15 Foods Toxic to Cats

An adult woman feeds her Siberian cat with a food box

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Foods that cats can’t eat

Most cats eat hard, but this does not mean that they will always avoid foods that are harmful to them. Cats can develop the same bad habits as dogs, whether that’s putting food on the table or swiping something delicious off the kitchen table. And while some “people” foods are considered safe for pets, other foods are toxic to cats — even in small amounts.

“The two most important things to remember are that all pet foods are designed to be a nutritionally complete diet, which means they do not need to be supplemented with treats or additional foods,” says Travis Arndt, MD, medical director of Animal Medical Center in Mid-America. “Second, the digestive system of cats and kittens prefers a consistent diet of the same food every day.” If you’re wondering what that is, take a look at this vet-approved diet for cats, including the best dry food for them.

How do you know if your cat is sick? Food toxicity can take many different forms, from upset stomach and diarrhea to jaundice, seizures, and even death. Additionally, two cats who eat the same “forbidden” food may have different reactions, so it can be difficult to know when to call the vet. “Let’s say your cat has any of the possible symptoms associated with eating toxic food or you watched her eat the offending food,” says veterinarian Michelle Burch, DVM, who works with Safe Hounds Pet Insurance. “In that case, I recommend a veterinary evaluation with your primary vet or emergency hospital.”

If you are not sure if your cat needs a medical evaluation, try calling the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Hotline (855-764-7661). You will also need to follow these protocols if you have a dog that has eaten toxic food. But back to your cunning friend: You’ll want to make sure you keep the following foods out of your reach to avoid a frightening situation in the first place.

Information about poisonous foods for cats

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Canned tuna on a wooden table

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Poisonous food for cats: canned tuna fish

Few cats will refuse canned tuna. But anything more than a little nibble here and there can be very dangerous. “If canned tuna is less than 10 percent of their total dietary intake, that will be fine,” says Dr. Burch. But more than that, she explains, they can end up with nutritional deficiencies, because they need essential vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, which are not found in tuna fish.

Furthermore, tuna meat, especially red tuna, can cause a deficiency in thiamine, resulting in neurological symptoms including mental lethargy, incoordination, blindness, head tilting, abnormal eye movement, and seizures. “If a cat is not evaluated and treated promptly, thiamine deficiency can result in death,” says Dr. Burch.

Still not convinced? Dr. Burch adds that feeding cats large quantities of tuna can severely increase the risk of pancreatitis, bleeding disorders and lower urinary tract diseases, which can lead to inflammation of the bladder and urethra, spasms and possible urinary obstruction. Symptoms of lower urinary tract disease include blood in the urine, frequent trips to the litter box, straining when urinating, and abdominal pain. If your cat is not eating, the cause may be food-related illness.

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