✔ This article was written by a licensed veterinarian.
My name is Iulia and I’m a licensed vet. In my years of practicing veterinary medicine, I have been asked an extremely common question: “Can I feed my cat X?”. So I decided to write an extensive article covering the foods poisonous to cats to educate cat owners on how to safely treat their pets.
But first, a quick history lesson. Farmers domesticated cats thousands of years ago to help get rid of unwanted pests that ate their crops. Years have passed, and now we have come to own cats with which we share our bed, our time, and sometimes even our food. Especially if we leave the table with a full plate still sitting there.
These little felines are known to be true (or obligatory) carnivores. This means that they should consume only animal protein (meat and meat by-products: organs, skin, bones) to provide them with energy. These proteins meet all their nutritional requirements to survive. In other words, their digestive system is built to eat and digest meat.
We cover the following items in this post:
- Can You Feed a Cat Human Food?
- Which Human Foods Are Safe for Cats to Eat?
- What Foods are Poisonous to Cats?
- What Drinks are Poisonous to Cats?
- What Are the Signs of Poisoning in Cats?
- What Should I Do If My Cat Eats Something Poisonous?
- Final Thoughts on Foods Poisonous to Cats
Read on to learn everything you need to know about foods poisonous to cats!
Can You Feed a Cat Human Food?
The short answer is yes, but it depends on the type of food and how much you plan on giving them. Because we are omnivores, we can eat meat, plants, algae, fungi, and Oreos (not required, but delicious). Cats are a bit more sensitive.
For instance, your cat shouldn’t have many vegetables that you would eat. Vegetables contain cellulose, a dietary fiber that cats cannot digest.
Although they cannot digest cellulose, cats can occasionally taste certain vegetables that are safe to eat (see below). Moreover, there are some foods/ingredients that contain certain compounds that are poisonous to your cat.
Below you will see what foods are safe for your cat to eat and which foods are poisonous to cats.
Which Human Foods Are Safe for Cats to Eat?
- Vegetables that contain high amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals are great for your cat’s health. Safe vegetables include broccoli, carrots, zucchini, asparagus, green beans, peas, lettuce, and spinach. They must be pre-cooked by baking them in the oven or steaming them to preserve their properties.
- Whole grains are another delicacy for your cat, especially brown rice, which is rich in vitamins, fibers, and iron. Too much rice can lead to bloating and gas, so serve it to your cat in moderation! Rice can also help your cat if it suffers from diarrhea. Many veterinarians recommend rice as an adjuvant diet to the main treatment, meaning it assists in the healing process.
- Eggs are another safe food for cats, and they should also be served in moderation. They are rich in protein, iron, and minerals and should be served cooked (preferably boiled) and not raw. Raw eggs pose the risk of Salmonella and E. coli.
- Dairy products are also preferred by many cats. These should be served in moderation as cats become lactose intolerant as they get older. Cheese should not be too salty (cats are at risk of salt poisoning), and milk, yogurt, or sour cream should be low in fat or fat-free.
- Bread and bakery products are loved by most cats and are safe to eat. My cats won’t let me eat a croissant alone! Too much bread or bakery products can lead to obesity or other medical conditions, so it is best to be served in moderation as a treat.
- Bananas aren’t loved by many cats, but they are safe to consume. Cats do not have sweet taste buds; therefore, for many of them, fruits won’t represent a culinary delight. Although they are packed with vitamins and minerals, bananas have high sugar content, so they should be served in moderation as well.
- Berries are a good choice if your cat likes them because they are low in sugar and full of antioxidants.
- Melon seems to be loved by many cats and is rich in vitamins A and C. Cantaloupe, honeydew, or seedless watermelon are a good choice.
- Meats are often safe, as long as they’re not too heavily seasoned. Chicken, turkey, and duck represent a great source of protein for your cat.
- Fish is an excellent source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids have benefits for your cat’s entire body, including its skin, fur, eyesight, brain, and heart. Do not feed your pet raw or undercooked fish because some fish species contain thiaminase, an enzyme that destroys vitamin B1 in your cat’s body.
- Tuna. Although it is a delicious fish preferred by many cats, having only a fish diet can lead to malnutrition or mercury poisoning. Canned tuna contains a lot of salt, so it is best to serve it in moderation.
- Beef or pork is safe to consume, but it’s best to serve lean meat to your cat.
Regardless of the food you choose to give your cat, it should be free of oil, other fats, salt, and other spices made for human consumption.
