Which Foods Are Poisonous To Cats?

Cats do not have the same digestive or immune systems as us. That probably isn’t news to you. It’s also why you probably don’t eat cat food! But if you did, it would be unlikely to poison you unless you had specific allergies. Most cat foods are safe for human consumption. There’s a new option for you to consider if there’s nothing else in the house and you don’t want to walk to the shops. Unfortunately, the reserve is not true. Not all human food is safe for feline consumption. In fact, quite a lot of foods that they’ll happily eat are actually poisonous to cats.

It gets worse. Some of the things that cats shouldn’t eat are actually among their favourite foods! Just because something tastes good doesn’t mean it’s actually good for you. We all know that from eating too much takeaway food every now and then. So here’s a breakdown of the various types of food that are poisonous to cats. If any of them currently appear on your pet’s regular mealtime rotation, it’s time to change the menu.

Before We Start

poisonous to cats

This cat gets it. Image courtesy of Pixabay

We’re going to focus specifically on food types that are poisonous to cats in general. There are a number of foods that may or may not agree with your cat, depending on your cat as an individual. Some breeds of cat want or need a certain type of food more than others. That’s why there’s breed specific cat food. Your cat may also suffer from allergies, which can have unpleasant consequences. There could be some foods that are off limits to your cat, but not to most cats. All of the foods we’re going to cover in this article should of off the menu to all cats, at all times.

You may be about to read that a food you use as a treat for your cat is actually on the list of poisonous items. If that happens, don’t feel bad, and rest assured that there are plenty of other treat options available for them. Some of the information we’re about to share isn’t widely known. We’ve done our reading, and looked to scientists to support the advice we’re about to give you. And who are we to argue with science? Multiple studies have been conducted, and different scientists from different countries have all agreed on the below list.

Foods That Are Poisonous To Cats

1. Alcohol

Alcohol is actually poisonous to humans, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s also poisonous to cats. If we drink too much alcohol, chances are we’ll wake up the next day with a headache and a deep sense of embarrassment. If we really drink excessively, however, alcohol poisoning sets in, and we could be looking at a stay in hospital. Human beings can only tolerate alcohol up to a certain limit. Cats have absolutely no tolerance for it whatsoever. An amount as small as one tablespoon of alcohol in your cat’s system could cause it serious health problems. Because their bodies can’t process it, it can damage both the liver and the brain very quickly. We know for a lot of people it would never occur to them to feed alcohol to a cat, but it can be a problem for dog owners. Because dogs occasionally like a small drink of beer, some owners might believe the same applies to cats. It doesn’t. Never feed your cat a single drop of alcohol.

2. Chocolate

You may have a sweet tooth. Your cat does not. Chocolate is intensely poisonous to cats. There is a substance called theobromine in all forms of chocolate, and it can be lethal if your cat ingests it. Theobromine is a stimulant, and has a hugely negative impact on a cat’s heart. This can cause tremors, vomiting, and even complete heart failure. Although you should never feed chocolate to your cat at all, some types are worse than others. As a rule of thumb, the darker chocolate is, the more theobromine it contains.

3. Caffeine

By caffeine, we mean any form of energy drink or coffee. We can’t imagine why you’d want to feed coffee to your cat anyway, given that it’s hot! The message here is that pretty much all human stimulants are bad for cats. When you have a coffee in the morning, it wakes you up and makes you feel more alert. If your cat were to ingest it, it would be hugely over stimulated. That means tremors, rapid heart rate, and hyperventilation. All of those things put a big strain on your cat’s heart and brain, which can lead to seizures and even death. It just isn’t a good idea.

4. Dairy Products

poisonous to cats

Cats enjoy drinking milk. Cats should not drink milk. Both of these statements are true. Image courtesy of Flickr

This is the one that we expect you to be surprised by. It’s commonly received wisdom that cats love milk. We suspect there’s some truth to it; they certainly seem to enjoy the taste of milk, and they’re happy enough to drink it. The issue is that they really shouldn’t. Once a cat reaches adulthood, it’s almost completely lactose intolerant. Although they’ll drink their mother’s milk as kittens, the composition of that milk is vastly different to what we drink. Also, when they’re weaned off, their diet changes, and they don’t generally consume lactose again. If they then encounter milk in later life, they no longer possess the enzymes required to break it down and digest it. Although it’s highly unlikely to be fatal to your cat, a dairy product will give them an upset stomach, and possibly diarrhea too. Remember, it’s not just milk, it’s all dairy products. Cheese is also poisonous to cats. Don’t let them eat the toppings off your pizza when you’re done with it!

