Sharing food with your cat may seem like a kind and thoughtful gesture, but there are specific human foods that cats should never eat. Giving a cat food from your plate can make them seriously ill. Cats are unable to digest the complex ingredients.
Learning to say “No!” to a cat can be a difficult task for even the most responsible owner. While you never want to deny your cat anything, you also never want to put them in harm’s way. Catering for your cat while also setting the right ground rules can be a tough balancing act.
In this guide, we will examine the special dietary needs of felines. We’ll then look closely at some of the most dangerous foods for cats and why they must be avoided at all costs. So, let’s get started.
Understanding Your Cat’s Desire to Eat Human Food
Natural curiosity means that cats are incredibly interested in the content of your plate. Because cats are carnivores, they crave all types of meat. If they suspect that you are eating meat or simply something that they haven’t tried, they will naturally become more curious.
If you have had your cat for many years, they will also recognize your habits. If you sit at a table to eat at the same time each day, as most people do, your cat will associate this with dinnertime. It is common for your cat to sit and stare while you are eating.
Your cat’s desire for your food is because you have something they don’t. That alone will attract their attention. As the old saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side! Most of us naturally desire the things that others have.
Many cats see human food as being better than their own food. That is why it is often a struggle to break cats away from your own food if you start feeding it to them on a routine basis.
Points of note…
- Human food (especially meat) is more savory than cat food. Because cats cannot eat certain foods (and flavorings), their diet is naturally limited. It often looks and smells better, which is intriguing to your cat. This intrigue only grows with time.
- As a sign of trust and affection, some cats to want to feel more involved in your life. While wanting food is certainly part of the plan, your cat may also just want to be included in the action. If you have had a cat for 10+ years, you may see this behavior regularly.
Why Is Your Cat Eating Human Food?
Unless your cat is jumping on tables, kitchen countertops or roaming through the garbage, you are consciously feeding your cat.
Although sneaky, most cats that consume human food on a regular basis are being fed by a person (usually the owner). They may be receiving a food from a plate, or they are having bits of human food thrown to them (or added to their own food).
Either make food more difficult for your cat to reach or learn how to refuse them food from your plate. Instead, make a greater effort to showcase their food. Making your cat’s food seem more special can help to break bad eating habits for felines.
Are you Feeding Your Cat Table Scraps?
While feeding your cat little pieces of meat from your plate will ‘likely’ not harm your cat in the short-term, the habit that it creates can become a huge problem. Just a little bit of this and that can introduce subtle dietary and behavioral changes in your cat.
Although your cat may meow and whimper at the meal table, it is crucial to ignore their emotional blackmail. Think ahead rather than living in the moment. Don’t introduce is bad habits out of charity. The key to keeping your cat healthy is learning how to say no!
Has Your Cat Developed a Habit of Asking for Food?
If your cat has developed a habit of asking for food, it is probably due to previous feedings and new expectations. If you have fed your cat from the table, this will only increase your cat’s demands in the future. Your cat has made a connection with your meal time.
If a habit has been formed, there are ways you can attempt to break the connection…
- Master the art of refusal. Although this will be difficult for you and your cat, it is unhealthy for your cat to eat table scraps and equally harmful for them to expect human food. This chain of thought needs to be broken.
- As a means to compromise, consider putting your cat’s favorite meaty cat food in close proximity to the dinner table. Allow them to “join you” for dinner, yet they consume their own food. This will allow the proximity and mealtime association to continue.
- Have your meals in different locations. If your cat associates specific actions with food, then it may be wise to make modifications.
- Keep your cat outdoors or in a guarded part of the house during meals. It is impossible to go wrong if they are not around.
Why Do Cats Have Special Dietary Needs?
Because cats are obligate carnivores, they depend on many nutrients that are only found in animal products. This fact alone limits the food pool dramatically when responsibly selecting what a cat can and cannot eat.
According to the ASPCA, Cats require foods that are rich in protein, moderate in fat, and low in carbohydrates. They also need plenty of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids.
Although felines need specific items in their daily diet, consistency is the most critical aspect. Giving them too much of a good thing can be bad. Steady and consistent is the key.
Cats also require fresh water. Contrary to popular belief most cats are lactose intolerant therefore milk is an enemy. Your feline needs fresh and clean drinking water throughout the day.
