Corn tortillas are a staple food in many households. Their versatility makes them an easy addition to meals like tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, and more. It’s no wonder our feline friends take an interest when they smell these tasty flatbreads being prepared. But can cats have corn tortillas?
The short answer is yes, cats can occasionally have small amounts of plain corn tortillas as an infrequent treat. Corn itself is not toxic to cats and provides some nutritional value. However, corn tortillas also contain other ingredients that need to be considered.
An Overview of Corn Tortillas
Corn tortillas are thin, unleavened flatbreads made from masa or corn flour. They originated in Mesoamerica and are now commonly used in Mexican cuisine.
The main ingredients in traditional homemade corn tortillas include:
- Corn – Either freshly ground dried corn or masa harina flour
- Calcium hydroxide or lime – Helps release nutrition from corn
- Salt (optional) – For flavor
Commercially made tortillas may also contain stabilizers, preservatives, and other ingredients. It’s important to read labels before feeding any human food to cats.
Key Takeaway: Corn is the primary ingredient in tortillas, making them an option for cats in moderation. But other additives need consideration.
Are Corn Tortillas Safe For Cats?
The biggest concern with corn tortillas is the potential for additives and seasoning that may be unhealthy for cats:
- Salt – Excess sodium is toxic to cats. Homemade tortillas with little or no salt are safer.
- Oils – Vegetable oils are high in fat. Opt for corn tortillas cooked without oil or lard.
- Spices – Onion, garlic, chipotle, etc. can cause anemia in cats. Only plain tortillas should be fed.
- Preservatives – Added to commercial tortillas but unnecessary for cats. Check labels.
As long as you avoid dangerous ingredients, corn tortillas themselves pose little risk. Let’s look closer at the nutritional value of corn for cats.
Potential Benefits of Corn Tortillas for Cats
Though cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they rely on meat-based protein, plant foods can supplement their diet in small amounts. Corn tortillas provide some key nutrients:
- Carbohydrates – An efficient source of energy from corn’s natural sugars. Cats’ bodies can convert carbs to fuel.
- Dietary fiber – The indigestible parts of corn promote healthy digestion in cats.
- Protein – Corn contains plant-based proteins, though less bioavailable than animal sources.
- Fatty acids – Corn oil provides linoleic acid for skin/coat health and body processes.
- Antioxidants – Corn contains carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin for eye/vision health.
- Minerals – Corn offers trace amounts of iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and more.
The USDA confirms a small 50g corn tortilla contains around:
- 95 calories
- 20g carbs
- 2g protein
- 2g fat
- 3g fiber
So while corn tortillas aren’t equivalent to meat, they can provide some supplemental nutrition to cats in moderation.
Are There Any Risks With Feeding Corn Tortillas?
A few risks need consideration when feeding corn tortillas to cats:
Dry, crumbly tortilla pieces could present a choking risk. Always monitor your cat while eating and only feed small, bite-sized tortilla pieces.
Some cats may have corn allergies or sensitivities. Monitor for symptoms like itching, swelling, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Too many extra calories and carbs from tortillas could cause unhealthy weight gain in cats. Obesity stresses joints and organs.
A diet too high in plant fiber and carbs may exceed a cat’s limited ability to digest them, potentially causing gas, diarrhea or constipation.
Added salt, spices, or other ingredients as mentioned earlier could cause toxicity over time. Only plain, low-sodium homemade tortillas should be fed.
So while the occasional small piece is fine, corn tortillas should not become a regular part of a cat’s diet. Meat, fish, and cat food should remain the primary sources of nutrition.
How Much Corn Tortilla Can Cats Eat?
There are no official guidelines for how much corn tortilla cats can eat, but we can make some safe recommendations:
- Frequency: 1-2 times per week maximum
- Amount: 1-2 small bites per serving (approx. 1 tbsp)
- Portion: No more than 10% of daily calories
For a 10 lb cat eating about 200 calories/day, 10% would be 20 calories, or about 2 small tortilla pieces twice weekly.
