It's only natural to want to treat your beloved feline companion to a snack now and then, but it's crucial to know that which foods can be harmful to your cats. Many common human foods can be toxic to our furry friends, so before you decide to share a nibble, it's essential to distinguish between what's safe and what's not for your cat.
Our cats are cherished members of our households, and we often feel inclined to include them in our daily routines, even when sharing meals. However, it's vital to exercise caution and knowledge when sharing your food with your cat, as certain foods can adversely affect their health. So, before you extend that invitation to share a snack, take the time to familiarize yourself with the list of foods that are hazardous to your cat and those that are perfectly safe for them to enjoy.
Which Human Foods Are Toxic to Cats?
The Clinical Nutrition Service emphasizes, "Certain human foods pose significant dangers and should never find their way into a cat's diet." While the ASPCA does provide a comprehensive list of human foods that should be off-limits for your feline friend, it's important to note that this list might not cover all potential hazards. Many food items lack comprehensive peer-reviewed studies to determine their level of toxicity for cats.
Here are some examples of foods from the ASPCA's compilation that are considered absolute no-gos when it comes to what your cat should avoid:
Alcohol: Consumables such as beverages and edibles containing alcohol can lead to severe issues in pets, including symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, unconsciousness, and even the tragic outcome of fatality.
Bread dough containing yeast: Homemade or store-bought bread dough that contains yeast poses a significant risk to your cat's well-being. When yeast dough is ingested, it has the potential to expand and generate gas within your cat's digestive system, resulting in stomach bloating and, in severe cases, torsion, which is a life-threatening condition. Additionally, yeast fermentation produces alcohol as a byproduct, further exacerbating the potential dangers mentioned earlier. It's important to note that fully-baked bread is generally considered safe for healthy cats.
Chocolate: Chocolate harbors compounds known as methylxanthines, namely theobromine and caffeine, which can be highly toxic to pets, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, and, in severe cases, even fatal outcomes. It's worth noting that the concentration of methylxanthines varies among different types of chocolate, with cocoa powder being the most hazardous and white chocolate posing the least risk.
Coffee: Coffee is another concern for pet owners due to its caffeine content, which contains the same methylxanthine compounds found in chocolate. Consequently, coffee can result in the same array of adverse effects listed previously, including vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and other serious health issues in pets.
Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits, including lemons, limes, oranges, clementines, and grapefruits, are a potential concern for cats due to their citric acid content and essential oils. Be cautious with all these fruits, including the stems, leaves, peels, fruit flesh, and seeds, as they pose risks to your feline companion. While small quantities of citrus may only result in minor stomach upset, more significant amounts can lead to more severe symptoms, like diarrhea, vomiting, and even central nervous system depression in cats.
Coconut flesh and coconut water: Fresh coconut flesh and coconut water should be cautiously approached regarding pets. While small quantities of these coconut products are unlikely to result in severe harm, they can still potentially cause digestive problems in animals. Notably, coconut water is high in potassium, making it unsafe for pets to consume. However, coconut oil may prove beneficial for addressing specific skin issues in cats. It's essential to consult with your veterinarian before considering coconut oil as a holistic remedy or incorporating it into your cat's dietary regimen.
Dairy: Dairy products, like cheese, milk, and yogurt, should be cautiously approached when feeding your cat. This is because many cats are lactose intolerant and struggle to process dairy effectively, leading to digestive problems. To ensure your cat's well-being, it is generally safest to avoid giving them any dairy products. However, consider offering your cat a treat. In that case, it's a good idea to consult your veterinarian about whether a lactose-free alternative would be an acceptable and more digestible option.
Grapes and raisins: Grapes and raisins pose a mysterious yet significant threat to pets, including cats and dogs. Despite not fully understanding the exact reason behind their toxicity, there is evidence to suggest that the consumption of raisins and grapes can potentially result in kidney failure in these animals.
Nuts: Nuts, particularly macadamia nuts, should be kept out of reach of pets due to their toxic nature. Like grapes, the precise mechanism of toxicity in macadamia nuts remains a mystery. On the other hand, various other nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, are abundant in oils and fats that have the potential to trigger digestive disturbances in cats. In some cases, consumption of these high-fat nuts could even lead to pancreatitis, making it crucial to avoid exposing your feline friend to such risks.
Raw eggs: Feeding your cat raw eggs carries potential risks that should not be overlooked. Raw eggs can potentially be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria, resulting in infections characterized by symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and fever in cats. Furthermore, raw eggs contain avidin, an enzyme that interferes with a cat's ability to absorb biotin, a crucial vitamin essential for maintaining healthy skin and fur. As a result, it's advisable to avoid offering your cat raw eggs to protect their well-being and health.
Raw or undercooked meat: Just like raw eggs, serving your cat raw or undercooked meat should be cautiously approached—raw or undercooked meat risks being tainted with harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli. The Clinical Nutrition Service has observed that pets consuming raw meat-based diets often exhibit gastrointestinal symptoms, commonly diarrhea, due to such bacterial contamination. To ensure your cat's safety and well-being, it's advisable to avoid feeding them raw or undercooked meat.
Raw fish: Raw fish, much like eggs and raw meat, can be a source of concern for pet owners due to its potential to harbor harmful bacteria that can lead to cat food poisoning.
Salt: Excessive salt intake, whether from salt itself or salty foods, can have severe repercussions for pets. In substantial quantities, salt can induce symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and, in severe cases, even result in fatality.
Some vegetables and herbs: While cats can consume certain vegetables, it's crucial to be aware of those that can harm them. Onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, shallots, and chives are among the vegetables and herbs that can pose significant dangers to cats. These ingredients can cause gastrointestinal issues and, in more severe cases, damage red blood cells. Therefore, it's important to steer clear of foods that contain these harmful vegetables and herbs, including dishes like garlic bread, to safeguard your cat's health and well-being.
Xylitol: Xylitol is a prevalent sweetener in various packaged products such as chewing gum and candy. However, it can be particularly dangerous for pets, potentially causing symptoms like vomiting, lethargy, and even liver failure when ingested.
What Should You Do if Your Cat Eats Something Toxic?
If you are aware or suspect that your cat has consumed a food item from the list of toxic substances, it is imperative to take swift action. Contact your veterinarian or contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 without delay. Waiting until your cat exhibits signs of illness is unnecessary; seeking help immediately is crucial. The earlier you address potential issues or concerns, the better the chances of a positive outcome for your pet.
Fortunately, according to the Clinical Nutrition Service, cases of food-related toxicosis in cats are relatively rare. It is typically more concerned with dogs, as they tend to be more adventurous and less discriminating in their food choices. As your cat may be cautious about trying new foods, you must discern what you offer them. Before altering your cat's diet, consult your veterinarian to determine which ingredients are safe and the appropriate amounts for your cat to consume. Remember, no question or concern, no matter how small, is unworthy of discussing your pet's well-being.