Cats are not often regarded as a food-thieves. Unlike some animals, cats are believed to be safe alone with human food. However, cats are very curious animals and may eat something intended for human consumption.
Toxic foods for cats include grapes and raisins, caffeine or alcohol. Chocolate is dangerous too, as are avocado, oranges, and excessive tuna fish. Cats are frequently lactose intolerant and should not consume dairy products. Avoid raw meat and fish as these foods leave your cat at risk of bacterial poisoning.
It’s best to keep cats away from all human food. That can be achieved by never offering your cat such nourishment. Felines cannot miss what they have never experienced. If your cat likes eating human food, you need to know which ingredients are dangerous and should never be offered.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Can Cats Eat Human Food?
- 1.1 What Foods are Cats Not Allowed To Eat?
- 1.1.1 Dairy
- 1.1.2 Chocolate
- 1.1.3 Garlic and Onions
- 1.1.4 Grapes, Currants, And Raisins
- 1.1.5 Raw Meat
- 1.1.6 Raw Fish or Seafood
- 1.1.7 Raw Dough
- 1.1.8 Raw Eggs
- 1.1.9 Oranges
- 1.1.10 Liver
- 1.1.11 Tuna
- 1.1.12 Green or Unripe Tomatoes
- 1.1.13 Avocado (Guacamole)
- 1.1.14 Xylitol
- 1.1.15 Caffeine
- 1.1.16 Alcohol
- 1.1.17 Bones
- 1.2 How To Keep Cats Away from Human Food
- 1.1 What Foods are Cats Not Allowed To Eat?
Can Cats Eat Human Food?
Cats have a limited number of taste buds, despite having notably hairy tongues. This means that a cat is less likely to beg for people food.
This does not mean that cats are immune to the charms of human food, though. The scent of cooked meat or fish will often tempt a cat. What’s more, cats are natural imitators. Your cat may see you eating something as assume it should be do the same.
In addition, cats are territorial. A cat operates a simple philosophy; “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine too.” This can extend to food. Cats may steal human food, either from your plate of a communal area.
This can quickly become problematic. Cats have delicate stomachs, and many of our foods disagree with feline digestion. If your cat eats your food, it may become unwell – or worse. Some foodstuffs are undeniably more harmful than others.
What Foods are Cats Not Allowed To Eat?
In an ideal world, your cats will subsist exclusively on feline-specific meals and snacks. There is little to gain by letting your cat develop a taste for human food. It can happen, though.
Any food can be dangerous to cats. This is because cats can be prone to allergies. Learn the signs of an allergic reaction in cats. These include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Gas and flatulence
- Skin irritation (scratching, outbreaks of hives, red patches on skin)
- Coughing and sneezing
- Shortness of breath
If your cat has an allergy, it must obviously be kept away the trigger. Even if your cat is allergy-free, you must be mindful of its safety.
If your cat is prone to eating human food, you must know what is dangerous. Here are some foodstuffs that cats should be kept far away from. As you’ll see, some will cause stomach upset while others are outright toxic. Either way, all should be avoided.
Pop culture has provoked many unhelpful stereotypes about cats. Perhaps the most damaging is the visual of a cat drinking a bowl of milk. It’s true that many cats enjoy milk and cream due to the fat content. Unfortunately, the majority of cats are lactose intolerant.
This means that drinking milk, or eating cheese, will lead to gas and stomach upsets. As per the Australian Veterinary Journal, this is because the feline body cannot digest lactose. It remains in the digestive tract until purged through feces.
You may decide that diarrhea is a small price to pay for a tasty treat. Many cats feel the same way. Just be aware that every episode will cause your cat to use fluid from its body. This can lead to dehydration, which is perilous.
Chocolate is dangerous to felines. This is due to the presence of an alkaloid called theobromine. As per the Journal of Small Animal Practice, this alkaloid leads to heart failure in cats.
Theobromine is found in pure cacao. This means that the darker a chocolate is, the more lethal is to cats. Pure cooking chocolate, for example, could kill a cat in a matter of hours. White chocolate, while still dangerous, has a longer grace period.
Any chocolate consumption from a cat should be treated as an emergency. Do not take a wait and see approach. It can take a while for the symptoms of theobromine poisoning to become apparent.
Garlic and Onions
Many human foods include onion for flavor. Any form of onion, regardless of whether cooked, raw or granulated, is toxic to cats. As explained by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, this is because onions cause anemia in felines.