Because cats need specifics, it is easy to understand why introducing an assortment of human foods can be the wrong move. Cats are not used to excessive chemicals, sugars, spices, etc. This is why you should always keep it simple when it comes to feeding your cat.
Dangerous Human Foods That Your Cat Should Never Eat
Some foods are more harmful than others. Routine consumption of the more risky foods can lead to sickness and health complications.
Because cats’ digestive systems are not equipped to consume many of our most common foods, the reaction can be toxic. When it comes to dangerous foods, there is no such thing as a safe amount. They can all pose a risk to your cat.
Small amounts of tuna juice and tuna that is mixed into a cat’s natural food are okay. However, tuna that is strictly sold (or prepared at home) for human consumption should be off-limits. Often packed with a mixture of harmful ingredients such as pickles and mayonnaise, this type of tuna should be avoided.
The possible side effects of tuna for cats include…
- Digestive problems
- Stomach inflammation
- Steatitis (inflammation of fatty tissue under the skin)
Onions, consumed in moderate quantity, can create severe digestive issues or lead to anemia. The same is true of garlic.
While small amounts of onion can be safe when in a sauce or mixed in a cat’s natural food, eating a clove of onion or garlic can upset your cat’s stomach.
- Some cat owners feed their kittens baby food. Many portions of meat for human consumption are seasoned with a hint of onion or garlic. Steer clear of these selections. While safe for an adult cat, a kitten does not have the right immune and digestive health.
An image of a cat drinking milk is likely as old as time. However, milk can be harmful to your cat. Because most cats are lactose intolerant, milk can have the same adverse effect as it does to a human with this condition.
Dairy products can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Don’t make a habit of providing milk to your cat as an alternative to water. Drinking and enjoying dairy produce does not make it safe.
Caffeine is found in a wide variety of foods and drinks, but it should be avoided.
It poses a significant health risk because it causes restlessness, increased breathing, heart palpitations, and muscle tremors.
What is mild to a person can be highly toxic to a cat.
The consumption of chocolate can be fatal as it causes theobromine or chocolate poisoning.
Born from the roasted seeds of the cacao plant, the makeup of chocolate is poisonous for cats. Packed with high amounts of caffeine and theobromine, which is a xanthine alkaloid, you should never feed your cat chocolate under any circumstance.
Some of the notable symptoms include…
- Twitching (fast reflex response)
- Muscle stiffness
- Increased heart rate
- Increased breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Heart failure
Many of these symptoms will depend on the type of chocolate that is consumed and the amount. Make an effort to keep your cat calm and relaxed. The more “wired” they become, the faster the poisoning will take hold.
If you see your cat consume chocolate, the best course of action is to induce vomiting. This will prevent harmful chemicals from being digested. Ensure that your cat drinks lots of fresh water to stay hydrated.
When dealing with a toxicity of this level, it is critical that you take your cat to the vet immediately. Attempting to wait it out could be fatal.
6] Raw Eggs
Giving your cat raw eggs could introduce harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli.
Additionally, raw eggs can affect the absorption of a critical B vitamin known as biotin. This interference can lead to skin issues as well as harm your cat’s coat. This can lead to increased scratching, scab, and hair loss.
7] Raw Meat
Raw meat can introduce bacteria that can poison your cat.
There has long existed a wives’ tale that suggests that animals can eat just about anything without incident. That is certainly far from the truth. Presenting your feline with raw meat (or raw fish) as a treat or reward is irresponsible and dangerous.
If you wish to give protein-rich meat to your cat, be sure to cook it first.
- Time Magazine, noting a study published by Vet Record (British Veterinary Association), concluded that an analysis of 35 raw cat and dog foods found that 86% of the products contained dangerous levels of bacteria.
8] Too Many Cat Treats
Cats crave treats because they are delicious. The only problem is that they are delicious in the same way that a piece of chocolate cake would be considered delicious by a person. This is way too many treats can slowly lead to health concerns for cats.
Feeding your cat too much can lead to obesity and diabetes. This is especially concerning for senior cats with preexisting conditions.
Use treats as a reward rather than just a quick fix to feed your cat. You will also save money if you implement this strategy.
9] Grapes and Raisins
Cat owners often use grapes or raisins as replacements for standard cat treats. Although creative, these selections are inadvisable.
