Which Foods Are Toxic or Dangerous for Cats: What About Onion?

Photo of Abyssinian cat stealing meat from wooden table, pet bad behaviorVets get a lot of questions from pet parents about how to raise happy healthy kitties.

Here's an important one:

Which Foods Are Toxic or Dangerous for Cats?

Don't get us wrong—we know you do your research! You've looked into the best cat food out there, the best treats, whether to give her dry food, canned food, or both, how to keep her well-hydrated, and all sorts of other nutrition-related topics. And you work hard to ensure your little lion gets the right quality ingredients and balanced nutrients in her diet. In fact, you've probably wondered “What can cats eat?” just as often as you've wondered about what they can't (or shouldn't).

But knowing which foods to keep out of your kitty's diet is just as important as knowing which foods to keep in. BOTH will help her stay healthy. And on a serious note, if your furball ingests food that's dangerous for felines, the results could be serious—or even deadly.

In this comprehensive article, we're going to highlight which foods Are toxic or dangerous for cWhich Foods Are Toxic or Dangerous for Catsats and why they're problematic for feline bodies. We'll also talk about what to do if your cat consumes something she shouldn't (here's a hint: don't panic!). Lastly, we'll answer some of our readers most frequently asked questions about foods that kitties can and can't eat. By the end of this article, you'll hopefully walk away with a lot more cat culinary confidence.

Foods Cats Can’t Eat

For various reasons, the following foods are considered UNSAFE for felines of all ages to consume. At best, they can make your kitten, adult cat, or senior cat ill. At worst, they could physically harm her or even put her life at risk. If you have any of these foods in your home, make sure they are out of reach of your pets at all times, and let the rest of your family or any visitors about these off-limits items

  • Raw Eggs, raw meat and bones: raw animal products may contain bacteria like salmonella or E. coli, which pose a poisoning hazard. Plus, raw bones (as well as cooked bones, for that matter) are a major choking hazard, and raw eggs contain enzymes that are bad for a kitty's coat and skin.
  • Raw Fish: cats shouldn't eat raw fish for the same reason they shouldn't eat raw eggs or meat (due to an increased risk of bacterial infections and choking). Interestingly, raw fish also contains an enzyme that damages Vitamin B (aka thiamine), which is an essential nutrient for your kitty! If you feed your kitty raw fish, she may suffer neurological problems as a result of a thiamine deficiency.
  • Onions, Garlic, and Related Root Vegetables like Shallots, Chives, Scallions, and Leeks: food from this plant family contains a compound called N-propyl disulphide. This compound can denature (break down) feline red blood cells and cause anemia. Kitties are especially at risk if they consume concentrated amounts in the form of garlic powder or onion soup mix. In other words, the answer to the question “Can cats eat onions” is definitely and 100% NO.
  • Green Tomatoes or Potatoes: are you a green thumb? While it's nice to have fresh-grown produce, you should be aware that the leaves and stems of tomato and potato plants are highly toxic. Tomatoes and potatoes are part of the so-called “nightshade” family and can be deadly to cats. Green tomatoes also contain solanine, which can cause confusion, drooling, and digestive problems. Keep your kitties away from these plants!Photo of scared cat looking up, isolated on black background
  • Mushrooms: store-bought mushrooms are rarely harmful to your kitty, and in small amounts they should be safe for her to eat. But here's the thing: your little fluffball is an obligate carnivore, which means she doesn't need to eat mushrooms to be healthy! In fact, there are many types of mushrooms, especially wild mushrooms, that are outright toxic. Rest assured she's not missing anything if you keep fungi out of her diet. Assume that any wild mushroom growing in your yard is toxic and keep your kitty away from it.
  • Grapes and Raisins: Can cats eat grapes and raisins? HARD NO. It's not totally clear why, but grapes and raisins have been shown to cause feline kidney failure. And it doesn't take much of these foods to make your kitty sick! Early warning signs of grape or raisin ingestion include repeat vomiting and hyperactivity.
  • Fruit with Pits: cherries, peaches, and other types of fruits with pits can be dangerous for cats because the pits can be a choking hazard (whether whole or if broken off into smaller bits). Plus, cherries (including the fruit and all parts of the plant) are toxic for cats and can lead to scary symptoms like bright red gums, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, and shock. Another pitted fruit to avoid is the avocado, aka alligator pear—this is toxic to felines, too. Can cats eat blueberries? Yes. Just remember, felines are obligate carnivores—so while they don't need blueberries in their diet, they do have lots of antioxidants which can benefit their health.
  • Nuts: Can cats eat pistachios? Can cats eat almonds? What about cats and peanut butter—is that a good mix? The short answer is no—cats shouldn't eat any nuts or seeds. Even though most aren't toxic to kitties—except for Macadamia nuts, which are poisonous to cats—nuts have a high fat content. In your four-legged sweetie, this can cause stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems. So, can cats have peanut butter without putting her health in danger? Technically yes, but vets and animal health experts do NOT recommend it. If you don't want to see your sweetie suffer nor have to clean up her vomit or feces, keep the nuts to yourself.
  • Chocolate: we usually think that dark chocolate is healthier for humans than milk chocolate. But ALL chocolate is dangerous to cats, and the darker this sweet treat is, the more dangerous it is for your feline! Chocolate contains compounds like theobromine and methylxanthines. In cats and dogs these compounds can cause heart problems, muscle tremors, seizures, vomiting and diarrhea, high body temperature, stomach pain, abdominal discomfort, and increased thirst.
  • Sugar and Sweeteners: the reason why cats shouldn't eat sugary foods and sweeteners is the same reasons their human family members shouldn't. Refined sugar isn't toxic or poisonous, but it DOES increase the risk of costly and serious health problems like arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. So skip the sugary treats—your cat is sweet enough!
  • Raw Dough: when it comes to baking in a house with cats, there really can be too many cooks in the kitchen! Raw dough can cause gastrointestinal issues like pancreatitis in kitties. Plus, raw dough can expand in the stomach, leading to dangerous bloating and abdominal discomfort.
  • Dog Food: dog food isn't outright toxic to cats. BUT it's formulated to support canine health, which is a lot different from feline health! Simply put, dog food doesn't contain enough of the nutrients kitties need for optimal well-being—including vitamin A, taurine, arachidonic acid and protein—so you shouldn't.

