Can Cats Eat Bread? Is It Safe For The Kitty?
Of all the different foods that remind you of comfort, tradition, family gatherings, and home cooking, there’s no food quite like bread.
Most of us enjoy eating bread with our family and loved ones. We’ll share a basket before dinner or bring a freshly baked loaf to our new neighbors. If you’re a cat owner, you may even find yourself tempted to share a morsel or two with your feline companion.
But before you decide to “break bread” with your beloved kitty, it’s important to understand if and how cats and bread is a healthy mix.
- What’s in a Loaf? A Bit About Bread
- Can Cats Eat Bread?
- The Types of Bread You Should Never Give Your Cat
- The Bottom Line: Do Cats and Bread Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly? Not Exactly
What’s in a Loaf? A Bit About Bread
Universally Loved, Universally Consumed
Bread—in all its varieties—is universally loved. Rolls or loaves, baked or fried, leavened or unleavened, slathered in butter or dipped in olive oil—take your pick. It’s a delicious treat that has a significant gustatory and even religious history (traditionally, bread has symbolized things like fertility, hospitality, and even the “Body of Christ” in the Christian religion).
While every culture has its own preferred recipe, bread is generally made of grains, water, salt, sugar, and yeast. Of course, getting specialty bread these days is as simple as going to the local grocery store. Easy-to-find varieties include things like whole grain, multi-grain, and even gluten-free.
Click Here To Find Out If Your Kitty Can Have Almond Milk.
Low in Nutrients, High in Carbs
For all its delightful and delicious qualities, however, bread has a few major problems, for humans and pets.
Bread contains a lot of carbohydrates. A carbohydrate is a macronutrient that the body breaks down into sugar uses as fuel. Fruit, veggies, nuts, and potatoes also contain carbohydrates.
But not all carbohydrates were created equal.
Bread technically contains refined carbohydrates. They are “refined” because the grains used to make bread—like wheat, corn, rye, and barley—must be ground, cooked, and otherwise processed in order for them to be palatable.
Unfortunately, the process of refining tends to strip grains of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Refining grains also causes them to sit higher on the “glycemic index.” The glycemic index is a measurement of how much a given food will cause a spike in blood sugar.
Hint: higher glycemic index = higher blood sugar = less healthy.
So, bread is actually considered a nutrient poor food that can cause high spikes in our blood sugar. Such spikes can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and even mood dysfunction.
You have to wonder then: if bread can have that kind of effect on humans, do cats and bread really sound like a good idea?
The answer? Yes and no.
In general, bread is okay for cats. But (and this is a big “but”), bread should be considered a special treat. You shouldn’t give your cat bread every day. If you do choose to give your cat bread, only give her a bite or two.
Because, like in humans, cats who eat too much bread and other refined carbohydrates are more at risk for gaining weight and developing chronic health issues.
Bread & Your Cat’s Oral Health
Aside from causing weight gain or blood sugar problems, too much bread can also be bad for your cat’s teeth and gums.
Bacteria love sugar. When your cat eats bread, its refined carbohydrates will be broken down into sugar. This sugar can attract “bad” bacteria into your cat’s mouth. Over time, these bacteria can cause plaque build-up and eventually lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
Cats Are Meat Lovers by Nature
Another reason why cats shouldn’t eat too much bread is because cats evolved as pure carnivores. This means, if left to their own devices in the wild, cats would hunt and kill all their food (and wouldn’t forage for nuts or nibble on grass).
So, your kitty’s ancestors developed a digestive system that got very efficient at breaking down meat and very inefficient at breaking down plants. Introducing a new food group to a cat’s digestive system—like grains—can be problematic in some cases.
Related: Check out our choices for the best cat food for your feline companion
For instance, bread can lead to bloating and gas in cats. Too much bread, sugar, and other refined carbohydrates can also mess with delicate pH and gut flora found in your cat’s intestinal tract.
Both pH and gut flora (microorganisms, including “good” bacteria) are essential for your cat’s ability to extract nutrients from the food it eats. Without it, your cat could get sick and develop a health problem.
Bread Lacks Taurine
Cats cannot make their own taurine but need it for a healthy coat and teeth. This is one nutrient that bread does not provide. Without taurine, a cat’s hair may gradually fall out and the teeth will decay and the retina will degenerate, leading to blindness. The reproductive and cardiovascular systems will also suffer without sufficient taurine.
This amino acid is also needed to metabolize fat. Shellfish and dark meat are all rich in taurine, but grain products like bread have almost none. Your cat doesn’t want a tuna sandwich; she just wants the tuna. Bread will not give her what she needs.
Why Your Cat Might Absolutely Love Bread
Do cats eat bread, anyway? Sure. Cats and kittens often love the chewy texture. For all its drawbacks, bread even has a high amount of fiber. Fiber is good for resolving diarrhea and regulating bowel movements. However, you shouldn’t use bread as “treatment” for your cat’s runny stool. If your cat is having diarrhea, talk to your vet first.
The Types of Bread You Should Never Give Your Cat
Even though most types of bread are free of ingredients that may be harmful to cats, there are certain types of bread that should be a definite no-no for your feline friend.
Raw bread dough has active yeast in it. If the dough continues to rise in your cat’s stomach, this can lead to intestinal blockage and serious gastrointestinal upset.
Any bread you give to your cat should be fully cooked. That said, avoid giving her toasted or burnt bread.
Raisin Bread & Garlic Bread
Raisins and garlic are two types of food that are toxic and potentially lethal to your cat. Never give your feline friend a bite of bread that has either of these ingredients in it or on it.
Other toppings or ingredients to avoid include chives (e.g., often found in chive cream cheese), excessive salt or butter, chocolate spreads, or caramelized onions.
The Bottom Line: Do Cats and Bread Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly? Not Exactly
Can cats have bread? Sure.
Do they have to? Definitely not.
There is no real nutritional value in bread. Your kitty can get all the nutrients and calories she needs from a balanced diet of either dry cat food, wet cat food, and/or raw food. In other words, cats and bread are not necessary.
That said, you can give your cat or kitten a little bit of bread every now and then as a treat. It should be a treat only, and not a staple in her daily diet.
If you do choose to give your cat a little nibble of bread on special occasions, read through the ingredients list. Avoid breads that are made with unhealthy ingredients like artificial colors and preservatives.
As a general rule of thumb, don’t give it to your cat if you wouldn’t give it to your children.
If your cat has any underlying health conditions, especially obesity, feline diabetes, cancer, or kidney disease, you should chat with your vet before giving her bread or any other kind of “people food.” Equally, if your cat shows any symptoms of gastrointestinal upset after eating bread (like bloating, gas, or vomiting), then don’t give her any more. It’s just not worth it.
- Bread on Britanica.com
- Good Carbs, Bad Carbs: Why Carbohydrates Matter By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD on WebMD
- Cats and Carbohydrates – What is the Impact? by Claudia A. Kirk, DVM, PhD, DACVN, DACVIM
University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville, TN, USA
- ISFM Consensus Guidelines on the Practical Management of Diabetes Mellitus in Cats by Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (2015) 17, 235–250
- Bread Dough on Pet Poison Helpline