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17 Deadly Foods that are Poisonous to Cats

Cats and humans aren’t alike. Some typical human foods that are poisonous to cats include onions, garlic, chocolate, oranges, raw fish, and grapes.

There are many human foods and substances that aren’t fit for a feline to eat.

Your cat’s dietary needs are different than a human’s dietary needs.

In this article, I have put together this list of foods from doing research into the topic. This covers a range of human food you should not be feeding your cat.

My name is Derrick and I write for Simply Cat Care. This website contains easy-to-read guides on all things cat-related.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend consulting with one for more information on this and other topics.

Here’s what I am going to cover.

Now let’s take a look at 17 foods that are poisonous to cats.


1. Alcohol

Why?

Alcohol contains ethanol, which depresses the central nervous system [1].

What it causes

Intoxication can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased reflexes.  Severe intoxication results in tremors, coma, and death [1].

Foods that are dangerous to cats

2. Avocado

Why?

Avocados contain a toxin called persin which is toxic to cats [1]. Toxins are in both the fruit and leaves of the avocado [1].  The pit itself can also obstruct the digestive tract [1].

What it causes

It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and ascites [1].


3. Chewing Gum

Why?

Contains xylitol which is a sugar alcohol, and a substitute for sugar [1].  Xylitol promotes insulin release [1].

What it causes

Xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) due to the excessive release of insulin [1].  Your cat can suffer from lethargy, vomiting, ataxia, and seizures [1].


4. Chocolate

Why?

Chocolate contains theobromine (3,7-dimethlyxanthine) which blocks the adenosine receptors in the central nervous system [1,2].

The darker the chocolate (indicated by % on the packet), the more theobromine in the chocolate [1].

What it causes

Theobromine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors [1]. It can also lead to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias [2].

White chocolate may be a little safer but still contains milk. It’s best to avoid small amounts of any chocolate in a cat’s diet.


5. Coffee

Why?

Coffee contains caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) [2]. This molecule is similar to theobromine in chocolate and stimulates the central nervous system [2]. It acts similarly to caffeine.

What it causes

Causes similar symptoms to chocolate toxicity, including vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors [2].

Chocolate contains theobromine (3,7-dimethlyxanthine) which blocks the adenosine receptors in the central nervous system [1,2].

Caffeine-rich foods are best avoided.


6. Apples (also includes pears and apricots)

Why?

Contains cyanogenic glycosides that convert to cyanide [1]. Leads to cyanide poisoning [1].

What it causes

Causes weakness, dyspnea (shortness of breath), stupor, hypothermia, convulsion, cyanosis (blueish skin), and death [1].


7. Grapes

Why?

There are unknown toxins contained within the flesh of the fruit [1]. Grapes and raisins both contain these toxins.

What it causes

Causes acute renal failure [1]. Clinical signs include lethargy, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and dehydration [1]. The dosage needed to create toxicity is around 11-30g/kg [2].

Whilst grapes and raisins look like bite-sized snacks for cats they are worth avoiding.


8. Green tomato (also includes potato)

Why?

Contains solanine which is a glycoalkaloid [1].  This is high in the sprouts of potatoes when exposed to light [1].  The chemical is also found in unripe green tomatoes and decreases with ripening [1].

What does it cause?

The toxins cause vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, anxiousness, and seizures [1].


9. Macadamia nuts (also includes walnuts)

Why?

An unknown toxin, which induces toxicity in as little as 0.7g/kg of nuts [3].  Toxic whether roasted or raw [2].

What does it cause?

Causes weakness, depression, vomiting, ataxia, tremors, and hyperthermia within 12 hours of consumption [1].  Affects the muscles and digestive system [1].


10. Mold

Why?

Contains mycotoxins that grow on a variety of spoiled food products such as bread, nuts, vegetables, and dairy [1].

What does it cause?

Leads to vomiting, hyperactivity, hypersalivation, tachycardia, depression, incoordination, and tremors [1]. Can lead to coma and death [1].


11. Garlic (also includes onion, leeks, and chives)

Why?

All plants of the allium family (e.g. garlic and onions) contain organosulphurated compounds [1]. The metabolization of these foods leads to an increase in oxidative species that damage red blood cells [1]. Cooking does not reduce the toxicity of these plants [1].

What does it cause?

Cats have a high amount of sulfhydryl groups on the hemoglobin of red blood cells [1].  They are 2-3 times prone to oxidative damage, which can cause hemolysis [1]. This can end up leading to anemia [1].

