We may think that our cat knows what they can and can not eat based on their instinctual and picky natures.
But the truth is there are many human foods your cat may be tempted to try that are not good for them or are downright toxic.
In researching this subject I was frustrated by the amount of contradictory information out there. So I did the homework to get down to the truth about what foods cats should not eat. I discovered what can make your cat mildly ill, all the way to what can be potentially fatal.
Some foods may seem harmless and wouldn’t strike you as being harmful to your cat. But you might be surprised about some of the foods listed that can potentially make your fur baby sick.
NOTE: If You Think Your Cat Has Been Poisoned – Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center right away at 1-888-426-4435. Be prepared to share any information you may have, including symptoms and what your cat may have eaten.
Can Cats Eat Milk, Cheese and Other Dairy?
The image of a cat drinking a bowl of milk may be one we grew up with and think is normal. But the truth is that it is never a good idea to share foods containing dairy with your kitty.
Although milk is not toxic to cats, it is one of the foods cats should not eat. It can cause some upset to their constitution. Cats have trouble digesting the lactose in milk and can suffer stomach upset. And some cats are altogether lactose intolerant.
Cats only drink milk containing lactose as a kitten when feeding from their mother. This only lasts for a few weeks. So trying to reintroduce lactose later on typically does not go well.
Feeding your cat milk or any milk products, such as cheese and cream, can cause symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea.
Note: For kittens who do not have a source of mother’s milk, veterinarians recommend feeding formulas designed explicitly for kittens so as not to upset their stomachs. Never substitute with cow milk.
Can Cats Eat Chocolate?
It is common knowledge that chocolate is fatally poisonous to dogs. But many may not realize that it is also toxic for their cat. So, although chocolate has health benefits for humans, it is one of the foods cats should not eat.
Chocolate contains stimulants known as Methylxanthines, specifically a type called Theobromine, found in high quantities in chocolate. This stimulant affects the heart`, central nervous system, and respiratory system.
Dark and unsweetened chocolate contain a higher concentration of Theobromine. But all chocolate is considered unsafe for a cat.
In addition to Theobromine, chocolate contains caffeine, which is also harmful.
When ingested, Theobromine (or other Methylxanthines) and caffeine can cause several symptoms in cats. Symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle spasms, elevated body heat, abnormal heart rhythms, or seizures.
Cats who ingest high amounts of Theobromine and/or Caffeine can suffer from weakness, heart failure, or coma.
Can Cats Eat Raw Meat?
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they do need a mostly meat diet. But that does not mean that raw meat processed for human consumption is safe.
While some forums suggest that feeding your cat raw meat is acceptable. We caution against this.
Raw meat may contain harmful bacteria that can make your cat sick.
When ingested, meat that contains bacteria such as E. Coli or Salmonella can cause major digestive issues like vomiting or diarrhea, and your cat may become extremely lethargic.
In extreme cases ingesting these bacteria may also prove fatal.
Always cook meat for your cat without any seasoning to ensure safety and suitability.
If you insist on trying a raw diet for your cat, check with your vet first. Fresh raw meat sourced through a trusted butcher may be a safe route.
Can Cats Eat Raw Fish and Cooked Tuna?
Just like raw meat, raw fish may contain harmful bacteria such as E. Coli or Salmonella that can make your cat sick.
Raw fish also contains an enzyme that destroys thiamine, which is an essential B vitamin for cats. Low thiamine can cause serious neurological problems and possibly seizures and/or coma for a cat.
Fish is a food one of the foods cats should not eat on a regular basis due to its potentially high mercury content.
While a little cooked tuna on occasion may be fine to suit your cat’s fancy for fish, it is not considered a worthy staple in their diet. It lacks the essential nutrients that cats need and can lead to malnutrition.
Can Cats Eat Raw Eggs?
Just as with raw meat and raw fish, raw eggs can harbor harmful bacteria such as E. Coli or Salmonella, which can lead to illness consisting of abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea for your kitty.
Raw egg whites also contain a protein called avidin. Avidin can prevent your cat from properly consuming the B vitamin biotin. Biotin deficiency can cause skin conditions and a dull coat.
So, while cooked eggs in small quantities are fine, raw eggs are another of the foods cats should not eat.
Can Cats Tolerate Alcohol?
Any alcohol, in the form of beer, wine, liquor, or foods containing it can be fatal to a cat.
The effect on your cat’s organs is similar to that in humans. Alcohol can cause severe liver and brain damage to your cat. Although for a cat, it takes far less. They can become gravely ill or even lapse into a coma from ingesting as little as a tablespoon of alcohol.
Can Cats Eat Grapes and Raisins?
Grapes and raisins are additional foods cats should not eat. If only a small amount is ingested, it could make your cat sick.
Symptoms may include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, reduced appetite, and decreased urination.
It can also lead to rapid kidney failure.
Repeated vomiting and hyperactivity are early signs to watch for.
Can Cats Eat Onions and Garlic?
Any food in the onion family, including shallots, garlic, chives, or leeks, is considered very toxic for a cat.
This food group, when ingested, can damage your cat’s red blood cells and lead to anemia. Other symptoms may include upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Whether cooked, raw, dehydrated, or powdered, all forms of this family are foods cats should not eat.
Other signs to watch for are symptoms of lethargy, weakness, reduced appetite, pale gums, and orange to dark red urine.
Whether stored in your kitchen or growing in your garden, make sure these potentially harmful vegetables are somewhere kitty can not reach them!
Can Cats Eat Bread and Yeast?
Bread gives no nutritional value to cats as it does not contain any substantial protein or fat. While it may be safe for your kitty to nibble a little piece occasionally, it should never replace anything as a staple in their diet.