Foods Poisonous to Cats
- Garlic, onions, chives, leeks, scallions, and shallots (raw, dried, or cooked). All are part of the same genus, Allium, and contain organosulfoxides. When these foods are chewed by your cat – they turn into a complex mixture of sulfur compounds. Prolonged consumption will lead to anemia.
- Salt. As mentioned earlier in the article, a high salt intake can lead to sodium ion poisoning.
- Tomatoes and potatoes. The green parts, including green tomatoes and green potatoes, contain solanine. If consumed in large quantities it can lead to serious gastrointestinal disorders.
- Candy and chewing gum. They generally contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener harmful to our cats if ingested.
- Chocolate. Theobromine is the compound that makes chocolate poisonous to cats. This compound is found in cocoa beans, and its toxicity is related to the dose (i.e., it depends on the type, size, and amount of chocolate a cat has ingested). Dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate, and consuming it in large quantities can even lead to seizures and death.
- Grapes and raisins. Although there are not enough studies to show that grapes are toxic to cats, there is anecdotal evidence of poisoning. Cats with pre-existing kidney disease may be more at risk.
- Almonds and walnuts. These are not poisonous to cats, but if consumed in large quantities can lead to gastrointestinal disorders.
- Macadamia nuts. These are toxic to cats, and like grapes and raisins, their toxicity mechanism is unknown.
- Yeast dough. Due to the fact that it can expand its volume in your cat’s stomach, it is listed as being harmful to your pet. Yeast also ferments inside the stomach. This produces alcohol, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream. This may lead to alcohol intoxication.
- Raw fish, meat, and eggs. Although these are not poisonous to your cat (unless there is a poisonous fish), if they are raw they can be contaminated with Salmonella and E. coli, which can lead to severe gastrointestinal disorders. These bacteria are killed by cooking the meat at high temperatures.
- Cooked bones. Although not poisonous, cooked bones harden and can break into fragments when bitten. Once they reach the stomach, if they do not stop in the esophagus, they can cause gastrointestinal obstructions or lacerations.
This video, by Jackson Galaxy, is another resource to use in order to learn what foods are poisonous to cats:
What Drinks are Poisonous to Cats?
- Alcohol. More specifically, ethanol is found in a variety of products. Especially in alcoholic beverages, but in paints and medicines as well. It can be accidentally ingested by your cat and can have severe consequences for your pet’s health, including death.
- Coffee, tea, energy drinks, and drinks that contain caffeine. A drop of coffee or any other beverage that contains caffeine shouldn’t harm a cat. But, in large doses, it can lead to caffeine poisoning and even death. There is no antidote for caffeine.
What Are the Signs of Poisoning in Cats?
It generally depends on the type of food the cat has eaten, but the most common clinical signs of food poisoning in cats are:
- Gastrointestinal disorders. Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
- Hypersalivation. The excess production of saliva by your cat.
- Muscle tremors. Excessive shaking movements by a body part or body parts.
- Difficulty breathing. A cat may be open mouth breathing, coughing, or possibly extending its head or neck.
- Decreased appetite.
- Apathy. If your cat seems disinterested in things that usually capture its attention.
- Excessive thirst.
- Pale mucous membranes (anemia). Check the nose or mouth for a pale color.
What Should I Do If My Cat Eats Something Poisonous?
If you know the poisonous food your cat has eaten, try to determine how much it has consumed and contact your veterinarian for advice ASAP. The more detail you can provide, the better you can assist the vet in identifying the root cause and recommending a treatment plan.
In some cases, small amounts may not affect your cat and may not require urgent treatment. If you are confident your cat had a minimal amount of risky food – monitor them closely for the hours following the consumption of the item.
In terms of recovery, it also depends on the food your cat has eaten and when it received the proper medical care. The sooner the treatment is instituted, the better the chances of recovery, and your cat will return to normal in the shortest time.
Final Thoughts on Foods Poisonous to Cats
Cats are generally self-sufficient animals that have strong instincts. These instincts allow an estimated 70 million feral cats to survive in the US alone.
However, they are animals at the end of the day and are prone to mistakes. If they think some food in the home is safe to eat, they will eat it.
So, the responsibility to keep our cats safe is on us – the owners. We need to be vigilant of what our cats eat, and aware of what they can and can’t consume. By doing so, we can help to extend our cats’ lives and enjoy their mischievous behavior for years to come!