Occasionally cats eat food which is not designed for them. Perhaps you have run out of your cat’s usual food over a holiday weekend, and you just decide to feed your cat whatever is in the fridge. Or maybe you always feed your cat commercial food designed for cats, but occasionally you want to give her a treat. Or maybe your cat is one of those which licks up leftovers off plates, or even manages to open and raid the fridge! Often this does not matter very much. Most foods will not do your cat much harm, particularly if she only eats them in small amounts. But some foods and drinks are harmful to cats, or even poisonous. Here is a list of those which should be avoided.
1. Drinks or Other Products Containing Alcohol
Alcohol is very poisonous to cats. As small an amount as a tablespoonful of alcohol can send an adult cat into a coma, and it does not take much more to lead to death. But it’s not just alcoholic drinks that you should keep well away from your cat. Mouthwash contains alcohol, and so do fermented foods. So if you think your cat has ingested alcohol, and particularly if she is becoming drowsy or uncoordinated, take her to the vet.
The theobromine found in chocolate is poisonous to cats. It is found in higher concentrations in dark chocolate, but there is some in other chocolate too. It can cause heart problems, seizures, and muscle palpitations. So don’t let your cat nibble on chocolate at any time, and make sure that if you drop any chocolate chips or similar items that they are quickly swept up off the floor. Luckily, unlike dogs, cats tend not to have a sweet tooth and don’t usually like chocolate, but there are always exceptions. So if your cat does eat any, it is best to seek veterinary advice.
3. Coffee, Tea, and Energy Drinks
These drinks all contain caffeine, which is harmful to cats. It can cause them to have heart palpitations or muscle tremors, and to become restless and anxious. The same thing applies to a number of soft drinks too, so always keep these well away from your cat.
4. Grapes and Raisins
Dogs can get kidney failure after eating grapes or raisins. The situation with cats is less clear cut, but these foods are thought to be toxic to cats too. So keep them away from your cat if you can. In my experience, some cats love to play with grapes, but they show no interest in actually eating them. But if your cat does, put your grapes away in a cupboard rather than leaving them in a fruit bowl.
5. Onions and Garlic
Onions, garlic, shallots, and similar foods can cause anaemia in cats if eaten in large quantities. However, small amounts, such as little pieces in sauces or soups, are unlikely to be a problem. So it is probably alright to let your cat lick the leftover sauce from your plate, or finish off some baby food seasoned with garlic. But if she eats a whole clove of garlic or a whole shallot, it might be wise to seek veterinary advice.
6. Dairy Products
You might think that milk is a good drink for cats, and that a little piece of cheese will do no harm. For some cats it will be fine. But many adult cats, probably the majority, are lactose intolerant, and any dairy products can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. So if your cat likes milk, and many really enjoy it, buy her the cat milk which is available in small bottles in supermarkets, and which is lactose free.
7. Raw Meat, Eggs, Fish, and Fat Trimmings
These might seem like ideal foods for cats. But too much fat can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in some cats, and even a serious condition called pancreatitis. And uncooked eggs, meat, and fish may contain harmful bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella. So in general steer clear of these, and make sure that anything you give to your cat is well cooked. If you want to try a raw food diet for your cat, as is becoming fashionable in some circles, buy good quality commercial raw cat food, and store it very carefully.
Tuna when included in cat food is not an issue for cats. However, tuna as sold for humans can cause digestive upsets if fed to cats, and other conditions if fed regularly. It is bet to steer clear of it.
9. Foods Containing Salt
A potato crisp or similar now and then is no problem. But large amounts of salt can lead to poisoning in both dogs and cats, with severe neurological symptoms. So in general, keep salty food away from your cat.
10. Foods Containing Some Sugar Free Sweeteners
The sugar substitute xylitol is contained in many foods such as chewing gum, sweets, medicines, and some condiments. There is no record of cats getting sick from xylitol ingestion, but in dogs it can lead to a serious fall in blood sugar levels leading to convulsions and even death. So it is best to be on the safe side and keep any xylitol containing foods away from your cat too.
This list is not completely comprehensive. Other foods which are harmful to cats, or may be, are rhubarb, nutmeg, yeast, cherries, and some mushrooms.
It might seem from reading the above that the home is full of edible hazards for cats. You might even wonder how your cat has managed to survive so long! Well, do take care, but try not to worry too much. Most cats are very fastidious, and unlike dogs they will not eat foods which are bad for them. So you are fairly unlikely to have a problem. Nevertheless, forewarned is forearmed, so it is as well to know which foods should be kept well away from them.