Hazardous Beverages

The cat is eating fried cutlets and drinking beer from the folding wooden bed tray on the sofa.It's not just food you need to watch out for. There are some beverages humans enjoy regularly that are harmful to their feline family members. Keep your animal away from the following drinks:

  • Caffeinated Drinks: many of the same dangerous compounds found in chocolate (methylxanthines) are found in caffeinated beverages, too, including soft drinks and coffee. Kitties who consume caffeinated beverages are at risk for problems like irregular heartbeats and seizures. Keep coffee grounds out of reach, too!
  • Alcohol: even a small amount of alcohol can lead to feline brain damage, liver failure, disorientation, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, respiratory distress, coma, or death.
  • Milk and Dairy Products: we know, we know—a kitty drinking a saucer of warm milk is an age-old image. But like humans, most cats have a hard time digesting the proteins and enzymes found in milk once they're beyond their kitten stage. You should avoid giving your kitty dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese to minimize her risk of diarrhea, upset stomach, and other forms of digestive distress.

Ingredients That Can Also Cause Illnesses

Spices and herbs in wooden bowls. Food and cuisine ingredients.In addition to certain foods and beverages, there are certain ingredients found in human foods that can be harmful to your kitty. Get in the habit of scanning the nutrition labels of all the products you bring into your home, just so you're aware of what's in them. Be particularly mindful of the following, which can make your cat sick:

  • Salt: cats who eat too much salt are at risk for excessive thirst, excessive urination, or even sodium ion poisoning. The best way to keep salt out of your kitty's diet is to not give her highly processed foods—which, for what it's worth, aren't that good for humans, either! By the way, this is another part of the answer to the question, “Can cats eat peanuts and nuts?” Most nuts are roasted and salted, so pose a double whammy health hazard to felines (high sodium and high fat).
  • Rhubarb: this plant is naturally bitter, so kitties are rarely interested in it. But the rhubarb plant contains calcium oxalate crystals and oxalic acid, which can be toxic if consumed in higher amounts and lead to issues like low blood sugar or renal failure. So, if you grow or cook with this plant, be sure your cat stays away from it.
  • Nutmeg: this spice contains a compound called myristicin. Ingesting excess amounts of myristicin can cause disorientation, hallucinations, elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain, and even seizures. But it would take a LOT of nutmeg to actually induce these health problems, and it's unlikely any cat would ever consume that much. That said, small amounts of nutmeg may make your kitty's stomach hurt. So, you should store nutmeg securely to avoid spillage and try not to give her food containing it.
  • Xylitol: dog owners know about the dangers of this sweetener well! That's because xylitol—popular in things like gum, candy, pudding, sauces and condiments, toothpaste, and even personal care products like medications, lip balm, and vitamins—is extremely harmful to canines. While it's not shown to be toxic in cats, you still shouldn't give any to your feline. After all, many foods containing xylitol also contain other ingredients known to be toxic to cats, like chocolate.

In Case of a Food Emergency: Immediate Care, Prevention and Treatment

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Here are some tips to reduce the risk of your kitty getting into something she shouldn't:

  • Be extra mindful around the holidays or when you have guests over.
  • Store foods securely and out of reach of curious kitties. If your little girl is extra adventurous and curious, you may need to get some tamper-proof locks and containers!
  • Kitties are adorable, but they don't make great sous chefs. Don't let your feline walk, jump, or sit on your kitchen counters or dining room tables—at least when you're cooking and eating.

Now, unless you keep feline-unfriendly foods out of your house completely (which, let's face it, might not be feasible), there's always at least some chance your little one could eat a dangerous food item. In these cases, fast action is key. If you think your kitty ate something bad for her or are noticing signs like vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, or trouble breathing, here's what to do:

  • Call your vet immediately. The vet will want to know what she ate and how much of it (your best guess is fine) as well as what her signs and symptoms are. Based on your information, he or she will be able to tell you what to do and whether to bring her in for examination. Do NOT induce your kitty to vomit unless you've been instructed to do so by your vet!
  • If it's after hours, or if your animal is exhibiting serious signs like tremors and excessive vomiting, call the nearest animal hospital and/or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680.

