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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
If you’re a new cat parent, you might be curious about whether your feline friend can join in the holiday feast. Can cats eat turkey at Thanksgiving? What about other treats from the table? In this article, we’ll delve into the do’s and don’ts to keep your cat happy and healthy during the holiday season.
Can cats eat turkey?
At the centre of every Thanksgiving table, you’ll likely find the iconic roasted cooked turkey. Considering that cats are obligate carnivores you might assume that it’s perfectly fine to share a bit of Thanksgiving turkey with your cat. But it’s not quite that simple.
While cats thrive on a meat-based diet, the Thanksgiving turkey on your plate is rarely just plain, unseasoned meat. The question is, are all those additives and seasonings typically used in preparing the Thanksgiving bird safe for your cat? Unfortunately, the answer is usually a resounding “NO.”
How to prepare Thanksgiving turkey for your cat
Turkey can be a healthy, low calorie, high protein snack for your cat at Thanksgiving, but it needs to be prepared specifically for your cat in mind. Cats should only have turkey if it is cooked, unseasoned, skinless, and boneless.
Cooked – the Thanksgiving turkey should be fully cooked to eliminate the risk of bacteria from partially cooked meat. While cats can safely consume raw meat like turkey as part of a raw food diet, any turkey from the Thanksgiving table must be fully cooked.
Unseasoned – Opt for plain, unseasoned turkey as the safest choice. Many turkey seasonings and marinades contain herbs, spices, or ingredients like garlic and onion, all of which are a problem for cats. These substances can lead to digestive problems and, in severe cases, toxic reactions.
Skinless – Turkey skin is rich in saturated fat which can be difficult for your cat to digest. A high fat diet can lead to pancreatitis, a painful and life-threatening condition. To prevent complications, it’s wise to remove the skin from the meat before sharing it with your cat.
Boneless – Turkey bones are brittle and likely to splinter easily when chewed. Not only are they a potential choking hazard, bones can cause injuries in your cat’s mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines if swallowed. Always select boneless turkey for your cat’s safety and well-being.
Offering a small piece of turkey breast as an occasional treat won’t harm your cat. It’s important to remember, however, that human food and treats should make up no more than 10% of a cat’s daily diet. The majority of your cat’s diet should come from their regular, nutritionally balanced cat food.
What can cats eat for Thanksgiving
We rarely give our cats human food or table scraps. That’s because we have cats with sensitive digestive systems including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who eat a raw food diet.
Thankfully though, not all cats have dietary sensitivities, and you may like to include your feline friends in your Thanksgiving celebrations. The general rule is that cats should never be offered anything seasoned with salt, herbs or spices, or that contains preservatives, has a high fat content, or is laden with sugar.
There are some Thanksgiving foods that veterinarians generally consider safe for cats in small amounts. These are:
- Turkey – Your cat cat safely eat cooked turkey meat without bones, skin, or seasoning.
- Ham – A small piece of cooked ham is okay as an occasional treat. Although keep it to an absolute minimum as ham is high in both fat and salt.
- Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes – Small servings of plain, cooked mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes are generally okay for cats. Make sure they do not include any butter, salt, sugar or spices.
- Green Beans and Carrots – Plain, cooked green beans or carrots can provide a healthy source of dietary fibre.
- Pumpkin – Small portions of plain cooked or canned pumpkin (without additives) can be beneficial for digestion. Pumpkin is often recommended for cats with constipation or to treat hairballs. Note: Do not feed your cat canned pumpkin pie filling which includes sugar, spices and salt.
- Whipped Cream or Plain Yoghurt – While many cats are lactose intolerant and experience digestive issues from dairy, some cats may enjoy a small taste of whipped cream or low-fat yoghurt. Always ensure these treats don’t contain sugar or any other sweeteners.
Remember, the key is moderation. These treats should be occasional and make up only a small portion of your cat’s diet. Your cat’s regular, balanced cat food should remain their primary source of nutrition.
What foods should your cat not eat
There is a long list of foods your cat cannot eat from the Thanksgiving table. In fact, some of your favourite Thanksgiving treats can pose serious dangers to your cat’s health.
While the immediate consequences of your cat indulging in rich, seasoned, or fatty foods will be digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhoea, certain foods can lead to more severe health problems. Let’s explore the Thanksgiving dishes your cat should steer clear of:
- Bones – any small or cooked bones can splinter and pose a choking hazard or cause internal injuries for cats.
- Onions and Garlic – onions (red, yellow, brown), garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions/spring onions and chives are toxic to cats and can lead to digestive distress, anaemia and other health issues.
- Fatty Foods – Butter, rich gravies, and fatty meats with skin may taste delicious to us, but can lead to pancreatitis in cats.
- Alcohol – Even in small amounts, alcohol is extremely dangerous for cats.
- Raisins and Grapes – These seemingly harmless fruits can be extremely toxic to cats and may lead to kidney failure.
- Chocolate and Caffeine – Products containing chocolate and caffeine are extremely toxic to cats. Make sure you they are kept out of their reach.
- Herbs and Spices – Sage and other herbs used in turkey stuffing and seasoning rubs can cause digestive problems for cats. High salt content in seasoning mixes can also result in salt toxicity.
- Nutmeg – The holiday spice nutmeg is toxic to cats and can result in tremors, seizures and other signs of poisoning if consumed in a large enough amounts. So, definitely NO pumpkin pie for your feline friends!
Search the Pet Poison Helpline for foods that are unsafe for cats and the signs of toxicity.
What to do if your cat has eaten something it shouldn’t
If you suspect your cat has ingested something they shouldn’t have, start by assessing the amount consumed. If they’ve eaten a very small amount your cat will most likely be fine, though you should keep an eye out for signs of food poisoning such as vomiting and diarrhoea. But if your cat has eaten a substantial amount of human food or displays any distressing symptoms, contact your vet promptly.
Make your own Thanksgiving cat treats
Your cat can eat Turkey on Thanksgiving. But if if you want to make your favourite feline feel extra special, why not try making our homemade tuna and catnip treats? Using a few simple ingredients they’re easy to make, and we’re sure your cat will love them, just like ours do.