Anemia is a reduction of red blood cells in a cat’s body. This means that a cat will struggle to take in oxygen. An anemic cat will often struggle for breath, and frequently find itself lethargic and drowsy. It also reduces a cat’s immunity against other viruses.
One large portion of onion, or small daily doses, will have this impact. Garlic is even more likely to make a cat anemic. This food is 5 times stronger than onions. Both ingredients must be avoided at all costs.
Grapes, Currants, And Raisins
Nobody is quite sure why grapes and raisins are so harmful to felines. The fact is, though, these foods are deadly. They are connected to acute kidney failure in cats. If this is not the case, they can weaken kidneys and provoke disease later in life.
Theories as to why occurs are many and varied. Some experts believe it is the presence of tannins in grapes. Others claim that the exterior of the fruit contains toxins. Whatever the explanation, keep these fruits far away from cats. They can be lethal within hours.
Some owners choose to place their cats on a raw meat diet. This appeals to a cat’s instincts. As explained by Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, cats are obligate carnivores. Raw meat mimics a feline’s wild diet.
A raw diet is inadvisable, though. Raw meat is littered with potential health issues for cats. Bacteria is the biggest concern. A cat that eats raw meat is at elevated risk of salmonella or toxoplasmosis. Staphylococcus aureus, aka a staph infection, is also possible.
There is also the possibility that you are feeding your cat spoiled meat. Raw meat can go off quickly, especially in warm climates. This will lead to more than a stomach upset. It can quickly be fatally. This is without even considered the choking hazard presented by bones.
Cooking meat kills off stubborn bacteria. This means that a feline should always be offered heated meats. Better yet, stick to meat sources found in a cat’s wet food. This will provide your pet with everything it needs.
Raw Fish or Seafood
Many cats love fish. Your cat may even attempt to scoop fish from a tank for a snack. Protect against this, for the sake of your cat as much as the fish.
Raw fish contains thiaminase. This is an enzyme that destroys thiamine (vitamin B1) in a cat’s body. Vitamin B1 metabolizes carbohydrates in the feline body, making it critical for organ function. This includes the brain.
As per Experimental Brain Research, thiamine deficiency is linked to significant neurological issues in cats. Cats with this issue develop uncoordinated gait, loss of motor function, seizures and convulsions.
Raw fish also contains potential bacteria and you understand the problem. If a cat is to eat fish, it must be well-cooked and deboned.
If you have ever baked your own bread, you will notice that dough rises in heat. If a cat eats raw dough, it will continue to rise. Unfortunately, it will do so within the cat’s stomach. This leads to two major issues for the cat.
The first is the pain provoked by this. The dough will force a cat’s stomach to swell, placing pressure on the abdomen. It can also cause an intestinal blockage. This is a major concern that can prevent a cat from digesting food or eliminating.
In addition, as the yeast found in dough ferments, it releases alcohol. Alcohol is dangerous to cats. A feline that eats dough may experience internal alcohol poisoning. This can quickly become lethal.
As eggs fall under the category of dairy, many owners will avoid them by default. In reality, cooked eggs can be good for cats. Cooked scrambled eggs are a great source of lean protein. Just go easy on the butter.
Raw eggs, though, are a strict no-no in a feline diet. Your cat faces the same risks as raw meat. Raw eggs are hazards that could contain salmonella or E.coli. This will upset a cat’s stomach at best and kill it at worst.
Raw egg whites also contain avidin. This is an enzyme that prevents a cat’s body from acquiring biotin, aka vitamin B7. This vitamin is impact essential to keep a cat’s coat glossy. Raw eggs will leave your cat with dull, unkempt and greasy fur.
Most cats loathe the scent of citrus and will avoid fruits that fall into this category. It’s essential that you keep oranges away from cats. These fruits can cause damage to a cat in a number of ways.
The first is the high vitamin C content of oranges. This makes these fruits recommended to humans. Cats create all the vitamin C they need organically, though. An excess may lead to vitamin C poisoning. This causes bladder stones and urinary tract infections.
Vitamin C also makes oranges acidic. This will upset the balance of a cat’s delicate stomach. A cat that eats an orange will likely vomit profusely. The cat is also likely to experience diarrhea.
Orange peels are just as dangerous as the fruit itself. Orange peels contain essential oils, namely limonene and linalool. These will cause citrus poisoning in felines. This is not fatal, but it is unpleasant. The cat will experience an upset stomach and muscle weakness.
