Can Cats Eat Garlic?

Is it really that bad? 🧄

Cat and garlic

Thinking about giving your cat some garlic naan or a bite of your everything bagel?

Well, you should put that snack down, because garlic is actually very toxic for cats.

“Even offering table scraps that contain garlic or any onion-family ingredient is dangerous for your cat,” Dr. Laci Schaible, a veterinarian and consultant for veterinary software company IVEE, told The Dodo.

To find out why garlic is one of the worst things you can feed your cat, The Dodo spoke with Dr. Schaible and Dr. Hanie Elfenbein, a veterinarian and part-time surgeon for the Humane Educational Society in Tennessee.

Why is garlic so toxic for cats?

Onions are bad for cats, but garlic is about five times as toxic for them.

Garlic contains a high concentration of a compound called thiosulphate, which is extremely dangerous for cats (and dogs). Not only will this cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset in your cat, it can break down her red blood cells.

“While GI upset is an inconvenient risk of feeding foods containing garlic, the real risk is destruction of the red blood cells, resulting in anemia,” Dr. Schaible said.

Anemia is when the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to its tissues, which can make your cat very sick.

Also, when too many blood cells are damaged, the kidneys can become injured, “worsening the cat’s illness and potentially leading to long-term health consequences,” Dr. Elfenbein told The Dodo.

Both garlic and onions contain thiosulphate. So does every vegetable from the allium family, which includes shallots, scallions, leeks and chives — so steer clear of those as well.

Can cats eat garlic powder?

Garlic is so toxic for cats that even garlic powder can have an effect.

Even if your cat only has a little garlic powder, letting her eat it every day can be harmful over time.

And this goes for dried garlic and garlic salts as well. Do your cat a favor and keep her away from them!

How much garlic is too much garlic?

Full-sized adult cats can experience severe toxic effects from one clove of garlic,” Dr. Schaible said. “Kittens and smaller cats, along with those with health conditions, are at risk from far smaller amounts.”

Every cat will react differently — so it’s best to avoid garlic completely.

Signs of garlic poisoning in cats

If you suspect your cat has eaten garlic and has the following symptoms, call your veterinarian or your nearest emergency vet clinic immediately:

  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Oral irritation
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Elevated heart and respiratory rates
  • Weakness
  • Pale gums

Keep in mind that the worst stage of anemia occurs several days after eating garlic, so you might not notice some of these symptoms (notably, paleness, lethargy and weakness) until a bit later.

Treatment of garlic poisoning in cats

If your cat has eaten garlic recently, your veterinarian might try to induce vomiting. It might be tempting to try this yourself, but let the professionals handle it unless they instruct otherwise.

If the garlic has already been digested, your cat will likely be given intravenous (IV) fluid therapy to flush the body of the toxin. She might also receive medication to alleviate GI upset.

For severe cases of anemia, your cat might require a blood transfusion.

Treatment of garlic poisoning in cats can be very expensive and take several days, which is why it’s so important to keep garlic away from your cat at all costs!

Be careful when sharing food

“Most cats don’t enjoy the taste of raw garlic,” Dr. Schaible said.

While you shouldn’t expect your cat to beg for a clove of garlic, it’s obviously a super common ingredient in many dishes — so think twice before giving your cat table scraps.

Giving your cat just a little of your garlic-seasoned scraps can cause thiosulphate to build up over time, and eventually cause your cat to become sick.

If you think your cat has eaten garlic, call the Pet Poison Hotline at (855) 289-0358 or bring your cat to a veterinarian right away!