How old were you the first time a cat started pawing after your food? You may have been a little girl. Did you share?
If so, that’s okay. Most of us did!
Now we know better. No matter how good it feels to dish out treats, you should exercise restraint.
Human food can be extremely dangerous for your cat. Felines evolved on a diet featuring small mammals, birds, and rodents. As a result, your cat’s liver is very specific about the toxins it can tolerate.
Some ingredients humans can filter safely are toxic to your pets. Do you know which ones? Then you should read this useful list of foods all cat owners should avoid. For a quick overview, check out our infographic first, then scroll below to learn more about each item.
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There are two basic categories of foods that you shouldn’t give your cat – foods that are never safe to give your cat, and foods that are safe sometimes.
Foods That Are NEVER Okay To Give Your Cat
Really? Are there people who do this on purpose? For shame.
Don’t give kitty any of your drinks. It’s not cute or funny.
Pets don’t have our natural tolerances for alcoholic beverages. That sip you’re sharing hits your cat’s tiny body like a 12-pack. A single tablespoon can put her into a coma.
Apricot, cherry, peach pits, apple seeds
These seeds contain toxins that cause cyanide poisoning. You’ve probably heard of cyanide. It’s not good.
This deadly chemical works by preventing oxygen in your blood from being delivered to your cells. In other words, your kitty will suffocate while she’s still breathing.
If that’s not the worst thing you’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is. Keep these out of sight!
Love guacamole? Then you should know that all parts of the avocado contain persin, which is toxic to small animals.
Luckily for cats, persin is less dangerous for them than for other species. Symptoms in cats are generally minor stomach pain and diarrhea, but still, it’s straight-up toxic and you should never feed this to your cat.
Whether from fish, chicken, turkey, or any other animal, please keep bones away from kitty.
Bones are a vital part of the diet of raw-food eating cats, but they’ll be eating them ground up very finely.
Your kitty can probably deal with small bones of rodents and birds, but don’t tempt her by trying to give her a “treat” that might splinter when she chews on it and get stuck in her throat/stomach/etc.
No coffee, no tea, no soda. Seems obvious, but some people like to tempt fate.
Caffeine pumps the heart rate, increases blood pressure, and alters digestion.
Plus, cats are more sensitive to caffeine than humans. Too much can cause seizures and even death.
Chocolate contains the alkaloid theobromine (which is also found in tea leaves). Theobromine is caffeine’s second cousin and twice as dangerous.
Too much of this causes extreme stomach distress, seizures, and heart attacks.
Fortunately, your kitty can’t taste sweets and cats usually have little interest in chocolate, but we’ve all heard the saying, “curiosity kills the cat”. Don’t let it hurt yours.
Citrus Oil Extracts
Citrus oil extracts are found in insecticidal shampoos, creams, food additives, and perfume.
Citrus oil is toxic to your cat’s liver. Even skin exposure can make your kitty sick.
Symptoms include drooling, hypothermia, dermatitis, and potentially death.
Grapes, raisins, and currants
These berries are tasty, but they contain a deadly mystery. An unknown toxin causes acute liver failure in dogs and cats – but no one knows exactly what.
Whatever it is, avoid berries in general. A tired, vomiting cat with little energy just might be suffering from liver damage. This means wine is especially dangerous, in case you missed our first point (alcohol)!
Green potatoes and tomatoes
Both potatoes and tomatoes are actually members of the family Nightshade. Nightshade plants are so named because they produce the alkaloid solanine – which is lethally poisonous. Anything green on these plants is toxic.
Abdominal pain, diarrhea, paralysis, and death will result from careless feeding.
Do you really need another reason not to give kitty alcohol? Well, we’ve got it for you.
Hops are great for brewing the perfect mug of beer – but they’re poisonous to dogs and cats.
The growing popularity of home brewing means more cats are being exposed to hops every year. The toxin triggers malignant hyperthermia – a rapid and uncontrollable rise in body temperature.
Are you noticing a pattern yet? No beer!
Wait, really? Then what else is a little girl supposed to give her kitten?
Well, when little miss kitty grows up, she usually stops making the enzyme lactase. Lactase is what lets us digest cow milk.
Most adult cats are lactose intolerant as a result – dairy products upset their stomach.
Moldy Food and Trash
This seems painfully obvious to me, but apparently, not everyone realizes that if a food can make YOU sick, it can just as easily make your CAT sick!