Liver – especially chicken liver – is good food for cats. It’s high in vitamin A, which boosts feline vision, enables a glossy coat, and strengthens muscles. Sadly, the excessive feeding of liver can lead to vitamin A poisoning.
As per the Canadian Veterinary Journal, Vitamin A toxicity will lead a cat developing hyperesthesia. This is an excessive sensitivity to light, sound or scent. This will make a cat skittish and nervous. Hyperesthesia can seriously impact a cat’s quality of life.
Perhaps more importantly, vitamin A poisoning impacts a cat’s bones. A cat will experience sore muscles, akin to early-onset arthritis. In extreme cases, a cat’s bones can even grow misshapen, causing permanent damage. As with all feline feeding, moderation is critical.
Tuna is a confusing subject for many cat owners. This tinned fish is a firm favorite of most felines. What’s more, many authorities recommend using tuna as a treat. It can tempt cats out of hiding, and the juice can encourage cats to drink.
Tuna is only dangerous in high quantities. Left to their own devices though, many cats would eat tuna morning, noon and night. This becomes problematic due to the presence of mercury, a heavy metal.
Albacore tuna, in particular, contains three times more tuna than traditional tinned tunas. This makes mercury poisoning much likelier. Bear this in mind when shopping. Look for a chunk-light tuna that is packed in water.
If you offer you cat tuna, do so in small, controlled servings. Do not allow a cat to consume an entire tin. As Veterinary and Human Toxicology explains, mercury poisoning can lead to glomerulonephropathy or nephrotic syndrome. These are both diseases of the kidneys.
Green or Unripe Tomatoes
Plump, ripe, red tomatoes are safe for cats to eat. In fact, they are healthy. This is why some commercial cat foods contain tomatoes. The important thing to note is ripeness, though. Green tomatoes are lethal to felines.
This is because immature tomatoes contain a compound called solanine. This means that green tomatoes are part of the same family as belladonna or deadly nightshade. These plants are famously dangerous.
A cat that consumes solanine and goes untreated will likely pass away within 36 hours. Never feed a cat unripe tomato. If you grow tomatoes in your yard, protect the plant from feline attention.
Few fruits have grown as popular as avocado in recent years. If you enjoy chopping this ingredient and eating it on toast, avoid sharing with a cat.
In small doses, avocado can be healthy for felines. Cats do not understand when to stop, though. If a cat develops a taste for avocado, it will hunt it down. Eaten to excess, avocado contains a toxin called persin.
Persin is not considered a significant danger for young, healthy cats. It is more toxic to birds and horses. All the same, there is no such thing as a ‘good’ toxin. Older cats, with weaker immunity, will struggle to process this ingredient.
Avocado is also high in fat. Eaten to excess, this can cause pancreatitis in cats. Avocado pits are also a hazard. Choking is an obvious and omnipresent danger.
Even if you do offer your cat small, supervised chunks of avocado, steer well clear of guacamole. Cats will likely enjoy lapping at this dip. The fat and persin contents are much higher in guacamole, though. In addition, the dip will contain onion and garlic for flavor.
The impact of the artificial sweetener xylitol on cats is subject to debate. While lethal to dogs, the Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics claims xylitol is not toxic to cats.
Despite this, xylitol remains inadvisable for feline consumption. Cats do not need xylitol. They cannot taste sweetness, so it is redundant as a flavor enhancement.
In addition, xylitol can play havoc with a cat’s insulin levels. Xylitol tricks the cat’s body into thinking it has consumed sugar. This will lead to enhanced release of insulin. This can, in turn, lead to feline hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
Hypoglycemia is dangerous, especially in senior cats. It has a significant impact on the liver. There is nothing to gain by offering a cat xylitol and plenty to lose. With this in mind, it should be considered a dangerous food.
Cats must be kept far away from caffeine. Guard your morning coffee carefully and do not allow a cat to drink soda. Equally, be sure to clean up any spillages immediately. Cats are sensitive to impact of caffeine, and small doses can lead to significant toxicity.
The biggest issue is theobromine, the same chemical that makes chocolate dangerous. As per the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, caffeine consumption can also cause stomach ulcers in cats.
Even beyond this, caffeine magnifies the impact it has on the human body in a cat. Felines experience immediate, severe spikes in heart rate and anxiety. This can be dangerous, especially for older cats.
Cats are likely be fascinated by alcohol. Your cat will observe you whenever you and company are enjoying a drink. What’s more, the cat will notice that human behavior changes when intoxicated. This will pique a cat’s curiosity.
