Human foods that are poisonous to cats
Cats are generally more sensible than dogs when it comes to eating things they shouldn’t, however there are still a few things you should watch out for.
What to watch for
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:
- Alcohol can cause severe liver and brain damage. As little as a tablespoon can lead to problems for your cat.
- Chocolate contains theobromine. It is in all forms of chocolate, and most concentrated in dark chocolate and unsweetened cooking chocolate. Chocolate ingestion can cause heart problems, muscle tremors, or seizures. Chocolate also contains caffeine.
- Coffee, Tea, Energy Drinks. These contain caffeine that can cause your cat to become restless, have rapid breathing, heart palpitations and muscle tremors.
- Dairy Products. Some cats are lactose intolerant and if they eat dairy products it can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
- Fat Trimmings, Raw Meat, Raw Eggs, Raw Fish. Can cause vomiting, diarrhoea or a painful condition called pancreatitis (from excessive fat) and there is a risk of Salmonella or E. coli associated with these foods.
- Grapes and Raisins. Cats are less likely to eat these so cases are rare however, dogs can suffer acute kidney failure from eating grapes or raisins, so it is best to not to risk your cat's health and not let him eat these foods.
- 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.
- 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/convulsions or even death) followed by liver failure. Therefore it is better to be safe and not let your cat eat foods that contain this ingredient.
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.
Treatment is generally supportive until the symptoms resolve. This may involve hospitalization, intravenous fluids (a drip) and blood tests to monitor organ function.
The best prevention is obviously 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.
Vets Now assumes no liability for the content of this page. This advice is not a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health - even if they are closed, they will always have an out of hours service available. Find out more about what to do in an out of hours emergency.