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Human foods that are toxic to cats

Keeping our feline friends safe and healthy is a top priority for every cat parent. A crucial part of ensuring their well-being is knowing what they can safely consume. While we might be tempted to share our snacks with our furry pals, it’s important to understand that not all human foods are safe for cats.

🚨 If you think your cat has eaten or ingested something poisonous, call the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center immediately at 1-888-426-4435. For 24/7 support you can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661. There is a per-incident fee of $85 for their services.

Foods cats can’t eat, at a glance

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Liver
  • Avocado
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Bones
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Caffeine
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Xylitol
  • Onions, garlic, chives
  • Citrus
  • Raw dough containing yeast
  • Chocolate
  • Raw meat, eggs, and fish
  • Fat trimmings
  • Uncooked potatoes
  • Green tomatoes


A closer look at foods that are bad for cats

Most people seem to know what table foods dogs should avoid — the biggest offender being chocolate. But we hardly hear about what human delights might put your curious cat in danger. 

Below, we dig deeper into the list of the most common foods that you should keep away from your feline. And if you’re not sure about one that isn’t included, always err on the side of caution and consult your pet’s veterinarian.

Alcoholic beverages. Cats have a very low tolerance for alcohol. This may seem like a given, but it’s important to keep the booze away from cats as it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, and abnormal blood acidity if they ingest even a small amount of alcohol.

Avocado. According to the Pet Poison Hotline, avocado does contain a toxin called persin, but cats are rarely affected by it and can likely handle it in small quantities. (Persin is extremely toxic to birds and large animals like cows, sheep, and horses.) With that being said, the greater risk posed with avocado consumption in cats is pancreatitis due to excess fat consumption. The large middle seed also poses a choking hazard or risk of intestinal obstruction.

Bones. Bones, especially small ones or bone fragments, can be hazardous for several reasons. They can splinter and cause choking, or even worse, puncture your cat’s digestive tract, which is a serious medical emergency. Also, hard bones can break a cat’s teeth. So, it’s best to keep bones out of your cat’s reach.

Caffeine. While you may love a morning cup of coffee to start your day or an energy drink to get you through it, the same isn’t the case for your cat. Caffeine is another type of methylxanthine that can cause digestive issues, excessive thirst and urination, and heart palpitations in animals.                                         

Citrus. The peels, leaves, and stems of citrus fruits contain citric acid that, if consumed in large quantities, can cause stomach issues or even central nervous system depression in cats. The fruit itself poses less danger but still may upset your cat’s stomach if even a small amount is consumed.

Chocolate. That’s right, the sweet indulgence doesn’t just put pups at risk. Cats can suffer after eating it, too. Cacao beans, which are chocolate’s source ingredient, contain a substance called theobromine, a type of methylxanthine that can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death, according to the ASPCA . Milk chocolate is bad, but dark chocolate – which is made from a higher concentration of cacao – poses a larger threat.

Fat trimmings. Fat trimmings from meat, whether cooked or raw, can cause issues too. They’re simply too rich for a cat’s diet. Consuming too much fat can lead to upset stomachs, vomiting, and diarrhea. In more severe cases, it can lead to a painful and potentially dangerous condition called pancreatitis , which is inflammation of the pancreas. This organ plays a vital role in digestion, so any issues with it can have significant impacts on your cat’s overall health

Grapes and raisins. For reasons that are still being researched, per the ASPCA, grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in pets so it’s best for them to keep their distance. A recent study suggests that the fruit’s tartaric acid is the culprit when it comes to dogs, so the same may go for cats (and kittens).

Green tomatoes. Green portions of a tomato including the leaves and stems contain solanine, per the ASPCA , which is toxic to cats and can cause excess drooling and stomach issues. The ripe fruit, however, is safe for them to eat.

Liver. Although some cat foods contain chicken and beef liver, too much liver can result in vitamin A toxicity which can affect a cat’s bones, causing growths and even osteoporosis.

Macadamia nuts. While macadamia nuts are often associated with toxicity in dogs, they should be considered equally hazardous to cats. The risk might not be as widely recognized simply because cats are less likely than dogs to eat them, given their notoriously picky eating habits and lack of taste for sweet things. If a cat does consume these nuts, they can experience weakness, paralysis, vomiting, ataxia, and lethargy in addition to the risk of choking or intestinal obstruction. 

Milk and dairy products. It may surprise you considering cats are always pictured lapping up cream in cartoons, but the truth is, most adult cats are lactose intolerant. That’s why, if you sometimes give your kitty cow milk as a treat, they end up vomiting or having stomach issues.

Onions, garlic, chives. What humans taste as good flavor in these aromatics can irritate your cat’s digestive tract and also lead to red blood cell damage and anemia. This extends to other forms of onion, even onion soup mix.

Raw bread dough. Because yeast is a rising agent, if dough containing yeast is consumed by your cat it can rise within their digestive system causing gas and extreme discomfort. In a worst-case scenario, it can make their stomach twist, which is life-threatening.

Raw meat, eggs, and fish. As we know, raw or undercooked meat can contain bacteria that cause food poisoning in humans and pets. Likewise, the consumption of raw eggs, which can contain bacteria, may lead to salmonella or E. coli poisoning. Raw fish also contains an enzyme that destroys thiamine, an essential B vitamin for cats, which can result in neurological issues and convulsions.

