Human Food Toxic to Cats [A Real Conversation]

Our cat begs for food every time we eat.  We do let her grab a nibble every now and then.

Is this ok?

Are we terrible people slowly poisoning our cat?

Today we are going to talk about foods that are not the best choice for your cat.

We know our title is Human Food Toxic to Cats. 

But “Foods you shouldn’t feed your cat but some might be ok some of the time as long as you don’t over do it” didn’t have the same ring to it.

We will try our best not to overhype any one food.  As always, our goal is to give you practical information you can use.

We will also try to remain consistent as best we can. 

It is frustrating to open an article titled Top Foods Your Cat Should Never Eat! and see tuna as number one.  Then the article tells you “cats can have a little tuna.”

Let’s set some standards.

Food cats can’t eat means they cannot eat it at all.  Period.

Food cats should avoid means it won’t cause immediate harm.  They can cause harm over the long term.

I can’t drink gasoline.

I shouldn’t eat an entire box of donuts.

One will kill me. 

The other will make me sick and, if done everyday, causes health problems.

Feel me?  Great!

So read on for solid info backed by some of our personal experiences.

What foods can cats not eat?  What foods should cats avoid?

Onions, Garlic and Chives

The damage: gastrointestinal irritation, damage to red blood cells, anemia

Cats are more susceptible to these plants than dogs.  Even a little onion or garlic can damage your cat’s health.

Are you are thinking about feeding your cat table scraps?  Consider if you put onion or garlic on that steak or piece of chicken. 

This is something we always check before giving Maya a bite of our steak.

Human Medicine

The damage: depends on the medicine, up to and including death

For the love of all that is right and good in the world, do not feed your cat human medicine!

Unless told directly by your vet, of course.

But seriously, don’t give your cat human medicine.  They are smaller.  They are not human.

I feel this warning should be right alongside “Do not feed your cat battery acid”.  But I guess that isn’t fair.

People have questions.  People also have accidents, as do cats.

If your cat accidentally gets into your medicine cabinet and eats some pills, even just one, this warrants an immediate call to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at a minimum. 

Their number is 1 (888) 426-4435.  A fee may apply when you call.

Following the call, a trip to a 24 hour vet clinic will most likely be necessary.

Raw Meat, Raw Chicken, Raw Fish

The damage: Salmonella, E. coli, among other bacteria and parasites

For the same reason you shouldn’t be eating raw meat, neither should your pet.  Cooking kills harmful bacteria that can otherwise cause harm to your cat.

Raw Eggs

The damage: skin and coat problems due to decrease in biotin levels

We separated this from raw meat because we know some people eat raw eggs.  Not our cup of tea, but it’s a free world. 

Also, raw eggs affect a cat differently than raw meat.

Raw eggs contain a protein called avidin.  This protein binds to biotin.  If the protein binds to the biotin, your pet can’t absorb it. This can lead to skin and coat issues.

And a side note: This goes the same for humans.  So if you are one of those people that eat raw eggs, you are missing out on some biotin.

Bones

The damage: choking, punctured digestive tract

Don’t give your pets bones to chew on.  This goes for cats, dogs, fish, chinchillas or your younger sibling.

Bones can splinter.  These splinters can cause cuts and punctures as it passes thru your pet.

Nowadays there are so many options out there for chew toys, even for your siblings.  Use one of these safer options.

Fat trimmings

The damage: vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis

So, fat isn’t good for anyone that isn’t on a paleo or keto diet.  Excessive fat consumption can cause diarrhea and vomiting in cats. 

You will also find pancreatitis listed.  This is because of a link between obesity and pancreatitis in humans.  This does not refer to an animal eating a table scrap of fat once and then getting pancreatitis.

If your cat eats a small piece of fat, don’t immediately fly into panic mode.  Watch your cat for any unusual behavior. 

And don’t make a habit of feeding fat trimmings to your cat.

Chocolate

The damage: vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, death

Chocolates contain methylxanthines, which can kill cats.  Do not feed your cat chocolate.  If they accidentally get into a large amount of chocolate you might be taking a trip to the pet emergency room.

