Cats are curious by nature, and unlike dogs, can easily explore those harder to reach places around the home.
However, it may surprise you to learn that some foods which are perfectly safe for humans to eat could harm your cat’s health and some could even prove fatal. It’s important to know which foods should be safely stored away in kitty-proof containers and cabinets as well as the symptoms to look out for if your cat has eaten something they shouldn’t.
Just like in humans, alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, causing your cat to become drowsy and disorientated. Alcohol is absorbed by a cat’s body much quicker than a human’s, and if your cat is exposed to higher levels of alcohol, they may suffer from alcohol poisoning and experience vomiting, dehydration, breathing problems and loss of consciousness. Alcohol isn’t just found in beer, wine and liquor; some foods, cough syrups, perfumes and even mouthwashes can all contain alcohol, so be sure to keep all these items well out of reach.
Avocados contain a toxin called persin, which is found in the leaves, the pit and bark, as well as the fruit. Persin is poisonous to cats in large doses can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Kittens and senior cats are likely to be affected more by persin toxicity, so be sure to give your veterinarian a call if you think your cat has consumed any.
Bones and fat trimmings
Fat trimmings from meat can cause the level of lipids in your cat’s blood to rise, which leads to a condition called pancreatitis. This condition causes your cat’s pancreas to start digesting its own tissue and can be fatal in the long run. Cooked bones, such as chicken bones, are not only a choking hazard, but they can splinter easily and can damage your cat’s teeth, tongue or mouth, and even puncture their digestive tract, so it’s best to avoid feeding scraps like these to your cat.
As most pet owners know, chocolate is a big no-no for cats and dogs. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea, or more serious issues such as heart problems, seizures and even death. The toxin found in chocolate, theobromine, is more concentrated in dark chocolate and cocoa powder, but it’s important to get in touch with your veterinarian for advice if you think your cat has consumed any type of chocolate, no matter how small the amount.
Coffee contains caffeine, which can be fatal to cats in high doses. The symptoms of caffeine poisoning include increased heart rate, restlessness and vomiting, and in more serious cases, your cat may even collapse or experience seizures. Energy drinks, tea, cold and flu medicines and coffee-flavored products can also contain just as much caffeine as your morning coffee, so be sure to get in touch with your veterinarian for your advice if you believe your cat has ingested something containing caffeine.
Grapes, raisins and currants
Grapes, raisins and currants are dangerous to cats, even in small quantities, and the toxins found in these fruits can even cause kidney failure. If your cat has accidently eaten grapes or raisins, or you suspect they may have, then look out for signs of lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration and get in touch with your veterinarian for advice. Remember that foods such as mince pies, hot cross buns and fruit cake all contain dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas, so be sure to keep them well out of reach.
Feeding your cat too much liver can cause them to develop a vitamin A toxicity. The long-term effects of this condition include deformed bones, bone growths on the elbows and spine, and osteoporosis. In extreme cases, it can even lead to death, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and eliminate liver from your cat’s diet entirely.
Milk and cream
Believe it or not, most cats are lactose-intolerant, meaning they struggle to digest dairy products and, as a result, can suffer from an upset stomach and diarrhea. Higher fat foods, such as cream, contain less lactose, which means your cat is less likely to experience an adverse reaction after drinking cream than if they had consumed low-fat milk. While the occasional saucer of cream shouldn’t do any harm, it’s best to keep treats like these to a minimum or purchase some lactose free milk as an alternative.
Onions and garlic
Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives are all poisonous to cats, and are equally dangerous in all forms, including raw, cooked, dried or powdered. The toxins found in these plants can cause damage to your cat’s red blood cells, which can lead to anemia, organ damage and, in extreme cases, even death. Look out for signs of weakness, lethargy, dark colored urine and occasional vomiting and diarrhea, as any of these symptoms could be an indication of garlic/onion toxicity.
Raw fish, meat and eggs
While many pet owners believe raw diets are beneficial to their pet’s health, raw eggs, meat and fish contain bacteria which causes food poisoning. Bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli are common in raw eggs, while raw fish such as salmon, trout and sturgeon contain parasites which cause “fish disease” or “salmon poisoning”. If your cat experiences symptoms including fever, vomiting and enlarged lymph nodes, consult your veterinarian straight away.
While tuna-flavored cat food is perfectly safe for your cat to eat, canned tuna contains high levels of mercury, which can be poisonous to your cat in large doses. Tuna is also high in unsaturated fats, which can cause your cat to develop a vitamin E deficiency. This leads to a painful condition known as “yellow fat disease”, which is when fatty tissue in your cat’s body becomes inflamed.
Xylitol is a sweetener which is commonly found in foods such as candy, sugar-free gum, baked goods, toothpastes and diet foods, and it’s extremely toxic to cats. Xylitol affects your cat’s blood sugar levels and can even cause liver failure. The symptoms of xylitol toxicity include vomiting, weakness, lack of coordination and seizures. Liver failure can occur within a matter of days, so seek help from your veterinarian straight way if you think you cat has eaten something containing xylitol.
No matter how cautious you and your family are and how much you cat-proof your home, there’s always a chance your cat may end up eating something they shouldn’t. If you think your cat may have swallowed something toxic, call your veterinarian for advice or get in touch with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or Pet Poison Helpline as soon as possible.