Do not allow your cat to lap from your wine glass. Cats have small bodies, so it does not take much alcohol to lead to ethanol poisoning. This causes a depression of a cat’s nervous system which quickly becomes fatal.
Be mindful of desserts that include alcohol too, especially around the holidays. A cat may not be interested in beer. Cats cannot taste sweetness, so the flavor will not be engrossing. Cakes and puddings soaked in spirits contain fat, though. This will appeal to a feline palate.
Some cats also drink for the same reason as humans – to calm nerves. Psychosomatic Medicine explains how the depressive and sedative effects of alcohol can ease feline anxiety. There are much safer ways to achieve this, though.
The chewing of bones is more commonly associated with dogs. Many cats also enjoy chewing, though. Cats find the activity soothing, especially if prone to anxiety.
Avoid giving a cat bones to chew. There are numerous risks involved. The bones may contain shreds of raw meat that cause infection. Equally, a tough bone may break a cat’s teeth. A smaller, brittler bone may chip and become a choking hazard.
Instead of bones, provide your cat with feline-friendly chew toys. Make these more appealing to a cat’s tastebuds by dabbing a little gravy on them. Equally, try to learn why your cat is compelled to chew.
If this is an occasional activity, it’s harmless enough and natural. if your cat wants to chew constantly, it suggests a case of pica or chronic anxiety. This must be managed.
How To Keep Cats Away from Human Food
Understanding what foods are harmful to cats is only part of the equation. You will also need to protect your cat from itself. Felines can be curious and determined. You may need to undertake particular techniques to keep your cat away from harmful human foods.
Your first step is to ensure that anything potentially harmful is kept out a cat’s reach. Felines are curious animals and will likely investigate anything they encounter. Verboten items are particularly irresistible.
Cupboards can naturally help with this. Keep items like xylitol, alcohol and coffee behind firmly closed doors. While not a foodstuff, do the same with medications. As per the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, aspirin and ibuprofen are equally dangerous.
Your refrigerator will be just as important. Keep your garlic and onions chilled. Naturally, you’ll also need to keep your raw meet in the fridge too. This should keep our cat from enduring a misadventure. It will also avoid attracting flies to your home.
Grapes or oranges are a little more challenging. You may want to leave these in a fruit bowl. In this instance, cover the bowl when not in use. Do not assume that banning a cat from climbing onto a table will help. Cats can be determined and cannot be watched 24/7.
A key part of training to feeding your cat separately from yourself. You cat should eat its meal in a separate room, before you eat. This teaches the cat to differentiate between its own food and that of humans.
Time this carefully. Ideally, feed your cat around an hour before you eat. This way, the cat will have time to digest and acknowledge a full stomach. In such an event, the cat will likely groom itself and fall asleep. Ergo, it is less likely to show interest in your own food.
No Table Scraps
If you do decide to feed your cat as the same time as you eat, be strict about boundaries. Cats love routine, and quickly grow to expect certain actions to be repeated. This includes being fed scraps of food from the table.
If you offer a cat food while eating, it will expect to always share your meal. This can quickly grow problematic. Cats do not understand nuance. Try explaining to a cat that Tuesday’s dinner was pet-safe but Wednesday’s is not. You will not get far. The cat will just assume that you are being mean and holding out.
This can lead to a range of behavioral issues. The cat may grow aggressive and agitated at not being fed again. You cannot blame of punish the cat for this. As far as the cat is concerned, you are in the wrong.
The only way around this is to avoid setting a precedent of feeding table scraps. If the damage has been done, step up the separate feeding training. You must break your cat’s association with human mealtimes equaling additional food for felines.
Clean Up After Yourself
You’ll need to be vigilant about cleaning up after yourself. Never leave unfinished meals on the table after eating or place them on the side. All food waste should be moved to a secure trash can or recycling bin. Equally, wash dishes as quickly as you can.
Cats can be skilled scavengers when the mood takes them. If your cat wants the food you were eating, it will find a way to obtain it. It is likely the cat was watching you eat. It will have observed your patterns and knows when you’ll move away.
By leaving food scraps unprotected, the cat has a free reign to gorge itself. The cat will likely leap onto a kitchen table or work surface and begin eating. If acquires a sausage or a piece of bacon, it’s not the end of the world. If the cat eats anything untoward, it can grow unwell.
It is best to avoid taking chances with cats and human foods. If at all possible, stick exclusively to cat-specific meals and treats. If you must offer your cat human food, ensure it’s safe. Above all, act quickly if your cat somehow consumes something inappropriate.