Can Cats Eat Yams? Vet-Approved Nutrition Facts

Yams are a big part of meals in autumn and winter. As you prepare for holiday dishes, you may be wondering if you can share some of your yams with your cat. Or, if your cat likes to sample food from the counter, if it’s safe to eat yams?

Yes, cats can eat cooked, plain yams, but there are disadvantages for some cats.  You also have to be cautious about the other ingredients that are often included in these recipes.

What Are Yams?

Yams are a variety of plant species belonging to the genus Dioscorea. Yams are a type of tuber vegetable that’s native to Africa, though they’re cultivated in temperate and tropical regions of South America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Oceania.

Though yams and sweet potatoes are used interchangeably, they’re not quite the same thing. Yams are darker than sweet potatoes and have a bark-like skin with white, purple, or reddish flesh. When cooked, yams are creamier than potatoes and have a flavor closer to yucca.

In addition, true yams should not be consumed raw. They contain phytic acid and oxalates. Sweet potatoes may not be a pleasant experience to eat raw, but cats will likely just get an upset stomach if they do so.

yams on the table
Image Credit: HUIZENG, Shutterstock

Can Cats Eat Yams?

Fortunately, cats can eat both true yams and sweet potatoes—as long as they’re cooked. As mentioned, true yams are toxic when raw. Phytic acid is considered an anti-nutrient as it binds to minerals and stops their absorption. While a small amount is not likely to harm your cat, large amounts over time may cause a problem. Phytic acid content can be reduced by soaking followed by cooking. Oxalates increase your cat’s risk of developing urinary stones formed from oxalate such as calcium oxalate. Oxalate content is reduced by boiling but not other cooking methods. Sweet potatoes should also be cooked before feeding because they can cause some mild digestive upset, but they aren’t toxic in their raw form.

Too much plant based food is likely to cause cats to have an upset stomach, as they are not designed to digest this well. Yams and sweet potatoes also need to be plain to give to your cat. Common recipes contain ingredients that aren’t healthy or may even be poisonous.

For example, candied yams (sweet potatoes) are popular for holiday get-togethers. Traditionally, this meal is made of yams or sweet potatoes with brown sugar, marshmallows, and a lot of butter. Eating this much sugar can lead to an upset stomach and over time weight gain which will make your cat susceptible to joint problems, diabetes and urinary issues.

You may feel bad denying your cat these treats that we enjoy, but keep in mind that it appears that cats can’t even taste sweets. So, all that sugary goodness is lost on your cat anyway.

fat Blue British Shorthair cat is resting on a wooden table
Image Credit: truenos86, Shutterstock

Should I Feed Yams to My Cat?

Cats are obligate carnivores and need meat to survive and thrive. Though they need some carbohydrates, they get everything they need in the perfect balance from their high-quality commercial cat food. Yams are great for humans but pose some problems to cats. A small amount of cooked yam is unlikely to hurt most cats. If your cat is on a urinary diet or is prone to urinary issues it is best to stay away from yams altogether.

Make sure yams or sweet potatoes are completely plain and cooked with no seasoning, sugar, sauces, fats, or any other ingredients.

cat paw divider


Yams and sweet potatoes are safe for most cats when they’re plain, peeled, and completely cooked. If you want to give your cat a little bit of yam, you can offer a teaspoon or two on occasion, but it’s better to stick to commercial treats for your cat to avoid disrupting their complete diet. In addition if your cat has urinary problems avoid yams altogether.

Featured Image Credit: Adao, Shutterstock

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *