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Can Cats Eat Mushrooms? A Deep Dive into Feline Fungi Facts

A curious cat holding a shiitake mushroom in its mouth
Written by Dr. Rob Silver DVM, MS - Updated: June 11, 2024

As the popularity of mushrooms as functional foods skyrockets in the world of holistic health, cat parents can't help but ask, "Can cats eat mushrooms?" As experts on the subject, let's unravel this question.

Sections in this article:

The Incredible Mushroom and Your Feline Friend

White oyster mushrooms
Functional mushrooms can help to strengthen your cat’s immune system. Oyster mushrooms, shown above, are just one type of beneficial mushroom.

Mushrooms are complex, highly adaptive organisms with properties that can target various bodily functions. They're rich in immune-stimulating compounds that have been instrumental throughout evolution, allowing animals to fend off pathogens. When mushrooms are consumed, they trigger an "alert" in the immune system, primarily through bioactive compounds such as beta-glucans.

In other words, mushrooms can be likened to the first light of dawn that wakes up a nocturnal bird, preparing it for the day's activities. Consuming functional mushrooms such as turkey tail, reishi, lion's mane, and cordyceps sends a similar "rise and shine" command to your cat's body. The signal is not of an impending threat but rather an encouragement for alertness, thereby strengthening your feline companion's immune system.

Functional vs Culinary Mushrooms

To fully grasp whether cats can eat mushrooms, it's crucial to understand the four mushroom categories:

  1. Culinary (Edible)
  2. Functional (Medicinal)
  3. Psychoactive (Hallucinogenic)
  4. Poisonous (Toxic)

While some mushrooms fall into multiple categories, this article focuses on culinary (edible) mushrooms and functional (medicinal) mushrooms.

Culinary Mushrooms for Cats: Benefits & Cautions

Mushrooms have many benefits for cats
When preparing to give mushrooms to your kitty, stick with culinary and functional mushrooms from trusted sources.

Safe, culinary mushrooms can be an excellent addition to your cat's diet.

However, it's important to steer clear of wild mushrooms because they can be toxic.

However, store-bought varieties of mushrooms, when well cooked, can be safely added to your cat’s diet. A note of caution: mushrooms should not be fed to animals uncooked and raw. They are difficult to digest when uncooked due to their high fiber content

Culinary mushrooms, like oyster, shiitake, and lion’s mane mushrooms, pack a nutritional punch. They're teeming with proteins, fiber, selenium, B vitamins, vitamins and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Plus, mushrooms can be an abundant source of vitamin D2 when exposed to UVB light. They also house unique antioxidants that help with longevity, like ergothioneine and glutathione.

To unlock these benefits for your cat, cooking them well is key. All mushrooms contain chitin, a component that can hinder digestibility but also serves as dietary fiber. Cooking mushrooms breaks down chitin, increasing the bioavailability of crucial immunomodulatory compounds like beta-glucans.

So, for the question, “Can cats eat mushrooms?” the answer is YES, with some qualifications — Cooked, store-bought culinary mushrooms can be safely added to your cat's diet. Start with small portions and always ensure they're well-cooked to enhance their digestibility.

Chopping up the mushroom into small little pieces improves their digestibility and allows them to be thoroughly cooked which will release their many bioactive compounds to benefit your cat’s health.

Functional Mushrooms: A Powerful Ally for Cats

Some functional mushrooms can act as adaptogens when ingested. Adaptogens help the body adapt to physical and emotional stress over the long term, increasing attention, endurance, and overall body function.

Adding to the fascinating array of information on how mushrooms contribute to a cat's overall health, let's dive deeper into the beneficial effects of two mushrooms in particular: Cordyceps and Lion's Mane. Furthermore, we will explore how to identify quality mushroom supplements in the market and the best ways to introduce these supplements into your cat's diet.

Health Benefits of Cordyceps Mushrooms for Cats

Cordyceps mushrooms for cats
Cordyceps mushrooms are adaptogenic and have a wide range of benefits for our feline friends.

Cordyceps, a type of fungus, has remarkable benefits for cats, which should not be surprising considering that it's closely related to some of the tastiest edible mushrooms, such as truffles and morels. Its palatable taste makes it an appealing supplement for our feline friends who can be quite selective when it comes to food.

Cordyceps checks the boxes when it comes to feline health. Whether your cat is young or old, this mushroom can offer considerable support.

