What Ingredient Do Picky Dogs and Cats Love? Why Pumpkin, Of Course!

What Ingredient Do Picky Dogs and Cats Love? Why Pumpkin, Of Course!

We all know that sometimes our dogs and cats can be finicky eaters. Ok, maybe A LOT of the time they are picky about their food.  And why not?  We humans have our taste preferences, so it makes sense that animals do too. 

We recently made an surprising discovery when analyzing data from our AI engine.  We discovered that there was one ingredient in all of the foods picky dogs and cats loved: PUMPKIN

We decided to do some research and find out why pumpkin works so well with pets who would normally turn up their noses at food. 

The easiest answer is that it is a tasty addition to foods and treats.  Lots of dog foods and cat foods include pumpkin.  And, not surprisingly, a lot of dog treats and cat treats include pumpkin as well. 


pumpkin cut up with seeds showing

Pumpkin has health benefits


Pureed pumpkin can help dogs and cats with constipation and diarrhea, because the fiber in the pumpkin acts as a binding solution for your pet's digestive tract. Got a constipated pet? The water content of pureed pumpkin can help to loosen the stool. Adding 1 to 2 teaspoons or tablespoons (proportional to their size) of pure pumpkin to your cat or dog's regular meal can help keep them regular and eliminate indigestion and stomach upset. 


Raw or cooked fresh pumpkin and seeds are loaded with fiber and beta-carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A and vitamin C), and for dogs and cats possess many benefits. Pumpkin is also loaded with pre-biotics, which support good bacteria in the gut. 

cat sniffing at pumpkin sitting in the window

Low Calorie

Home processed pumpkin with no sugars or fillers adds only 8 calories per tablespoon to a pet's diet. Also, fiber in pumpkin adds bulk to the meal, making the pet feel satiated. This is especially beneficial for overweight pets that need to reduce their daily calories. Chonk approved!  


Pureed pumpkin has a lot of embodied fluid and when added to food, will actually add liquid to your dog or cat's diet. Pumpkin also adds a healthy dose of moisture to kibble, making it more palatable and easier to eat. 

person mashing pumpkin into puree in a pot

Pumpkin makes delicious treats!

You can also make delicious treats for you doggos and kitties with all that pureed pumpkin! Here are some recipes we love.

Peanut Butter and Pumpkin DOG Treats

We love All Recipes because they always have super delicious eats. This peanut butter and pumpkin dog treat recipe includes peanut butter, another dog favorite! There's even a video to show you how to make them.  Cool!

 Pumpkin CAT Treats Galore!

The fine folks at Hepper have assembled a collection of three pumpkin cat treat recipes that will make your feline friends very happy. 

dog paw print pumpkin cookies on a plate

Important Considerations

Start out small.  Depending on the size of your dog or cat, add a little dollop (translation... teaspoon sized plop) of pumpkin puree to your pet's regular food at meal time.  See how they do with it.  You want to make sure it doesn't upset their stomach or give them diarrhea.  

Talk to your vet.  This is just always going to be the right thing to do.  Your vet will have information specific to your animal as well as nutritional needs of dogs and cats. Keep them informed about any changes to your diet so you both can learn.

Puree your own pumpkin.  Canned pumpkin comes either as "pumpkin puree" or as "pumpkin pie", which already has the sweeteners and preservatives added.  You will want to serve your dogs and cats fresh, roasted, pureed pumpkin with nothing else added. 

You can make your own pumpkin puree with this excellent recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  The whole process takes about 90 minutes and The Bark has a recipe for cooking pumpkin in an InstantPot! Our friends at Rover wrote a great piece explaining the pros and cons of canned pumpkin for pets.

Only use the flesh. Don't use the pulp, skin or the stem of the pumpkin.  They are too tough for pets to process and hold little nutritional value.  We put a handy pumpkin diagram below to help you out! Oh.. .and roast the seeds for yourself.  Yummm...

pumpkin parts diagram from mama's happy hive


Don't use the Jack-o-lantern! OK... this seems obvious, but it's not a good idea to feed your dogs and cats that rotting carved pumpkin with the candle wax stick to the flesh. Just toss that big guy into the compost and feed the worms and bugs in your garden instead. 

Need more information about whether you should include pumpkin in your pet's diet?  Here you go...

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