Sharing a meal with a cat is so hard to resist, especially when you meet those innocent, begging eyes. Some cats identify with their humans so much that even foods like sauerkraut are not off the menu. If “sharing is caring” is your motto, let me tell you what human food can cats eat, so you two can enjoy a meal without worries.
Cat and human digestive tracts are very different. We are omnivores, but cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they need meat to survive. Meat constitutes more than 90% of their diet, and the rest is just small amounts of vegetables and grains, mostly for the purpose of getting fiber. The safety of human foods for cats is the topic of this article, as is explaining some misconceptions usually found among cat owners.
In this article, we are going to list safe human foods divided into six categories: meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy products, grain, and nutritional additives. We are also going to discuss which foods you should never feed to the cat and why.
Human Food That is Safe for Cats
There are plenty of food items you and your cat can share, but you should be aware that processed food is generally bad for animals—as it is for you, but even more so. Preservatives, additives, and taste enhancers might be very harmful to our pets since they can’t metabolize many of those chemicals.
Make sure to always feed your cat fresh or cooked food that is appropriate for them. Here is the list of things you two can enjoy together:
As you already know, cats are obligate carnivores. They absolutely love meat, and this food item should be the biggest part of their diet. In nature, cats hunt rodents and other small prey that don’t have a lot of fat tissue, so cats are not really used to eating a lot of it. In fact, it can give your cat a belly ache so make sure to trim any excess fat before serving.
When serving meat to your cat, make sure it is thoroughly cooked and deboned. If you want to feed your cat a raw diet, there are many factors you need to take into consideration. This is why it is much simpler to go with cooked meat if you just want your cat to enjoy a delicious snack.
Chicken, turkey, and other poultry are all great sources of lean protein, and most cats love to eat it. Make sure that you debone it thoroughly or that you are giving parts with only very large bones your cat can’t swallow.
Poultry is risky in this way because the extremity bones are hollow and can shatter into many sharp and tiny pieces. Swallowing bone shards can cause serious digestion problems and even be lethal.
Lean beef, such as sirloin, is also a great source of protein for cats. If you are not very knowledgeable about beef cuts, don’t worry. There is a trick you can use when shopping for meat.
Ask for anything with “round,” “chuck,” or “loin” in its name, because these parts are usually lean or extra lean. If your cat is not used to beef, make sure to cut it into very small pieces the first time you serve, because it can be a bit chewy.
The liver is a very popular source of protein, and hardly any cat will refuse it. On the other hand, humans are often very cautious about feeding on the liver, so some decide to avoid it altogether. Let us sort out this confusion once and for all.
Wildcats will always happily eat the intestines of their prey, because this part is not only nutritious, but also full of probiotics, vitamins, and enzymes that cats need to stay healthy.
The liver is no different. It is the main source of vitamin A which cats can’t produce themselves. It is also rich in copper and iron and other precious nutrients such as vitamins of the B group and vitamins D, E, K.
As you can see, the liver is a powerhouse of energy and a primary source of life-giving chemicals. Then why not put it in every cat meal? Because cats are very efficient in getting all they need from very small amounts of liver. Think of the size of the liver in a mouse or a small bird—that’s all a cat needs to be healthy.
We give them meat from cows, pigs, and poultry, and usually in large amounts that are completely unnecessary, even harmful. Hypervitaminosis A (too much of vitamin A) can cause deformed bones and osteoporosis. The point is, you should not avoid liver at all; just serve the right amount, and you and your cat are going to be fine.
Lamb is also a good source of protein, but some cats might be driven off by the smell. When feeding lamb to your cat for the first time, make sure to start with small portions to check whether she is going to like it or not.
Lean deli meats that are free of preservatives and unnecessary additives can also be a tasty, but rare treat. Deli meats can be very salty which is generally bad for cats, especially those who have UTI problems. Deli products taste delicious, and your cat can get absolutely crazy about it, so make sure to serve it only for special occasions or to use it in tiny amounts during training.
Eggs are also a popular choice, but make sure they are hard boiled before serving. Fresh eggs, especially fresh egg yolks, can be a source of harmful agents such as Salmonella.
Fish is a great source of vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids, so it can be a frequent meal. Cooked fish is fine, and you can serve it whole if your cat knows how to eat it. If you don’t want to risk it, debone the fish yourself.
Another option is to give the fish raw which is preferable for many reasons; just make sure to freeze it for at least 24 hours beforehand, to get rid of any potential parasites in the gastrointestinal tract of the fish.
Vegetables can help with digestive issues and are fun to nibble on, but not all cats are fans of all the veggies listed below, so it might take some time to find those that your cat agrees with. Here are what we recommend:
- Baked or cooked pumpkin and squash is an absolute favorite of many cats. It is sweet, mushy, and full of vitamins! Bake the pumpkin in the oven and then cut it in small cubes, and serve to your cat.
- Peas are very popular amongst the feline population. You can serve them raw or cooked, whatever your snugglepuss prefers.
- Cooked or steamed veggies like carrots, broccoli, or green beans can also be a great addition to the lunch bowl if your cat likes to eat any of those. You could also offer cooked asparagus to your furry friend; some cats we know are big fans.
- Spinach is a healthy addition with the exception of cats who have kidney or urinary conditions. These patients shouldn’t be served spinach because it can cause the formation of crystals in the urinary tract.
