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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
webandi/Pixabay

Proteins

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.

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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…
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