6 Foods You Should Never Feed Your Cat, According to Veterinarians

Protect your cat from experiencing stomach issues, lethargy, and other dangerous symptoms caused by ingesting toxic foods.

If you have a cat, you already know that this animal makes an amazing companion. Few things compare to their affectionate purrs or subtle nudges letting you know they're ready for attention. Since they're a true member of your family, you want to keep your four-legged feline safe. And while they may feel more human than animal to you, there are a few things cats can't do—like eat the same foods as us. Certain ingredients can wreak havoc on your cat’s stomach and cause a range of issues, like nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and abdominal pain. To keep these dangerous symptoms at bay, there are a few foods veterinarians say you should never feed your cat. 

hungry cat waiting for food in bowl

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Grapes and Raisins

Though a tasty snack to you, grapes and raisins may cause kidney damage in cats. "Though veterinarians are still learning more, recent evidence suggests that the level of tartaric acid in grapes and raisins may be the underlying cause of toxicity for cats," says Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM, chief veterinarian at Petco. "Exposure creates a buildup in the kidneys of tannins and other elements that cats cannot process." Symptoms of lethargy, lack of appetite, and dehydration typically begin within the first 24 hours and escalate to signs of kidney failure, like vomiting, excessive thirst or urination, abdominal pain, and coma.


Chocolate (as well as other caffeine-containing foods) is toxic to cats. "Chocolate contains methylxanthines—caffeine and theobromine—which contribute to its toxic properties, but the concentration of theobromine is greater than that of caffeine," says Carly Fox, DVM, senior veterinarian, Schwarzman Animal Medical Center in New York City. Symptoms may vary depending on the amount and type of chocolate ingested, but generally range from vomiting and diarrhea to hypertension and seizures. "White or milk chocolate has less toxic components than baking or dark chocolate," says Dr. Fox. 

Onions and Garlic

Many members of the allium family, namely onion and garlic, can be dangerous for cats to ingest. "Onions—including scallions, chives, and shallots, as well as garlic—are toxic to cats in all forms because they contain sulfoxides and aliphatic sulfide compounds, which can cause oxidative damage to cells," says Dr. Miller. "While onions are most toxic in large quantities, concentrated powders from your spice cabinet or in soup mixes can cause adverse reactions when ingested by a cat." These foods typically cause a breakdown of red blood cells and ultimately lead to anemia. Symptoms of poisoning may include lethargy, pale gums, and discolored urine.

cat rolling happily on blanket

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Dairy Products

Believe it or not, most cats lack the same dairy-digesting enzyme as lactose-intolerant humans. For this reason, you should avoid giving your feline dairy products like milk and cheese. "Since kittens are used to drinking their mother's milk, once they stop, their bodies stop being able to break down lactose," says Gary Richter, DVM, founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition. "For many cats, eating or drinking dairy can upset their stomach or cause vomiting and diarrhea." 

Raw Meat

Just as humans can have an adverse reaction to raw meat, so too can cats. Uncooked protein, including chicken and eggs, can lead to salmonella or E.coli poisoning in animals. Signs your cat ingested raw meat may include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.

Protein With Bones

Many cats love salmon and tuna, but it's important to ensure these proteins don't have bones in them prior to feeding them to your four-legged friend. "Bones are not toxic inherently, but can cause severe gastrointestinal upset, tooth fractures, or get lodged in the esophagus or intestinal tract, resulting in an emergency procedure," says Dr. Fox. "Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, gagging, and excessive drooling."

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