With the holidays coming up our cats may be exposed to a lot of table food. Some of us may even wish to include our cats in our celebrations. Why not? They are members of our families after all. Can cats eat table food too?
The Difference Between Cat Food and Table Food
Cat food and table food both come from the same basic sources – livestock and vegetation. The differences come in with the combination of ingredients, quality of the ingredients used, manufacturing, and marketing. Ideally, cat food will have a combination of ingredients that are tailored to meet the unique dietary needs. Table food, on the other hand, is formulated to meet the dietary needs of humans. How well this is actually done by commercial cat or table food makers is highly debated.
While there are some differences, there are a lot of similarities between the dietary needs of cats and humans. Both benefit from foods that are fresh, high quality, nutrient dense, and easy to digest. Often commercial cat foods are made from ingredients that are “rendered” which means they are the waste products from the production of table food for humans. According to Dr. Karen Becker, feeding these bagged and canned foods to our cats does not meet our cats’ needs for living foods. She believes the occasional addition of table food could be very beneficial to cats for that very reason.
Cat-Friendly Table Food
First, there are a few definite no-nos when it comes to feeding a cat table food. Grapes, onions, garlic, and chocolate are toxic to cats. Be sure that these are NOT included in the ingredients of the table food or any seasonings used on the table food. Wheat, corn, and rice are not necessarily toxic to cats, but cats’ bodies aren’t equipped to digest them (or any food that is high in carbohydrates) properly. It doesn’t make sense to feed sweets to cats either because they are high in empty calories, high in carbohydrates, and cats do not have the ability to taste “sweet.”
Many meats from your table are perfectly appropriate to allow cats to eat; just be careful with meats that are seasoned or covered in sauce. Cats love cooked chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, and lean deli meats. Cooked pork can be okay too, but try to only feed cats meats with a low sodium level.
In small amounts, dairy products can be acceptable table foods for cats too. Cats love ice cream, butter, cheese, and milk. However, some cats are lactose intolerant. If your cat shows signs of upset stomach or diarrhea after consuming dairy products, it is best not to let your cat eat them again. Always consult your veterinarian if there are concerns about your cat’s health.
Some veggies, nuts, and fruits can be okay for a cat’s occasional snacking. Zucchini, almonds, walnuts, romaine lettuce, endive, and escarole are great table food veggies for kitties. Other things that can be eaten by cats in small amounts are broccoli, melon (without seeds), cooked carrots, cooked asparagus, winter squash, and sweet potatoes.
What To Do if a Toxin is Ingested
Sometimes cats get a hold of table foods that are toxic. If you believe your cat has ingested a toxin, stay calm and call your veterinarian or emergency veterinarian immediately. Follow their instructions carefully. You may have to get your cat to the veterinarian’s office in a hurry. The ASPCA has a Pet Poison Control hotline ( 888-426-4435) that you can call for help as well.
Preparing for potential emergencies can be very helpful. Having a first aid kit available with vomit-inducing agents can help expedite the process of removing poison from your cat’s body. The ASPCA has a huge database of plants (including fruits and veggies) that are toxic to cats that you can use to help you make good choices and avoid toxins.