- Sweet potatoes, cooked and diced or mashed, are a great addition to cooked chicken or beef. Fancy eating is not only for humans!
Generally speaking, you should avoid giving too much high carb food to your cat because it often leads to obesity. This is more of a guide that tells you what you can give to your cat while you are eating it, rather than making these foods especially for your cat.
Carbs are not a big part of the feline natural diet, and we should try to mimic the natural order as much as possible to keep our cats healthy.
This is the list of grains that are safe for your cat:
- Cooked corn is very popular in the cat world. You can even give your cat the whole knob to nibble on and have endless fun with.
- Couscous and millet seem to be things cats enjoy because of the tiny size of the grain rather than the taste itself. We think this is just a fun type of food for them because they can chase it around and pretend they are hunting teeny-tiny mice. Let your cat have fun; couscous is perfectly safe.
- Bread is quite fine in low quantities, too. Whole grain bread is preferable over white bread since it has a lot more fiber and nutrients.
- Oatmeal is completely safe, and for some reason, a lot of cats absolutely love it. A spoonful from time to time won’t do any harm; just keep in mind that oats are very high in calories.
Many cats avoid fruit like the plague. Citric fruit is especially unattractive to cats. Fruit is definitely on the bottom of the list of the items cats would eat in nature. If your cat is a gastronomical adventurer, she might decide to give some of the fruit from this list a chance, but don’t keep your hopes up.
- Bananas can be offered in small chunks or mashed.
- Blueberries can be both a healthy snack and a toy. Try throwing one to your cat; she might decide to play with it and eat it afterwards.
- Apples are also a healthy choice although some cats have a very strong aversion to them.
- Watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe are also nice fruit additions to your cat’s diet, so don’t be afraid to offer some to your furry buddy!
Most cats become lactose intolerant with age. There is simply no need to keep producing the enzymes that would break lactose down since cats in nature only encounter milk during the suckling period.
If your cat likes dairy products, make sure to keep an eye on her digestion, because cats, just like humans, might like things that are not necessarily good for them. All dairy products should be given in small amounts or as treats, never as whole meals.
- Hard cheeses like cheddar, gouda, and edam are quite safe in small amounts.
- Low lactose white cheeses like cottage cheese can even be given as a food topper since it is low in calories and mild.
- Yogurt is also fine as long as it is plain and low fat.
06. Nutritional Additives
There are certain supplements that you can share with your cat, but caution is advised. Always keep in mind that supplements are meant to correct deficiencies. If your cat has a healthy, balanced diet, there should be no need for the regular addition of vitamins, minerals, and such. If your cat needs a supplement because of a medical condition, you should consult your veterinarian.
Fish oil is an important source of essential fatty acids. EFAs are very important for the metabolism and overall health of the organism. Humans can use EFAs from flax seeds and other plant sources, but cats can’t. They need an animal source like fish oil or mussel oil, krill oil, etc.
Glucosamine is a chemical found in the cartilage and other parts of living organisms, such as sea creature shells. It is produced naturally in the organism, but as the animal ages, the concentration can be reduced, leading to cartilage damage and reduced mobility.
If you notice your senior cat has problems with arthritis, has difficulties standing or jumping, she might have a glucosamine deficiency. The symptoms can be successfully reduced with the daily addition of 120-500 milligrams of glucosamine sulfate, but make sure to talk to the vet first.
Human Food That Should Not Be Given to Cats
Some human foods can be very harmful or even lethal for cats. We will give you a list of the most common risky foods that can be found in every household. Always make sure that these items are safely removed out of the cat’s reach, tightly sealed, and in impenetrable containers.
- Milk. As we have already said, some cats develop lactose intolerance after their mom weans them, so feeding milk to an adult cat can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
- Alcohol. Cats are absolutely incapable of digesting alcohol, and should not be offered alcoholic drinks under any circumstances. It’s not like they are drawn to it, really, but they are curious creatures and if you are hosting a party, keep a watchful eye on your furry party animal. Keep in mind that only a tablespoon of strong liquor can put a cat in a coma.
- Fish products made for human consumption such as canned tuna and other fish contain certain additives that can cause digestive tract inflammation.
- Chocolate. The infamous compound that is super toxic to cats and dogs is called theobromine. This chemical causes arrhythmias, seizures, and sometimes even death. If your cat somehow got her paws on that chocolate covered cookie or god forbid a chocolate bar, take her to the vet immediately.
- Caffeine. Caffeine is what gives us the kick out of beverages such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks. Unfortunately, it is very harmful to felines and can cause anxiety, muscle tremors, rapid breathing, and heart attacks.
- Fat trimmings. Too much fat is not good for anyone, but fat tissue can cause diarrhea in cats, not to mention the risk of obesity and other related problems.
- Onions, garlic, chives, leek, and other plants from the Allium family. They can cause anemia and severe digestive tract problems. Unfortunately for us, cats also think that these plants taste great when added to food. This is why you should always be very careful when feeding your cat anything store-bought; food containing any of the aforementioned should be disqualified immediately.
- Xylitol. This is a sweetener used in a lot of sugar-free foods. It is very harmful to dogs, causing a drop in blood sugar levels. Cats are not known to suffer from the same but stay on the safe side. Gum, candy, and drinks with added xylitol should be avoided.
- Unbaked bread dough can cause gastrointestinal problems since fermented foods are not something feline tract is made for.