If you’re a fan of functional fungi and share your home with a cat, you might be wondering if the benefits of medicinal mushrooms extend to our feline friends. Can cats have mushrooms? How can mushrooms support your kitty’s wellbeing? What’s the best way to incorporate functional fungi into your cat’s diet? Keep reading to find out.
Can cats have mushrooms?
With their impressive hunting instincts and sharp canine teeth, it’s no surprise that cats are obligate carnivores. Indeed, they need to eat meat to acquire certain essential amino acids found in animal protein and stay healthy. But that doesn’t mean your kitty won’t enjoy nibbling on veggie ingredients too. Lots of the vegetarian food we consume is actually safe for cats, including whole grains, eggs and some vegetables.(1)
So, can cats have mushrooms? It ultimately depends on the species of fungi. Just like for us humans, some types are safe for kitties and others are toxic. This is why neither you nor your cat should try munching on any wild fungi. Unless you’re an expert mycologist, it’s extremely difficult to discern which mushrooms are harmless and which are poisonous.
When it comes to the mushrooms that you buy in the supermarket, however, it’s a different story. The majority of these – including button, portobello, and shiitake – are safe for cats to eat. And because they’re rich in antioxidants along with several key vitamins and minerals, they could also support your moggy’s health. Having said that, you should only give your cat a very small amount of mushroom at a time.
Interestingly, you might find that mushrooms hold more appeal for your kitty than other types of treats. While cats are unable to taste sweetness, they can taste umami flavours.(2) Some people theorise that, to felines, the amino acid glutamate in mushrooms tastes and smells similar to the amino acids in meat. As such, your moggy may be interested in giving them a try!
Can cats have cooked mushrooms?
What about if your cat is eyeing up the mushrooms in your dinner? Can cats have mushrooms when they’re cooked? Again, it depends. The simple act of cooking fungi doesn’t render them unsuitable for feline consumption. It’s the ingredients you cook them with that make the difference.
As an example, garlic is a common choice for seasoning mushrooms, but is highly toxic to cats. This is true whether it’s cooked, raw, or in powder form. Likewise, other plants in the Allium family – including onions, chives, and leeks – are also harmful to our feline friends. Consequently, the best advice is to only give your cat cooked mushrooms if they have no seasoning on them at all.
What to do if you think your cat might have eaten a poisonous mushroom
As we mentioned above, the answer to the question ‘can cats have mushrooms?’ varies depending on the type of fungi. For instance, species such as the death cap can be lethal to pets. As such, you want to avoid letting your kitty nibble on wild mushrooms. This is easy enough with indoor cats, however it gets trickier if your cat roams freely outside. After all, you can’t always be there to keep an eye on your feline friend.
One top tip is to make sure you remove any wild fungi you spot growing in your garden. The second is to be vigilant for signs of mushroom poisoning in your pet. If you notice any of the following symptoms, take your cat to a vet immediately:
- Loss of balance
- Unsteady or uncoordinated movement
- Sensitivity to light and/or sound
- Stomach upset
- Yellowing of the eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Breathing difficulties
The signs of mushroom poisoning might not appear for several hours after ingesting the toxic fungi. Consequently, even if they’re not currently exhibiting symptoms, you should always take your cat to the vet if you suspect they’ve consumed wild mushrooms. It’s best to be on the safe side.
Can cats have medicinal mushrooms?
Some mushrooms can be more than just a tasty treat for your kitty. They may also be a way to boost their wellbeing. Specifically, medicinal mushrooms could offer pets a number of health-supporting benefits that extend beyond their basic nutritional value. Each type of functional fungi has its own unique advantages, plus others that are common to them all. Let’s get into the details.
The potential benefits of medicinal mushrooms for cats
Many of the health-boosting properties of medicinal mushrooms are due to their high levels of beta-glucans. These potent polysaccharides are a type of soluble fibre that offers a number of potential benefits. That includes supporting your cat’s immune system, cardiovascular health, and gut health. All of which can have hugely positive impacts on your kitty’s overall wellbeing.
In addition, medicinal mushrooms function as adaptogens. That means they help the mind and body to cope with stress more effectively, decreasing its negative influence. Cats can experience stress and anxiety just like we do, so this could be a fantastic benefit. You may find medicinal mushrooms reduce stress-related symptoms such as scratching furniture, over-grooming, and hiding away. They might also lower the risk of your pet developing stress-related physical illnesses.
These are the sort of benefits you can expect your cat to enjoy from any type of medicinal mushroom. However, each species also has its individual strengths and advantages. These are often because of unique secondary metabolites they contain – like cordycepin in cordyceps and erinacine A in lion’s mane.
Let’s look at four different varieties of functional fungi, and how they might support your kitty’s wellbeing.
Can cats have cordyceps mushrooms?
Cordyceps can be a brilliant way to boost your cat’s energy and endurance levels. Just like humans using the mushroom to enhance their athletic performance, it could help your kitty feel more energetic. This makes it a fabulous choice if your feline friend enjoys chasing toy mice or laser pointers! While cordyceps is especially good for active pets, it may also work to keep older animals spry and youthful. Like other functional fungi, cordyceps can be beneficial for your pet’s immune system too. As an example, research has found that it might be a promising treatment for the feline immunodeficiency virus.(3)
Can cats have turkey tail mushrooms?
