I figured a topic this important is better late than never written! When your favorite feline is giving you those sad little kitten eyes while standing next to the dinner table, you might be tempted to slip your furry friend a little taste of your food. Or perhaps you’ve been preparing a meal and let your pets tend to the floor scraps. Sure beats sweeping, right?
Sharing food with your cat may seem relatively harmless, but outside of encouraging bad begging behaviors and possibly even unhealthy weight gain, you could actually be putting your cat’s overall health and life at risk. There are a couple of ingredients and foods consumed by humans every day, like chocolate, milk and onions that can trigger dangerous toxic reactions in cats.
This article discusses some common foods, but is by no means an all-inclusive list. As a rule of thumb, if in doubt, don’t give it to your cat. As always, should you have any questions or concerns about your cat’s health or diet, please consult with your veterinarian.
Foods Toxic To Cats
Here are 9 everyday human foods toxic to cats. Let’s start with the most harmless sounding food:
Milk or Dairy Products:
We have all seen adorable pictures of kittens and cats happily lapping at a bowl of milk. Many of us have even been taught that milk is important to a cat’s diet. In reality, that bowl of milk can spell trouble. The truth is, cats are lactose intolerant once they become adults. This inability to break down lactose in milk products means your cat can end up having diarrhea. Being sick can lead to dehydration and may even require a stay with the vet if not treated quickly. Milk should never be used as a replacement for fresh water. Avoid giving your cats any cream or milk unless you choose lactose free options.
But, fish is healthy, right? Wrong. Tuna when made into cat food is perfectly fine for cats. On the other hand, tuna sold for human consumption may cause digestive upset even when given as an occasional treat in small amounts. Tuna doesn’t have adequate amounts of vitamin E. This may lead to a condition called steatitis (also known as yellow fat disease). Tuna has a very strong taste and smell, so many cats can become addicted to it. The problem can be serious because these tuna junkies may refuse to eat anything else.
Another problem with a steady diet of tuna is that there’s a risk of mercury poisoning. If you choose to incorporate tuna into your cat’s diet, do it in a very controlled, limited manner. Raw fish contains an enzyme called thiaminase which destroys thiamine (one of the essential B vitamins). A thiamine deficiency may lead to appetite loss, seizures, coma and death. Although cooking fish destroys the enzyme, a steady diet of fish doesn’t provide adequate amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals. It is not nutritionally complete. Fish is not a typical diet for cats, unless they’re exposed to it through their humans or if it’s their only food source. There is also the risk of internal parasites when feeding raw fish.
Fat may be good in small quantities, but feeding your cat a bunch of fat trimmed from that steak you just grilled really isn’t a good idea. It could cause stomach problems, including vomiting and diarrhea. While fat isn’t toxic to cats per se, it’s not healthy to routinely feed your cat a diet high in animal fats as it will lead to obesity. Large amounts of fat can also cause pancreatitis. It’s truly best to stick to foods that have been approved for cats.
Onions, Garlic, & Chives:
Several common seasonings, including onions, garlic and chives, can create problems for your pets by triggering irritation in their gastrointestinal tract, possibly leading to serious red blood cell damage, asthma attacks, and even liver damage. Cats are considered two times more susceptible than dogs to the toxic allium components found in onions and chives, which can damage red blood cells even if a kitty only consumes a trace amount. It doesn’t matter if the onion is cooked, raw or powdered. Cats do not metabolize these compounds. For this reason, owners should be cautious when offering human baby food to their cats to stimulate appetites. It can contain onion powder, which could cause anemia in felines.
While chocolate is a favorite treat for us, it must be avoided by cats. Chocolate and chocolate products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee, and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. Darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.
Chocolate also contains theobromine, a chemical that is toxic to cats in large quantities. Even a few ounces of chocolate can be enough to cause illness in a cat, so no amount or type of chocolate should be considered “safe” for cat to eat. Chocolate toxicity can cause vomiting, diarrhea, rapid or irregular heart rate, panting, excessive thirst and urination, restlessness, muscle tremors, and seizures. Death can occur within 24 hours of ingestion. Eat that Snickers bar without sharing!