Consumption of 5g/kg is toxic to cats [2].  Baby foods also have onion and onion powder in them for flavor [2].

Do not give baby food to your cat.

Onions, garlic, and other vegetables of the allium family provide a lot of taste for human foods. We love to use these foods and occasionally leave a little for the cat. A recommend avoiding this practice of feeding your cat leftovers of what you eat.


12. Oxalate rich foods

Why?

You can find oxalates in a range of foods including bran, cereals, nuts, seeds, soy, and green vegetables [1].  They lead to calcium oxalate crystalluria and urolithiasis [1].

What does it cause?

Can cause pain, urethral blockage, and kidney-related complications [4].


13. Yeast

Why?

Baker’s yeast, or saccharomyces cerevisiae, ferments which can lead to ethanol production (and subsequent ethanol toxicity) and obstruction of the digestive tract [1].  Bread bakers add yeast to raw bread dough to leaven it [1].

What does it cause?

Raw bread dough and expand, obstructing the digestion of the cat [1].  This can lead to bloating, pain, nausea, incoordination, and depression [1]. 

Ethanol toxicity leads to nausea and diarrhea (see alcohol) [1].

Yeast dough is definitely a human food that you want to steer clear of.


14. Raw meat

Why?

Can be a source of and salmonella and e coli[1]. This can be from a variety of meat such as raw fish, beef, or poultry.

What does it cause?

Can lead to nausea, fever, pain, and cramping [5].

Whilst you can give your cat raw meat, you need to take care of the meats you buy.

There are freeze-dried raw meats that your cat can have as a treat and are safe to consume.
Other pet food offer vacuum sealed and refrigerated foods delivered to your door.


15. Raw eggs

Why?

The white of raw eggs contains avidin [1].  This is an enzyme that decreases biotin absorption [1].

What does it cause?

The deficiency of biotin leads to hair loss, xerodermia, and squamosis [1]. Can also lead to weakness, growth delay, or skeletal deformity [1].

Your cat isn’t a bodybuilder, so best to steer clear of raw eggs.


16. Salt

Why?

Cats need salt in moderate amounts found in cat food [1].  An excess of salt will lead to health problems if overconsumed [1].

What does it cause?

Leads to polyuria and polydipsia [1].  Can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, hyperthermia, seizures, and even death [1].


17. Citrus fruits

Why?

The leaves, peels, fruit, and seeds contain citric acid and essential oils [6].

What does it cause?

Can lead to stomach upset and irritation [6].  Depressed the central nervous system [6].


What dairy foods that are poisonous to cats exist?

The lactose in milk and yogurt can give cats an upset stomach. This is because cats are lactose intolerant and lack the enzyme required to digest the lactose sugar in milk.

Cheese contains no lactose but is high in calories. As with humans, cheese is a food that can overconsume quickly and lead to weight gain.

Check out my 9 tips to feed your cat for great ideas on all things diet.

Some milk will contain an enzyme called lactase which pre-digests much of the lactose. A small amount of lactose-free milk is unlikely to give your cat a digestion problem.

Milk and other dairy products are high in calcium and protein. Calcium is an important mineral for bone health. Cat’s can obtain some calcium from crushed bones found in some meat formulations.

Check out my article on whether milk is safe for cats.


Conclusion: Foods that are Poisonous to Cats

That wraps up this article about what foods are poisonous to cats.

In this article, I’ve covered 17 different foods and drinks that are dangerous for cats. These things range from alcoholic beverages, onions, garlic, raw yeast dough, raw eggs, chocolate, raw fish, apples, and many other ubiquitous items.

Many human leftovers contain ingredients that may be toxic to cats. It is best to avoid giving your cat leftovers. Pay careful attention to what your cat is eating.

Ingesting these foods may cause your cat to suffer a range of toxicity symptoms depending on how much it has eaten. This can range from an upset stomach or digestive system, rapid breathing, and irregular heart rhythm. Serious side effects include liver failure or kidney failure.

If you think your cat has consumed something toxic to them then call the poison control center for assistance. Speak with a vet for more details regarding dangerous foods in cats and dogs.

The best bet is to play it safe, and if in doubt keep the food away from your pet. Don’t give your cat or dog leftovers.

If you want help choosing food, here’s a list of foods from our friends at Pettopia to help you understand how to get started choosing foods for your cat.

Want to learn more about anything cat related?

Check out some of our latest posts here.

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