Turkey tail is an excellent option for enhancing your kitty’s gut health. The fungus is rich in prebiotic fibre, which works to nourish the good bacteria in your cat’s gut. It may be able to both encourage the growth of good bacteria and inhibit the growth of bad bacteria. A healthy digestive microbiome is important for many reasons.(4) It enables your pet to absorb more nutrients from food, plus influences everything from inflammation to brain health. Moreover, turkey tail contains compounds like polysaccharopeptide (PSP) and polysaccharide krestin (PSK), which could provide natural immunity support.
Can cats have lion’s mane mushrooms?
With a name like lion’s mane, this fungus is perfect for felines! The mushroom could be an effective choice for supporting your kitty’s cognitive functions and the health of their brain. This is because it’s rich in neuroprotective compounds such as hericenones and erinacines. Studies on mice indicate that lion’s mane is able to stimulate the growth of brain cells and protect against neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s.(5) That makes it the king of the jungle when it comes to boosting your cat’s focus and memory. Ideal for kitties who enjoy playing with puzzle feeders and other intellectually stimulating toys! Moreover, the mushroom might also help to improve your pet’s mood by easing symptoms of anxiety and depression.(6)
Can cats have reishi mushrooms?
With a nickname like ‘the mushroom of immortality’, it’s no surprise that reishi is among the top fungi for immunity. In addition to the beta-glucans, the mushroom is loaded with secondary metabolites that support the immune system. It could fight free radical damage and reduce inflammation, both of which may lower the risk of chronic diseases. The mushroom could even assist with respiratory issues. Interestingly, reishi might also improve the quality of your kitty’s sleep – not that many felines need help getting a catnap!
How to add medicinal mushrooms to your cat’s diet
If you’re interested in incorporating medicinal mushrooms into your kitty’s diet, we suggest choosing a powder. These are mild-tasting, and it’s easy to blend them into your pet’s normal wet food. In terms of dosage, a good guideline is to use 50-100mg of powder per 1kg of your cat’s body weight. You can split this into two or three doses across the day. Is your cat a fussy eater? It might be easier to start with a smaller dose and build up to the full amount.
Can cats have mushrooms every day?
Yes, but it’s best to give it to them in cycles. What we mean is that you can feed your moggy medicinal mushroom powder daily for about 6-8 weeks. After that, it’s advisable to give them a break for a few weeks. The reason for this is that functional fungi are quite potent, and can activate certain kinds of immune cells. Feeding them to your kitty in cycles should prevent them from developing a tolerance or over-stimulating their immune system.
Safety considerations when giving your cat medicinal mushrooms
Can cats have mushrooms? Yes. Can medicinal mushrooms help support your kitty’s health? Also yes. Does that mean you can give functional fungi to all cats? Not quite. There are some safety considerations to be aware of, and mushrooms may not be suitable for all felines.
First, we don’t recommend that you allow kittens, or cats who are pregnant or nursing, to consume medicinal mushrooms. That’s because there hasn’t been enough research into the safety of functional fungi for them. Likewise, if your cat has an existing health condition or is on medication, consult a vet before giving them mushrooms. This will help make sure they don’t experience any side effects or interactions.
In addition, there’s a chance that your pet could be allergic to mushrooms. So when adding functional fungi to their diet, be sure to monitor them for negative reactions. If they experience any unwanted changes in health or behaviour, stop feeding them mushrooms and take them to the vet.
As with all cat supplements, it’s important that you don’t exceed the recommended dose when giving your kitty mushroom powder. The suggested dosage will vary according to your moggy’s size, health status and needs, so read the packaging carefully. If you have any doubt as to the right dose, double-check with a vet.
And, of course, it goes without saying that medicinal mushrooms are not a replacement for professional veterinary care or medicine. If you have any concerns about your cat’s health or wellbeing, take them to see the vet straight away. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to our fluffy friends!
Then there’s the issue of quality in medicinal mushroom products for cats. Let’s turn to that now.
How to choose high-quality medicinal mushrooms for cats
It’s important to recognise that there have not been many studies into the benefits of medicinal mushrooms for cats. That means we only have a limited amount of knowledge and information about exactly how effective they are. As such, it’s vital to pick products that are of high quality and specifically designed for pets rather than humans. Then you can feel confident that your cat will get the maximum benefit possible from taking them.
To ensure our range of medicinal mushroom powders for pets meets this standard, we work with expert mycologists. They cultivate the fungi on natural and organic substrates, without the use of any chemicals. This provides the mushrooms with all the nutrients they need, plus makes sure they have an exceptionally high nutritional value. We don’t include any additives or filler ingredients, so what your kitty gets is 100% pure mushroom.
Our team grows the fungi in small batches, under meticulously controlled conditions in Europe. Once mature, we carefully dry the mushrooms and then grind them into a fine powder. This is easy to add to your pet’s diet, as you can simply mix it into their normal wet food.
In order to verify the quality of our medicinal mushrooms, we have them checked by an independent and accredited tester. We can therefore say with confidence that they contain some of the highest levels of beta-glucans and secondary metabolites on the market.
So, can cats have mushrooms? If they’re the right species and high quality, the answer is yes. Our feline friends deserve the best, and we’re determined to provide it for them!