If you are unsure, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

Chocolate in order from most deadly to least (but still) deadly to your cat:

  • Baking Chocolate (most deadly)
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Milk Chocolate
  • White Chocolate

Coffee and Caffeinated drinks

The damage: vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, death

You are probably thinking that coffee has caffeine in it, and caffeine is bad for cats.  And you are correct in this.  Caffeine does to cats the same thing it does to humans, but more severe.

But there is another interesting fact. Caffeine is a methylxanthine, the same chemical found in chocolate that causes problems.  So everything we’ve said about chocolate is just as true for caffeine.

Not a fun time for kitty.

Grapes and Raisins

The damage: kidney failure

Grapes and raisins seem like a great treat for cats. Nature’s candy, right?

Unfortunately, these can cause kidney failure in cats.  The worst part?  Scientists aren’t even sure why!

We have seen dogs and cats eat a single grape.  It did not appear to cause any immediate side effects.  But don’t intentionally feed them to your cat.  There can be disastrous outcomes.

Alcohol

The damage: vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma, death

Animals consuming alcohol is no laughing matter.  Most cats have a very small body weight.  It takes very little to have serious side effects.

This is one of those situations where you should immediately call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and then follow their instructions.

Xylitol

The damage: increased insulin levels, lowered sugar levels, vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination, seizures, liver failure

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is found in many products including candy, toothpaste, and chewing gum.  It can cause insulin release in your cat, causing all sorts of issues. 

If you suspect your cat consumed enough of Xylitol to cause a problem, call your vet and follow their instructions.

Green Tomatoes and Potatoes

The damage: vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness

Unripe tomatoes and raw potatoes contain the glycoalkaloid solanine, a powerful poison.  In large amounts it is equally deadly to humans. 

Luckily uncooked, unripened potatoes are not something I eat on a regular basis.

If you see tomatoes listed as an ingredient in your cat’s food you shouldn’t be overly concerned.  Ripened tomatoes in small amounts should not pose a problem.

Avocado

The damage: vomiting, diarrhea

Avocados contain the toxin persin.  Most humans are not affected by it.  Animals have varying reactions.

Keep this in mind when you have a bowl of guacamole out for your guests.  Do not let your cat sneak a little off of a spoon or fork.

Why do you have to have guests over to eat guacamole?  Who made up that rule?  I’ll eat it all by myself thank you very much.  More for me.

Milk and Dairy Products

The damage: diarrhea and upset stomach

Contrary to cartoons… actually, nevermind.  The cartoons have it right.  Cats love milk.

However, cats are a bit lactose intolerant.  Although they like it, it will cause your pet discomfort afterwards.  This is especially true if they are consuming large quantities.

So if you are giving your cats milk “because they like it”, also know that you are probably giving your cat a belly ache afterwards.

Coconut and Coconut Oil

The damage: upset stomach, loose stools, diarrhea

Not the worst item on our list for sure.  I have seen vets use coconut oil to loosen matted hair when brushing.

The key here is quantity.  A lot of coconut oil can cause some stomach issues for your kitty.

However, coconut water contains high amounts of potassium.  Refrain from coconut water completely.

Nuts

The damage: vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis

Walnuts, almonds, pecans, and other nuts have high amounts of oils and fats in them.  For this reason, they cause the same problems that fat trimmings would cause.

I couldn’t imagine my cat trying to eat a nut anyway.  Have you ever seen a cat eat a nut?

Raw Dough (Yeast)

The damage: stomach discomfort, bloat, twisting of the stomach, death, alcohol poisoning (see Alcohol)

Yeast causes bread to rise.  This same yeast can rise and create gas in your cat’s stomach. 

In the least, your cat will be very uncomfortable.

At worst, this leads to bloat and a possibility of your cat’s stomach twisting over itself.  This will cause death if untreated.

Another issue is the ethanol alcohol that the yeast produces as a byproduct.  This leads back up to our section on alcohol.

Dog Food

The damage: possible malnutrition

Don’t freak out if your cat ate some dog food.  This ends up on these types of lists because you shouldn’t ALWAYS feed your cat dog food.  You should feed your cat cat food.

