Some cats will beg and plead for human food, especially when they see you eating. Giving your cat any table scraps or tidbits of human food is a dangerous practice that should not be encouraged for multiple reasons. First, cats need the nutrients that are specifically provided for them in good, premium cat foods, and any "extras" that they consume will take away their appetites for their regular meals. A sliver of turkey or chicken from your dinner plate certainly won't kill a cat, but you're helping it develop bad habits.
Human Foods Are Not Meant for Cats
The main reason to discourage feeding cats "people food" is that there are a number of foods that are toxic to cats. While it is tasty and harmless to humans, a simple nibble could be life-threatening for your cat. If you are a cat owner, it's important to familiarize yourself with the everyday foods that can be dangerous, and even deadly, for cats.
Foods That Are Toxic to Cats
Green Tomatoes and Raw Green Potatoes
These foods are members of the Solanaceae family of plants, which includes the Deadly Nightshade, and contain a bitter, poisonous alkaloid called Glycoalkaloid Solanine, which can cause violent lower gastrointestinal symptoms. The leaves and stems are particularly toxic. Don't worry if you see tomatoes included in pre-made pet foods. They are made with ripe tomatoes and should cause no concern because they appear in relatively small amounts.
While it's widely known that chocolate is dangerous for dogs, it's also toxic to cats. Theobromine is the offending substance and can cause chocolate toxicity in a cat. This substance is found in the highest concentration in dark and unsweetened chocolate.
Grapes and Raisins
These foods' toxicity has mainly been found in dogs, in quantities of varying amounts. The ASPCA advises: "As there are still many unknowns with the toxic potential of grapes and raisins, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center advises not giving grapes or raisins to pets in any amount." There is no reason to risk a dangerous situation, so it's best to keep these fruits away from your cat.
While avocado is healthful for humans, it is mildly toxic to cats. The leaves, seed, tree bark, and the fruit itself contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in cats. Avocados are very rich and high in fat, which can lead to gastroenteritis or pancreatitis. Be especially aware if you have a bowl of guacamole out at a party. You do not want your cat eating any of this snack or licking a spoon or fork that was used to make it.
All types of alcohol can be toxic to pet cats. While a small lick of an alcoholic beverage is not lethal, consuming a lot can be. If you are hosting a party and serving alcohol, be sure to thoroughly clean up the drinks and avoid leaving large punch bowls or open alcohol containers overnight, as your cat might be prone to consume more. Alcoholic beverages aren’t the only potential sources of alcohol poisoning in cats. Alcohol exposure can also occur from ingestion of hand sanitizer, mouthwash, fermenting fruits, and bread dough that contains yeast.
Onions, Garlic, & Related Root Vegetables
Onions contain a substance (N-propyl disulfide) that destroys red blood cells in the cat, causing a form of anemia called Heinz body anemia. Garlic is similar in that it can also cause red blood cell damage and anemia. It's dangerous for cats to consume a full clove of garlic or any large pieces of raw onion. Cats can also be exposed to garlic and onion in the form of powder, which can be found on chips, soups, and seasonings.
Other Foods to Avoid
There are a number of foods that are not toxic to cats, but they should be avoided. Meat trimmings, raw eggs, and caffeinated beverages should not be consumed by pet cats. Although milk is not toxic to cats, it may have adverse effects. Adult cats that are fed a nutritious diet don't need milk. Also, many cats are lactose-intolerant, which means that the lactose in milk and milk products produces stomach upset, cramps, and gassiness. Xylitol, a sweetener, is deadly to dogs and can cause hypoglycemia and potential liver failure. The Pet Poison Helpline has not indicated its toxicity to cats, but it does not seem worth the risk. If you see this ingredient in any food items, make sure to avoid sharing with your cat.
If You Think Your Cat Has Been Poisoned
Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center right away at 1-888-426-4435 or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 right away. Share any information you have, including what they might have eaten and the symptoms you are seeing. There may be a charge for speaking with the poison control line.
What human food is good for cats?
While it's best for cats to eat cat food, these "human" foods are safe for your cat: thoroughly cooked lean meats that haven't been seasoned with onions or garlic, fish with the bones removed, hard-cooked eggs, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
How do you stop cats from eating human food?
Keep your cats from eating human food by never offering it to them, even just "licking the plate," and by keeping it out of reach at all times in your kitchen (this includes covering it on the countertop while you're eating).
Why do cats like human food?
Cats will eat human food because it tastes good, and because it offers more variety than the food that is good for them.
Chocolate Toxicity. Washington Veterinary Emergency and Specialty
Alcohols - Toxicology - Veterinary Manual. Veterinary Manual, 2020
Why Cats And Cow's Milk Don't Mix. Prestige Animal Hospital, 2020
Xylitol Is Toxic To Dogs. Pet Poison Helpline, 2020