Whilst many of us like to spoil our pets and offer them occasional tasty morsels from our plates, there are some human foods that are toxic or potentially dangerous for a cat and shouldn’t be part of a feline diet. Whilst this is not a conclusive list, here are some of the foods you absolutely must not feed your cat.
You may have an indulgent sweet tooth, but your cat doesn’t and chocolate is one food that you should never feed a cat. All types of chocolate should be avoided, including dark, milk, white and cocoa powders. Chocolate contains caffeine and a chemical substance called theobromine which is highly toxic to cats. Even small amounts of chocolate can cause heart attacks, and trigger a range of toxic reactions including possible death.
Onions and Garlic
Raw, cooked or powdered onions (including chives and leeks) and garlic are toxic to cats, even in minute amounts. They contain sulfoxides and disulfides which damage red blood cells and can cause anaemia. Onion and garlic powders are often found in gravy, baby food and other processed human foods, so special care is needed to ensure that your cat isn’t exposed to them in any form.
Grapes and Raisins
Both grapes and raisins contain an unidentified ingredient which has a toxic effect on cats and can cause kidney failure.
Unbaked dough made with live yeast can be hazardous if swallowed by cats. An expanding ball of dough in a cat’s stomach or intestines can decrease blood flow and affect breathing. As the yeast ferments and produces alcohol a cat is also at risk of alcohol toxicity, which can cause life-threatening seizures and death. Please ensure that any rising yeast dough is out of reach of your cats.
Fat Trimmings and Bones
Table scraps generally include meat fat and bones. Feeding these to your cat not only contributes to weight gain and obesity but can also cause pancreatitis. Bones from fish, chicken or meat should also be avoided as they can splinter and cause an obstruction in your cat’s digestive system.
Too much salt is known to affect the electrolyte balance, which can cause an irregular heartbeat.
As much as your cat probably loves the taste and smell of tuna, it is best fed to your cat occasionally rather than on a regular basis. Tuna contains mercury which may lead to mercury poisoning if the cat’s diet contains large quantities of this canned fish. Tuna packed in oil can also lead to yellow fat disease (also known as steatitis), a painful condition caused by a high-fat diet.
Raw fish contains an enzyme called thiaminase which destroys the body’s thiamine (a B vitamin). Thiamine deficiency in cats can lead to loss of appetite, seizures and death.
Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin which decreases the body’s ability to absorb biotin (a B vitamin), and in turn leads to skin and coat problems. The other health risk with raw eggs is that they may also contain salmonella or E-coli.
Milk and Dairy Products
Many adult cats don’t have adequate amounts of the lactase enzyme, which means they are unable to properly digest lactose. This can lead to diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems. Milk should never be a replacement for water which is essential to keep your cat hydrated.
Cats and dogs have very different dietary requirements and dog food does not contain the right balance of protein and fats that a cat requires in its diet. It is also vital that a cat’s diet includes the amino acid taurine, which, unlike dogs, they can’t produce on their own.
At all times, it is important to remember that cats can’t tolerate the same foods we can and that some human foods can be toxic to their health. If you are in any doubt about what food to feed or not feed your cat, or if you think your cat may have eaten human food that is potentially dangerous or toxic please consult with your local vet immediately.
Image: Alex Goodey via Flickr