5. Onions And Garlic

Frankly, a cat’s breath doesn’t smell great at the best of times. We don’t know why you’d want to feed them something that would make it smell worse. But just in case you were tempted to start serving onions or garlic to your cat; don’t. It’s very poisonous to them. It doesn’t matter how it’s presented – raw or cooked, they still shouldn’t eat it. It’s all about the sulphides in these food types, which don’t bother humans too much, but aggressively attack the red blood cells of a cat. When that starts happening, it can lead to anaemia, which in turn leads on to issues with the intestines.

6. Raw Eggs

Here’s some advice for both you and your cat: Don’t eat raw eggs. They’re an easy way to catch salmonella, which isn’t exclusively a human problem. Cats can catch it the same way, and just as easily. You may have seen any number of diet ideas on YouTube which suggest pouring raw eggs into protein shakes, and they’re all wrong. Salmonella poisoning isn’t a pleasant thing to go through. The symptoms include acute nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and chronic fatigue. For cats, it gets even worse. There’s an active enzyme within raw eggs called avidin. Inside a cat’s body avidin blocks the absorption of vitamin B- and that’s the vitamin that’s responsible for your cat’s glossy coat. If your cat isn’t getting enough vitamin B, it will develop fur and skin complaints.

7. Raw Dough

We don’t imagine for a second that you’d deliberately feed raw dough to your cat. This is more something to bear in mind if you use it in your kitchen, for example when making your own bread or pizza. Raw dough is very poisonous to cats. If you have some in your kitchen, keep it well out of a cat’s reach at all times. They have no means by which to digest it, and worse than that, the dough will begin to rise in their stomach. That means intestinal and abdominal stretching, which could go on to rupture with fatal consequences. Even if it doesn’t, it will begin to ferment, and fermentation means it will eventually become alcohol. Alcohol, as you already know, is also acutely poisonous to cats. By all means indulge your baking and cooking hobbies to your heart’s content. Just be absolutely positive that your cat can get nowhere near the raw ingredients.

8. Raw Fish Including Tuna

poisonous to cats

A cat chewing a toy raw fish is fine. A cat chewing a real raw fish is going to be ill! Image courtesy of Pixabay

No, don’t click off the page, this is completely true! Cats love fish. We’re not disputing that point. But the fish that comes as part of cat food has been professionally cooked, processed and treated especially for cats. Raw fish has none of these safeguards. Active ingredients within it can destroy the deposits of a vitamin called thiamine within your cat’s body. Without thiamine, neurological problems can develop, including those that lead to seizures. Raw tuna contains another problem – there’s slightly too much mercury in it for a cat’s liking. Too much of it can cause mercury poisoning. Don’t take fish away from your cat completely – there’s no need. Just cook it first, or stick to a trusted wet cat food that contains fish.

9. Potatoes And Green Tomatoes

There is an increasing – and dangerous – trend to feed cats purely vegetarian diets. Cats are carnivores, and shouldn’t be treated or fed in any other way. Not only that, but some vegetables are poisonous to cats. Potatoes and green tomatoes both contain an alkaloid called solanine. It’s acutely toxic to all felines, and can lead to serious issues with the gastrointestinal system. If you pay close attention to the ingredients list on your cat food tins or boxes, you might query this. It’s true that in some cat foods, there are small quantities of tomatoes. However, these are always ripe tomatoes, and the alkaloid disappears once a tomato has ripened. As a rule of thumb, anything in a quality cat food is safe to eat. Cat foods are heavily researched, carefully produced, and formulated especially for cats to consume. None of those processes have happened yet for raw foods.