Cordyceps for Cats’ Kidneys

An alarming number of cats are prone to develop kidney disease, a condition that can sometimes be fatal. Studies in various species have shown that Cordyceps can effectively support kidney function and protect these organs from toxins, including certain antibiotics and immunosuppressive drugs (1).

Cordyceps for Cats’ Blood Sugar Levels

This mushroom isn't just beneficial for the kidneys; it also plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy glucose levels. Just like humans, cats can develop Type 2 Diabetes, often associated with a diet rich in carbohydrates. Cordyceps helps control blood glucose levels, thanks to its special polysaccharides. It also normalizes the body's insulin production, further supporting healthy blood sugar levels (2).

Cordyceps for Cats’ Lung & Heart Health

Cordyceps also has an impressive effect on the respiratory system, potentially benefiting cats with bronchial asthma. It aids in maintaining healthy pulmonary function, thus promoting proper respiration (3). In addition to its lung-boosting properties, Cordyceps also offers heart health benefits (4).

Most cats would do well with an eighth of a teaspoon of pure cordyceps mushroom extract powder, mixed into their food once or twice daily.

Watch this video for the bottom line about cordyceps for cat health:

Dr. Rob Silver explains why cordyceps mushrooms are an ideal support for cat health.

Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms for Cats

Fresh Lion's mane mushrooms for cats
Lion’s Mane mushrooms have cognitive benefits for cats and are also beneficial for gut health.

Lion’s Mane, scientifically known as Hericium erinaceus, is a mushroom that has been traditionally used in Eastern medicine for its multiple health benefits, particularly for cognitive function and gut health. With increasing interest in natural remedies for pet health, Lion’s Mane has emerged as a key supplement of interest for cat owners, offering potential benefits similar to those found in dogs.

Cognitive Benefits of Lion’s Mane for Cats

Similar to dogs, cats are susceptible to cognitive dysfunction as they age, a condition akin to Alzheimer's in humans. An estimated 36% of cats aged between 11 and 21 show signs of dementia (5).

Common symptoms of feline cognitive dysfunction (5):

  • Behavior changes
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Excessive vocalization, especially at night
  • Difficulty navigating familiar spaces

Human clinical trials have shown that lion’s mane mushroom can support brain function and cognition in people with mild dementia and/or memory loss (6,7). Studies on this unique functional mushroom have discovered that it supports cognition by stimulating neurogenesis, the process of forming new neurons (9, 10).

Even though rigorous clinical studies in cats have yet to be conducted, there's anecdotal evidence suggesting its positive impact.

For instance, testimonials from pet parents, as shared by Real Mushrooms’ Registered Veterinary Technician, Joni Kamlet, have reported improvements in older dogs exhibiting signs of dementia, including being more attentive, finding their way around familiar surroundings, and initiating play. Given the physiological similarities between dogs and cats, it’s plausible to speculate that lion's mane could provide similar benefits to felines, potentially improving their cognitive function and mitigating signs of feline cognitive dysfunction.

Lion’s Mane for Gut Health, Mood, and the Immune System in Cats

Beyond cognitive benefits, Lion’s Mane could also offer cats support for their gut health, mood, and immune system. Traditionally used in China and Japan to support gut health, nervous system weakness, and even wound healing, this mushroom has also the potential to promote a healthy inflammatory response.

Furthermore, human clinical studies have suggested lion's mane's potential role in mitigating anxiety and depression. These mood-supporting benefits could potentially be translated to cats, helping to manage behavior issues and promoting overall well-being.

Moreover, lion's mane can help regulate the immune system. Considering that cats, like all pets, can suffer from various immune-related issues, lion’s mane could provide additional support in bolstering their immune health.

To support the mind, immunity, and digestive health of your aging cat, consider mixing an eighth of a teaspoon of pure lion’s mane mushroom extract powder into their food once or twice daily.

Guide to Giving Mushroom Supplements to Your Cat

Functional mushroom powders can be easily mixed into your cat’s meal to make daily dosing easier.

For pet parents considering introducing lion’s mane or cordyceps supplements to their cat's diet, it's advisable to use a concentrated mushroom powder extract. Real Mushrooms offers pet products that are pre-measured for animal dosing, making them easy to administer.

Cats are notoriously picky eaters, making the introduction of new supplements a bit of a challenge. Luckily, lion's mane and cordyceps extract powders are fairly bland tasting and can easily blend into your cat's favorite dishes without causing too much of a taste disturbance.

Mushroom extract powders, such as those from Lion's Mane and Cordyceps, might be easier for cats to accept when mixed into their food. These can easily blend into your cat's favorite dishes without causing too much of a taste disturbance.

