Is Xylitol Harmful to Cats?

Cats sometimes enjoy snapping up human foods.
i cat eating image by Lars Christensen from

Your cat may be interested in the foods you eat, and she may even want to share, but that’s not always a good idea. Some foods have ingredients that can harm your furry friend, and you need to protect her from her own curious nature.

Xylitol Basics

Xylitol is a sweetener that is found in nature, and says it sweetens the same as sugar, but with 75 percent fewer carbohydrates and 40 percent fewer calories. According to the organization, xylitol is useful in products for people who want to cut calories, and in some countries it is used as a sweetener for diabetic foods since the human body can metabolize it without using insulin. It is also beneficial to teeth, and chewing xylitol gum reduces the bacteria in your mouth by up to 90 percent.

Xylitol Products

With so many benefits going for it, xylitol is showing up in a number of different foods and products. While a lot of these items are sold only at health food stores or online, you can find some of them, such as chewing gum, at the checkout counter in the grocery store. You can also buy it in a bag, like sugar, for use in baking, sweetening drinks and making foods at home. Other products that contain xylitol are toothpaste, mouthwash, candy and mints. Certain nasal sprays and mouth-misting liquids are also made with xylitol and sold through natural food outlets.

Xylitol and Cats

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, xylitol is toxic to animals. In cats it can prompt a sudden release of insulin, resulting in low blood sugar, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Signs that your cat may have swallowed a product containing xylitol include a sudden lack of coordination, vomiting, lethargy and, eventually, seizures and possibly coma. Ultimately a cat that eats xylitol may end up with liver failure, resulting in death.


Most of the time, cats seem to avoid products containing xylitol. Veterinarians such as the emergency vets at the Exceptional Care for Animals clinic and Dr. Jan Becker, who writes an informational pet nutrition info, have not seen any cases of cats being poisoned by xylitol, though affected dogs are somewhat common. These sources speculate that cats may just be pickier about what they eat, so they don’t ingest xylitol, or the lack of confirmed cases of xylitol poisoning may be due to the cats’ metabolism. One thing all sources agree on, you shouldn’t take any chances with your feline friend. Keep xylitol products where your kitty can’t get to them, and if your cat does eat something containing xylitol, rush her to the vet immediately.

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.

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