If the food is bad, it’s bad. Throw it away. Don’t risk food poisoning your cat.
This beautiful fungus is a staple of the human diet dating back for millennia. Mushrooms are an extremely diverse family, which makes it difficult to distinguish a safe species from a dangerous one.
When a mushroom is bad for you, it’s really bad for you.
Fungal toxins cause enormous damage to multiple body systems, even in tiny doses. The result is usually systemic shock, followed by death.
Nuts are generally are bad for smaller animals (especially dogs).
While the jury is still out on whether specific nuts are poisonous for cats, I’d rather not take any chances.
It’s worth noting that nuts are too high in fat for your cat either way.
Onions and Garlic
Sorry, Garfield. We all love Italian food, but you’re no longer allowed to eat lasagna.
Onions have sulfides and disulfides that destroy red blood cells, causing anemia. Cats are especially vulnerable.
Onion powder is a very common food additive – watch out. Garlic is less dangerous but still unsafe.
Another plant we love that cats should avoid. The leaves of the rhubarb plant have several nasty alkaloids, the most dangerous of which is oxalic acid.
Oxalic acid is toxic to kidneys and corrosive – it literally burns living tissue.
Cats have always hunted food. They love fresh meat, like any good predator. As a result, your cat has never developed a way to digest seeds.
They’re too hard and too densely packed with tough plant fibers.
Seeds often get stuck in the feline intestinal tract, causing serious inflammation.
Cat’s have more sensitive body chemistry than humans or dogs. Salt is bad for cats.
If your cat eats extra salt, she will vomit and urinate excessively, becoming dangerously dehydrated in the process.
This is a big reason why cats need specialized food products.
I know, I know. String isn’t food, you say.
That’s true, but cats are around string constantly. Sometimes cats don’t notice small pieces in their food and accidentally eat them.
It happens often enough it even has a name – “string foreign body“.
If you ever see a piece of string hanging from your cat’s bottom, DON’T PULL IT OUT! It might be tangled up inside the intestines and you risk causing an internal hemorrhage.
You get to decide whether or not to smoke. Just pay extra close attention to where your butts get thrown away.
And not just cigarettes; watch patches, gum, vapes, etc.
If your kitty accidentally ingests any nicotine, she could harm her nervous system, fall into a coma or die.
Ready to quit?
Vegetarian or Vegan Diet
Diet is an intensely personal decision. What you feel comfortable eating is shaped by your personal background, your nutritional needs, and ethical beliefs.
I’m not going to argue against a vegetarian diet – for people – but you shouldn’t force your preferences onto your pets.
Cats do not tolerate a vegetable diet as well as dogs. Your kitty is soft and cuddly, but she’s 100% predator. As an obligate carnivore, she loves and needs meat.
Vitamins and Supplements for Humans
Okay, so you might not consider pills to be food, but cats occasionally eat them.
Many supplements contain iron, which damages the lining of the intestines. Metals are hard on the liver and kidneys.
All of your pills should be put up and out of reach, no exceptions. It is OK, however, to give your cat species-appropriate vitamins and supplements with the approval of your vet in order to improve health.
Raw dough expands during digestion. Yeast produces gas as it rises.
In the oven, this is great; it makes our bread and cakes light and fluffy.
Not so great in the tight confines of your cat’s digestive system, though.
All the gas and expanding dough can cause intense abdominal pain – even a critical stomach rupture.
Foods That Are Sometimes Okay To Give Your Cat
Some people recommend baby food as a way to encourage sick kittens to eat more.
Baby food is only safe for your cat if it contains absolutely no onion powder – and many “meat only” products contain onion powder.
Baby food is engineered to fit the nutritional needs of an omnivorous human infant. Too much for too long and your house predator will face vitamin deficiencies.
Dog food isn’t toxic or dangerous per se, but don’t assume that the two are basically the same and fill your cat’s feeding dish up with dog chow.
Dogs have a more robust diet than cats, so they enjoy a wider range of ingredients.
Cats have specific nutritional requirements that dog food isn’t designed to satisfy.
Most of the meat cats eat in the wild have fairly low-fat content. That’s why cats are so sensitive to fat; they need just a very little bit to go a long way.
Too much fat, whether it’s from meat, nuts, or dairy, can lead to inflammation of the pancreas.
Left unchecked, it’s eventually fatal.
