What not to feed your cat

Any food not specifically designed for cats can affect the digestive system, causing vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite. Here are some foods of particular concern — many of which are more prevalent during the festive season. To find out what other hazards your cat should avoid this Christmas click here for our handy infographic.

1. Alcohol

Alcohol sales soar at Christmas so it’s far more common in homes but as little as a tablespoon can lead to problems for your cat. It can cause severe liver and brain damage.

2. Chocolate

Chocolate contains theobromine. While this bitter-tasting stimulant is found in all forms, it’s most concentrated in dark and unsweetened chocolate. Ingestion can cause heart problems, muscle tremors, or seizures. Chocolate also contains caffeine.

3. Coffee, tea and energy drinks

These contain caffeine — it can cause your cat to become restless, suffer from rapid breathing, heart palpitations and muscle tremors.

4. Dairy products

Some cats are lactose intolerant and if they eat dairy products it can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

5. Fat trimmings, raw meat, raw eggs and raw fish

Can cause vomiting, diarrhoea or a painful condition called pancreatitis (from excessive fat) and there is also a risk of Salmonella or E. coli associated with these foods.

6. Grapes and raisins

Dogs can suffer acute kidney failure from eating grapes or raisins — and although toxicity in cats is only anecdotal we would strongly advise that you keep these foods out of reach of your cat.

7. Onions and garlic

All members of the onion family can cause problems if eaten in sufficient quantity. A little bit of onion or garlic in some sauce is not likely to cause any problems. However, eating a clove of garlic or a green onion may cause digestive upset. Eating some type of onion on a regular basis could cause anemia.

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8. Xylitol

This is a sweetener used in a lot of sugar-free foods, especially chewing gum. There are no records of cats becoming ill from this product, but in dogs it can cause a severe drop in blood sugar — which can cause seizures and convulsions or even death — followed by liver failure. It’s better to be safe and not let your cat eat foods that contain this ingredient. Click here for our full article on xylitol.

Immediate care

If you suspect your cat has eaten something he shouldn’t try to determine how much she may have eaten and contact your vet for specific advice. In many cases small quantities may not cause a problem but larger quantities may require treatment.

Prevention

The best prevention is simply to keep your food out of reach of your cat. If you choose to give your cat human food, follow these guidelines:

  • The food should only be considered a treat and only given on the odd occasion to prevent gastrointestinal upset and nutritional imbalances
  • If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t feed it to your cat. If you wouldn’t eat the food raw, then your cat shouldn’t either
Treatment

Treatment is generally supportive until the symptoms resolve. This may involve hospitalization, intravenous fluids (a drip) and blood tests to monitor organ function.