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Can Cats Eat Non-Cat Food?


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Published: 7/15/2021

Does your kitty stare at you intently during dinnertime? Or do they paw at your hand trying to get a nibble of whatever you are eating? Is it safe to share your food with your cat?

The answer can be tricky, and that’s due to the fact that while some of the foods we eat are safe for our feline pals, others can be downright toxic! Cats also need a particular kind of diet that caters to their specific nutritional needs, and eating a lot of people foods could result in a nutritional imbalance that could cause a medical issue.

Overall, yes, cats can eat some non-cat foods, but you’ll need to know what foods are safe and unsafe to prevent upsetting their system, or putting them at risk of being poisoned. Don’t know where to start? In this guide, we’ll explore which people foods your cat can eat, and how to feed them correctly to keep your cat healthy.

The Danger of People Foods

There’s a lot of ingredients in our foods that are tasty for us, but for our feline furiends, they can be quite dangerous to consume. Safely feeding your cat people food means being highly aware of everything that’s in it. Many herbs and spices, like garlic, onions, chives and hot spices, are toxic for cats, while too much sugar can contribute to health issues, especially for diabetic cats.

Foods that are high in salt can cause salt poisoning, dehydration, or an electrolyte imbalance, while, foods high in fat can lead to high cholesterol and pancreatitis. Then there’s just the downright poisonous foods that our cats’ bodies can’t tolerate at all, like chocolate which can be lethal.

You’ll want to observe a couple basic rules when giving your cat your foods. First, leave out any seasoning from the food, including extra salt or sugar. Rarely do we eat just a plain, unseasoned piece of boiled chicken, but to a cat, that’s a gourmet meal that will result in lots of happy meows!

Secondly, keep portion sizes small, as even too much of a safe food can alter the nutritional balance of your cat’s diet. Not only are their stomachs smaller, but foods that we can handle may simply be too much for a cat-size creature to process fully, and could cause digestive complaints.

So, before you give your cat a bite of your pizza with its salty pepperoni and garlicky sauce, let’s take a look at some specific foods cats can and can’t eat.

Foods Toxic To Cats

Some foods, while harmless to us, contain chemicals that can cause seriously dangerous reactions inside our cat’s body. Uncooked meats, seafood and eggs can also transmit parasites and bacteria. From vomiting, diarrhea and panting, to muscle tremors, seizures and death, the scary side effects from these poisonous foods can be avoided by simply leaving them out of your cat’s diet. The most common toxic foods for cats include:

  • Chives
  • Chocolate
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Avocado
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Raw meat, seafood, liver and eggs
  • Raw bread dough
  • Bones
  • Xylitol – A sugar substitute that can be used in peanut butter.
  • Dairy products
  • Large amounts of canned tuna

While there’s nothing as stereotypical as the image of a cat enjoying a saucer of milk, in reality, cats can’t digest dairy after they’ve been weaned due to a lack of enzymes. While a couple of licks of milk or a nibble of cheese aren’t too dangerous, much more can cause digestive issues like vomiting, diarrhea and constipation.

And who isn’t tempted to give their cat tuna? The truth is that tuna canned for human consumption contains mercury and too much of this toxic metal can lead to mercury poisoning that can damage their kidneys and brain. 

Safe Foods for Cats

Now that we’ve scared you, let’s explore some safer choices for our kitties to enjoy!

  • Unseasoned, deboned, cooked chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, salmon, tuna or other seafoods
  • Cooked eggs
  • Deseeded, cored apples
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Spinach
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin
  • Plain oatmeal

Tips for Safely Feeding Cats Non-Cat Foods

Here’s a few tips to help you ensure ultimate kitty satisfaction while maintaining their health.

  • Choose cat-safe foods.
  • Always leave off the seasoning from any foods.
  • Be aware of proper portioning. People foods, like treats, should make up only 10% of your cat’s daily calorie intake. For most cats, this usually means a few nibbles to teaspoons.
  • Boil or bake meats and seafood, or pan-fry them using small amounts of lower fat oils, such as olive or coconut oil.
  • Don’t feed your cat fatty foods, including skin, grease, gristle, or butter.
  • Don’t substitute people food for your cat’s entire meal or diet. Speak with your veterinarian first about homecooked meals for your cat that are nutritionally sound.
  • In a pinch, dog food is ok if fed for one day. However, dog foods are not formulated for cats, and should never be a regular part of their diet. 

Armed with nutritional knowledge, you can make your cat’s day with a chicken and spinach surprise, or a cat-sized banana and strawberry smoothie! For any other questions about cat health, check out our library of cat topics here!

Now, let the purrs begin!

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