5 min read

The Do's and Don'ts of Thanksgiving Foods for Cats

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Time to loosen your belt buckle, 'cause Thanksgiving is right around the corner! While Thanksgiving dinner is for the whole family, there are “pawlenty” of pitfalls when it comes to fixing your feline friend a plate. 

What foods can cats have on Thanksgiving? And which Thanksgiving foods are toxic to cats? Here's a comprehensive look at which Thanksgiving foods are safe for cats and which ones might harm your purring pal. 


"Impawtant" safety notes for cats on Thanksgiving

Before we dig in to Thanksgiving foods for cats, here are a few pointers to keep in mind no matter what you plan to feed your feline on Turkey Day:

  • Spices and seasonings can cause stomach upset and even poisoning. Avoid feeding your cat seasoned Thanksgiving foods.

  • Thanksgiving foods are a decadent treat for cats — they shouldn't replace your cat's usual food.

  • Feed your cat small amounts of Thanksgiving foods to prevent weight gain and digestive issues.

  • Let all your guests know not to feed your cat from the table or give them scraps without asking you first.

  • Senior cats or those with dental issues may need their food cut up into small pieces for easier chewing and digestion.

A candlelit thanksgiving dinner with turkey as the centerpiece

What Thanksgiving foods are safe for cats?

Here's an overview of the Thanksgiving foods that cats can safely eat:

  • Turkey
  • Ham
  • Gravy
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Corn/cornbread
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Okra
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts

Let's take a closer look at each food, including how much you can safely feed your cat and the "pawtential" health benefits.

Turkey

Turkey is safe for cats and a common ingredient in many adult cat foods. Turkey is low in fat and sodium, which can reduce a cat's risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It's safe to give your cat some unseasoned turkey meat on Thanksgiving — just be sure to hold the skin and stuffing.

Ham

Ham is safe to feed your cat in small amounts, but it shouldn't replace their regular food. Ham contains high amounts of salt and fat, which can contribute to health conditions like obesity and high blood pressure. That said, it's safe to give your cat an unseasoned sliver of ham as a special treat on Thanksgiving.

Gravy

You should avoid anything other than plain gravy, as gray is sometimes seasoned with toxic ingredients like onions and garlic. Gravy is also high in sodium and fat, which can cause your cat to gain weight. A few drops of unseasoned gravy are unlikely to harm your cat's health.

Cranberry sauce

Cranberries are safe to feed cats in moderation. They're a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Cranberries also have anti-inflammatory properties and are loaded with antioxidants. However, you shouldn't feed your cat much cranberry sauce, as it's high in sugar.

Corn

Cats can eat unseasoned corn on Thanksgiving, and it's a common ingredient in many cat foods. It's considered healthy for cats, as it helps with digestion and has vitamins and minerals like carotenoids, vitamin E, and magnesium. You can also feed your cat cornbread, but only in small quantities, as it's high in sugar and fat.

Carrots

Cooked, unseasoned carrots are safe to feed cats. Carrots provide many of the same health benefits for cats as they do for humans. They're high in fiber, which improves digestion. Carrots are also high in vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and thiamine. Avoid giving your cat more than a small amount of glazed carrots, as they're coated in butter and brown sugar, which could upset your cat's tummy. 

Broccoli

Unseasoned broccoli is safe to feed your cat on Thanksgiving. It's healthy for cats, as it's high in fiber, which improves digestion. Plus, it has a high water content, helping your cat stay hydrated. As with any vegetable, you should feed your cat broccoli in moderation. 

Okra

A Southern favorite, okra is safe to feed your cat at Thanksgiving. In fact, okra is healthy for cats and contains vitamin C, potassium, B vitamins, and folic acid. If you're cooking fried okra, ensure the okra isn't seasoned with anything toxic to cats, like onions or shallots. It's a good idea to remove the breading altogether if you're planning to give a piece to your cat.

Potatoes

Many forms of cooked, unseasoned potatoes are safe for cats, including mashed and roasted potatoes. Again, if you're planning to give your cat a taste of your Turkey Day potatoes, skip the seasoning (especially garlic). Cats can't digest raw potatoes, so ensure they're fully cooked before feeding.

