Cats are notoriously finicky eaters but sometimes -- if YouTube is any indication -- they develop a taste for human food like spaghetti or quiche. Cute, but dangerous. Common ingredients like garlic and shallots are poisonous to cats. Clear the counter and secure that pantry to protect your furry companions.
Spice of Food, Curse of Cats
Your cat may be attracted to the pungent odor of garlic and shallots, but don't let him sneak a bite or two.
Garlic, shallots, onions, leeks, chives, scallions and rakkyo -- all members of the Allium genus -- are poisonous to cats. Your cat could get sick from eating a lot at once or a little over a long period.
Alliums like garlic and shallots destroy red blood cells and cause anemia. Your cat may not get sick for a few days after he eats them. He might just look weak and tired, but you should watch for other symptoms of poisoning and anemia. Orange to red urine, vomiting, diarrhea, pale gums, elevated heart rate, loss of appetite and dehydration are all possible.
If you see your cat eat garlic or similar fodder, don't wait for symptoms to develop. Call a veterinarian or pet poison control line immediately.
Sitting on a Powder Keg
Most cats turn their nose up at raw garlic, shallots and similar members of the onion family. Once sautéed, roasted or included in a baked dish, though, they become more tempting. You may have to quarantine your cat while you cook or eat.
Concentrated forms of alliums -- you probably have garlic and onion powder -- pose bigger poisoning risks. Securely store them. Onion powder is a common baby food additive, which some pet owners feed to sick or sensitive cats unaware of its cumulative effects. Don't do that.
Check all ingredients listed in cat food products. While the levels of alliums found in commercial cat food are government-approved and unlikely to cause acute health issues, long-term toxicity is possible.
Someone's in the Kitchen With Kitty
It's best to avoid feeding your cat human food altogether.
Clean up the kitchen as you cook to avoid extra work after meals. Store all potentially toxic foods and ingredients in cat-proof containers. (OK, nothing's truly "cat-proof," but make an effort and stop trying to teach your cat to open the refrigerator.) Try feeding your cats prior to your mealtimes to avoid hovering pets at the dinner table.
There's no definitive information about how much alliums cats can safely eat. The National Academies has concluded current regulations for garlic in dietary supplements are probably on target for most animals. In the absence of further study, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says it's best to altogether avoid feeding your cat any food or product with garlic and similarly poisonous substances in it.
Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Other common foods and ingredients can make your cat deadly sick. These include alcohol, avocado, caffeine, chocolate, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, Xylitol (a sugar substitute) and yeast dough.
Different animals have different tolerances -- cats, for instance, are more sensitive to garlic than dogs -- and your pet may have a bad reaction for hours or days.
If your cat eats something he's not supposed to call a veterinarian or pet poison control number immediately. Don't make your cat vomit unless a veterinary professional tells you to do that. In the U.S., you can call the National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.
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.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Is Garlic Toxic to Pets?
- The National Academies: Safety of Dietary Supplements for Horses, Dogs and Cats
- PetMD: Foods That Are Poisonous to Your Dog or Cat!
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Animal Poison Control FAQ
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: How Bad is Garlic for Cats?
- Animal Junction Veterinary Clinic: Food Toxicity
- Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences: Enjoy the Holidays While Keeping Your Pet Safe
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension: Growing Onions, Shallots and Chives
- WebMD: Anemia in Cats -- Types and Symptoms
- North Dakota State University Extension: Questions on -- Cats
- Community Concern for Cats: Danger List
- Eric Block: Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Foods That are Hazardous to Cats