Nine harmful snacks not to feed your cat

Treats made for human consumption often contain substances that are not good for cats

The digestive process supplies your cat with the nutrients and energy she needs to live and stay healthy. Her digestive system is similar to your own. Once food enters your pet’s stomach, it mixes with digestive enzymes and acids and digestion begins. Food then passes into the small and large intestines for final absorption and waste elimination. Cats are carnivores. Their digestive tracts are short and geared for digesting a high-protein diet. Gastric juices are very strong to break down meat and soften bones. Herbivores and omnivores have much longer digestive tracts, as it takes time to digest plant matter and carbohydrates. Cats don’t do well on diets which are high in carbohydrates as they do not have the right enzymes necessary for the digestion of plant matter. Foods that are perfectly safe for human consumption may be harmful to your cat.

Caffeine

Keep tea, coffee and cold drinks away from your cat. Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant and if your cat ingests too much of it she may get caffeine poisoning. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, rapid breathing and increased heart rate. It may be fatal.

Alcohol

It’s definitely not cool to give your cat beer. In fact, any alcoholic drink from wine to various spirits can be dangerous for your pet. Small amounts of alcohol can put your cat in a coma and just a small bit more may be fatal. The alcohol will affect your pet in the same way it affects you – but your cat’s liver cannot metabolise alcohol the way your liver does. Small amounts can damage a cat’s liver. Alcohol poisoning in cats is usually accidental – a glass of wine left on the table after a party or a bottle of brandy or whiskey knocked over. If you’re having a party, keep your cat safely out of the way until all the alcohol is packed away.

Chocolate

Most people know that dogs must not eat chocolate, but cats shouldn’t receive the sugary treat either. Chocolate contains the compound theobromine. It stimulates the nervous system and causes the heart rate to increase. Cats don’t metabolise theobromine as quickly as humans can, so the toxin remains in the blood stream for a longer period. The level of toxicity depends on how much your cat weighs and how much chocolate she eats. Never leave chocolate lying on a table or high shelf. Your cat can easily get up there and tuck into a treat that can make her ill. Large amounts of chocolate may cause vomiting, trembling, seizures, a coma and even death. Keep cooking chocolate well out of reach. It contains much higher levels of theobromine than regular chocolate, so even a small amount can be very toxic to your pet. Never offer your cat biscuits with chocolate or cocoa drinks.

Dairy products

Never give your adult cat cow’s milk. Most adult cats are lactose intolerant and don’t have the right enzyme to break down the milk. Too much of a dairy product may cause gastrointestinal upset.

Dog food

It may sound silly, but you should never give your cat food that is manufactured for dogs. If your cat accidently tucks into Rover’s dinner, it isn’t going to harm her, but feeding your cat dog food over a long period of time will result in nutritional deficiencies. Dog food is nutritionally balanced for dogs and does not have the right vitamins for your cat. Cats need a higher quantity of protein and the amino acid taurine (which they do not produce enough of).  A dog food diet is ‘unbalanced’ for your cat and can weaken her immune system and make her more susceptible to illness.

Onions and garlic

Sulfoxide and disulfide are found in raw and cooked onions and garlic. They are completely harmless to humans but dangerous to some animals including cats, dogs, horses and cattle. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, which transports oxygen around the body. In some animals the compounds found in onions and garlic can damage red blood cells so severely that they are not able to get enough oxygen to different parts of the body for optimal function. One feeding of onions is unlikely to make your cat very ill, but feeding her onions over time can be detrimental to her health. Don’t feed your cat baby food from jars as some brands contain onion powder which is just as dangerous for your pet.

Tomatoes

The green parts of the tomato plant and unripe tomatoes are harmful to cats. These parts contain a toxin called solanine. Your cat’s system can’t cope with it and even a little can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Keep tomatoes in the fridge and out of your pet’s reach. If you grow tomatoes in your vegetable garden, make sure the area is screened off and that your cat can’t get inside. Even cherry tomatoes can harm your pet, so don’t grow them on your patio if kitty likes to scratch in your plants. She could easily dislodge a green tomato from the bush, eat it and get sick.

Tuna

Pregnant woman are advised not to eat too much tuna because of the risk of mercury poisoning. The same applies to your cat. While kitty will love the treat (and it’s okay as an occasional treat), it’s not okay to feed your cat ‘human’ tuna as part of her regular diet. It won’t provide her with a balanced diet and may result in an inflammatory disease caused by a vitamin E deficiency.

Raisins and grapes

Various studies have indicated that raisins and grapes may damage the kidneys of some animals – including cats and dogs. It is still unclear as to what toxin is responsible for the damage. Studies are ongoing and veterinarians advise cat owners rather not to give their pets raisins or grapes until further investigations have been conducted.

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