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Home > Cats > Is Food Coloring Safe or Harmful for Cats? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Is Food Coloring Safe or Harmful for Cats? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

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Dr. Lauren Demos

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Food coloring can be found in colored eggs, cakes, and even cat food. Like other food manufacturers, pet food companies use food coloring in their kibble to make it more appealing.

However, if your cats are like ours, they could care less about their kibble color. On top of that, is food coloring safe for cats? Is it safe to have in their cat food? For the most part, food coloring is safe for cats, read on to learn more.

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What Is Food Coloring?

The FDA defines food coloring as a pigment, dye, or other substance used to give color to food, body parts, drugs, or cosmetics.

There are only two types of food coloring that the FDA approves. They are dyes that quickly dissolve when added to water and additives contained in oils and fats that are not soluble in water.

Food colorings are synthetic or come from colorants in animals, minerals, or vegetables. The FDA closely regulates the coloring to ensure that any products containing them are labeled and safe. While they are safe, you still need to be careful when giving them to your animals.

assorted food colorings
Image By: Michelle Lee Photography, Shutterstock

divider-catWhat Is Natural Food Coloring?

Food manufacturers have used natural food coloring dyes for hundreds of years to color food. Some food industry researchers believe that only natural coloring should be used to reduce the consumption of processed food, which is bad for animals and humans.

Here are a few of the natural food colorings for you below.

Chlorophyll

This natural dye comes from a green plant and is often used to color mint ice creams. It’s also used to color lime-flavored candy.

Turmeric

This dye is used to give mustard that deep yellow color.

turmeric powder
Image Credit: summawhat, Pixabay

Carotenoids

These are deep red, orange, and yellow natural colorings that are used in processed foods such as sweet potatoes, margarine, cheese, and pumpkins.

Anthocyanin

This is the coloring in jelly and several flavored beverages; it’s mostly a deep purple and blue in color.

divider-catWhat Is Artificial Food Coloring?

While there are many natural colors, artificial food coloring is more common. This is because they are cheaper to use, can be made in large batches, and have a longer shelf life.

However, only ten artificial food colorings are FDA-approved and said to be safe for animals and humans. These are blue number one, blue number two, red number 40, green number three, and also yellow number five, to name a few. Some of these, however, have been banned in other countries.

scooping cat food
Image Credit: pedphoto36pm, Shutterstock

Is Using Food Coloring Safe?

Food dyes are used to enhance food and make it more appealing. After all, who wants to eat a hot dog that has no color? Some studies show a correlation between food coloring, certain allergies, and even hyperactivity in children, but should you give it to your cat? Most cat food allergies as we understand at present are caused by protein, not food dyes. If you’re still unsure if it’s a good idea to give your cat food with artificial coloring, make an appointment with your vet.

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Wrapping Up

At present, there is no data to suggest it is not safe to feed your cat food with food coloring. However, the jury is still debating on whether it’s indeed the safest option, even with FDA approval of some colorings. The best way to ensure that your cat is getting the highest-quality, most nutritious cat food is to do your research and talk to your vet if you’re still unsure.


Featured Image Credit: Scott Bolster, Shutterstock

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