Remember that patience and persistence are key when introducing new supplements to your cat's diet. Here’s a good tip from Real Mushrooms’ Registered Veterinary Technician, Joni Kamlet about introducing new supplements to picky or cautious kitties:

This great tip for getting your cat to accept new supplements comes from Real Mushrooms’ Registered Veterinary Technician, Joni Kamlet.

It's important to note that while lion’s mane and cordyceps appear to be safe for cats, more research is needed to fully understand its impact and optimal dosing for feline health. Always consult with your veterinarian before starting any new supplementation regimen.

How to Tell Quality in Mushroom Supplements

When it comes to choosing a mushroom supplement for your cat, it's important to prioritize quality. Look for supplements that are organic, and free from additives, pesticides, or fillers. Products that have been tested by third-party labs for purity and potency can also offer an additional layer of reassurance.

When looking to get the most medicinal value for your money, ensure you are buying a supplement that uses 100% mushrooms and not mycelium grown on grain. You can get more specific information about picking a quality mushroom product for your pet in the following articles:

SHOP MUSHROOMS FOR PETS!

Finally, Mushrooms for Felines

As we continue to explore the potential of functional mushrooms, it's encouraging to see the possibilities they offer for enhancing our pets' health and quality of life. Whether for cognitive support, gut health, revitalization, or general wellness, they could be a valuable addition to your feline friend's wellness regimen.

Feline vitality and mushrooms.
Shop mushroom extracts for your cat!

 

REFERENCES:

  1. Zhang HW, Lin ZX, Tung YS, Kwan TH, Mok CK, Leung C, Chan LS. Cordyceps sinensis (a traditional Chinese medicine) for treating chronic kidney disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD008353. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008353.pub2
  2. Ng, T.B., Wang, H.X. Pharmacological actions of Cordyceps, a prized folk medicine. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology (2005) 57:1509-1519.
  3. Wang, N., Huang, X., Chen, W., Chen, Y. Herbal Medicine Cordyceps sinensis Improves health-Related Quality of Life in Moderate-to-Severe Asthma. (2016) Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine; Vol 2016 Article ID: 6134593.
  4. Tuli, H.S.., Sandhu, S.S. and Sharma, A.K. Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin. (2014) 3 Biotech4:1-12; doi:10.1007/s13205-013-0121-9.
  5. Petra Černá, Hannah Gardiner, Lorena Sordo, et al. June 24, 2020. Potential Causes of Increased Vocalisation in Elderly Cats with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome as Assessed by Their Owners. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/10/6/1092/htm
  6. Mori, K., Inatomi, S., Ouchi, K., Azumi, Y., & Tuchida, T. (2009). Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 23(3), 367–372. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.2634
  7. Saitsu, Y., Nishide, A., Kikushima, K., Shimizu, K., & Ohnuki, K. (2019). Improvement of cognitive functions by oral intake of Hericium erinaceus. Biomedical research (Tokyo, Japan), 40(4), 125–131. https://doi.org/10.2220/biomedres.40.125
  8. Kawagishi, H., et al. (2008). Erinacines E, F, and G, stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF)-synthesis, from the mycelia of Hericium erinaceus. Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 31(4), 772–775. https://doi.org/10.1248/bpb.31.772
  9. Lai, P. L., Naidu, M., Sabaratnam, V., Wong, K. H., David, R. P., Kuppusamy, U. R., Abdullah, N., & Malek, S. N. (2013). Neurotrophic properties of the Lion's mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. International journal of medicinal mushrooms, 15(6), 539–554. https://doi.org/10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i6.30
  10. Mayumi Nagano, Kuniyoshi Shimizu, Ryuichiro Kondo, et al. August 31, 2010. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20834180/

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Dr. Robert Silver graduated in 1982 from Colorado State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He established one of the first integrative vet clinics in the USA in Boulder, CO in 1993. Since then, Dr. Silver has become a nationally recognized expert in veterinary herbal and nutraceutical medicines, medicinal mushrooms, veterinary CBD and cannabis therapeutics. He has adjunct faculty positions at Lincoln Memorial University, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Chi University, a College of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Silver.

Disclaimer: The information or products mentioned in this article are provided as information resources only, and are not to be used or relied on to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information does not create any patient-doctor relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. The information is intended for health care professionals only. The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by licensed medical physicians. Please consult your doctor or health practitioner for any medical advice.

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