Obviously saturated fats are the worst but don’t overdo any of them.
Cats tend to eat roughly 46% of their calories from fat in the wild.
This was the hardest for me to accept. Cats and fish seem like an iconic duo.
Maybe it’s not up there with mice, but I assumed it was a staple.
Actually, cats historically only ate fish when the opportunity arose. Cats prefer meat with less fat.
Too much raw fish leads to thiamine deficiency. Canned tuna is also risky, so make fish a treat rather than a habit.
Oh, and some cats will refuse to eat anything else after they’ve tasted fish, so be careful.
Raw eggs carry the enzyme avidin which inhibits the absorption of certain B-vitamins in cats.
Oh, and don’t forget about salmonella, a deadly pathogen that needs no introduction.
Raw eggs can be fed to your cat in moderation as long as the eggs are clean and come from a healthy hen.
Anything raw can potentially give your pets food poisoning. Meat especially can harbor bacteria like E.coli which cause a whole list of nasty digestive symptoms.
* Now, I don’t want to make it sound like I think raw meat is bad – just that you need to be as picky as your cat when it comes to buying and handling your meat. We’re big fans of feeding your cat a diet as “natural” to its predatory past as possible, including a well-prepared, healthy, and VERY CAREFULLY MADE raw food diet. Just…be careful and take steps to avoid harming your cat.
Can My Cat Eat That? Other Common People Food Questions
We’ve noticed that “can my cat eat…” questions are among the most common ones of all. That’s why we’re answering these questions all the time with new posts, which we’ll update here.
Have a question about a certain type of food and whether kitty should consume it? Check below to see if we’ve covered it.
- Cheese and Bread
- Ginger / Gingerbread
- Peanut Butter
Poisonous, Toxic Plants That Cats Should Never Eat
Pets don’t always eat things that we consider food. Many common household plants are toxic to animals. It doesn’t do much good to organize and put away the food if you’ve got lilies growing everywhere.
Plants produce toxins to discourage grazing animals from eating them. Most are harmless in small doses, but some can cause big problems. Decorative plants pose a significant risk to your kitty. If you have a green thumb, familiarize yourself with the list of plants that make your cat sick.
List Of 470 Poisonous / Dangerous Plants For Cats
There are a TON of plants that are unsafe for cats to consume, some of which are very dangerous and even toxic.
Some of these are only mildly irritating to cats, but even so, it’s not worth keeping something around that your cat might get into that will make him sick no matter how mildly.
We took these lists and compiled them in an easy-to-use table/chart/toggle thing below. Just click on each letter to see every plant that you should not let your cat eat.
- African wonder tree
- Ambrosia Mexicana
- American bittersweet
- American holly
- American mandrake
- American yew
- Andromeda japonica
- Angelica tree
- Arrowhead vine
- Arum lily
- Atropa belladonna
- Australian ivy palm
- Autumn crocus
- Baby doll ti plant
- Barbados aloe
- Barbados lily
- Barbados pride
- Barbados pride 2
- Bay laurel
- Bead tree
- Bergamot orange
- Bird of paradise
- Bird of paradise 2
- Bird’s tongue flower
- Bishop’s weed
- Black calla
- Black cherry
- Black laurel
- Black locust
- Black nightshade
- Bog laurel
- Branching ivy
- Bread and butter plant
- Buddhist pine
- Burning bush
- Butterfly iris
- Calamondin orange
- California ivy
- Calla lily
- Cape jasmine
- Cardboard cycad
- Cardboard palm
- Cardinal flower
- Carolina jessamine
- Castor bean
- Castor bean plant
- Chandelier plant
- Charming dieffenbachia
- Chinaberry tree
- Chinese evergreen
- Chinese jade
- Christmas berry
- Christmas rose
- Climbing bittersweet
- Climbing lady
- Climbing nightshade
- Clivia lily
- Coffee tree
- Common privet
