It can be hard to resist feeding your cat a little bite of what you’re having every now and then. Those beautiful feline eyes can be hard to resist. But wise pet owners know that there are many human foods that cats shouldn’t eat. Cats have different nutritional needs than humans. A special treat for us could be a digestive nightmare for them.
So what human foods can cats eat?
Cats should primarily eat cat food that is specifically made for feline health and digestive needs. But there are some human foods that can make great additions to your cat’s regular diet –– in moderation.
Read on to discover which foods you should avoid and which foods are fine to add. Just be sure to check with your vet before offering any of these treats to your kitty.
Foods You Should Never Feed Your Cat: Avoid Milk, Chocolate, Grapes, Onions, And More
Unlike dogs, cats aren’t likely to steal food off your plate and gobble it down ravenously. If a cat is eating people food, it’s often because their human has offered it to them. Although this usually comes from a good place – some foods seem nutritious, but are likely to hurt their stomach, cause vomiting, or worse.
Study up on this list of foods cats can’t eat, so you can keep your kitty safe.
What could be more quintessential than feeding your cat a saucer of milk? It’s what they do in all of the movies, right?
Well, the truth is that many adult cats (and dogs) are lactose intolerant. As kittens, cats are equipped to drink their mother’s milk. Once they are weaned from it, their body produces less lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. Cow’s milk contains high amounts of lactose.
For many cats, eating or drinking dairy can upset their stomach or cause vomiting and diarrhea.1
Chocolate contains caffeine and a chemical called theobromine, which is poisonous to cats and dogs. Theobromine is in all types of chocolate.
Dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate contain the highest amount. Therefore, those are the most dangerous types.2
If your pet eats any kind of chocolate, theobromine is metabolized by their liver. Eating chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, liver damage or liver failure, tremors, and seizures. In some cases it could be fatal.3 Call your vet right away if you suspect your cat has chocolate.
Grapes And Raisins
Grapes and raisins can be delicious treats for people, but they are toxic to cats and dogs. If you feed your cat grapes and raisins, these foods can cause sudden kidney failure in cats. If you think your cat has eaten one of these foods, call your vet right away.4
Onions And Garlic
Alliums, including garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, chives, and shallots can be toxic to cats and dogs as well. These foods can damage red blood cells or potentially cause anemia. If you notice signs like vomiting, lethargy, or pale gums, call your vet right away.5
Other Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Cat
You should also avoid feeding your cat any of these:
- Macadamia nuts
- Fat trimmings from cooked meat
- Raw meat, raw fish, or raw eggs
- Artificial sweetener xylitol
- Coffee, tea, or energy drinks6
Can Cats Eat Dog Food?
While dog food won’t necessarily harm a cat, it’s not a good idea to feed it to them. Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs and dog food lacks essential ingredients that are vital to a cat’s health.
Signs That Your Cat May Have Food Poisoning
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy and weakness
- Low mood
- Pale or yellowish gums
- Excessive thirst or urination
- Nervousness, hyperactivity, muscle tremors, seizures, coma8
If you notice any of these signs or accidentally fed your cat one of the toxic human foods, call your veterinarian or an emergency clinic right away.
Feeding Your Cat Healthy People Food: Cooked Chicken, Pork, Vegetables, Tuna Fish, And More
The first step to making sure your cat stays in good health is to make sure you feed your cat a high-quality diet. Cats evolved as hunters to consume prey that contains a high amount of protein, a moderate amount of fat, and a minimal amount of carbohydrates. Cats also require:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Fatty acids
- Amino acids
- And dozens of other nutrients 9
Adding human food can make for a nice, occasional treat, but make sure most of your cat’s calories are coming from their cat food. Unfortunately, many cat foods lack all of the necessary nutrients cats need to be at their healthiest. Many of them and contain “fillers” like corn or soybean meal instead.
If you are concerned about whether or not your cat is getting enough of the right nutrients, talk to your vet. They recommend a nutritional cat supplement.
You may notice that your cat sometimes chews on plants, mostly grass. Cats do this to get roughage or fibre. If you notice this, you may choose to feed your cat some vegetables. Here are a few cat-safe options:
- Green Beans
- Steamed Asparagus
- Steamed Broccoli10
To be clear, cats don’t need vegetables to balance their nutrition.11 But greens like spinach or other veggies can be a safe, low calorie, vitamin-rich treat. Remember to feed your cat vegetables in moderation, and don’t add salt, garlic, or oils to them.
Fresh fruit can be a great snack for your cat. In fact, many commercial cat foods contain fruits like blueberries and cranberries.12 Interestingly, cats can’t taste sweet things. They don’t have sugar detectors on their taste buds.
But it is possible that your cat enjoys the texture of fruit. And they do benefit from the antioxidants and vitamins.13
Here are some cat-safe ideas:
As always, give your cat only small bites of human food and only in moderation. Blueberries are a great idea, because they are already bite-sized.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they should get their nutrition from animal products, not vegetables and carbohydrates. Cats have higher protein needs than many other mammals, including dogs. A protein-heavy diet helps sustain the health of their heart, liver, skin, and ears.15
Here are some ideas you might try in moderation for a meat source of protein:
- Duck (sparingly because of the high-fat content)
Most cats love fish. It provides a ton of essential nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids.
In fact, fish is the central ingredient in many dry and canned cat food. So if you’re eating a tuna sandwich and you’re tempted to give your furry friend a little bite, you’re in the clear.
Here are some healthy options:
- Tuna (sparingly because of mercury content)
- Fish oils
- Fish is a common allergen. Consult your vet if you think your cat has an allergy to fish.
- Some fish, like swordfish, may contain heavy metals.
Fish can make a nice treat, but your cat’s diet should not rely solely on fish.17
Eggs are a great source of protein for cats. They also contain high amounts of taurine, which is essential to your cat’s health. So, yes. You can occasionally feed your cat cooked eggs if you’d like. Like all human foods, remember to only feed your cat small amounts.18
You may want to avoid raw eggs. Raw eggs may contain bacteria and a protein called avidin, which blocks the absorption of vitamin B.19 To be safe, stick with scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs until you’ve asked for your veterinarians advice.
Cats may benefit from eating oatmeal. Oatmeal is a good source of iron, vitamin B-6, and calcium, which are all important for your cat’s health. While oatmeal does contain some protein, it is also high in carbs. Oatmeal can’t provide all of the nutrients your cat needs. Because of that, feel free to use it as an occasional treat, but don’t make it your cat’s main food source.20
The Bottom Line
If you want to show your furry friend some extra love and share a snack, you have a lot of options. Just remember that your cat’s nutritional needs and taste buds are different from yours. While you may think a bite of cookie would be a nice treat, remember that your cat doesn’t crave (or even need) carbs the way that humans do. They can’t even taste sweetness.
Always seek out the highest quality diet for your pet. A properly balanced diet can help prevent health issues like calcium oxalate bladder stones and urinary tract infections.21,22
When it comes to human foods, study the list of the do’s and don’ts, so you can be sure to keep your cat safe.
If you choose to feed your cat human food, go with whole, healthy foods like blueberries and spinach, and only give them in moderation.
Lastly, you should always consult with your vet before making any changes to your cat’s diet. They will be able to give you more in-depth information about feeding your pet human food. They can also help you identify any food allergies your pet might have.