15 foods that are bad for your cat
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 cats in danger. Below is a 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.
🚨 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.
- Alcohol. 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 ingested.
- 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.
- Caffeine. While you may love a morning cup of coffee to start your day, 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.
- Canned tuna. Yes, plenty of cat treats and wet food contain tuna as a main ingredient. But tuna canned for humans, if given consistently to your cat over time in place of cat food, can actually result in their malnutrition as it doesn’t contain all of the nutrients they need. If you do give some tuna to your cat as a treat, make sure it’s canned in water.
- 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 give a cat an upset 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. Because dark chocolate is made from a higher concentration of cacao, it poses the biggest threat.
- 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 it’s possible that the same goes for cats.
- 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 of it can result in vitamin A toxicity which can affect a cat’s bones, causing growths and even osteoporosis.
- 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 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 cause gastrointestinal irritation in cats, leading to red blood cell damage and anemia.
- Raw meat, eggs, and fish. As we know, raw meat can contain bacteria that causes food poisoning in humans and pets. Likewise, raw eggs can contain salmonella or E. coli, leading to infection. 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. According to Lort Smith Animal Hospital, 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.
- Yeast dough. Because yeast is a rising agent, if yeast dough 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.
- 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.
13 foods that your cat can safely enjoy
Not all human foods are dangerous for your cat, there are many that you can enjoy together! Here’s a list of our favorite cat-friendly fruits and veggies.
- Apples. The same sugar situation goes for apples as it does bananas, but the crunchy delight can offer cats a good source of vitamin C and vitamin A, according to MedVet. Seeds and stems should be avoided.
- Bananas. Bananas aren’t toxic to cats, so the occasional nibble won’t hurt. However, because the fruit is high in sugar, it’s important to tread lightly as you wouldn’t want to induce health issues like diabetes or weight problems. (Fun fact: Cats don’t actually have taste receptors for sweetness.)
- Blueberries. Blueberries are high in antioxidants, flavonoids, and fiber, all of which your kitty can benefit from. Just make sure to cut larger berries into small, bite-sized pieces to avoid choking hazards.
- Broccoli. Antioxidants are aplenty in these green florets, and they could even distract your cat from nibbling on the houseplants they’re not supposed to. Try steaming it (and allowing it to cool) so it’s easier for them to chew.
- Cantaloupe. This fruit packs a punch of vitamin C, beta carotene, fiber, and antioxidants, all healthy for your furry friend. The Feline Nutrition Foundation notes that the melon tends to be a favorite among cats because its scent mimics that of the proteins in meat. Just remember to remove the seeds and rind.
- Carrots. To avoid choking hazards, either cut carrots into tiny pieces or cook until soft. And again, avoid over-serving, as cats are naturally carnivorous and may struggle to digest veggies in large amounts.
- Cooked fish and lean meats (in small amounts). Cats are meat eaters after all. Cooking the meat lowers risk of bacterial infection, but it’s best to keep portions small to ensure your cat gets all the nutrients it needs from traditional cat food.
- Cooked eggs. Eggs are a fine source of protein for your feline, as long as they aren’t raw.
- Cucumbers. Cucumbers contain lots of great vitamins and minerals, and they aren’t as sweet as other fruits, so cats can enjoy them more often.
- Pumpkin. It not only makes tasty pies, but it’s a great source of fiber for cats. Some vets even recommend it as a remedy for kitty constipation and say it can help prevent hairballs. It’s best to serve 100% pumpkin puree from the can with zero sugars or additives. Some cats don’t like taste or texture, so vets may recommend powdered fiber supplements that contain pumpkin.
- Strawberries. In small amounts, strawberries can be a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and manganese for cats. But don’t overdo it as large servings can be difficult for them to digest and bad for their sugar intake.
- Squash. As long as it isn’t seasoned with anything, plain squash can be good for cats because it contains fermentable fiber that helps regulate bowel movements.
- Whole grains. The grain-free pet food debate of yesteryear aside, grains like oats, barley, and wheat berry contain protein, vitamins, and essential fatty acids that your cat’s system will love, mostly because they mimic grains in the intestines of herbivores that they would naturally prey on.
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How to keep your cat away from poisonous foods
It may seem obvious, but pet-proofing your home to keep potentially dangerous snacks out of reach could save your cat’s life. As we all know, their smooth sleuthing feline skills never fail to surprise us, so it’s a good idea to keep the above foods secured in airtight storage containers. It’s also smart to invest in a garbage can with a closable lid so curious paws are less likely to investigate.
Signs your cat has ingested something poisonous, and what to do
Tell-tale signs that something’s wrong are if your cat comes down with:
- Excessive vomiting
- General mood changes or display of discomfort
- Excessive drooling
🚨 If these symptoms arise, make a vet appointment ASAP and call either the Pet Poison Helpline or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Helpline.
Frequently asked questions about cats and people food
Can cats have peanut butter?
Unlike dogs, most cats are bored by the presence of peanut butter, but it’s not unsafe for them to eat. With that being said, it also doesn’t hold much nutritional value.
What foods can instantly kill cats?
Alcohol, caffeine, chives, chocolate, garlic, grapes, onions, raisins, xylitol, and yeast dough.
Can cats have dried mangos?
Due to their lack of water, dried mangos are more nutrient and sugar-rich than fresh ones. And although fresh mango is safe for them to have in small amounts, the excess sugar and fiber in dried mango can cause diarrhea and digestive issues.
Is dog food toxic to cats?
There’s a reason cats and dogs are recommended different pet foods — they have different nutritional needs. And while a few bites of dog food won’t hurt your cat, it shouldn’t be a meal replacement.
Can cats eat chocolate?
Chocolate contains cacao beans, which contain methylxanthines, a toxin that causes vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death in cats.
Can cats eat cheese?
Cheese (and other dairy products) aren’t a natural part of cats’ diets, therefore, when too much is consumed it can cause digestive issues, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Can cats eat eggs?
Raw eggs pose a threat of E. coli or salmonella, but cooked eggs can offer an adequate source of protein.
Can cats eat strawberries?
In small amounts, strawberries can be a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and manganese for cats. But large servings can be difficult for them to digest and spike their sugar levels.