Skip to main content

A quick guide for the people food cats can (and can’t) eat

When you’re cooking dinner, does your cat stand in the kitchen sniffing at the air? Cats often want to share some food off our plates, but it’s important to make sure that any food you give them is safe for them to eat. Occasional treats of people food for cats are fine, and they may even help expand your kitty’s palate. But there are also some foods you definitely should not feed your cat. While it’s safest to stick to traditional cat food and cat treats, here are a few foods that you and your cat can safely share.

Black cat looking at a dinner plate


So, what can cats eat? Cats are meat eaters, and most cat food contains meat like chicken, turkey, or beef. If you’re cooking up dinner, you can give your cat a taste as long as you haven’t cooked the meat in butter or oil, and you haven’t yet seasoned it. When feeding Whiskers meat, feed him only cooked meat, never raw. It’s also important to remove all bones, such as when you’re sharing chicken, since those cooked bones could splinter and harm your cat.

Fish is another great source of protein for your cat. Fish is also full of omega-3 fatty acids, which support eye and heart health, and which can help support cats with arthritis. Salmon is particularly ideal since it’s already incorporated into many cat food formulas. If you feed your cat fish, feed him only cooked fish — no sushi! Just like when feeding meat, it’s important to remove any fishbones before giving it to your cat.

Eggs also are full of protein, and your cat can enjoy them in small amounts. Keep this treat to cooked eggs that have been scrambled or boiled without any added fats.

Veggies and fruits

Cats can eat vegetables, but the picky ones won’t be too excited by the prospect. Peas (raw or cooked) and spinach are both safe for cats. You can also feed your cat pumpkin, which is high in fiber. When feeding pumpkin, use canned, pureed pumpkin — not pumpkin pie mix. You can add the puree to your cat’s food to promote regular stool.

You have your choice of fruits that are safe to share with your kitty, though again, he may be picky. Apples contain high amounts of fiber and vitamin C, and they’re safe if fed without the skins. Blueberries contain vitamin A and C, and you can give a few to your cat each day. Bananas are also safe for cats.

Cat reaching up for a treat
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Foods to avoid

While it can be nice to share a snack with your cat, there are some foods you shouldn’t ever give your kitty. Dairy, like milk and yogurt, isn’t good for cats and can cause serious digestive upset. Grapes and raisins, chocolate, green tomatoes, garlic, onions, and avocado are all toxic to your cat. Alcohol, especially a larger amount of it, can be toxic. Avoid giving your cat anything with caffeine in it, and avoid raw eggs because of the salmonella risk. While your cat can have some meat, skip fatty meat trimmings, which can potentially upset your cat’s stomach and which are high in fat.

If you have these foods in your home, be sure to teach kids that it’s important to avoid feeding them to your cat. Always promptly clean up after your meals and don’t leave dishes or foods sitting out on your counters. If your cat does ingest one of these foods, call your vet immediately or call the pet poison control hotline.

When sharing foods with your cat, always make sure they’re free of oils like butter, as well as any spices or other additives. Give your cat only a bit of these foods at a time, since sudden dietary changes can upset your cat’s stomach. If you’d like to start supplementing your cat’s diet with foods like fish, talk with your vet. Adding these foods can cause your cat to need and eat less formulated cat food, which could throw off his nutrient balance. Your vet can help design a feeding program that ensures all of your cat’s nutritional needs are met, so he stays healthy.

Editors' Recommendations

Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
Cat panting: 5 reasons behind this behavior and what you should do about it
Cats pant for all sorts of reasons some of which require medical attention
Close up of a cat sticking out her tongue

Just about any cute dog account on social includes plenty of panting pics. But cat influencers? Not so much. That might cause you to panic a little any time your lovable feline sticks out their tongue or breathes heavily, even when you don't have to worry. Cats can pant, too, and many of the reasons pose no danger. So when should you intervene? We'll cover the five most common sources of cat panting.

Why is my cat panting?
Some kitties never pant at all, which doesn't indicate anything bad. It's not necessary for a lot of cats to pant. On the other hand, certain animals are more likely to breathe heavily on occasion. As always, a sudden change in behavior should mean a trip to the vet, but you may have also just landed an animal that wishes to act like a canine.
Dogs do it. Humans do it. And yes, cats do it, too. Panting from high temps seems to pervade the animal kingdom. Much of the time, your mouser will be able to cool themselves down by lying in a cold spot until they get back to normal. Sometimes though, cats get heatstroke and need you to intervene (more on that later).
Asthma and respiratory illnesses
In the case of a cat cold, you'll likely notice other symptoms that go along with the panting, like sneezing and coughing. A stuffy kitty could pant to get oxygen to their body. Many illnesses work themselves out, but they might need medicine to help it along. You'll also want to check for asthma, which affects many cats. Your vet will help with the right treatment to manage the condition.
Assuming the foreign object is lodged in their upper digestive tract, you can often find a way to take care of this on your own. Don't ever pull anything out of your cat's throat, though, if they aren't able to remove it with a few coughs. Assuming your animal can breathe well enough, take them to the vet or emergency where a doctor can safely remove the obstruction, sometimes after x-rays to diagnose.
Heart problems
Heart problems often lead to breathing problems. An older cat or one with a previous condition like congestive heart failure might develop some tricky issues. Heartworm can cause some coughing or panting as well, but it's completely treatable when caught early on. Your vet will routinely test your pet for this parasite and you should administer preventative as prescribed.
If you've ever stubbed your toe and then found yourself trying to breathe through the pain, you'll get why your cat might do this, too. Sadly, this reason nearly always necessitates an immediate trip to the vet or pet ER. The only exception is if you discover a minor injury that explains it and can fix it at home; for example, a thorn in their paw that's easy to remove.

Read more
Why do cats spray? This obnoxious behavior, explained
It's important to understand why cats do this
a ffuffy cat in a cardboard box

Cats can be a curious bunch. They attack the holiday tree annually and stare at you until you start questioning what's happening in their heads. The hijinks may leave you thinking, "Cats, can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em."

If you have chosen to shack up with a cat (or keep an indoor-outdoor or solely outdoor kitty), you know you signed up to deal with some potty scooping up. For indoor cats, this means cleaning a litter box. The good news? Cats are pretty reliable about going in the box once trained and not around your home. Why do cats spray, though? You may ask this question if you notice small amounts of urine around your pad. You'll want to get to the root cause (and determine if a cat is spraying in the first place) so you can fix the issue and save your sofa and carpet.

Read more
8 essential tips for disciplining cats
8 Easy and effective tips for training your cat
Two kittens on wooden shelves

Cats may be one of the most popular pets worldwide, but even they have reputations (mostly with non-cat people). Felines are known for indifference, sass, and even attitude. Cartoons, comics, and movies portray them as impossible to reason with, but if you ask a cat owner, they'll assure you cat discipline exists. Here's the catch: you need to know how to discipline your cat -- safely and properly -- for that training to stick. With these seven simple tips and tricks, though, you'll be on your way to perfect feline behavior.

Rule out medical concerns as a cause for misbehavior
Surprising as it sounds, the source of a lot of cat misbehavior has roots in medical conditions. Cats may stop using the litter box, demonstrate new aggression, or start hiding in unexpected places -- all from changes inside their body. So, before you start wondering how to punish your cat, make an appointment with your veterinarian. You may find a medical cause for the behavior. If not, you'll get peace of mind and can move on to further tips on cat discipline.

Read more