10 Foods that are Dangerous for Cats
It can be tempting to share your food with your cat. While a small portion of some human foods can be okay as an occasional treat, there are many human foods that you need to ensure your cat never eats. Let’s discuss some of the most common foods that are dangerous to cats below:
1. Grapes and Raisins
Ingestion of even a small amount of either fresh grapes or dried raisins can cause kidney failure in cats within 12 hours. If they do not receive immediate emergency intervention, eating grapes or raisins can be fatal for your cat.
2. Allium Vegetables – Onions, Shallots, Chives, Scallions, and Garlic
These foods pose a higher risk to cats than dogs, although they are toxic to both species. Ingestion of either allium vegetables, such as onions or garlic, causes a cat’s body to destroy its red blood cells, leading to anemia.
Signs of anemia include pale or white gums, lethargy, weakness or stumbling, dark urine, and lack of appetite. Although often quantity-dependent, exposure to concentrated forms of these items, like onion or garlic powder or seasoning mixes, can also prove extremely dangerous. When considering feeding human food to your cat, avoid seasonings altogether and use only plain, boiled meat without much fat.
3. Chocolate and caffeine
Both chocolate and caffeine contain substances called methylxanthines that are very dangerous to cats. These substances can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperthermia (high body temperature), abnormal heartbeats, tremors, and even seizures. Toxicity is quantity-dependent and will be different for every animal. If you believe that your cat may have ingested any chocolate or caffeinated products, they should receive an emergency intervention.
Luckily for you, as a cat owner, you are at a slightly lower risk of dealing with this problem than a dog owner would be, as cats lack the taste receptors for “sweet” tastes and are therefore less likely to get into candy or sweets. Nevertheless, use extreme caution when storing these products in your home.
Any ingestion of ethanol will cause your cat to act ‘drunk,’ but they cannot tolerate and process ethanol the same way humans can. Signs of alcohol intoxication include vomiting and diarrhea, disorientation, tremors, coma, and may progress to death unless treated.
5. Raw meat and eggs
Raw meats frequently cause bacterial contamination and increase the chance that both you and your cat will be exposed to salmonella, E. coli, toxoplasmosis, or other bacterial infections. Although you may hear about raw meats being more “natural” for cats, there are no benefits to feeding your cat raw food, and there are many known risks.
Raw eggs may also be contaminated with bacteria. They also contain an enzyme called avidin. Avidin prevents cats from absorbing the B vitamin biotin, leading to problems with their skin and hair coat.
6. Animal bones
Feeding raw or cooked bone is extremely dangerous for your domestic cat. First and foremost, cats are not aware of what they are chewing on and do not have the foresight to prevent themselves from biting too hard on the bones and fracturing their teeth. Veterinary dentists cite chewing on hard objects like bones as the primary cause of fractured molars in cats and dogs.
Once the bone has been ingested, it may be in pieces that are too large to pass through your cat’s intestines, causing a blockage that is life-threatening without surgery. If the bones are cooked to soften them, they have a high likelihood of splintering. The small shards can pierce the esophagus, stomach, or intestines, causing significant internal damage. Securing safe toys and chewing items for your cat is essential for lifelong health and happiness.
7. Citrus fruits
Stems, leaves, seeds, and peels of citrus fruits are dangerous to cats. They contain varying levels of citric acid and essential oils that can be irritating to your cat’s nervous system. Large enough quantities can cause depression of the central nervous system, leading to tremors, seizures, or death. Ingesting tiny amounts of citrus fruit’s flesh does not often cause significant problems, beyond possible stomach upset.
The toxicity of citrus fruits extends to essential oil diffusers, which are popular in many homes. The oils must be monitored carefully to ensure that your cat does not suffer the same nervous system symptoms from the diffused oils as they would from ingestion.
8. Dairy products
While nursing kittens can drink their mothers’ milk, they never develop the enzyme lactase needed to break down dairy products. As they age, cats become lactose intolerant. Popular culture has presented a pervasive narrative that cats enjoy drinking from saucers of milk and eating dairy products, including milk, cheese, and cream. However, avoid feeding your cat dairy products, as they can result in mild to severe stomach upset.
Xylitol – a common sweetener used in many human products to avoid high amounts of sugar – is very toxic to our four-legged family members. Xylitol is commonly found in peanut butter, sugar-free gum and other candy, toothpaste, and baked goods. It is present in a variety of liquid medications.
Xylitol causes your cat’s body to release a large amount of insulin in response, which can result in mild symptoms like increased thirst and urination or severe symptoms like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, coma, and death. Ingesting xylitol will also cause damage to your cat’s liver that may or may not be reversible.
Besides avoiding household products containing xylitol, be very careful with any liquid medications you are using for your cat. Medications should come directly from your veterinarian or from a compounding pharmacy that can make a liquid formulation without the addition of this dangerous sweetener.
10. Dog Food
Yes, you read that correctly – dog food is dangerous to cats! While not toxic, it can be very dangerous for your cat’s long-term health. Stealing a few bites of your dog’s kibble here and there is no need for panic, but you need to ensure that your cat’s primary diet is feline-specific. Feline diets are created with much greater amounts of vitamin A, arachidonic acid, and taurine than canine diets, and they also contain higher amounts of animal-based proteins. All these little extras are crucial to ensuring that your cat’s vitamin and mineral balance are at a normal level. A cat fed dog food as its primary diet is likely to develop heart disease, vision deficits, and more significant dental problems than a cat fed a well-balanced feline diet.
While it can seem overwhelming to remember which human items are dangerous to cats, there are a few key things to keep in mind. If you’re ever in doubt about the potential side effects of human food, don’t risk it! Your cat will be just as happy if they don’t share that dinner with you.
If you’re concerned about your cat possibly having gotten into something dangerous, err on the side of caution. If your pet has any of the above-described symptoms or seems in any way to be acting abnormally, take them to see an emergency veterinarian. If you’re unsure about the safety of an item, but your cat doesn’t seem to be suffering any ill effects, reach out to your local veterinarian or contact the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 888-426-4435. Your veterinarian would always rather tell you there is nothing to worry about than tell you they wished you had called or gotten help sooner.