Common types of food that cats should avoid

Quina Baterna

Many cat parents have had a moment during dinner when our furbabies give us the cutest begging face they can muster for a bite. While most of us are always on the hunt for the best cat food we can afford, there’s nothing wrong with a little human food now and then… except when it’s toxic to them.

Not all table scraps are equal. From slight discomfort to serious illness, many types of food just don’t sit well in your furry friend’s system. Their stomachs are very different from us, which is why we should learn to hold back on the kinds of food that could potentially land our cats in the vet.

Here’s a quick list of common household food that is not safe for your cats to consume:

Raw Meat & Bones

While the debate for whether or not raw feeding is the best diet for cats is still ongoing, there’s one big caveat to this discussion – cleanliness. Commercially raw food is not always prepared in the best way and can contain various bacteria that can cause several potential illnesses in your cat.

Common bacteria found in raw meat that can hurt both you and your cats are E.coli and Salmonella. Cats don’t even have to eat this on purpose for it to affect them. Not washing your hands after handling raw meat and touching your cat in places they can lick can pass them on as well.

Onions, Garlic, Chives, and Leeks

Despite being common ingredients in many of the world’s cuisines, onions, garlic, chives, and leeks are dangerous to our feline friends. While small amounts of consumption will likely only cause minor inconveniences, ingesting through their powdered forms can potentially be lethal if not checked.

Commonly resulting in gastroenteritis, these kinds of food can affect your cat’s red blood cells and cause them to rupture. Due to the lack of oxygen flowing in the body, some of the bacterial infections include lack of appetite, pale gums, and dark urine. In more extreme cases, these infections can lead to organ failure.

Poisoning from onions, garlic, chives, and leeks often take effect after several days. Also, Garlic is known to be five times more toxic to cats than onions.

Cow’s Milk

For years, cats enjoying bowls of warm milk was a staple on Sunday morning cartoons. However, this doesn’t mean that cow’s milk is healthy for adult cats.

While most cats enjoy lactose from their mother’s milk early in life, their stomachs cannot handle it for the months after weaning. Once cats are old enough to consume solid foods, they lose the ability to process the sugar in lactose. However, with positive memories growing up, many cats still crave milk when they are older.

With this, cow’s milk can lead to a lot of discomfort for your feline friend by causing havoc on their digestive system. Common symptoms from cow’s milk consumption include gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea that leads to dehydration.

Additionally, cow’s milk formulated for human consumption have unnecessary fats that can lead to weight gain for your cat. Cat obesity also puts your furry friend at risk of a variety of other health issues and concerns.

Coffee and Chocolate

Our furry friends don’t take too well to coffee and chocolate. While it’s more common knowledge that dogs should not be fed chocolate, it’s the same for cats as well.

Both coffee and chocolate contain methylxanthines that give them that stimulant effect that humans enjoy. Affecting the heart, lungs, and nerves, food that contains these ingredients can be extremely toxic to cats in small amounts.

Besides being much smaller than us, cats take longer to metabolize methylxanthines. With this, potential issues that can be anywhere from lethargy to full-on seizures can arise from consumption.

The effect of toxicosis is not immediate and takes up to six to twelve hours after ingestion. If you suspect that your furry friend has taken a lick at your morning cup of joe, you have enough time to bring them to the vet as soon as possible.


Alcohol is dangerous in large doses for most animals, even in humans. Ethanol, the clear, colorless liquid used in alcoholic drinks can be potentially lethal to your cats.

Often absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, Ethanol can cause depression in your cat’s central nervous system. Common symptoms of ethanol poisoning in cats can range from manageable symptoms such as tremors, trouble breathing, lethargy to more serious ones like comas, hypothermia, and even death.

It is also important to remember that your cat’s body can also produce alcohol, which means ingested uncooked food like bread is also toxic to them. Ethanol is present in various household items such as mouth wash, perfume, and paint. Kidney failure in cats is possible up to a day after ethanol ingestion, so if you suspect your cat ingested even a little alcohol, bring them to the vet immediately.

How to Keep Your Cats Away from Toxic Food

Having a healthy diet is essential to your cat living a happy and long life. Besides consuming a balanced diet, you should be mindful of keeping them away from the various types of toxic food found in your household.

To do this, make sure that you keep your cups with unsafe drinks like coffee, milk, or alcohol, covered properly when you’re not drinking. Avoid letting your cats be next to you when you prepare raw food such as meat and dough. Keep garlic, onions, and other cooking ingredients in an area where they cannot reach.

Do not feed your cat table scraps. It is best not to encourage the habit of begging during a meal. Have everyone in your household aligned on being consistent with this rule. There are plenty of other ways that you can make them like you.

Always remain vigilant with what kind of food your cat consumes. It only takes a few seconds for your cat to take enough licks of something when you are not looking that can land them in the vet.

Lastly, if you suspect that your cat has consumed something potentially toxic, bring them to the vet immediately to get the right care.

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Quina is a writer, cat mom and artist. Her greatest joys in life are creating remarkable experiences and writing about them.


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