Our cats are members of the family, our companions and confidants. And as their caretakers, it’s only natural for us to want to spoil them. But some foods and treats can pose serious risks to their health. Here are several foods you should avoid feeding your cat.
Milk, cheese and other dairy products
Many of us grew up with the image of kittens drinking milk or cream in cartoons or picture books. But in reality, cats and dairy products don’t mix. Most cats are naturally lactose intolerant, meaning that cow’s milk and dairy products made from it – like cheese or cream – can upset their stomachs, causing vomiting and diarrhoea.
And what about kittens? The same rule applies: cow’s milk and by-products should be avoided. For kittens that are too young to eat solid foods and don’t have a source of their mother’s milk, veterinarians recommend feeding kitten-specific milk formulas, which provide essential nutrients for growing kittens and are gentle on their tummies.
Though most people find chocolate delicious, this cacao-based treat contains two ingredients that are toxic to cats: theobromine and caffeine. Both milk chocolate and dark chocolate can cause several dangerous symptoms, including:
Increased body temperature
Rapid breathing or heart rate
In cases of high exposure to theobromine and caffeine, cats can also suffer from heart failure, weakness or a coma.
Raw eggs, meat or fish
If your cat loves hunting, you might assume it’s safe to feed them raw eggs, meat or fish – after all, what could be more natural than raw? However, these raw foods may contain dangerous E. coli and salmonella bacteria, which can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and lethargy in cats. Exposing your cat to these pathogens can even prove fatal.
Raw egg whites also contain a protein called avidin. If consumed, avidin can prevent your cat from properly consuming the B vitamin biotin, potentially causing skin conditions and a dull coat.
If you also have a dog, chances are your cat has sampled their food from time to time. But while an occasional nibble likely won’t harm your cat, a steady diet of dog food instead of cat food can cause malnutrition. Cats need vitamin A, taurine and arachidonic acid – all essential nutrients not provided in dog food.
If your cat only eats dog food, they’re at risk for developing several conditions:
A lack of vitamin A can cause skin issues, a dull coat, muscular degeneration or night blindness.
A taurine deficiency can cause vision degradation, heart disease, unhealthy coat or skin, and lethargy.
A lack of arachidonic acid can cause liver and kidney problems.
Bread and yeast
Cats can safely eat bread on occasion, but note that bread contains no nutritional value for them (it has virtually no fat or protein), so it should not replace their normal cat food diet.
Yeast and raw bread dough are not safe for cats – after it’s eaten, the dough can rise in a cat’s stomach and cause dangerous digestive issues.
What cat doesn’t enjoy tuna? This fish can serve as an occasional treat for your cat, but you should avoid feeding them a tuna-heavy diet. Tuna lacks several nutrients cats need to stay healthy, and too much tuna can lead to mercury poisoning. And, as noted above, you should never give your cat raw tuna.
Onions and garlic
Onions, garlic and other members of the allium family like chives and leeks can cause anaemia in cats. Whether raw, cooked, powdered or dehydrated, garlic and onions can damage a cat’s red blood cells, and can also cause nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Wine, beer, liquor and food that contains alcohol can result in diarrhea, vomiting, breathing problems, tremors and other serious conditions. “Just two teaspoons of whisky can cause a coma in a 5-pound cat,” reports Fetch by WebMD. “And one more teaspoon could kill it.
Grapes & Raisins
According to the ASPCA, grapes and raisins contain an unknown toxic substance that can cause kidney failure in cats. To be safe, the ASPCA advises pet owners to avoid feeding grapes or raisins to their cats.
Too much liver can cause vitamin A toxicity, a serious condition that can affect a cat’s bones and lead to death in severe cases. Fetch by WebMD notes that effects of vitamin A toxicity include deformed bones, bone growths on the elbows and spine, and osteoporosis.
Uncooked Potatoes & Tomatoes
ModernCat reports that raw potatoes and tomatoes can cause gastrointestinal distress, but they have no toxic effects if cooked. However, green potatoes (cooked or raw) can lead to cardiac issues, hallucinations and paralysis, so make sure to keep them away from your cat.
Remember that most cats are curious creatures, and love to investigate food that’s been left out on countertops or in sinks. If your cat can easily jump on a table or counter, make sure to keep dangerous or toxic foods well out of reach – sealed behind a closed pantry door or kept in a high-up cabinet.