- Coontie palm
- Corn plant
- Cornstalk plant
- Cow cockle
- Cow parsnip
- Cutleaf philodendron
- Day lily
- Deadly nightshade
- Death camas
- Delphinium (Larkspur)
- Desert azalea
- Desert rose
- Devil’s backbone
- Devils ivy
- Dog daisy
- Dog hobble
- Dogbane hemp
- Dutchman’s breeches
- Dwarf poinciana
- Easter lily
- Easter rose
- Eastern star
- Elephant ears
- Elephant’s ear
- Elephant-ear begonia
- Emerald feather
- English holly
- English ivy
- English yew
- European bittersweet
- European holly
- Everlasting pea
- False bittersweet
- False flax
- False hellebore
- False Queen Anne’s lace
- Fan weed
- Feather geranium
- Fern palm
- Fetter bush
- Field peppergrass
- Fire lily
- Flamingo flower
- Florida beauty
- Florist’s calla
- Franciscan rain tree
- Garden calla
- Garden chamomile
- Garden hyacinth
- Geranium-leaf aralia
- Giant dracaena
- Giant dumb cane
- Giant hogweed
- Glacier ivy
- Gloriosa lily
- Gold dieffenbachia
- Gold dust dracaena
- Golden birds nest
- Golden pothos
- Golden ragwort
- Good luck plant
- Grass palm
- Greater Ammi
- Green gold naphthysis
- Ground apple
- Hahn’s self branching English ivy
- Hawaiian ti
- Heartleaf philodendron
- Heavenly bamboo
- Hercules’ club
- Hills of snow
- Horse chestnut
- Horse nettle
- Horsehead philodendron
- House pine
- Hurricane plant
- Impala lily
- Indian borage
- Indian hemp
- Indian pink
- Indian apple
- Indian rubber plant
- Iron cross begonia
- Ivy arum
- Jade plant
- Japanese show lily
- Japanese yew
- Jerusalem cherry
- Jerusalem oak
- Kaffir lily
- Klamath weed
- Kudu lily
- Lace fern
- Lacy tree philodendron
- Leather flower
- Lemon verbena
- Lenten rose
- Lily of the palace
- Madagascar dragon tree
- Maidens breath
- Manchineel tree
- Mapleleaf begonia
- Marble queen
- Matrimony vine
- Mauna loa peace lily
- Meadow saffron
- Medicine plant
- Metallic leaf begonia
- Mexican breadfruit
- Mock azalea
- Mole bean plant
- Morning glory
- Moss rose
- Mother of millions
- Mother-in-law’s tongue
- Mountain mahogany
- Naked lady
- Nasturtium (Watercress)
- Needlepoint ivy
- Octopus tree
- Oilcloth flower
- Orange day lily
- Oregon holly
- Ornamental pepper
- Pacific yew
- Painter’s palette
- Palm lily
- Panda plant
- Paraguayan jasmine
- Peace begonia
- Peace lily
- Peacock flower
- Pencil cactus
- Perennial pea
- Pie plant
- Pig lily
- Pigtail plant
- Pink pearl
- Plantain lily
- Plumosa Fern
- Poison daisy
- Poison hemlock
- Poison parsnip
- Prayer bean
- Precatory bean
- Racemose asparagus
- Ranger’s button
- Red emerald
- Red lily
- Red princess
- Red-marginated dracaena
- Rex begonia
- Ribbon plant
- Rock moss
- Roman chamomile
- Rosary pea
- Rubrum lily
- Running myrtle
- Sabi star
- Sacred bamboo
- Saddle leaf
- Sago palm
- Satin pothos
- Scented geranium
- Seaside daisy
- Seven bark
- Shamrock plant
- Showy daisy
- Silver dollar
- Silver jade plant
- Skunk cabbage
- Snake lily
- Snake plant
- Solomon’s lily
- Spanish thyme
- Spindle tree
- Split leaf philodendron
- Spotted dumb cane
- Sprengeri fern
- Spring parsley
- St. John’s wort
- Star of Bethlehem
- Starch root
- Stargazer lily
- Stinking chamomile
- Straight-margined dracaena
- Striped dracaena
- Superb lily
- Sweet cherry
- Sweet pea
- Sweet William
- Sweetheart ivy
- Swiss cheese plant
- Tahitian bridal veil
- Tail flower
- Taro vine
- Texas umbrella tree
- Tiger lily
- Tomato plant
- Tree philodendron
- Tree tobacco
- Tropic snow
- True aloe
- Trumpet lily
- Umbrella leaf
- Umbrella tree
- Variable dieffenbachia
- Variegated philodendron
- Variegated wandering jew
- Velvet grass
- Virgin’s bower
- Wandering Jew
- Warnecke dracaena
- Water flag
- Water hemlock
- Weeping fig
- Western yew
- Wild arum
- Wild black cherry
- Wild calla
- Wild carnation
- Wild radish
- Wood lily
- Woody aster
- Yellow jessamine
- Yellow oleander
- Yellow pine flax
- Yesterday, today, tomorrow
- Yew pine
What Do I Do If My Cat Has Ingested Something Potentially Toxic?
