamin E which is essential for healthy skin growth and repair of damaged skin, and it can even be applied directly to rashes, sore spots, bites and burns.
2) It Prevents Hairballs
Because coconut oil improves your cat's coat, shedding is reduced, and your cat will be less prone to forming hairballs in their stomach. Coconut oil can reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract that can occur when your cat regurgitates hairballs. It also improves digestion and adds moisture to the stool, allowing hairballs to pass more easily.
If your cat often coughs up hairballs, we recommend treating them with CocoTherapy Hairball Plus. It's made with one simple ingredient – high-fiber organic coconut and can help reduce – and even eliminate – hairballs. It helps your cat pass hairballs more easily by adding moisture and bulk to their stool, and it's great for overall digestive health!
3) It Aids Digestion
The medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in coconut oil are easily digestible and help the body to absorb nutrients and vitamins from food more efficiently. Coconut oil also has natural anti-inflammatory properties that support healthy digestion.
As we mentioned earlier, coconut oil has an exceptionally high lauric acid content. As a result, it plays an important role in supporting a healthy gut microbiome, as it can help eliminate harmful bacteria in your cat's gut. Coconut oil also has potent anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties that support digestive health, help heal injuries in the digestive tract, and prevent chronic inflammation.
4) It Boosts the Immune System
Coconut oil's positive impact on the immune system protects your cat against viral and bacterial infection and decreases the chance of them suffering from allergic reactions and other common illnesses.
The lauric acid in coconut oil is converted into a molecule called monolaurin in the body, which effectively kills disease-causing microorganisms without destroying beneficial bacteria. Monolaurin protects the immune system, helping pets to maintain good health and quickly fight off disease when it strikes. It also contains anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-yeast properties that can quickly clear up allergic reactions.
5) It’s Great for Senior Cats
There are several reasons why coconut oil is great for senior cats. First, the MCTs in coconut oil help raise blood ketone levels, which can prolong brain health and slow the progression of feline cognitive dysfunction (FCD). Supplementing your cat's diet with a high-quality virgin coconut oil can raise blood ketones to levels that can support brain growth and development and prevent degenerative processes that lead to the development of FCD.
The lauric acid in coconut oil also helps alleviate the symptoms of inflammation, increasing your cat's mobility and boosting energy levels. This is especially important for older cats, as they are more susceptible to health issues like arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
In addition, coconut oil can help with age-related conditions such as dry skin, dull coat, loss of mobility, and lack of interest and enthusiasm. In his book, Coconut Therapy for Pets, Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D., explains why coconut oil is so beneficial for senior pets:
"Coconut oil can boost your pet's energy levels, improve its health, and restore much of your pet's youthful love for life. The ketones produced from coconut oil are a super potent source of fuel that can be used by most cells and organs in the body...with a better source of fuel, the heart functions better, as well as the brain and other muscles and organs. This can have a dramatic revitalizing effect on an aged animal. Coconut oil can add not just years to your dog's or cat's life but functional, happy years."
MCT Oil for Cats
If you have a senior cat, supplementing their diet with MCT oil for cats and dogs can also be highly beneficial for their health. MCT oil for cats and dogs is a fractionated product that's usually made from coconut oil. Fractionation is a process in which the long-chain fatty acids are removed from the oil, leaving only the medium-chain fatty acids remaining.
When processed, most fractionated coconut oils have almost all their lauric acid removed. But due to the way they're processed, they contain higher levels of capric acid and caprylic acid than other types of coconut oil.
CocoTherapy TriPlex™ MCT-3 Oil is a unique blend of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil, with higher levels of caprylic acid and capric acid, PLUS lauric acid. Unlike other brands of MCT oil for cats and dogs, TriPlex MCT-3 is 100% pure and natural, and retains the smell and taste of fresh coconut oil. Other brands of MCT oils are refined and deodorized, and do not have the natural smell or taste of coconut. In addition to this, other brands do not contain lauric acid.
The high levels of caprylic acid and capric acid in TriPlex MCT-3 convert to ketones, raising blood ketone levels quickly and efficiently. In addition, lauric acid is then converted to ketones at a slower rate, traveling directly to the brain. It is then converted to ketones by the brain itself, increasing brain ketone levels. For this reason, TriPlex MCT-3 has very pronounced therapeutic effects on brain health.
The caprylic and capric acids in TriPlex MCT-3 oil are rapidly broken down and used as instant energy. This makes the oil highly beneficial for any pet that needs an immediate boost of energy. In addition to the caprylic and capric acids, the presence of lauric acid further reduces fatigue. This means that TriPlex MCT-3 is perfect for older cats or low-energy cats that need more prolonged energy.
2 Concerns You Might Have About Giving Your Cat Coconut Oil
Some cat owners have contacted us with concerns over feeding their cats coconut oil, usually because they're worried that the fat in the oil could contribute to or cause fatty liver disease and pancreatitis. In this section of the post, we'll address these common concerns by exploring how coconut oil is processed by your cat's body.
Does Coconut Oil Cause Pancreatitis in Cats?
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas – a gland located next to the stomach. The pancreas produces enzymes that aid the digestive process. When it becomes inflamed, digestive enzymes can leak into the abdominal area causing inflammation of internal organs, infection, and even death.
