Your cat may be your fur baby, but she shouldn't eat what your human baby does.
It's hard to resist handing over a nibble of what you're eating to a cat meowing and circling at your feet, but the expert advice on human food for cats is clear. A healthy cat diet does not include human food. In fact, some of it can have serious health consequences. It may seem like cats have a built-in food filter, as they are generally pickier than dogs. While your cat likely won't gobble up a spoiled piece of pork, the same can't be said of a dish of tuna left on the counter.
Even safe foods like cantaloupe, watermelon, whole grains like brown rice, couscous, millet, or polenta, and veggies like green beans can lead to stomach upset if not fed in small portions. Cats love hard cheeses like swiss or gouda as the occasional treat, but many cats are lactose intolerant. It may also be tempting to feed your cat raw eggs or raw fish, in line with their status as obligate carnivores, but these raw treats can cause the same issues in cats as in humans. So what else can't cats eat? We went to cat expert Mary Molloy CPDT-KA of Nirvana Tails in New York City, who ran down the list of the top 10 foods cats can't eat. (What's wrong with tuna? See number seven.)
1. Fat Trimmings
Scraps like the fat cut off of a steak or poultry skin may seem like a treat, but they shouldn't be a part of a cat's diet. The same goes for deli meats. Excess fat can cause vomiting, diarrhea or pancreatitis, says Molloy. Of course, it can also make kitty overweight. Bones, which often wind up on a plate of fatty scraps, pose a threat too, as they can splinter in the digestive tract. Make sure treats are yummy and intended for your furry friend, like The Honest Kitchen Purely One Whitefish Filets.
Grandma was always trying to get us to eat it, so we assume it's healthy, but what cats eat shouldn't mirror what we eat. Regularly noshing on liver can result in vitamin A toxicity. "This is a serious condition that can cause your cat to have deformed bones, bone growths on her elbows and spine, and osteoporosis," warns Molloy. When you want to serve your cat a meaty meal, a high protein, grain-free pet food made from cage-free poultry, such as SquarePet Turkey and Chicken Formula, is the way to go. Remember that quality commercial cat foods are formulated with the right amounts of vitamins A, D, omega-3 fatty acids (usually through fish oil), calcium, antioxidants, and potassium to create a balanced diet.
3. Raw Meat
You're prepping a stir-fry, and your cat is rubbing against your legs. A bit of uncooked chicken must be OK, since cats are hunters, right? Wrong. What cats eat on the savanna doesn't align with what your housecat should be eating. Raw meat brings a risk of Salmonella or E. coli. "I'm not talking about commercially prepared raw diets," says Molloy. "I'm talking about the food you're preparing in your kitchen. No matter how pristine your kitchen is, it's just not worth the risk." If you'd like to give your cat a taste of what her big-cat ancestors ate, a freeze-dried raw food for cats, such as Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets, is a safer choice, as well as a healthy treat.
4. Raisins and Grapes
Raisins (and their original form, grapes) have been proven toxic to dogs. Studies are still pending on cats. "While the danger to cats is only anecdotal at this point, don't risk it!" insists Molloy. Also, keep an eye out for not-so-obvious sources of raisins, such as bran muffins or bread dough. Kidney failure just isn't worth the risk. Instead, give your feline Fruitables Crunchy Cat Treats as a safe swap.
5. Ice Cream and Milkshakes
"These are all kinds of wrong," says Molloy. Despite the iconic picture of a cat lapping up a bowl full of milk, most adult cats are lactose intolerant, so regular intake of dairy products can lead to digestive issues, says Molloy. "Felines are just not designed to take in these kinds of carbohydrates," notes Molloy. The Leaps & Bounds Plush Ice Cream Cat Toy is a sweet substitute.
6. Garlic Sauce
What could be wrong with letting your cat lap up the garlic and oil your spaghetti was in, or the sauce left over from your Chinese takeout? Plenty. Garlic, and onion as well, can bring on an upset stomach--or even anemia, if you make a habit of pouring these kinds of leftover sauces on your cat's food, says Molloy. If you'd like to entice your cat to eat dry cat food, or just want to give her an extra-scrumptious meal, drizzle on a just-for-cats broth, like Caru Free Range Chicken Bone Broth.
A cat devouring tuna from an open can may be a familiar image, but in reality, a steady diet of human tuna will lead to malnourishment. It doesn't contain the nutrients she needs to thrive. Plus tuna intended for people can cause mercury poisoning in cats. If you think kitty might like a taste of the sea, try Amazon Pet's new premium cat food brand, Kitzy, in Whitefish & Pea Recipe.
You may know that dogs should never touch the stuff, but what about cats? Chocolate is on the list of what cats can't eat as well. The theobromine in chocolate can give a cat heart problems, muscle tremors, or seizures. While you're getting your chocolate fix, you might thrill your cat with Petlinks Pure Bliss Organic Catnip.
9. Artificially Sweetened Candy
Xylitol, a sweetener commonly found in sugar-free candy, is extremely toxic to dogs. As with raisins, the effect of Xylitol on cats is still unclear. "Again, though we aren't sure how bad it is for cats, it's definitely not worth taking any chances!" urges Molloy. The adorable Petstages Donut cat toys are all the "dessert" she needs.
10. Homemade Bread
The problem comes in when cats eat bits of raw yeast dough that falls to the floor or is left on the counter. Used to make challah, brioche and other breads that need to rise before baking, yeast expands to create painful gas in your cat's system. Despite that, yeast dough is still one of the lesser-known foods cats can't eat. While your family savors your famous challah, you can indulge your feline friend with Meow Lamb and King Salmon Cat Bites.
What are your favorite human foods for cats? Tell us on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!
Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Pets are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Love reading about pets?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.