When little eyes peer at your dinner plate, it can be hard to resist sharing your meal with your cat. This can be a mistake as many human foods are unhealthy for felines.
Unsafe human foods for cats include chocolate, avocado, grapes, and spices. Most cats are lactose intolerant, which rules out dairy products.
We will look at popular human foods that can make your cat sick (or worse.) Be vigilant about keeping your pets away from these groceries, for their health and wellbeing. Just because they’re potentially lethal doesn’t make such food selections any less tempting to felines.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Why Do Cats Like to Eat Human Food?
- 2 Dangerous Human Food for Cats
- 2.1 Chocolate
- 2.2 Grapes and Raisins
- 2.3 Tinned Tuna
- 2.4 Raw Meat, Fish or Eggs
- 2.5 Animal Liver
- 2.6 Onions and Garlic
- 2.7 Uncooked Dough
- 2.8 Milk and Cheese
- 2.9 Caffeine and Alcohol
- 2.10 Signs That a Cat Ate Toxic Human Food
Why Do Cats Like to Eat Human Food?
Cats are naturally curious animals. This means that they’ll be intrigued by what you’re eating, and want to investigate further. Cats are natural imitators, and will want to repeat the actions of their owner. Felines also have an excellent sense of smell, so your meal’s aroma will pique their interest.
Offering your pet human food can make a rod for your own back, however. If your cat gets a taste for your dinner, they may stop eating their own food. If your pet has never tasted human food, they’ll typically be content with their own. This is ideal, as cat food provides your pet with all the nutrients and the right balance of protein that they need.
Alas, this doesn’t change the fact that cats will always be intrigued by the alternatives. As we all know, curiosity and cats can sometimes be a dangerous combination. There are some human foods that can make felines very sick – or worse.
If you must offer your cat human food, stick with meat. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they must feast on meat to thrive and survive. Cooked meats (never raw, as this can contain dangerous bacteria), without spices and seasoning, will be safe.
Dangerous Human Food for Cats
We’ll now look at foods that are hazardous to cats. The following human foods should never be fed to your cat as they can make your feline extremely ill:
A large amount of chocolate is lethal to felines. The good news is that your secret stash of sweet treats should be safe from your cat unless you decide to share it with them.
Felines cannot taste sweetness, and thus they’ll often be indifferent to chocolate. Often does not equal always, though. Your cat may still be curious about this snack that you seem to enjoy so much. The strong smell of cacao may also pique a pet’s interest.
The problem with chocolate is an alkaloid called theobromine. This is found naturally in all forms of cacao. Theobromine plays havoc with a cat’s heart, leading to seizures, tremors, and cardiac arrest.
All chocolate is bad for cats and should be avoided, but higher cacao contents are the worst. This means that very dark chocolate, especially that designed for baking, is the most hazardous.
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes and raisins are considered a healthy treat for humans, and many assume this means they’re safe for cats. Sadly, the opposite is true.
It has never been scientifically discovered exactly why, but grapes, in particular, cause feline kidney failure. Acute kidney failure is life-threatening, and progressive renal failure is always fatal.
As grapes are sweet, most cats will not show a great deal of interest. If they do, however, the impact can be immediate. A cat that consumes grapes will quickly start to vomit, and grow hyperactive. Your cat may also begin to drool, lick their lips excessively, and become constipated.
Raisins have the same effect, and are arguably more appealing to cats. The small size raisins mean that a pet may hoover them up without even thinking.
Hold on, tinned tuna? Is this not considered a delicacy for cats? It is indeed – and herein lays the problem. Most cats love tuna, and can quickly become addicted to the taste. This will lead to them rejected other foods, and thus depriving themselves of countless essential nutrients.
If it is eaten to excess, tuna can cause mercury poisoning in cats. This, in turn, can lead to neurological problems. Symptoms of mercury poisoning in felines include a loss of balance and coordination, convulsions and irritability. These can be mistaken for other ailments, allowing the issue to take hold before it’s discovered.
If your cat can’t get enough of tuna, they’re not alone. Drizzling tinned tuna juice over cat food to encourage them to eat is a happy medium.
Tuna should be fed to a cat sparingly. If your pet is partial to fish, treat them to the occasional piece of salmon too. This contains significantly less mercury than tuna.
Raw Meat, Fish or Eggs
Cats love and need meat and fish in their diet. However, this should always be cooked first. Cooked meat must be de-boned, lest your cat chokes on a soft and splintering bone.
Before this process takes place, however, raw meat contains harmful bacteria. Salmonella and e.coli are a very real risk that can arise from eating raw meat. Raw fish also attacks your cat’s natural levels of thiamine, which leaves them devoid of Vitamin B.
Raw eggs are harmful to cats. Cooked eggs are a great occasional treat for cats. Before heating, however, eggs are breeding grounds for bacteria.
Also, raw eggs contain a protein called avidin. Avidin, like thiamine, prevents a cat’s body from generating Vitamin B. This can be dangerous for your cat’s coat, and their neurological function. Thankfully, cooking an egg kills the avidin inside.
Many cat foods contain liver, because this organ boosts the production of Vitamin A. It’s best to leave the liver alone as a sole ingredient, though.
Feeding a whole animal liver to your cat can cause an excess of Vitamin A. It’s easy for your pet to get too much of a good thing. Vitamin A poisoning will have a dramatic impact on your cat’s bones.
Your cat’s joints will become extremely stiff, and may even start to grow in unnatural positions. This will be painful, and prevent your cat from eating and grooming. Eventually, your cat may even find their limbs fusing with their spine, causing paralysis.
Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic create a tough paradox in feline food. Small quantities of these foods are beneficial to your pet. They’ll boost the feline immune system, keeping contagious colds in cats at bay. We do mean small amounts, though. Feeding excessive onion or garlic is all too easy.
The upshot if doing so is that your cat will be a serious risk of anemia. Onion and garlic attack the red blood cells in your cat’s body. If your cat becomes anemic, they’ll have no energy, and become reluctant to eat. If the problem is left untreated for too long, a blood transfusion may be required.
If you are going to bring onions or garlic into your cat, do so very sparingly. That means tiny amounts and infrequently. Small quantities daily are just as dangerous as too much in one feeding. Also, your cat doesn’t need garlic or onions in their diet.
If you’re baking in your kitchen, your cat will likely come to investigate what is happening. After all, there will be a variety of sounds and smells emerging that they want to study. In doing so, you may be tempted to offer your cat a spoonful of dough. Don’t do it, though.
While dough is soft and squidgy in its natural form, it rises in the oven. It will do the same inside your pet’s stomach, too. This will cause abdominal swelling and pain.
Also, your recipe may include yeast. As yeast reacts with the dough and causes fermentation, alcohol is created inside your cat’s stomach.
Milk and Cheese
Cartoonists have implanted the visual of a cat lapping at milk into the public consciousness. Technically, they’re not wrong either. Cats do enjoy the taste of milk.
Unfortunately, milk does not like them in return. Most adult cats are lactose intolerant, and will suffer a stomach upset if they consume dairy.
Young cats can process milk, as they need it from their mothers to survive. As soon as a feline is weaned, however, they usually lose this ability. There’s an exception to every rule, of course.
Some cats remain the ability to break down lactose throughout their life. This is rare, though. The vast majority of cats will make a mess in their litter box, and suffer severe abdominal pain.
The presence of milk in cheese makes this appealing to cats, too. Your pet will likely watch you like a hawk while you’re tucking into cheddar. This is highly inadvisable as a regular part of a cat’s diet.
Tiny pieces (or a teaspoon of milk) as an occasional treat should be safe. Beyond this, however, your cat’s digestive tract is unlikely to accept dairy.
Caffeine and Alcohol
Changing tack slightly, the last lethal items on our list are primarily beverages. It must be made clear, however – both alcohol and caffeine are deadly to felines. This includes any food that contains alcohol, such as a white wine sauce.
Keep your alcohol far away from curious cats. They’re likely to lap at your glass when you’re not looking. Unfortunately, this can quickly become fatal. Just like alcohol intoxicates humans and damages our liver, it does the same to cats.
As our pets are so much smaller, however, the impact can be immediate. Three teaspoons of a high-proof spirit can kill a cat within hours.
Caffeine is no safer. This stimulant, again, has the same impact on cats that it does humans. It makes felines jittery, agitated and irritable.
It can also wreak havoc on a cat’s heart, potentially leading to cardiac arrest. Caffeine can be found in all kinds of unexpected sources, so be vigilant about checking ingredients.
My Cat Ate Potentially Harmful Human Food
If your cat has eaten any food in the list above, they need a vet. Make an urgent appointment, and take note of as much information as you can. What did your cat eat? How much did they eat? When did they eat it? How have they been acting ever since?
Your vet may recommend inducing vomiting in your cat, to purge the offending item. Only attempt this if advised, and if the food was consumed less than 30 minutes ago.
Follow the advice of your vet throughout this process. While hydrogen peroxide can be used to induce vomiting dogs, it’s unsafe in cats. You must also never poke anything down your cat’s throat.
When you arrive at a veterinary surgery, several tests will be run to assess the damage. Treatment will depend on what your cat ate, and the symptoms they are displaying.
Enforced vomiting, or a laxative to help flush the toxic food, are common. In some instances, your vet will use intravenous fluids to dilute the impact of the toxins. Activated charcoal will also bind the poisonous substance, preventing absorption into the body.
Signs That a Cat Ate Toxic Human Food
If your cat ate potentially harmful human food, they’d show various symptoms. These include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Lethargy, muscle weakness, and depression
- Refusing to eat anything further
- Pale or discolored gums
- Trouble breathing
- General nervous and hyperactive demeanor
- Excessive thirst, and urinating outside the litter box
- Muscle tremors
- Seizures and, in particularly dangerous cases, loss of consciousness
These symptoms are not restricted to cases of poisoning. However, whatever the reason for your cat displaying these indicators of sickness, it’s serious. You’ll need to get your cat treated.
I Didn’t Feed My Cat Human Food, But They’re Sick
Just because you didn’t feed your cat human food, it doesn’t mean they haven’t found it. Felines are natural scavengers, and stealthy by their very nature.
This means that a cat could eat food in your garbage, or even dig through your cupboards. Your cat will also see unfinished food left on a table as an invitation to eat.
Likewise, a pet that spends time outdoors may gain access to your garage. If your cat decides to sample antifreeze or paint, it will not end well.
Of course, it’s not just food that causes issues with poisoning, either. Numerous household chemicals, medications, and plants will result in a similar reaction. Wag Walking lists all potential cat-killers in your home. Ensure that all of these items are kept securely out of your pet’s reach.
Human food should be exactly that. Lots of research goes into preparing the perfect cat food, ensuring they receive all appropriate nutrition. Stick with a specialist feline food for your cat.
Your cat will beg for human food occasionally, and it’s up to you how you react. As long as the snack doesn’t feature on this list, it should be safe. Never assume, though, and always check.