Be it a holiday, birthday, anniversary, or just a simple gathering, no party is complete without your cat! But although you may want to share in all of the revelry with your feline friend, you may not be able to share all of the finger foods. Today, we are going to talk about the best and worst human foods for cats, plus I'll share a few cat-friendly recipes.
The Worst Human Foods for Cats
Cats are carnivores, which you already know. But did you know that there are a number of vegetables that cats simply do not digest well? And, of course, you're aware that there are some things that are just flat out toxic to cats - otherwise, you wouldn't be here looking for a list, right? So just to get it out of the way, let's start with some of the worst human foods you can give a cat.
Raw Meat, Eggs, and Bones
There is a good deal of debate over the whole "raw pet food" movement. Some people feel that raw meats are the best choice for our obligate carnivores; however, others think that feeding uncooked anything is a big problem. Whether you believe these foods or healthy or not, I think that we can all agree that there's a right and a wrong way to serve them. The highest quality meats should be used, safe handling practices are essential, etc. But, no matter where you stand in this debate, if safety precautions are not observed, you run the risk of exposing your cuddly little buddy to all sorts of dangerous things, like Salmonella and E. Coli from meat, coat and skin destroying enzymes from eggs, and digestive issue from bones.
Deadly Nightshade Plants
Members of the Deadly Nightshade, or Solanaceae, family include potatoes, green tomatoes, bell peppers, and rhubarb - just to name a few. In most of these plants, the main issue is an alkeloid called Glycoalkaloid Solanine, which can cause incredibly severe, and sometimes deadly, lower gastrointestinal issues, as well as drooling, apathy, lowered heart rate, and pupil dilation. In unripened tomatoes, as well as in the leaves and stems, another issue is alpha-tomatine. This substance can cause a depression of the nervous system, loss of energy, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea.
Members of the Allium genus, namely onion and garlic, whether cooked, raw, dried or dehydrated, should be absolutely avoided. These plants contain disulphides and sulfoxides, which unfortunately act to break down your cat's red blood cells. The result of this is anemia, gastrointestinal issues, lethargy, and severe weight loss.
Raisins and Grapes
At this point in time, no one is certain exactly which component causes issues, but both grapes and their dried counterparts can be incredibly toxic to cats and dogs - even in small amounts, and within a relatively short amount of time. No matter what the cause, these sweet little treats can lead to some massive, and deadly, complications, such as: kidney failure, gastrointestinal issues, lethargy and loss of appetite, decreased urination and stomach pain.
Depending on what kind of dough you're making, the dangers of yeasty dough are manifold. For starters, of course, is the yeast itself. If you're a regular baker, you know that yeast makes the dough rise. Unfortunately, when a cat consumes raw dough, this same action can continue in his stomach, causing bloating, pain, and sometimes even rupture. Next, the dough will begin to ferment, which results in the release of alcohol. Alcohol in a cat's body is a very dangerous thing, as it can result in brain and liver damage, and eventually lead to death. Finally, recipes that contain raw egg can expose him to pathogens like Salmonella.
Though largely considered safe, and even beneficial, for people, theobromine - a bitter alkaloid found in the cacao plant - is incredibly toxic to many animals, including cats. This substance works by dilating blood vessels and increasing heart rate, increasing urination, and stimulating the nervous system. In toxic doses, which are relatively small in cats, the result of these actions is nausea, vomiting, tremors and seizures, arrhythmia, and death. This applies to all chocolate - even the famous, "Not Chocolate," white chocolate. In addition to theobromine, chocolate contains caffeine, which has its own set of problems for cats. Depending on the dosage size, caffeine exposure can lead to heart palpitations, rapid breathing, tremors, and sometimes death.
Other Dangerous Foods for Cats
- Macadamia Nuts
- Raw Fish
- Large Amounts of Liver
- Fat Trimmings
The Best Human Foods for Cats
Now that you have a handy list of items to avoid, it's time to get to the healthy human foods for cats - you know, the fun stuff! Just remember, as with anything else, moderation is essential. Furthermore, if your kitty has any variety of health concern, please speak with your vet before serving him any of these foods.
Steamed or Baked Vegetables
All right, so not all vegetables are safe for cats; however, there are many that they can enjoy alongside their human companions. Some of these vegetables include carrots, squash and pumpkin, cucumbers, broccoli, green beans, peas, and asparagus. If your kitty craves greenery, you can also share some lettuce or spinach with him.
