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What Kinds of People Foods Are Safe for Cats?

Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on October 2, 2018
Posted in Food & Recipes

Although dogs are typically known for being the pets begging for table scraps when your family sits down to a meal, cats can also be expert beggars, eager to try human food. As cat owners, we love to spoil our feline friends, so we may decide to slip them a little treat now and then.

Giving your cat a taste of “people food” can be great, sometimes—both due to taste and to nutritional value—but other times, it can be extremely harmful. Cats have a hard time digesting certain foods, and some foods that are safe for us to eat actually contain toxins that can cause serious health problems in cats.

Before you decide to give your cat a bite off your plate, make sure you know which foods are safe and which ones are absolutely not.

Foods you can share with your cat

There are lots of foods your cat and you can enjoy together. Of course, always ask your vet for their recommendation before adding a food source to your cat’s daily nutrition.

Cats are meat-eaters by nature and actually require meat to maintain a healthy heart and reproductive system. Most cooked proteins are safe to share, but you should always trim off excess fat, because it can cause digestive problems. Feel free to give your cat pieces of cooked chicken, beef, lean deli meats like ham and turkey and cooked eggs.

Additionally, fish like salmon and tuna are okay in small quantities, but you should limit your cat’s intake, even if they’re super eager to have more. Raw fish should never be given to cats. If you don’t feel comfortable giving your cat fish, you can give them doses of fish oil, instead.

Veggies are okay in small quantities, if your cat will even touch them. Vegetables are actually good for your cat. They can aid in digestion because they have high fiber and water contents, and they also contain a lot of nutrients. See if your cat will try bites of peas, cucumber, cooked or steamed carrots, green beans, squash or broccoli.

Feeding your cat grains is usually okay, but you don’t want to go overboard here, simply because they are high in carbohydrates and can make your cat overweight if they snack too much. Stick to whole-grain varieties for the best digestive response, and opt for cooked corn, bread, oatmeal and rice as snacks.

Cats can’t taste sweet flavors, so many won’t like fruits, but if they are interested, there are a few you can let them try. Bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe and blueberries are great options and contain lots of antioxidants. Apples without peels and seeds are also safe for cats.

Dairy is tricky when it comes to cats. Baby kittens will often enjoy milk, but older cats can become lactose intolerant and will have strong digestive responses to dairy products, so it’s best to avoid them when possible. If you want to give your cat dairy products, stick to hard cheeses like cheddar and plain yogurt.

Foods your cat should never eat

Although the list of foods your cat can share with you is long, there is also a long list of foods your cat should never eat. Steer clear of these items if you’re interested in sharing human treats.

  • Onions and onion-family vegetables: Onions and related veggies like shallots, chives and garlic contain thiosulphate, which can lead to a destruction of your cat’s red blood cells and anemia.
  • Alcohol and caffeine: Even the smallest amounts of alcohol or caffeine can cause mild symptoms like diarrhea, more serious problems like seizures or even lead to a coma or death.
  • Nuts: Most nuts have high fat content which can cause stomach problems in cats. Macadamia nuts are poisonous to cats and should always be avoided.
  • Chocolate: The compound theobromine in chocolate can be toxic to cats and may cause heart problems or death. Stay away from dark chocolate, in particular.
  • Grapes: The reason for their toxicity is not well understood, but grapes and raisins may cause kidney failure in cats.
  • Candy: Excess sugar is not good for cats and can lead to obesity. Additionally, sweeteners such as xylitol are in many candies and are toxic to cats.
  • Raw food: Raw meat or eggs can be harmful because they may carry bacteria that cause major illnesses. They may also carry parasites that affect your cat’s health.

What to do if your cat ate something it shouldn’t have

Watching your cat 24/7 is unrealistic, and there may be times when your cat gets sneaky and steals a bite of food from your plate. If you notice your cat has eaten something toxic, remove the cat from the area with food to ensure it doesn’t eat anything else.

Although you may be tempted to, do not try to make your cat throw up or make it drink a lot of water to stop the toxic food from having an effect. Call your emergency veterinarian right away to get their advice. You may need to bring your cat into the vet to receive fluids, induce vomiting or have it eat activated charcoal to act as a toxic food absorber.

Delaying to take action when your cat eats the wrong kind of foods can mean the difference between life and death, so you should always be on high alert and make sure your cat is eating foods that are safe.

Read also: What’s the Deal with Cat Pheromones? What are They Used for and How do They Work?

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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