Even if you’re the most talented feline scientist on the planet, even if you do absolutely everything right when it comes to food safety, even if you keep everything toxic under lock and key, it’s still possible your cat might find a way to ingest something harmful.
Cats are too curious to keep down.
So what should you do if your cat eats something from this list?
The first thing you need to do is stay calm. Freaking out and running around in a panic is going to stress out your cat, making things even worse. Focus.
If you suspect your cat has eaten something toxic, you should evaluate her symptoms closely. Look for some common signs of poisoning, like:
- Restlessness or lethargy
- Drooling, increased thirst, frequent urination, diarrhea
- Yellow or pale gums, stomach pain
- Anxiety, muscle spasms, seizures, coma
Put your cat in a safe, quiet room, and watch her closely. Try to find the ingredient in question, if possible.
Call your veterinarian immediately to describe the problem and seek advice. A vet may need to evaluate your cat in person to determine what’s wrong. Bring anything you can provide to help identify the poison.
Depending on the item swallowed, it may require surgery to remove.
If you can’t reach a vet, then there are two poison hotlines for pets:
- The Pet Poison Helpline: 800-213-6680
- The ASPCA Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435
These are staffed with professionals 24/7.
Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to self-medicate your cat without knowing what they’ve swallowed. Do not induce vomiting unless instructed!
How Do I Stop My Cat From Eating My House Plants (And These Foods?)
How do you stop your cat from getting into dangerous stuff?
Yeah, I don’t know either. Good luck keeping a cat out of trouble. Cats are naturally inquisitive and love sticking their cute little noses into every nook, crack, and cranny.
This was a useful habit in the wild. Their curious character helped cats unearth hidden prey like rodents and birds.
Unfortunately, in the modern home, it’s more of a bug than a feature.
To be a responsible cat lover, you must learn to outsmart your clever hunters. This is no easy task. The struggle to contain your cat’s infinite curiosity will challenge you like few others.
As for the food, every cat owner has learned how to put things away safely. It’s common sense and doesn’t require detailed instruction.
Make sure to store or discard food after eating. Don’t leave open alcoholic beverages sitting around, either.
Cats are capable of learning to open cabinets – take measures against this. Make sure your trash can is secure and can’t be tipped over.
Promptly clean up any spill and use the least amount of chemicals necessary.
Indoor plants, on the other hand, are a little trickier.
If you can’t create a physical barrier between your plants and your cats, then you can still take some measures to discourage their interest.
If your cats keep digging into your potted plants (or use them as a litter box), cover the soil with a layer of small rocks to cover the dirt. Cats usually won’t bother to dig underneath and may leave the plant alone altogether, meaning it’s less likely that she goes for a dig and then nibbles the leaves or roots.
In some cases, you can hang plants from the ceiling where they can be reached only by you. However, I have seen some incredible acrobatics performed by a cat or two in my travels, and this might just be inviting disaster, depending on how you’re hanging it.
One way to stop cats from chomping on the plants you love but that may make them sick, is to discourage it by making them very unappealing. You can do this by spraying scents onto the plants that cats find revolting, such as citrus. Make a mild lemon juice and water solution, put it into a spray bottle, and spray the leaves and maybe even the plant pot. This should help ensure your cat remains disinterested.
As you train your cats, so they will train you. The daily joy of cat keeping soon evolves into a school of philosophy.
Kitty’s curious nature clashes with her picky personality in a series of endless contradictions, each one more amusing than the last. Watch your cats – it’s time well spent.
Food safety is important for people, but I’d argue that it’s even more important for housecats. They have a highly refined digestive system calibrated to a narrow range of inputs. This is why a responsible and loving cat owner will always take the time to learn which foods are safe for cats and how to keep kitty healthy.
Information is more plentiful than ever before. I hope you’ll never give your pets something bad to eat because you didn’t want to learn.
No list of dangerous foods can ever be truly complete. Discoveries are being made in nutrition daily. This article discusses the most common foods bad for your cat. Most cats live their entire lives safe and happy beside their human family.
Choose human foods safe for cats and bon appetit!