Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I was wondering if it is a good idea to feed a cat human food. Would you recommend it? If it is okay, then what foods are okay to feed your cat?
Thomas: Well, Daisy, the answer to your question about whether it’s okay to feed a cat human food is, “It depends.” And here’s why.
Bella: It’s certainly okay to give your cat people foods occasionally–and only occasionally–but you have to be careful about your choices.
Tara: Cats can safely be given small amounts of human meat from time to time. However, it has to be plain, as in no salt or spices. Some spices, like garlic, are toxic to cats and can cause fatal anemia, and cats don’t need any extra salt and pepper. Yuk!
Thomas: While cats are obligate carnivores and they’re designed to eat meat, they need more than just muscle meat. They also need organ meat, bone, the stomach contents of their prey, and other little bits that allow cats to get complete nutrition. If you buy raw cat food, particularly one that says the nutrition it offers is in alignment with AAFCO feeding guidelines, you’ll be getting a product that has all these important things.
Bella: Cats, in particular, need an amino acid called taurine, which is only found in raw meat (or cat food supplemented with appropriate nutrients). Cooked meat doesn’t contain taurine. Taurine deficiency can lead to blindness, tooth decay, and a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. These problems can be at least partially reversible if a cat starts getting enough taurine.
Tara: While humans can create taurine from vegetable-based foods, cats can’t, which is one reason why cats can’t be vegetarian or vegan. Really. Do not feed your cat a vegan diet, no matter what some celebrity spokesperson or social media “influencer” says, because it is not a species-appropriate diet. If you want a vegan pet, get a hamster!
Thomas: So, now that you know you can feed your cat human meat occasionally (and please, just plain, unaltered meat, not processed meats like ham or bologna), what about other things?
Bella: We all know the classic picture of a cat lapping up a bowl of milk, so it may not seem like a big deal to put some milk down for your cat. The issue is although cats do like cow milk, it has much more lactose and casein in it than the cat’s system can handle. This could lead to unpleasant consequences like diarrhea.
Tara: The same thing holds true for other dairy treats like cheese and ice cream. Only every once in a while, and only in tiny little bits. And if you are going to give bits of cheese as a treat, we recommend mild cheeses like cottage cheese, cream cheese, or mild cheddar.
Thomas: Vegetables are generally fine, as long as you stay away from any that are toxic. One of Mama’s friends had a cat who loved raw broccoli! Here’s a list of fruits and veggies that are safe to feed your cat.
Bella: And while we’re definitely not against cats having a good munch of meat, you should never give your cat cooked meat with bones. Cooked bones can splinter, leaving sharp points that could poke holes in the digestive system. But raw bones can be okay because although they do break into smaller pieces, they don’t splinter. I especially love it when Mama gives us raw chicken necks!
Tara: Ultimately, yes, you can feed a cat human food. But keep in mind that it should only be a small fraction of your cat’s diet. Cats need to eat foods that are designed to meet their nutritional needs, and since most cats are indoor-only and don’t get to supplement their diets with a lot of mice and other rodents, it’s up to us to make sure we feed them a species-appropriate diet.
Thomas: A while back we wrote about what you should feed your cat. Check that post out because you might find it helpful.
Bella: So, Daisy, we hope this helps. We generally recommend against feeding a cat human food, but if you want to do so as a very occasional treat, your cat will be fine.
Tara: What about you other readers? Have you given a cat human food? Do you feed your cat a human-food diet? Has your vet taken you to task for giving your cats too many people-food treats? Talk to us in the comments!