To many people, chives are one of the toppings that make soups and baked potatoes delicious. Most of us have a tendency to share what we find yummy with our pets. For cats, however, chives can cause illness. Add them to the list of human foods that are off-limits for your kitty.
Chives Are Poisonous to Cats
Chives are a member of the onion, or Allium, genus. This category also includes garlic and leeks. All of these are poisonous to both cats and dogs. Cats, however, are more susceptible than most dogs, according to Pet Poison Helpline. The members of this genus are toxic to cats in any form, whether powdered, dehydrated, raw or cooked. Even the mild form of onion powder used in some baby foods can make cats sick.
Gastrointestinal Effects of Chives
Chives cause two forms of illness in cats. The first and mildest is gastrointestinal upset. It consists of symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and irritation of the mouth.
Heinz Body Anemia from Eating Chives
The other illness that eating chives can cause in cats is far more serious. It is called Heinz body anemia. With this condition the red blood cells become more likely to rupture and are even destroyed. Symptoms of Heinz body anemia include pale gums, lips and mouth, fever, sudden weakness, loss of appetite, discolored skin, elevated respiration and heart rates, lethargy, exercise intolerance, collapse and reddish-brown urine in severe cases.
Cause and Amounts
The toxic ingredient in chives and other members of the Allium genus is called thiosulphate. This is what causes red blood cell damage. As little as 5 grams of any form of onion can be toxic to a cat. About 600 to 800 grams can result in acute toxicity. VPI Pet Insurance notes that onion toxicosis occurs in animals who eat more than 0.5 percent of their body weight in onions at once. Also keep in mind that your cat does not have to eat these amounts at one time to get sick. Even consuming extremely small amounts over an extended period of time can be poisonous.
Remember that eating chives by themselves is not the only way they can make your kitty sick. You must also be careful not to feed him or allow him access to other food items that contain onion ingredients, such as pizza, tomato sauce and Chinese food.
If you know or suspect your cat has eaten chives, get him to your veterinarian immediately. Doing so usually results in positive prognosis, even for a diagnosis of Heinz body anemia.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Leslie Carver has been a professional author since 2009. Her work appears on multiple websites. She has an associate's degree in English with progress toward her bachelor's at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has been awarded an Outstanding Student Award in English and twice nominated for creative writing awards.