Raisins or Grapes:
While raisins are delicious and healthy snack for people, they can be poisonous to cats. It is unknown what the toxic agents are in these fruits. A handful of raisins can cause sudden kidney failure in your cat. You should avoid giving your pet raisins as well as grapes and watch for signs of toxicity if your cat accidentally eats them. Signs that usually occur within 24 hours are diarrhea, lack of appetite, lethargy, weakness, abdominal pain and decreased urination. Other signs of illness relate to the eventual shutdown of kidney functioning.
Similarly to people, consumption of raw eggs can lead to salmonella in cats. Symptoms of the illness will vary but can include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. Salmonella can also be transmitted to humans from animals, making it even more important to keep your cat away from eggs and to properly wash your hands after baking or cooking with raw eggs.
There’s a saying that goes: Beer before liquor, never sicker; liquor before beer, never fear. That saying may be fine for people, but for animals, beer, wine or liquor are all dangerous. Alcohol side effects in a cat include vomiting, diarrhea, depression of the central nervous system, coordination problems, breathing issues and tremors. In extreme cases, your cat could fall into a coma or die. The level of the poisoning usually depends on the amount of alcohol consumed as well as the cat’s weight, but bottom line is there’s nothing funny about putting a cocktail within your cat’s reach. And if your cat does ingest some liquor, don’t just let her “sleep it off.” Call your vet for advice.
The word “Xylitol” might not mean much to you, but it’s an artificial sweetener used in any number of products you likely have around your house, in your purse or pocket. These include some candies, gum, most diet products such as sugar-free cookies, and even certain types of toothpaste. It doesn’t take much of it to trigger a reaction in your pet…and the symptoms can come on quickly and are often fatal. Xylitol causes insulin release in most animals, which leads to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels). Signs of ingestion include vomiting, coordination problems and lethargy. These symptoms can progress to seizures and even liver failure within just a few days. Avoid setting out candy dishes in your home and keep an extra-vigilant eye on your cat during holidays such as Halloween and Easter, when sweet treats are even more likely to be around.
Feeding A Vegan Diet:
Not all carnivores are obligate carnivores. In fact, most aren’t. But cats are. As obligate carnivores, cats can’t digest plant-based foods efficiently, nor do plant-based foods provide the nutrients felines require. The digestive tracts of herbivores and omnivores are vastly different from that of the carnivore and able to adapt to a host of dietary options, but for the true carnivore, this simply isn’t the case. Obligate carnivores, also known as “true carnivores,” are literally just that. Animals that, because of their genetic conditioning, must eat a flesh-based diet to thrive. To deprive a cat of meat is irresponsible, unethical, and ultimately detrimental to the health of the cat.
The feline digestive tract is short, and unable to process the nutrients contained in plant matter. Plant proteins do NOT contain all the amino acids critical for the health of obligate carnivores, and unlike humans who have the physiological ability to turn plant proteins into the missing pieces needed for a complete amino acid profile, cats don’t have that capacity. Protein in animal tissue has a complete amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. A diet lacking proper amounts of meat will lead to serious deficiencies and possibly death. If you are a vegetarian, you must not include your cat in that way of life or he will suffer. There is no compromising on this. Cats need meat. Period. Get a rabbit or hamster if you feel the need to feed a vegan diet to your pet.
If Your Cat Ingests Any Of These Foods:
Any food not specifically formulated for cats can affect the digestive system, causing vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or worse. If you suspect your cat ate any of these foods toxic to cats, try to determine how much she may have eaten. Call your veterinarian for specific advice; in many cases small quantities are not likely to be a problem but larger quantities may require you to induce vomiting in your cat or to take her to your veterinarian. If your veterinarian is unavailable or unequipped to handle the situation, call the nearest animal hospital or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680. This is especially important if your cat is displaying symptoms such as muscle tremors or repeated vomiting.
Source: Foods Your Cat Should Never Eat