Medical science has yet to define the reasons why grapes and raisins can lead to kidney failure. Just a small amount can cause cats to become ill.
- Grapes and raisins are small and can easily fall on the floor. Make it a priority to scan your kitchen countertops and floor to make sure there are no random grapes and raisins that can be scooped up by your curious cat.
10] Fat Trimmings and Bones
Allowing your cat to eat meat from a bone can be dangerous for several reasons. Although the meat itself may be safe, the fat on a meat bone can cause digestive issues. This can lead to an upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting.
The second point of concern is the bone itself. Small pieces of bone can splinter away from the core and be consumed with meat and fat. This can cut the inside of your cat’s mouth and damage your cat’s digestive system. Depending on the size of the bone, there is always the potential for a choking hazard.
While larger dogs can often handle eating a meat bone, cats are not equipped for the task under any circumstance.
What are the Symptoms of Toxic Food Consumption?
The most common symptoms of toxic food consumption are diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, and unwellness. In severe cases, your feline may exhibit strong behavioral changes and display difficult breathing.
As soon as you notice changes in your cat and suspect that they have consumed a dangerous food, you should contact your vet. Not all toxic food consumption comes from you feeding them.
Some cats can become so curious they sneak into the pantry and get food own their own food.
What is the Best Feeding Method for Your Cat?
Prepare your cat’s food right before mealtime rather than having random food sitting out during the day.
When there is nothing for your cat to look forward to or be excited about, attempting to eat your food becomes the new adventure. Your objective should be to make your cat appreciate its food, and mealtime should be a unique and special part of the day.
In the same way that you prepare a meal that is fresh and savory, your cat should also find that same joy. Food that has been laying out for hours (that your cat has walked by 20 times) does not introduce much reason for excitement.
Suspense mixed with the proper presentation can go a long way.
The Importance of Protein
Cats need savory digestible meats that are filled with protein.
Unlike humans, having a vastly diverse diet will do them no favors. Consistency in protein is vital. This is yet another reason why human food is unsuitable even if the food happens to be safe.
- Cats require more protein than dogs.
Although protein is a priority in any feline meal plan, cats do need other nutrients. Finding a consistent balance is the key. Minerals, vitamins, carbs, and fats are all essential, too.
Consult your vet if you want to know how much daily protein your cat needs. Protein requirements often vary with age.
- Too much protein can be harmful. Cats who suffer from kidney disease should have their protein intake closely monitored.
When Should You Feed Your Cat?
The age and health of your cat are crucial when determining when and how much you should feed him or her.
According to Francis Kallfelz, DVM, Ph.D., who is a board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and James Law professor of nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, kittens need more food per pound of body weight compared to adult cats. Kittens that are less than 200 days old may require 3 or 4 meals per day. This is to facilitate their growth and development.
Once your feline reaches the adult stage (1+ years) cats can have two main meals per day, not counting reward snacks. Senior cats, unless unwell, can maintain this same meal plan. The life of a senior cat officially begins at age 11.
Points of note…
- If your cat is diabetic, then you should schedule meals around its insulin needs. Your vet can help you establish a plan if this health issue relates to your situation.
- Cats with hyperthyroidism often have the urge to eat. You should feed your cat normally if the condition is under control.
- While canned wet food is the best option, your cat may be forced into this routine if gum and teeth issues become an issue. It is common for senior cats to suffer pain when attempting to crunch through dry selections. Wet food is much easier to tolerate.
- To keep your cat from eating your food, you may wish to share meal times. If your breakfast and dinner (for example) are shared together, your cat will be less inclined to beg for your food. If your cat has been stealing food from your plate and is obsessed with human food, this could be a way to break the habit.
Other than refusing your cat food from the table, one of the best things you can do is to create mealtime enjoyment.
If you can create a sense of interest and excitement for your cat about their own food they will be less likely to want yours and be less curious about other foods. It is due to this curiosity that illness and other complications can arise.
Unfortunately, the old saying, “curiosity killed the cat” was born for a reason!
Cats, like any other animals, develop habits. Teasing and tempting a cat with your food from an early age can lead to bad habits. If they associate your mealtime with the promise of food (based on past experiences), then the cycle becomes harder to break.
It all comes down to tough love, discipline, and developing a new plan. If you can introduce your cat’s food in a new and exciting way, they will slowly develop positive habits that do not involve the contents of your plate.