Mild cases of accidental food poisoning often resolve on their own. But in moderate to severe cases, cats may require more intensive medical care to help them feel better and address any underlying issues that occurred as a result of the toxic food ingestion (like organ damage). Services may include hospitalization, intravenous fluids, medications, blood work, urinalysis, and other tests and measures.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Can Cats Not Eat

Can a cat eat peanut butter?

Cats shouldn't eat peanut butter. While it's not toxic to felines, peanut butter has a very high fat content that can cause animals to have upset stomachs. A little probably won't hurt her, but you should avoid getting into the habit of giving her any as a treat.

Is honey toxic to cats?

Honey isn't toxic to cats, but most cats won't be able to digest the sweet stuff very well (even though it's “natural”). This is because honey is rich in fructose and glucose, and kitty bodies aren't good at breaking these compounds down. As you can probably guess by now, your cat is likely to feel pretty icky if she eats something she can't digest—and eating honey can cause her to have diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, insulin spikes, or even weight gain. Plus, honey doesn't contain any essential nutrients that cats need for their health. So, can cats eat honey? Technically, yes. But it can make them feel so ill that it's really not worth it.

Can cats eat soy sauce?

Cats should not eat soy sauce, mostly because it's high in sodium (salt). Too much salt in a feline diet can lead to problems like dehydration. If she somehow gets into a bit of soy sauce, you probably don't need to panic—just watch for signs of bad reactions like vomiting and diarrhea, and don't purposefully give her any foods (including meats!) that have been seasoned with it.

Can cats eat soy sauce?

Is mustard bad for cats? Most vets and animal experts agree that you shouldn't allow cats to eat mustard. This includes mustard as a condiment and mustard greens and seeds. Consuming a lot of mustard greens or seeds may cause your cat to become ill and may even lead to anemia or serious adverse effects. And if your kitty eats any mustard in condiment form, it could give her an upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Is it safe to diffuse essential oils around cats?

Essential oils can be toxic to cats and cause respiratory irritation, so it's not safe to use them in a diffuser around them. Cats are especially at risk for health problems if they are exposed to the following essential oils: wintergreen oil, sweet birch oil, citrus oil, pine oils, Ylang Ylang oil, peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, pennyroyal oil, clove oil, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil.

What plants kill cats?

The most common household plants that can be toxic or even deadly to cats include: lilies, sago palm, marijuana, oleander, azalea, rhododendron, chrysanthemums, yew, amaryllis, autumn crocus, castor beans, pothos, and holly. Call your vet right away if you suspect your animal has eaten any one of these plants.

Will cats eat food they don't like?

Cats won't usually eat food they don't like. At the very least, they may nibble to get a taste of it and then stop eating it if they don't enjoy it. Unfortunately, just because a certain type of food is bad for a kitty doesn't mean she won't think it tastes good! This is why it's important to properly store all potentially dangerous food items to avoid your curious girl from getting into something she shouldn't.

What do you feed a sick cat?

If your cat is sick and you're worried about her not eating, you can try feeding her some bland food like cooked chicken meat and rice. This type of meal is gentle on her belly and still full of nutrients. If that doesn't seem to work, talk to your vet about other options, like mince meat, homemade/salt-free chicken broth, tuna and tuna water, human baby food, and prescription diet.

Conclusion

A cat having a check-up at a small animal vet clinicChances are, you have products in your house that aren't safe for cats to eat. At best, some of these foods will make her ill and feel really crummy. At worst, some of these foods can actually threaten her life.

To keep your kitty safe, properly store all potentially dangerous food items, educate the rest of your household about what is and isn't safe for her to eat, and consider keeping her out of the kitchen while you're cooking. And when in doubt, ALWAYS call your vet!

Be sure to share this article with other pet parents you know, and check out the rest of our website for more information on kitty nutrition, health, and more.

What food is toxic to cats?

alcohol, chocoloate, coffee, tea, energy drinks, cheese, milk, fat trimmings, raw meat, raw eggs and fish, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic, xylitol

What fruit is poisonous to cats?

Steer clear of: Cherries are toxic to cats and dogs, and grapes and raisins can cause kidney damage. Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and grapefruit as well as persimmons can cause an upset stomach. All the following fruits are safe for your dog or cat to eat.

Can cats eat ice cream?

Experts said there's nothing wrong with feeding cats ice cream or yogurt. He cautioned that cats can have lactose intolerance, which can result in gastrointestinal problems and diarrhea. ... Like humans, cats can have harmful effects from too much sugar consumption.

Can cats eat scrambled eggs?

Being carnivores, cats benefit from eggs' protein and amino acids. But, if you do give your cat egg to eat, feed it as a treat. Feed just a tiny amount because you don't want to put too many calories in your cat's diet, Purina Senior Nutritionist Jan Dempsey explains.

  • Updated February 10, 2020
Mary Nielsen
 

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.

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