Chocolate, raisins, grapes……. the list of foods that are harmful for your dog is well known and seemingly endless. The foods to avoid that are harmful to your cat are less well publicized – after all as such picky eaters, surely a cat wouldn’t eat something it shouldn’t? While they may not have the appetite of a Labrador, there are still a few things that you should make sure are well out of your kitty’s reach.
What are the problems?
Foods to avoid feeding to your cat can be toxic, causing physical problems that will require veterinary care. On a less severe level, other foods may simply be bad for your cat in much the same way that junk food is for people. They can be high in fat, high in carbohydrates (bad for an animal that requires a meat based, high protein diet) and nutritionally lacking. Quite simply, there are many foods that are not worth giving to your cat!
Ok, what are the foods to avoid when feeding your cat?
Starting with the toxic groups: Never feed your cat any form of onion, garlic or chive. These bulbs are commonly used in human food to add flavor, yet in your cat they can attack the red blood cells which results in anemia. Just remember that these ingredients are often added to other ready-made brands such as baby foods. While the odd small amount is unlikely to hurt, try to stop your cat from eating them if you can.
Many of the well-known foods to avoid feeding to dogs also applies to cats – although they are less likely to eat them unless coaxed. Chocolate is again toxic, with the theobromine causing death if digested in high enough quantities. Dark chocolate is the worst offender due to the high levels of cocoa beans used, but also avoid cocoa powder, baking chocolate and anything with chocolate in, i.e. muffins.
Another definite to avoid are grapes and raisins. Like in dogs, the exact mechanism of toxicity is unclear, yet they can cause kidney failure in cats. Avoid feeding them, either by themselves or accidentally as an ingredient in something else.
It may be unlikely temptation but never let your cat have any alcohol. They are exceptionally sensitive to it and if consumed it can cause them to lapse into a coma, which often leads to death. Caffeine can also be deadly in large enough quantities. Now your cat may be unlikely to drink it pure, but it can also be found in cold medications and painkillers that are much more of a bite sized temptation!
Next on the hit list is the ever popular milk and cream – although this is not toxic but is the equivalent of junk food! Traditionally fed to cats, milk can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Cats lack large enough quantities of the lactase enzymes which are able to break down the lactose present in dairy produce and as such it can cause an adverse reaction. Additionally, they will be prone to weight gain as dairy is also high in fat.
Tuna is the cat version of chocolate cake!! Tasty, easy to over-indulge on and is therefore is something that should be fed sparingly. While it is not all bad per se, too much can create an imbalance in the diet and result in malnutrition. In the same way, do not let your cat eat dog food! The odd piece may not harm them, but, in the long term, they have very different nutritional needs. Dog food often contains carbohydrate ‘fillers’ to bulk it out, and cats cannot process carbs in high quantities. Instead, they need a high protein diet. Feeding large quantities of dog food will leave you with a malnourished cat.
Of course, sometimes it isn’t what is in the food but how the food is served. Bones are a prime example. Your cat may find them tasty but they can be a choking hazard or cause an obstruction if they splinter.
What should I do if my cat eats something they shouldn’t?
If your cat eats something from this list and you are worried in any way always contact your veterinary practice. While some may cause nothing more than a mild gastrointestinal upset, others may be more serious. If your cat has eaten something toxic like chocolate, if they receive veterinary treatment soon enough then they can be induced to vomit which reduces the amount of toxins entering their system.
This list of foods to avoid is not exhaustive, yet it helps provide an initial guide. However, the best thing to do is avoid feeding human foods or foods meant for other animals to your cat. There are many healthy cat treats on the market and feeding these occasionally, together with their normal daily diet, should provide them with everything they need and is ultimately a safer option.