Which Foods Are Poisonous To My Cat?

Keep him away 🙅‍♀️

cat with poisonous foods

Cats can be super curious and can get into things they’re not supposed to — like your food. But that can be pretty dangerous since some common human foods are actually poisonous to cats.

So if you have a cat, it’s important to know which foods are poisonous so you can keep him far away from them.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Erica Irish, a veterinarian and member of the board of advisors for betterpet, to find out which foods are poisonous to cats and what to do if your cat does eat something toxic.

Common foods that are poisonous to cats

Cats can often get food poisoning from human food, and this can happen when someone feeds a cat table scraps or if he has access to his owner’s food.

Some common foods that are poisonous to cats include:

  • Chocolate — Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are both toxic to cats. Cats are much more sensitive to both substances than humans are, and they metabolize theobromine more slowly, which means it stays in their system longer and makes even a small amount of chocolate potentially poisonous.
  • Caffeine (Coffee and tea) — Caffeine is a stimulant, and many symptoms of caffeine poisoning are stimulant effects that can be potentially dangerous, such as increased heart rate and hyperactivity.
  • Xylitol (a sweetener often used in sugar-free gum, peanut butter and candy) — Xylitol triggers a release of insulin, which causes your cat’s blood sugar to drop, resulting in hypoglycemia. (It’s still uncertain if xylitol is as toxic to cats as it is to dogs, but you shouldn’t let your cat eat sugarless candy just in case.)
  • Macadamia nuts — Macadamia nuts affect a cat’s nervous system and can cause tremors, lethargy and vomiting.
  • Onions, garlic and chives — Onions and garlic contain a compound called thiosulphate, which can break down your cat’s red blood cells, leading to anemia.
  • Grapes and raisins — Anything containing grapes or made from grapes is toxic to cats, although it’s unclear exactly what makes grapes poisonous.
  • Alcohol — Alcoholic drinks contain ethanol, which is toxic to cats. Ethanol poisoning depresses the central nervous system, which causes your cat to become drowsy and uncoordinated and can lead to respiratory failure.
  • Raw or undercooked eggs, meat or fish — Your cat can get food poisoning from bacteria, such as salmonella or E. coli, from raw or undercooked foods. An enzyme in raw fish also destroys thiamine, which your cat needs to produce vitamin B, and this can cause neurological issues.
  • Milk and dairy products — Contrary to popular belief, most cats are lactose intolerant, so dairy products can upset their stomachs.
  • Liver — Occasional small amounts of liver are OK, but if your cat eats liver all the time, he can develop vitamin A toxicity, which is a serious condition.
  • Yeast dough — If your cat eats yeast dough, it will continue to rise in your cat’s stomach, which can lead to an obstruction in his digestive system. Yeast also produces alcohol as it ferments, which can cause alcohol poisoning.

If you’re ever unsure if a food is poisonous to your cat, you can visit the ASPCA’s poison control site to look it up.

And while you might feel guilty when your cat’s watching you eat and waiting for a scrap of food, try not to give in to begging because even a little bit of your food could make him sick.

Just to be extra safe, check with your vet before feeding your cat anything new to make sure it’s totally safe for him as well.

Symptoms of food poisoning in cats

The symptoms of food poisoning in cats can vary depending on what your cat ate, but there are some typical signs to look out for, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Drooling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Depression
  • Increased thirst
  • Pale gums
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of coordination
  • Seizures

If you notice your cat displaying any of these symptoms, don’t wait to contact your vet.

“If your cat is suddenly acting strange or ill, contact your local vet or ER right away!” Dr. Irish told The Dodo.

What to do if your cat gets food poisoning

If you saw your cat eat something you know is bad, or if you notice any of the above symptoms, call your vet immediately.

“You should call your local vet, emergency vet or one of the poison hotlines made for pets,” Dr. Irish said. “This includes the ASPCA [(888) 426-4435] and the Pet Poison Helpline [(855) 764-7661].”

Provide as much information as possible to the vet to help them treat your cat — the more info you can provide, the quicker they’ll be able to provide treatment, which will lead to a better outcome in most cases.

“You can tell them your cat’s name, age and body weight,” Dr. Irish said. “You should also inform them of any preexisting conditions, like heart disease or kidney disease. If you have the product that was ingested, bring this with you so the vet can read the label. It also helps to know how long ago the ingestion occurred and how much was ingested.”

Your vet will treat your cat in a few ways depending on his symptoms, what he ate and how long ago he ate it. Some treatments include IV fluids to flush toxins from the body, muscle relaxants, anti-seizure medication, inducing vomiting and activated charcoal (which helps to prevent the toxin from being absorbed).

And overall, the best way to prevent your cat from getting food poisoning is to keep your food far away from him! “Do not leave certain foods out on the counter where your kitty can reach them,” Dr. Irish said.

It’s important to know which foods are poisonous to cats so you can keep your cat safe. If you keep this list handy, you’ll be much less likely to accidentally give your cat toxic foods or let him get into something dangerous.