Sweet potatoes

Just like potatoes, cooked sweet potatoes are safe for cats to eat on Thanksgiving. Sweet potatoes are chock full of fiber, which can help resolve digestive issues and help your cat feel full for longer. If you want to share some sweet potato with your cat, ensure it's fully cooked and unseasoned. Avoid giving your cat any sweet potato pie or souffle (we'll discuss why in the next section).

Brussels sprouts

Is your cat one of the rare Thanksgiving guests who love Brussels sprouts? Good news! Fully cooked, unseasoned Brussels sprouts are safe for cats in moderation. They're also high in fiber and vitamin C. Give your cat a small nibble of cooked Brussels sprouts before adding harmful extras like onions, garlic, or cheese.

A white and tabby cat sitting on hay surrounded by pumpkins

What Thanksgiving foods are toxic to cats?

Here's an overview of which Thanksgiving foods are toxic or not advised for cats:

  • Stuffing
  • Deviled eggs
  • Candied yams
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Mac and cheese
  • Green bean casserole

Let's take a look at why these Thanksgiving foods are harmful to cats.

Stuffing

You shouldn't give your cat stuffing or dressing at Thanksgiving. Stuffing is usually seasoned with onions, garlic, and scallions. These all belong to the allium family, which contains compounds that break down red blood cells. Ingesting onion, garlic, or scallions can lead to serious health conditions in cats, like hemolytic anemia.

Deviled eggs

You shouldn't feed your cat deviled eggs at Thanksgiving. While plain, cooked eggs are a good source of protein for cats, some of the ingredients in deviled eggs can upset your cat's stomach, such as mustard and mayonnaise. Some recipes also use ingredients that are toxic to cats, like onions and scallions.

Candied yams

You shouldn't feed your cat candied yams or sweet potato souffle at Thanksgiving. Candied yams have far too high a sugar content and are likely to cause vomiting or diarrhea. Ingredients commonly used in candied yams, like nutmeg and cinnamon, can be toxic in large doses. For example, nutmeg poisoning is caused by myristicin, a narcotic that's toxic to cats, resulting in high blood pressure, disorientation, and even seizures

Pumpkin pie

While cats can eat raw and cooked pumpkin, you shouldn't feed them pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie is high in sugar, which could upset your cat's stomach. Similar to candied yams, pumpkin pie often contains nutmeg and cinnamon, which is toxic to cats. 

Mac and cheese

Mac and cheese is not safe to feed your cat at Thanksgiving due to the amount of dairy products used to make it. Cats are lactose intolerant, and eating mac and cheese can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Plus, mac and cheese is high in fat and salt, which could raise your cat's blood pressure. 

Green bean casserole

While unseasoned green beans are safe for cats, you should avoid feeding them green bean casserole. Green bean casseroles usually contain fried onions, which are toxic to cats. Green bean casserole may also be topped with cheese, which will cause digestive issues. Garlic, which is toxic to cats, is sometimes added for flavor as well.

black cat sitting next to five orange pumpkins against an orange background

Safe ways to treat your feline friend on Turkey Day

Looking for safe ways to get your feline friend involved in your Thanksgiving feast? Here are some ways to safely treat your cat this Thanksgiving:

  • Set aside some plain, cooked yams while making candied yams. 
  • Take tiny bits of safe Thanksgiving food and mix them together so your cat can have their own plate of fixings. 
  • Remove a spoonful of gravy before seasoning to feed to your cat.
  • Remove the breading from fried okra and cut it into small pieces for a healthier snack that's less likely to upset your cat's stomach.
  • Scramble an unseasoned egg for your cat to enjoy as a healthy, protein-rich snack instead of deviled eggs. 
  • Avoid using onions and garlic in recipes so your cat can enjoy as much of your Thanksgiving meal as possible.



This is not a complete list of Thanksgiving foods for cats. Use Wag! Vet Chat to get expert advice on what your cat can eat on Turkey Day.



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