Cooked, Unseasoned Meats
There are numerous healthy meats that can be cooked up and served to your cats. These include the more common skinless chicken and lean beef; as well as the more unusual types, like lamb, duck, and venison. Organ meats, such as gizzards and liver, can be given in small quantities as well. Finally, small portions of fish are almost always a hit with kitties. For an extra special treat, you can slip a couple of little pieces of lox or a few sardines under the table.
Although raw eggs can be problematic, boiled, baked, or scrambled eggs can be a fantastic treat for your cat. You can feed your kitty the whole egg; however, if he's on a diet, it might be best to only cook up the whites.
By now, you've probably heard that dairy isn't necessarily the best thing to feed your cat. However, there are certain cheeses that, when given as an occasional treat, are both delicious and healthful for your cuddly little friend. These cheeses include the harder varieties, like cheddar, Swiss, and Gouda. You can also give them softer styles, like Camembert and Brie, but only feed them very small amounts, as the high lactose can cause an upset stomach. Just be sure to start slowly when introducing cheese. Some cats can tolerate dairy better than others, so don't pile it on too thick too quickly.
Fruit might not be the first thing you think of when you think of healthy people food for cats, but there are actually several types that are perfectly fine to share with your feline. Seeded frozen and raw melon, like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew, can be served in small chunks or mashed up. Frozen blueberries are also a delightful treat - I mean, they can be batted around, hunted, then eaten. Other safe fruits include seeded avocado, peeled apple, and mashed banana.
It can be tricky to get enough liquids into your cat's diet, so low or no-sodium meat-based broths - like beef, chicken, fish, or even bone - can be a tempting solution. Furthermore, this savory liquid can help to enliven bland hard food, or add extra nutrients to just about any other dish. Just be sure that if you're using a pre-made broth that it doesn't contain any additional flavorings, like garlic, onion, or tomato.
Other Healthy Foods for Cats
- Cooked Oatmeal
- Unsweetened, Unflavored Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Brown Rice
- Nutritional Yeast*
Be sure to use Nutritional Yeast, and not Baking Yeast. The nutritional variety contains a wide array of nutrients that are highly beneficial to your feline cohort. It can be found in many health food stores and online. What makes it different from the baking type is that it is heat-treated and no longer active, meaning it will not expand or ferment.
Now that you know the best and worst human foods for cats, you might be looking at your menu and thinking it better to keep the kitty away from the canapés. If that's the case, no need to worry! There are many side dishes you can whip up to let your furry little buddy get in on all the festivities.
Hearty Cat-Friendly Stew
- 1 cup Chicken or Beef Broth*
- 1/4 cup Carrots, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup Green Beans, finely chopped
- 1 cup Meat of Choice+, cut into small chunks
- Place your meat in a lined baking pan, add a little water, then bake until fully cooked.
- Add your broth to the stove top and slowly let it heat up.
- Chop up and add your vegetables to the broth, cook 5-10 minutes.
- While waiting for your vegetables, cut your meat into bite-sized chunks, then add to the broth.
- Allow the stew to cook an additional 5-10 minutes.
- Once everything is cooked, you have two options: feed the stew as-is, or run it through a blender or food processor for a puree-style food.
*If you want a thicker stew, stick to one cup of broth. If you prefer something a little soupier, you can slowly add as much as you like until it reaches the desired consistency.
+Chicken and beef are always a good option; however, if you're having a celebration, you might want to try something special, like rabbit or duck.
Kitty Cat "Dessert"
- 1 or 2 cubes of Melon*
- 1 teaspoon Cottage Cheese
- After cutting up your melon, stick a few cubes in the freezer until they are firm, but not rock hard.
- Take your melon out of the freezer, and mash it slightly with the tines of a fork.
- Thoroughly mix the cottage cheese with the melon, then serve it up!
*Although many common varieties of melon are generally safe for cats, I would recommend cantaloupe, which seems to be a favorite amongst fruit-loving cats. Some people think this has to do with a certain set of amino acids that are, weirdly, shared between meat and melons, thus giving the fruit a "meatier" scent.
Although I've touched on some of the best and worst human foods for cats, this guide is by no means exhaustive. Furthermore, it cannot replace the advice of your veterinarian. Each cat is an individual, with his own wants and needs, so be sure to both check in with your vet before trying something new, and keep on eye on how your cat is reacting to his new treats. If everything is clear and safe for your little buddy, then you can feel secure that you are now armed with a whole new menu of party-time favorites!
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