This limited snack portion minimizes risks while allowing cats to enjoy a taste. Any more frequently could lead to nutritional imbalances or other issues detailed earlier.
Be sure to account for tortilla calories within your cat’s regular daily meals. Cut back kibble a bit on days you offer tortillas to prevent overeating.
Tips For Safely Feeding Corn Tortillas To Cats
If you want to share a corn tortilla snack with your cat, follow these tips:
- Read labels – Avoid any tortillas with added oils, salt, spices, garlic, onion, etc.
- Make your own – For total control over ingredients, make plain homemade tortillas.
- Use corn flour – The safest tortillas for cats are made from corn flour, not wheat flour which contains gluten.
- Cut small pieces – Dice tortillas into pea-sized bites to reduce choking risk.
- No seasonings – Even black pepper may be irritating. Only feed plain, unseasoned tortillas.
- Sparingly – Treat tortillas like candy – a small amount occasionally, not every day.
- Supervise – Stay nearby while your cat eats to ensure proper chewing and swallowing.
Making your own tortillas allows you to control the ingredients cats eat. But even store-bought corn tortillas are fine in moderation if they’re plain and low-sodium.
Signs of Illness in Cats After Eating Tortillas
Cats’ bodies provide feedback if they cannot properly digest a food. Monitor your cat closely for potential signs of illness after eating tortillas:
- Excessive vomiting – Especially if undigested pieces present.
- Diarrhea – Loose stools from too much plant fiber.
- Dehydration – From fluid loss. Check for dry gums, lethargy, weakness.
- Weight gain – From too many high-carb snacks.
- Difficulty chewing/swallowing – Dry pieces may lodge in throat.
- Allergic reaction – Visible irritation around the mouth.
- Appetite changes – Sudden disinterest in food.
- Breathing issues – Potential sign of obstruction.
See a vet promptly if any concerning symptoms arise after feeding tortillas. They can assess your cat and provide proper treatment as needed.
Can Cats Eat Other Types of Tortillas?
While corn tortillas are the safest option, cats may also tolerate other plain tortilla varieties like:
Flour tortillas – Ensure wheat/gluten don’t cause allergic reactions.
Blue corn tortillas – No major difference in nutritional value from yellow corn.
Multigrain tortillas – Added grains increase insoluble fiber content, so feed sparingly.
However, any flavored or filled tortilla wraps are too risky due to added spices, oil, meat, sauces and more. It’s healthiest to stick with small amounts of plain corn or flour tortillas only on occasion.
Can kittens have corn tortillas?
Kittens under 12 weeks old have developing digestive systems and may be more prone to adverse reactions from plant materials. It’s best to wait until 4-6 months to introduce tiny tastes of corn tortilla.
What about corn tortilla chips?
The main risk of corn chips is higher salt content. An occasional plain chip is fine but avoid flavored chips or serving size beyond 1-2 small chips.
Can cats eat tacos or other tortilla foods?
No, human foods like tacos, burritos, quesadillas, etc. contain onion, garlic, spices, oil, cheese and other ingredients that are unsafe. Only plain tortillas should ever be fed.
Do tortillas provide cats complete nutrition?
No. Tortillas lack the protein levels and overall nutritional balance cats need. They should only be an occasional carb-based snack, not a meal replacement.
Are warmed tortillas better for cats?
No need to warm tortillas for cats. They derive no extra nutritional value from being served warm. Room temperature is fine.
To summarize, corn tortillas can occasionally be fed to cats in moderation. A few small, plain homemade corn tortillas provide some nutritional value from natural corn carbohydrates and plant-based protein.
However, too much plant fiber stresses cats’ limited ability to digest it. Added ingredients also pose toxicity risks. Tortillas should only supplement a meat-focused diet in tiny portions a couple times weekly at most.