Cause… they’re a cat…

Make sure they are getting the nutrition they need.  Feed them proper portions of high quality cat food.

Tuna

The damage: possible malnutrition

I will never feed my cats tuna.  Why?  Because it completely grosses me out.  Just the smell and ::bleh!::

But for those of you not turned off by that disgusting fish, sharing a little tuna with your cat is not a bad thing.  But don’t ONLY feed them tuna.  Your cat needs a balanced diet the same way you need a balnaced diet.

I seriously don’t know how people eat that stuff.  ::bleh!!::

Cat Treats

The damage: possible malnutrition

No, cat treats are not bad for your cat.  And no, we aren’t trying to throw out some clickbait type topic.

I mean, who searches for “are cat treats bad for cats?”

Actually, when you say it out loud it’s not the craziest sounding search.

Cat treats are exactly that, treats.  They should not be your cat’s main source of nutrition.

Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Preventing your kitty from eating food toxic to cats is way better than treating a poisoning. It is also much more comfortable for your cat.  Here are some easy steps you can do to keep your cat’s hand out of the cookie jar.

We’ve found some are easier to implement than others. The extent of your efforts need to align with your cat’s persistence.

Lock up your food

Storing your cat’s food away from them sounds easy enough. Our cat does not jump on counters and cannot open doors. We never had an issue with this. But if your cat can crack a safe blindfolded you might have to install cat proof locks on cabinets and doors.

We’ve helped others lock their food up. We’ve found small bungee cords work well in a pinch as a low cost option.

Don’t let your cat on counter tops

Maya used to jump on counters, but she broke her habit rather quickly. Mostly it was her not liking the slick surface she had to use as a landing pad.

Teaching your cat not to jump on counters requires persistence. It also requires cleverness. If you are the main obstacle between the counter and your cat, rest assured they will go up on the counter once you leave the room. Cats are smart like that.

We find it easier to not leave anything on the counter in the first place. After awhile your cat might not return to a “boring” counter.

Do not feed your cat table scraps

This is a HARD one for us!  Maya actually begs for food while we are eating.  And how can you not give that cute face a little bite of your delicious steak?

Let us say that being safe means you should never give your cat table scraps.

Now that we’ve said that, we’ll admit we don’t follow it.

However, be mindful of what you are feeding your cat. Yes, it is a cooked steak and is not a bad option as an occasional treat.

But did you cook that steak with garlic, onions, or chives?  Did you use alcohol in your recipe?  What about salt and fat content?

Keep these in mind when feeding your pet.  The main part might be ok, but the lesser ingredients can be deadly.

Be extra mindful around holidays

Do you do extra cooking or have extra guests around the holidays?  It can be easy to lose track of the precautions you created as the stress levels rise.

Be mindful and do your best to guard the cooking space.  Also give your guests a heads up.  It doesn’t need to be a formal powerpoint presentation.  A simple, “Did you know garlic is deadly to cats?” will be fine.

Or send them a link to our website. Caring is sharing!

What to do if your pet has been poisoned

You’ll hear “take your cat to the vet immediately if you suspect your cat has eaten one of these foods.”  Sounds great… in a perfect world.

Imagine this: your family from out of town is visiting for the holiday. At 10 PM, you notice a piece of cheese is missing.  You suspect it was your cat.  You immediately end the party and bring your cat to your vet.  He loves house calls on holiday.

If this sounds like you, you’re a better person than I am.

Here are some real steps you can follow if you think your pet has eaten toxic food:

  1. Assess the situation based on your past experiences with that specific animal.
    • Assume every animal has a unique reaction and unique severity to certain foods.
    • If you do not feel comfortable making this determination, skip to step 2.
  2. If you are concerned, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1 (888) 426-4435
    • They are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They can guide you to what you should do and the level of urgency you should give it.
  3. Call your vet.
    • Realistically, your vet is not going to be able to answer your call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That’s why we recommend the ASPCA Animal Poison Control line.
    • If it is an emergency, there might be a 24 hour vet clinic nearby that you can bring your animal to.

Your pet means the world to you.  Understand the difference between spoiling them and poisoning them.  We all want our pets to live a long, pain-free life.

Resources

ASPCA – People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets

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