Uncooked potatoes. Raw potatoes contain a combination of toxic alkaloids that cause gastrointestinal irritation and neurological issues in cats. Cooked potatoes, however, are safe for them to eat.

Xylitol. A sweetener found in many candies, alternative sweeteners, and toothpaste, xylitol causes a release of insulin in animals that can lead to liver failure and hypoglycemia, which lowers sugar levels. Those changes will be made evident by lethargy, vomiting, and most detrimentally, seizures.

This list might feel daunting, but there are plenty of safe people food options that a cautious cat owner can share with their fur babies.

Signs of toxicity in cats

If your beloved feline friend has ingested something potentially harmful, they may exhibit certain signs and symptoms of toxicity. It’s crucial to stay alert to these indicators, as they can guide you toward seeking immediate veterinary care. 

In some cases, symptoms may not occur for some time after ingestion, but damage can still be occurring. That’s why it’s crucial to contact your vet right away if your cat has eaten something they shouldn’t. 

  • Loss of appetite. If your cat suddenly loses interest in their food or stops eating altogether, this could signal an issue.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea. These are common signs of gastrointestinal distress in cats and could suggest they’ve eaten something toxic.
  • Lethargy or weakness. A sudden change in energy levels or unexplained weakness might indicate a problem.
  • Difficulty breathing. If your cat is panting heavily, wheezing, or having trouble breathing, they could have ingested something harmful and require emergency vet care.
  • Drooling or difficulty swallowing. Excessive salivation or trouble swallowing can be signs of oral irritation or nausea, often caused by toxic ingestion.
  • Changes in urination. Changes in the frequency or color of urine can be a sign of kidney issues, which can be triggered by certain toxins.
  • Seizures or tremors. These are serious symptoms that require immediate veterinary attention.
  • Abnormal behavior. Changes in your cat’s usual behavior, such as increased aggression, confusion, or restlessness, can be a sign of distress.
  • Pale gums. Pale or discolored gums can indicate a decrease in circulation or anemia, which is among the early signs of poisoning.
  • Loss of coordination. If your cat seems unsteady on their feet or is stumbling around, they may have ingested a toxin.

🚨 If these symptoms arise, make a vet appointment ASAP and call either the Pet Poison Helpline or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Helpline .

Steps to take immediately if your cat has ingested something toxic

If your feline friend has unfortunately ingested something toxic, it’s crucial to act promptly. 

  1. Stay calm – It’s important to keep your cool so you can help your cat effectively. Panic won’t help the situation.
  2. Remove your cat from the toxic area – If possible, move your cat away from the source of the poison to prevent further ingestion.
  3. Identify the poison – Look for half-eaten foods, disturbed containers, or anything else out of place to try to figure out what your cat consumed. This information can be extremely useful when talking to a vet or poison control center.
  4. Call the vet immediately – Don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Contact your vet or a pet poison helpline as soon as you suspect poisoning.
  5. Follow the vet’s instructions – The vet may give you specific instructions to follow before you can get your cat to the clinic like collecting a stool or urine sample. Be sure to follow these closely.
  6. Transport your cat to the vet – As soon as possible, take your cat to the vet for professional medical attention. The vet may do a simple physical exam or order testing such as bloodwork or x-rays to help treat your cat.

🚨 Never try to use hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting at home. It is not effective and may cause severe side effects. 

Sometimes, caring for beloved feline friends goes beyond cuddles and playtime; it involves being vigilant about their diet too. By knowing which foods are toxic to them, you’re taking a big step towards safeguarding their health. Remember, when it comes to your cat’s well-being, no question or concern is too small. Stay informed, attentive, and ensure your home is a safe haven for your furry companion.

Frequently asked questions

What human food can cats eat?

Cats can safely eat certain types of human food. These include cooked lean meats like chicken and turkey, which are high in protein and relatively low in calories, making them a good choice for your furry friend. Whole grains such as oats, corn, brown rice, and couscous are also safe for cats to eat and provide a good source of protein. Certain fruits including peeled apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, seedless watermelons, and pears can be given to cats in moderation. Be sure that the majority of their diet is a complete and balanced commercial cat food appropriate for their life stage. Less than 10% of calories should be from treats or human foods. 

What are cats allowed to eat and not allowed to eat?

While cats can enjoy a variety of human foods, there are many they should avoid. Toxic or poisonous foods include chocolate, onions, garlic, chives, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, grapes, raisins, dairy products, yeast dough, raw fish and meat, macadamia nuts, dog food, liver in large amounts, bones which can break into small pieces, and food containing the artificial sweetener xylitol.

Can cats not eat anything?

Not all foods are safe for cats to eat. Some foods can cause serious health issues or even be fatal. Always consult with a vet before introducing new foods into your cat’s diet.

Can I feed my cat canned tuna?

Canned tuna is not recommended as a main diet for cats. While it’s okay to give your cat a small amount of canned tuna as a treat every now and then, too much tuna can lead to mercury poisoning. Additionally, canned tuna doesn’t contain all the nutrients a cat needs for a balanced diet.

What common human foods are toxic to cats?

Common human foods that are toxic to cats include chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, grapes and raisins, dairy products, raw foods, macadamia nuts, dog food, liver in large amounts, bones, food containing the artificial sweetener xylitol, onions and other members of the onion family like garlic and chives.