10. Anything That Contains Xylitol

Nobody ever goes to the shops and buys xylitol, but it finds its way into quite a lot of food and practical products that you may have around the home. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol (and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve already spotted the problem), which is often used as a sweetener. It doesn’t occur in many things that you’d be likely to feed your cat on purpose, but it creeps into several things that they could easily consume by accident. This is another reminder to be aware of what you have in your home, and what might be in reach of a curious cat if it goes looking. The list of what xylitol may appear in includes, but is not limited to:-

  • Chewing gum
  • Baked goods
  • Diet foods for humans (because it adds sweetness to the taste)
  • Candy and sweets
  • Toothpaste

And there are more. You might surprise yourself by double checking the ingredients of items in your cupboards. Its presence in toothpaste is the main reason why you should never use human toothpaste to brush your cat’s teeth – there are speciality products available for cat teeth cleaning and only they should be used for performing the task. Xylitol is poisonous to cats because it raises their insulin levels. This in turn drops the sugar levels, and can cause permanent damage to the liver. Signs that your cat has ingested xylitol include loss of co-ordination and muscle power, vomiting and lethargy.

11. Dog Food

poisonous to cats

“Seriously, how do you even eat that stuff?” Dog food isn’t for cats. Image from Pixabay

It’s tempting to think that food for dogs and food for cats is largely similar. After all, they often come in the same range of flavours. Unfortunately, it’s not the case. Dogs and cats are completely different species, and have different dietary requirements. Although dog food isn’t necessarily poisonous to cats just by eating it, they will eventually become ill if they eat dog food and nothing else. Because dogs produce taurine naturally within their body, they don’t need it in their food. Cats aren’t so lucky. Cat food is a cat’s primary source of taurine, and going without it for an extended period of time will lead to health complications. They may manifest as issues with vision, heart problems, or poor dental hygiene. If your household contains both dogs and cats, don’t mix their meals up.

12. Bones And Fat Trimmings

Here’s another potential favourite cat treat gone. It’s very tempting to feed fat trimmings and bones to cats off your plate – especially when they’re making eyes at you and begging. You’re just going to have to get better at resisting them, because they shouldn’t be eating anything of the sort. Fat, whether it’s cooked or not, can cause stomach upsets and abdominal pains. It’s the meat your cat really wants, not the fat that surrounds it. Bones are also a big no no for our furry friends – again, they’re not dogs. Cats aren’t really designed to gnaw on a bone, and it’s far more likely they’ll break a piece off which can get lodged in their throat.

A Food That Might Be Poisonous to Cats…

Although we’ve seen a lot of sources state that grapes and raisins are poisonous to cats, we’ve seen no direct scientific evidence. There are many testimonies from cat owners who say their pet loves grapes and raisins, and so they hand them out as treats. What is known is that dogs have chronic and violent reactions to grapes and raisins, and they can cause kidney failure in canines within a matter of hours. There is no direct confirmation from anywhere that the same happens in cats. Regardless of that, it may be best to exercise caution until the situation becomes clear at some future point. If you already feed grapes and raisins to your cat as a treat, and have never seen any sign of an ill effect, there’s probably no reason to stop. Equally, if you’ve never done it, it might not be a good idea to start.

Best Practice Around The Home

Most households will have foods that are poisonous to cats within them, and there’s not a great deal that can be done to avoid that. What you can do, however, is make those foods difficult for your cat to access. Best practice when it comes to keeping your cat safe is:-

  • Keep all food out of your cat’s reach. That means safe and secure inside cupboards. If you have a very curious or clever cat, you may even need to invest in some cupboard locks to make extra sure they can’t find their way in there and help themselves.
  • Stop feeding them table scraps. We’re sorry. We know it’s a hard habit to break, but there are just too many risks involved. Get some cat treats instead, and feed them those when they come begging instead. They’re unlikely to mind – they only want to join in when you’re eating.
  • Don’t let your cat on the counter when you’re preparing food. A cat on a counter with a whole range of ingredients in front of it is likely to help itself to whatever it finds. It’s doubly dangerous, because this is when your ingredients are most likely to be raw, which we know isn’t a good thing. It may be better to shut your furry friend out of the kitchen completely when you’re preparing food. You can make it up to them later.

Now you know what they shouldn’t eat, you’ll hopefully find it easier to keep your cat’s diet on the straight and narrow. And yes, we’re still getting our head round the fact that cat’s shouldn’t drink milk, too. It might take us a while! Thanks for reading this article today. If you found it useful, please share it among your cat loving friends!