Far from causing or contributing to pancreatitis, coconut oil actually helps reduce the inflammation and swelling that's associated with the disease. Here's why:
There are two kinds of saturated fats: medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and long-chain triglycerides. MCTs – the type of fat in coconut oil – is far healthier due to the way it's processed in the body.
The bodies of humans and animals process MCTs differently from long-chain fats which must be mixed with bile released from the gallbladder and acted on by pancreatic enzymes to be broken down in the digestive system.
MCTs don't need bile or pancreatic enzymes to be processed. Once they're ingested and reach the intestine, they diffuse into the bloodstream and are transported straight to the liver – where they're naturally converted into energy-providing ketones.
For this reason, MCTs are well tolerated by animals with chronic pancreatitis and other forms of fat malabsorption. They can even be used to increase calories in the diets of cats who can't tolerate other types of fats.
Coconut oil also helps speed up the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, making it especially beneficial for cats suffering from illnesses that make it difficult for them to keep down foods or medications given by mouth.
For more information about coconut oil and pancreatitis, check out our previous post, Can Coconut Oil Cause Pancreatitis in Pets?
Does Coconut Oil Cause Fatty Liver Disease in Cats?
Fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) is a condition which is characterized by a buildup of fat in the liver. This happens when a cat, who is typically overweight, loses weight rapidly because it has suddenly stopped eating.
When a cat stops eating, several things happen in its body. First, the body turns to reserves of fat for energy. Fat is then transported to the liver and needs bile to be broken down. Only then can it be used as energy. Unfortunately, when cats go without food, their liver cannot metabolize fat efficiently. This is what causes the liver to become "fatty". The rapid buildup of fat cells in the liver prevents it from functioning normally.
Now for the good news. Coconut oil is quickly and easily metabolized for energy because it doesn't need liver bile acids to be digested. When fed to cats that are not eating or anorexic, coconut oil provides a ready source of energy and prevents the body from turning to its reserves of fat. This means that far from causing fatty liver disease, coconut oil is actually very beneficial for cats that are in danger of developing the condition.
The following quote is from Dr. Daniel Watson, DVM., a Feline Specialist at College Station Cat Clinic in Wheaton, Illinois:
"Being carnivores, cats have an innate ability to digest proteins and fats. Hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease) may occur when a cat suddenly stops eating over a period of time. When the cat becomes undernourished, the body automatically moves fat from its reserves to the liver to be converted to energy. When the cat is in starvation mode, the liver is not efficient in processing fat, and much of the fat is stored in the liver cells, resulting in a fatty and low-functioning liver. Simply giving a cat coconut oil, an MCT fat, will not give a cat a fatty liver. MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) do not need bile to be metabolized, and can be given to animals with biliary disease, which will provide a ready source of lipid energy."
Case Study: Montecore
Our Experience With Coconut Oil and Our Cat
Charisa Antigua, Co-founder of CocoTherapy
A few years ago, I had a Ragdoll cat, Montecore, who was 20 lbs at the peak of his health (he was not overweight, just a big cat).
When Montecore reached the age of 18, I noticed that his appetite slowly began to decrease. Despite numerous tests including blood work and dental examinations, we couldn't find the cause.
Over a period of 5 months, his weight dropped to a low of 13 lbs, which resulted in him becoming very underweight. I was very concerned that he would develop Hepatic Lipidosis, as I knew that rapid weight loss can cause fatty liver disease in cats. However, I continued to give him CocoTherapy coconut oil because I knew that:
- He needed highly digestible lipids to metabolize essential vitamins and minerals
- He needed the fat to keep his weight from slipping further
- His liver and pancreas were NOT being stressed by CocoTherapy therapeutic-grade coconut oil
- Fatty liver disease usually occurs in overweight cats, who then have inappetence, and stop eating for several days (resulting in a drastic reduction in food). Montecore was not overweight, and while his appetite did decrease, I managed to get him to eat a small amount of food daily.
I did full panel blood work on Montecore over the 5 months. Consistently his liver, kidney, and pancreatic enzyme levels were perfect. In fact, I knew that the coconut oil protected his liver, and may have played a significant role in preventing fatty liver disease (despite his rapid weight loss).
In the end, we discovered that Montecore had lung cancer. Sadly, he succumbed to the disease in March of 2017. But right until the very end of his life – he passed away just a few weeks before his 19th birthday – he had a wonderful quality of life and enjoyed licking coconut oil as a treat.
Therapeutic-Grade Coconut Oil
When treating your cat with coconut oil or MCT oil for cats and dogs, be sure to choose a therapeutic-grade product such as CocoTherapy Organic Virgin Coconut Oil or CocoTherapy TriPlex™ MCT-3 Oil. Our oils are sourced from our USDA-certified organic family farm in the Philippines and made in our own facility.
CocoTherapy Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is a healthy, all-natural product that's rich in beneficial lauric, capric and caprylic acids. It supplies medium-chain triglycerides, which help maintain healthy body functions and support your cat's overall health. And since we use CocoTherapy Organic Virgin Coconut Oil to make TriPlex MCT-3, you can be sure that it has all the health benefits you've come to expect from our oil.
Do you use coconut oil with your cat? Let us know in the comments! For more information about CocoTherapy and our coconut oil, chips, and treats for pets, check out more of our blogs.