The true caution here is raw, uncooked dough. Dough contains yeast. When a cat eats raw dough, it can rise in their stomach, causing serious digestive issues.
As the dough rises, it may cause bloating, a condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus (twisted stomach), and possibly even bowel obstruction.
Can Cats Eat Dog Food?
If you have a house with a cat and a dog, your kitty may be inclined to try out some of your dog’s kibble.
The occasional bite of dog food won’t cause any significant issues for your cat, as it is not considered toxic. However, prolonged consumption may lead to malnutrition and varying health problems.
Cats require adequate levels of vitamin A, taurine, arachidonic acid, and protein. All of which are not sufficiently present in dog food.
A lack of taurine can cause heart disease, vision problems, unhealthy coat or skin, lethargy, and dental problems.
A lack of vitamin A can cause a dull coat and skin issues, night blindness, or muscular degeneration for a cat.
A lack of arachidonic acid can cause kidney and liver problems.
Can Cats Tolerate Xylitol?
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used in many different foods.
Ingestion of xylitol can cause a spike in insulin levels, which can lead to liver failure in your cat.
Initial symptoms can include vomiting, lethargy, and loss of coordination and can progress to seizures.
Can Cats Tolerate Caffeine?
Any drink or food item containing caffeine should never be given to your cat. This includes coffee, caffeinated teas, and energy drinks (Note: chocolate also has caffeine.)
The same Methylxanthines found in chocolate are also found in caffeinated beverages. And remember, Methylxanthines are highly toxic to cats.
Once ingested, caffeine can cause your cat to become restless and suffer from muscle tremors, rapid breathing, and heart palpitations.
Can Cats Eat Liver?
While small amounts of liver on occasion won’t harm your cat, prolonged consumption can have adverse effects.
Cats need vitamin A, and although liver contains it in high quantities, overconsumption can cause a dangerous build-up and vitamin A toxicity.
Vitamin A toxicity is a serious threat to a cat’s health. Symptoms may include deformed bones, bone growths on the spine, and osteoporosis.
Can Cats Eat Bones and fat trimmings?
While some sources may say that it is perfectly okay to feed your cat raw chicken bones on occasion, we caution that this is very risky.
Whether cooked or raw, bones are brittle (but more so when cooked) and can splinter and break off into sharp pieces that can cause potentially fatal internal damage and blockages.
These sharp pieces can injure your cat’s mouth, esophagus, stomach, or intestines and can even lead to the necessity of surgery. And depending on the severity of the injury, it can be life-threatening.
Raw bones can also lead to constipation for a cat.
Fat, whether cooked or uncooked, can cause intestinal issues, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Can Cats Eat Salty Foods?
Too much salt can be toxic to cats. Overconsumption can produce excessive thirst and urination.
Salty snacks such as chips, pretzels, or popcorn can cause your cat to experience vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and possibly even death.
Can Cats Eat Peaches?
Peach pits are toxic to cats and, when consumed, can cause irritation of the digestive tract and obstructions in the intestine.
Peach pits are toxic because they contain cyanide, a poison that can also lead to hyperventilation, shock, coma, and even death in cats.
Small pieces of peaches (minus the pit) may be okay for your cat on occasion but proceed with caution as overconsumption can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea.
Can Cats Eat Citrus?
All citrus fruits, including lemon, lime, oranges, and grapefruit, contain psoralens and essential oils, which are considered toxic to cats.
Consuming citrus can cause cats to have intestinal discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Fortunately, most cats will instinctively stay away from citrus on their own.
Can Cats Eat Tomatoes?
Tomatoes are considered poisonous as they contain Glykoalkaloid Solanine, which is toxic for cats.
It is specifically unripened tomatoes, stems, and leaves that are toxic.
It is fairly safe for your cat to consume ripened tomatoes. You may even see tomato included in your kitty’s kibble (this will typically be in very small quantities and always made with ripened tomatoes).
But it is still best to just avoid this food altogether as a handout.
If your cat does ingest either the stems, leaves, or unripened fruit, it can lead to lethargy, stomach issues, and a slowed heart rate. These symptoms can progress into more serious issues.
Can Cats Eat Nuts?
Nuts contain a high amount of oils and fat, which can be hard for your kitty to digest.
Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis.
Avoid anything containing nuts such as walnuts, macadamia, almonds, and pecans to prevent issues.
Can Cats Eat Coconut?
Similar to nuts, coconuts contain oils that may be hard for your cat to digest.
While small amounts may be okay, whether fresh coconut flesh or just the milk, too much can cause stomach upset and diarrhea in cats.
Coconut water also contains a high amount of potassium which can be dangerous for your cat.
Can Cats Eat Avocado?
Avocado is only mildly toxic to cats unless consumed in large amounts. But it is never advised to feed avocado to your cat in any quantity.
The health benefits that humans get from this food is a whole other story for your furry friend. So I’ve included it in this list of foods cats should not eat.
The avocado leaves, bark, fruit, and seed all contain a known toxin called Persin.
Persin is dangerous for both cats and dogs. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, obstruction of stool, and pancreatitis.
In addition, the pit of an avocado can be a choking hazard for your cat.
Can Cats Eat Candy and Gum?
Both candy and gum may contain xylitol, an ingredient we mentioned above that is a known toxin to cats.
Xylitol can cause a spike in insulin levels, leading to liver failure.
Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy, and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.
Chewing gum can potentially cause blockages in the throat.
The health of your cat is largely determined by what they eat. Avoiding toxic foods is just as important as feeding your cat a proper, nutritious diet for optimal health.
Check out our article on what Human Foods Cats Can Eat Safely to find what is safe to share with your four-legged friend!