15 Poisonous Foods for Cats

When your kitty begs for a taste of your food in the kitchen, it can be tempting to share a small bite of what you’re cooking. However, many foods humans love to eat are poisonous foods for cats. 

According to a report released by the Pet Poison Helpline, three out of the top five pet poisons for cats in 2023 were common ingredients found in most homes — chocolate, onions, and garlic!

To protect your feline friend from poisonous foods hiding in your own home, here’s what you need to know about foods harmful to cats. Plus, we’ll share helpful tips about how to prevent accidental ingestion.

Dangerous Foods for Cats

The best thing pet parents can do to prevent cat poisoning is to prevent cats from gobbling down toxic foods in the first place. 

That requires understanding what foods are poisonous to cats and adopting tactics to restrict your cat’s access to these foods. 

Here are 16 foods you should keep away from your cat:

Alcohol

In addition to vomiting and diarrhea, even small amounts of alcohol can cause neurologic symptoms in cats. These include stumbling, trouble breathing, tremors, coma, and even death.

Caffeinated drinks and foods

This stimulant can cause vomiting and diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and possibly death.

Cannabis-containing items

Not only is nibbling on the cannabis plant a no-no for cats, but they should also avoid consuming any items that contain cannabis. This includes baked goods, gummies, and even second-hand smoke. In cats, cannabis often causes dribbling of urine, nausea, and sensitivity to noise and light. It can also trigger decreased heart rate, shallow breathing, impaired consciousness, and death.

Chocolate

When it comes to leading causes of toxicity in cats, chocolate is one of the most common culprits. Chocolate contains a double dose of stimulants — theobromine, which stimulates the heart, and caffeine, which stimulates the brain and central nervous system. The higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the greater the risk to your cat. Felines are generally more sensitive to chocolate poisoning than canines. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity in cats include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and hyperactivity. More severe cases can cause tremors, frequent urination, and seizures. Severe or untreated cases can end in coma or death.

Citrus

Eating small amounts of citrus fruit, such as lemon slices or orange segments, could cause your cat mild stomach upset. However, the stems, leaves, peels, and seeds of citrus fruits pose a greater danger to your cat because they contain concentrated amounts of citric acid. In large quantities, citric acid can irritate your cat’s stomach and impact your cat’s behavior and consciousness.

Coconut

The flesh and milk of fresh coconut contain oils that can cause stomach upset and diarrhea in cats. While coconut water is rich in potassium, a mineral essential to your cat’s health, drinking it could lead to a dangerous potassium imbalance (hyperkalemia) that can cause low heart rate (bradycardia) and irregular heart rate (arrhythmia).

Garlic and onions

Garlic and onions (along with leeks, shallots, and chives) are members of the Allium genus of plants, which are toxic to cats. These foods all contain a compound that gives them their signature strong aroma. But the compound can also damage red blood cells in cats who eat these ingredients (in any form — raw, cooked, and even powdered spices). This can cause life-threatening anemia. Symptoms of toxicity in cats who eat onions or garlic include pale gums, discoloration of urine, vomiting, and weakness.

Grapes and raisins

In both fresh and dried forms, these sweet, petite treats may seem like a healthy option. But even in small quantities, grapes and raisins can be deadly to cats. Eating them can cause vomiting, lethargy, and diarrhea…or, worse, kidney damage and even kidney failure in cats. It is difficult to predict how severe any cat’s reaction will be. So it is best to prevent your cat from eating any grapes or raisins at all.

Milk and dairy products

What could be more wholesome than the image of a cat contentedly lapping up a saucer full of milk? Unfortunately, this common misconception could be hazardous to your cat’s health. After they are weaned from their mother’s milk, cats do not produce much lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose in milk. So consuming milk and other dairy items can cause stomach upset and diarrhea.

Mold foods

While the idea of eating moldy food might seem repellant to us, there’s no telling what a curious cat will consume if given the opportunity. Moldy or spoiled foods may contain mycotoxins that can cause harmful chemical reactions in your cat’s body. In mild cases, symptoms may include vomiting and digestive upset. In severe cases, your cat might act almost drunken — staggering about, exhibiting muscle tremors and even convulsions.

Nuts

In general, nuts are not a good choice for cats due to their high fat content, which makes them hard to digest and can cause pancreatitis. They can also be a choking hazard for your cat. However, some nuts pose an even greater risk, such as macadamia nuts, which are highly toxic to pets, causing lethargy, loss of coordination, and even paralysis.  Nuts that are prone to molding, such as walnuts, peanuts, and pecans, should also be avoided at all costs.

Raw eggs

Raw eggs can contain hazardous bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli, which can cause vomiting, bloody profuse diarrhea, dehydration, and weakness in cats. Though the impact is not as immediate, raw egg whites contain an enzyme called avidin that could cause a vitamin deficiency over time.

Raw meat and fish

Salmonella and E. coli can also flourish in uncooked raw meat and fish. In addition to toxicity risks, these foods can also contain bones that could splinter and perforate your cat’s esophagus or intestines.

Salt

Trace amounts of salt in your cat’s diet are not a problem. But if your cat eats too much salt, it could be toxic. This includes salt from high-sodium human foods, such as meat jerky, table salt, as well as road salt used to melt ice. Signs of salt poisoning in cats include increased thirst, frequent urination, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of consciousness. If your cat’s kidneys cannot get rid of the excess sodium fast enough, it could cause an electrolyte imbalance called hypernatremia. In extreme cases, salt toxicity in cats can lead to tremors, increased body temperature, seizures, and death.

Yeast dough

Uncooked dough expands due to body heat and can cause gas to build up in your cat’s stomach. This is very painful and may cause bloat which can lead to life-threatening consequences. In addition, yeast produces ethanol as a by-product and may cause alcohol poisoning, as well.

Protecting Cats from Harmful Foods

Awareness plays a big part in helping keep your cat safe from toxic foods. However, even knowing what toxic and dangerous foods to avoid feeding your cat may not be enough to protect them. 

Cats have a reputation for agility and resourcefulness. So, you’ll need to go the extra mile to ensure hazardous foods stay off-limits. Here are some pointers on how best to keep your cat out of harm’s way:

  • If possible, keep your cat out of the kitchen while you cook. It’s too easy to drop dangerous ingredients on the floor or turn your back and risk your cat gobbling up something they shouldn’t.
  • Store off-limits ingredients in cat-proof containers or behind closed doors. Cats can easily jump onto counters, remove lids, chew through bags, and even open some plastic containers. 
  • Make sure guests know it’s not okay to share food and drink with your cat. Friends and family may mean well, but you know what is best for your cat!
  • Use lidded cups for your drinks and do not leave them unattended…especially alcoholic beverages. Not only will this keep your cat safe from dangerous ingredients, but it also prevents them from sticking a paw in there or spilling it all over!
  • Consider pet-proof locks for your kitchen and pantry. Some cats can open cupboards and even get into the refrigerator. If you have a feline Houdini in the household, locks that limit access to toxic foods could be a lifesaver!

Even with these precautions, it’s hard to eliminate the risk of foods toxic to cats completely. If you suspect your cat consumed something dangerous, or if you recognize signs of toxicity in your cat, seek emergency veterinary care immediately. Acting quickly could mean the difference between a mild reaction and a severe — or even deadly — outcome. 

When it comes to your cat and toxic foods, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

The post 15 Poisonous Foods for Cats appeared first on Great Pet Care.