With a full house of cats, it’s nearly impossible to go in my kitchen without being begged for a treat. I know that in large part, it’s my fault, but they’re adorable, and sweet, and I like being their favorite person. The cats roll on their back with their feet folded up like little bunnies, they reach up to tap my leg, they look up at me with big eyes and meow… basically, they’ve got me down to a T.
“Meow?! Oh, no! My kitty needs a cheese treat!” “Meow, meow? What’s that? You need tuna, baby?!”
My boyfriend shakes his head and tells me I’m spoiling them, but… I don’t listen. He’s just no match for their powers of persuasion. What can I say? They’ve got the fluff advantage. ;)
However, even the fluff advantage has its limits.
The fact is, as much as I like to make them happy, a cat’s dietary needs are very different from our own, and while my kitties may think they want a piece of whatever I happen to be eating, it’s not always a good idea. Though many of the foods we eat are safe and healthy for our feline friends, some can be upsetting to their system, some present choking hazards, and some may even be toxic to them.
So, before I move onto the fun treats you can give kitties, let’s go down the list of no-nos:
High Risk: Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeinated Foods or Drinks
Just as with dogs, care should be given to ensure cats do not have access to these foods. Toxicity symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rate, shaking, and in the worst cases, seizures or death. If you see any of these, please consult your vet!
High Risk: Alcohol
I feel like I really shouldn’t have to mention this, but since some people think it will be funny to try to get their cat or dog drunk, let me just say - it’s not. They are far smaller and much more sensitive to alcohol poisoning than we are. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning in cats include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, difficulty breathing, shaking, and in the worse cases, coma or death. If you suspect your cat is exhibiting these signs, please call your vet.
High Risk: Avocado
While avocados are wonderful for people, they are bad news for both cats and dogs. Eating avocado can cause vomiting and diarrhea in the short term, and may lead to fluid accumulation around the heart if they eat it regularly. It may even lead to death.
High Risk: Xylitol (Artificial Sweetener)
While you wouldn’t pick up a bag or box of xylitol at the store, you should suspect any candy, gum, or prepared sweet of containing the chemical and avoid giving any to your cat. This very common artificial sweetener first causes a boost in insulin and may eventually lead to liver failure.
High Risk: Grapes & Raisins
While your cat will probably be fine if it has a grape or two, regular consumption of grapes or raisins has been associated with kidney failure in cats. If your cat already has health issues you should be particularly careful to keep grapes where they can’t get them.
High Risk: Macadamia Nuts
Ingestion can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, shaking, and fever. Experts say these symptoms usually start within 12 hours of eating macadamia nuts and last for another 12 to 48. No fun.
In Moderation Only: Onions, Garlic, & Chives
Though small, occasional amounts are fine, large, or frequent amounts can cause red blood cell damage. Add these foods only sparingly to your cat's diet.
In Moderation Only: Yeast Dough
Uncooked yeast dough can rise and cause pain and even a rupture in your cat’s intestines. This risk diminishes once the dough is cooked however, making small amounts of yeast bread product safe to eat in moderation. Experts say baked yeast dough products should make up no more than 5 or 10% of your cat’s diet.
In Moderation Only: Liver
Though occasional treats of liver are perfectly fine, a diet heavy in liver can actually lead to vitamin A toxicity in your cat. This in turn, can cause bone deformity, osteoporosis and even death.
In Moderation Only: Milk
While cats may like milk, they do not have enough lactase (the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose) to digestive it well. Too much milk can lead to gas and diarrhea in cats. Cheese contains less lactose than pure milk, but should still only be given in small amounts, on occasion.
Of course, if you suspect your cat has eaten any toxic food, or is exhibiting symptoms such as an irregular heartbeat, shaking, frequent vomiting, confusion, or fever, call a vet immediately. The sooner you act, the better your cat’s chances of a healthy recovery.