Harmful Foods for Cats

Cats tend to be rather picky eaters, especially compared to dogs. But there are certain foods that they are not likely to pass up in a hurry, and some of these — including popular treats — can be harmful to their health and are best avoided.

Milk & Dairy Products

Milk as well as other dairy products, such as cheese, are often given to cats as a tasty treat. Yet most cats are lactose intolerant and are unable to process milk and dairy products, which are rich in lactose, and as a result struggle to digest dairy products properly. If your cat consumes milk or dairy products they may throw up (usually all over your finest Persian rug), or may suffer diarrhea and/or allergic reactions as a result.


Canned tuna is another food that cats love, and pet owners often misguidedly feed to their pets either as a regular meal or as a treat. Yet surprisingly, tuna is not good for cats. As a top predator in the marine food chain, tuna can contain high levels of mercury, and when included regularly in the diet, can result in mercury poisoning. Cats who frequently eat tuna packaged for humans can also suffer from a deficiency in thiamine, resulting in neurological symptoms and seizures in severe cases.

Raw Fish, Meat & Eggs

Like tuna, raw fish contains an enzyme that destroys thiamine, which can cause a thiamine deficiency if frequently consumed. Raw fish, meat and eggs may also contain bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella that can cause food poisoning.

Onions, Garlic & Chives

Onions destroy feline red blood cells and can result in anemia if fed regularly or once-off in large quantities. Garlic and chives are also not good for your cat; although tasty, they are an intestinal irritant that can cause tummy upsets in cats.


Raisins, as well as fresh grapes, are often offered to cats (and dogs) as a ‘healthy’ treat. Yet consuming this seemingly healthy fruit can cause your cat to vomit frequently, become hyperactive, and in severe cases, suffer from kidney failure. To be safe, keep raisins and grapes in a sealed container or place them in a cupboard or refrigerator well out of your pet’s reach.

Dog Food

Dog food is formulated specifically for dogs, and as cats are not dogs, they should not be fed commercial dog food on a regular basis. Dog food doesn’t contain sufficient vitamin A, taurine (an essential amino acid needed to prevent heart disease in cats) or arachidonic acid (a fatty acid), all of which are required by cats for optimum health. Feeding your cat dog food once in a while when the cat food runs out shouldn’t do any harm, but feeding dog food regularly over the longterm can lead to dietary deficiencies that can harm your pets health.

Caffeine, Alcohol & Pharmaceutical Drugs

While exposure to caffeine, alcohol and medicinal drugs may seem like a no-brainer, sometimes these toxins are found in food items that we may not be aware of. For example, besides coffee, chocolate also contains high levels of caffeine, which can be lethal to cats if consumed in high doses. So does tea, cocoa, cola and energy drinks. Exposure to caffeine can lead to rapid breathing, convulsions, bleeding and death. Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, also contains theobromine which is toxic to cats (and dogs) and can result in seizures, muscle tremors, an abnormal heart rate and death if consumed. Alcoholic beverages as well as food containing alcohol can damage your cat’s liver and negatively affect its brain. Consuming just three teaspoons of alcohol can be deadly for a two-kilogram cat. Similarly, medicinal drugs prescribed for human consumption can be equally dangerous. Ibuprofen and other ingredients commonly found in painkillers and other over-the-counter medications can prove deadly to cats. Keep all medication safely out of your cat’s reach and never give your pet human medications unless your vet has advised you to do so.

While cats tend to be rather fussy about what they eat, there are some foods that are simply too tempting for them to ignore, no matter how bad they might be for their health. By the same token, cat owners who may be unaware of the risks posed by certain foods and beverages, may offer their pet potentially harmful foods without giving it a second thought. Hopefully this article will create more awareness amongst cat owners to the dangers posed by common foods that will help to keep cats healthy and prevent unnecessary harm. If your cat has eaten something that it shouldn’t have and is showing signs of toxic poisoning or stress, contact your vet immediately, providing information on the symptoms so that veterinary treatment and/or an antidote can be administered that could save your pet’s life.

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