Cat Care Nutrition

Can Cats Eat…?


We answer the most commonly Googled questions as to what cats can eat!

Can cats eat dog food?

You might think this is a no-brainer, but Google says otherwise, as does Dr. Patty Khuly, who says you’d be surprised to learn just how many cat owners feed their felines dog food. If your cat sneaks some dog food or vice versa, it’s no big deal. But neither cats nor dogs should eat the other’s food long term as they have very different nutritional requirements. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning eating meat is a biological necessity. (In addition to all members of the cat family, dolphins, eagles, alligators, and minks, among others, have evolved to eat only meat.) Dogs on the other hand, are omnivores and need a more varied diet. To meet the specific needs of felines, cat food is higher in meat-derived protein than dog food (likely explaining why dogs will gulp down cat food given the opportunity) and is balanced to meet the specific needs of cats. If a cat is fed dog food long-term, they can suffer serious health complications.

Here’s why:

  • Vitamin A must be included in cat food. Though dog food may contain additional vitamin A, it likely won’t be in the amount needed by cats because dogs can turn beta carotene into vitamin A.
  • The amino acid taurine is required by cats, whereas dogs can make their own. If a cat is regularly fed a taurine-deficient dog food, they can develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a terrible heart disease. Cats fed a fish-only diet can also develop this condition as fish is very deficient in this amino acid. (If you’re feeding a commercially prepared fish-based diet, you likely don’t have to worry as most cat foods offer more than sufficient taurine.)
  • Cats need arachidonic acid, a fatty acid, added to their food, whereas dogs can make it themselves. 
  • Most dog foods contain insufficient protein to meet a cat’s needs. Likewise, the high protein levels in cat foods can cause health issues in dogs, such as pancreatitis and obesity, over the long term.

Chocolate?

Any chocolate is a big no-no. Chocolate is toxic to cats and can be lethal. The problem component is theobromine, and it is present in all kinds of chocolate, including white chocolate, though the most dangerous types of chocolate are dark and baking chocolate. Ingesting chocolate can cause abnormal heart arrythmia, tremors, seizures, and even death.

Eggs are an excellent and nutritious treat for cats.

Eggs?

Eggs are a superfood for cats. An excellent source of protein, they’re easy to digest and contain essential amino acids to help keep your cat’s body in top form. Don’t feed eggs raw, however; raw egg carries the risk of food poisoning for people as well as cats. Furthermore, avidin, a protein in raw egg whites, limits the absorption of vitamin B biotin, which is needed by cats for skin and coat health. Want to feed your cat egg? Offer a bit of scrambled egg as a treat or poach the egg and let your cat lap up the runny yolk once cool. Just make sure that additions to your cats’ diet make up no more than 15 percent of their diet.

Ham?

Cats can eat ham but it isn’t good for them. It’s not the pork that’s the problem; it’s the fact that ham is a cured meat, resulting in high salt content. It’s also high in fat. A little piece of ham won’t kill your cats but they shouldn’t be given it regularly. It’s much better to offer your cat a bit of plain cooked chicken.

Bananas?

Bananas are carb-heavy, which is just one of the reasons cats don’t need them. Margaret Gates, director of the Feline Nutrition Foundation, says, “Cats have no requirement for carbohydrates in their diet and feeding carbs to cats can lead to many problems. While cats can digest them in a limited way, carbs should really only make up zero to two percent of their diet.” While it’s safe to offer your cat a bite of banana (they’ll likely turn up their nose), there are many other more appropriate meat-based treats that would be better suited to a feline’s unique dietary requirements.

Cheese?

Forget the image of a cat lapping up a bowl of cream. Many cats become lactose intolerant after weaning, so any rich dairy, such as cheese, should be offered only occasionally and in small amounts. It’s generally safe to hide a pill in a bit of cheese but feed too much and your cat could suffer from gas and diarrhea. 

Bread?

While cats can digest bread no problem, it can get in the way of meeting their high requirements for protein and fats if they fill up on carbohydrates like bread. A bite or two won’t hurt them but remember cats have no need for carbohydrates and shouldn’t be fed bread regularly. And be sure to stay clear of giving your cat any breads flavoured with garlic or onions!

NEVER feed your cat any:

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Kelp
  • Grapes or raisins
  • Sugary things
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Alcohol

Related reading
9 Foods To Never Give Your Cat
11 People Foods for Cats

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