While there are some cats who shun people food, most cats will show up at dinnertime, hoping for a taste or two of what you’re having. And there’s (almost) nothing wrong with giving your cat the occasional treat off your plate, or giving them a taste of what you’re cooking. Just follow these dos and don’ts to make sure you’re giving your cat human food treats that are at least a little healthy and not harmful.
- control portions. Remember that your cat weighs only about 5-10% of what you weigh. And treats should only be a tiny percentage of their daily food intake. So measure out what you give them accordingly. A tiny bit of meat or a shred or two of scrambled egg is enough for a treat.
- offer fruits and vegetables. Some cats actually like them! Even though cats can’t taste sweet, there are other aspects of fruits they may find appealing. And if your cat enjoys chewing on grass, they may also like veggies. Vegetables and fruit that are acceptable to share with your cat include broccoli, green beans, peas, spinach, carrots, watermelon, blueberries, cantaloupe — and banana! I love cantaloupe and some greens.
- give a tiny bit of hard cheese. Even though cats are lactose intolerant, an occasional teensy bit of something like cheddar or gouda is okay.
- let your cat have a taste of bread or grains. A little bit of bread, rice or unsweetened oatmeal may appeal to your cat.
- make sure any hot food is cooled off to a comfortable temperature before giving it to your cat. If it’s too hot for you, it’s definitely too hot for your cat.
- give your cat highly seasoned or spiced food. This is always an issue at my house, since my human loves garlic and onions, which are two things cats should never have. Almost everything she eats has these in them! If you’re the same way, prepare a little bit of the dish for your cat before adding the spices, onion and garlic.
- Salty foods are a no-no too. Because cats are small, they can more easily get sodium poisoning from things like potato chips or popcorn. (Although a kernel of plain popped popcorn is okay for your cat to munch on.)
- offer your cats sweet treats like candy, cake or cookies. They’re not good for you either! But even if you do indulge occasionally, any sweets are just too much for your cat. And of course, never ever give your cat anything with chocolate or nuts in it. Those are toxic.
- give your cat commercial ice cream. In addition to having lactose which doesn’t agree with kitty digestion, commercial ice cream contains propylene glycol. That’s a type of antifreeze that’s safe for human consumption, but it’s still bad for cats, who are extremely sensitive to this compound. A small lick of homemade ice cream or a taste of plain low-fat yogurt would be a better idea.
- give your cat meat on the bone. Bones can splinter and puncture your cat’s stomach or intestines. Any meat that was attached to a bone should be thoroughly examined before handing it over to your cat to make sure no bone fragments are still there. This also goes for fish, which often has tiny, sharp bones that are harder to find. The one exception is sardines, which come out of the tin with soft bones.
- give your cat all the tuna water from the can. A tiny bit can be a very occasional treat, but tuna meant for humans is not really good for cats, and anything more than a little sip or lick is not healthy for them.
- give your cat raw dough. While bread is okay, dough with active yeast in it is a hazard for your cat. Also don’t give bread or bagels that are covered in seeds, nuts and/or onions. My human adores that kind of bread, which means I never get any here.
The list of foods that should never be fed to your cat is pretty long, and the ASPCA has some good info here, along with the number to their poison control center.
The bottom line is that if your cat wants some of what you’ve got, it’s okay as long as it’s meat with no spices, the veggies and fruits listed, and very tiny portions of things like hard cheese and plain bread. But remember, cats are obligate carnivores, and their diet should be 95% meat protein. In the long run, the best treats for cats are freeze dried meats and organs that are readily available in stores. And if you slip your cat some of those instead of whatever is sitting on your plate, 99% of them will be happier.
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