Food you shouldn't feed your cat

Author picture Jessica

What food should you not feed your cat?

It might be tempting to feed a cat a treat from the dinner table but think twice before doing this. There are many human foods that aren’t good for your cat. 

Some of these foods have little nutritional value for a cat. Then again, others might give them an upset stomach if eaten in large quantities. At worst, some of these foods can be toxic and require emergency veterinary care. 

Cat eating from a bowl

Ten foods you should not feed your cat

  1. Onions: this includes onion-like ingredients such as spring onions, chives and shallots. Be mindful if these ingredients are mixed through food as well.
  2. Garlic: garlic in any form is even more potent than onions. These foods can break down a cat’s red blood cells, leading to symptoms such as vomiting and stomach pain.  
  3. Dairy products: despite the popular image of giving a cat a saucer of milk, dairy products can upset a cat’s stomach. This is because cats are lactose intolerant and dairy can really upset their stomach. 
  4. Chocolate: as with dogs, chocolate is a no-go for cats. The darker and richer the chocolate, the more harmful it can be. Read about it here.
  5. Coffee: like chocolate, coffee contains the same dangerous chemical that can make a cat sick. Never leave it around any pet unattended.
  6. Alcohol: it makes sense that alcohol is not for pets. It can make them incredibly sick, with vomiting and diarrhoea. Furthermore, it can be fatal in large amounts.
  7. Grapes and raisins: dogs and cats shouldn’t be fed raisins or grapes, including in food such as raisin toast or fruit cake. It can lead to issues with their kidneys.
  8. Canned tuna: although a tiny bit as a treat might be ok, a canned tuna diet will lead to malnutrition and possible mercury poisoning. Furthermore, many brands have other unhealthy additives, such as oil and onions. Instead, stick with your cat’s favourite fish-based cat food. 
  9. Dog food: if your cat sneaks some dog food, don’t panic. But never feed a pet a diet intended for another species, as they won’t get the vitamins and minerals they need to survive. 
  10. Citrus fruit: this includes lemons, mandarins, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and household products containing citrus oil. A little will lead to feeling a bit sick, a lot could lead to problems with your cat’s central nervous system.

How can you tell if a cat has eaten something poisonous?

If you don’t actually see your cat eating something bad, you might spot the following symptoms: 

  • Vomiting/gagging
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • Pain when handled around the stomach
  • Excessive drooling
  • Swollen or discoloured gums
  • Seizures 

Tabby cat licking lips

Fortunately, cats tend to avoid eating very toxic substances naturally. This is because, unlike dogs, cats are usually fussy enough that severe poisoning is a rare occurrence. But it’s still important to take steps to keep your curious feline safe, especially if they love food. 

What should you do if your cat eats something poisonous?

If you suspect your cat is sick from something they ate, take your cat to the vet immediately and give them clear information about what happened. They will be able to monitor and treat your cat if necessary. If you aren’t sure, always 

How to prevent your cat from eating the wrong thing?

With a little planning, it’s easy to keep your cat safe from eating unhealthy foods. Here’s how:

  • Keep your cat on a healthy, feline-specific diet to maintain their long-term physical health.
  • Never feed your cat unhealthy treats or leftovers from dinner.
  • Don’t feed your cat ingredients intended for humans (unless you do so with clearance from your cat’s veterinarian).
  • Keep human food well out of reach, including the pantry and garbage bin.
  • Make sure everyone in your household sticks with these rules, including all visitors.