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Feeding Cats Table Scraps

A common question I am asked by my readers is if it is okay to feed cats table scraps. In short, the answer is "no", for several reasons. The long answer is "maybe, occasionally", but read below before you make any decisions. The article will provide you with many reasons why it's not a good idea to over-indulge your cat.

Cats are obligate carnivores, with very special nutritional requirements. Feeding your cat too many table scraps can lead to nutritional deficiencies which can become life threatening.  Human foods often contain ingredients which are poisonous to cats such as garlic and onion.

Cats quickly become accustomed to being given "treats" or "scraps" which can lead to inappropriate behaviour such as begging and stealing food. Not only is this irritating (who wants to have their eye fillet steak snaffled by the cat?), but can be dangerous if the cat develops a habit of jumping up onto the stove top (we had a cat who used to do this), to steal food as it is cooking.

Cats used to being fed human foods can also become picky eaters, choosing to eat our food over their own. Again, this can quickly lead to nutritional deficiencies in your cat. Never, ever give your cat canned tuna more than very sparingly, this can lead to a painful condition called "yellow fat disease", which is the result of consuming too much unsaturated fat and deficient in Vitamin E.

Obesity is a very serious health concern in cats, and over-feeding can quickly occur if you are feeding your cat his regular diet of cat food, and then giving table scraps on top of that. A fat cat isn't a cute cat, it is a ticking time bomb.

Cats are not waste disposal units, just because you have a chicken breast which has been sitting in the fridge for a week doesn't mean that it's okay to give it to the cat. Cats can get food poisoning too. A rule of thumb I always follow is if it's too old for me to eat, it's too old for the cat to eat.

Not to be a complete spoilsport, the very, very occasional treat is fine, as long as it is infrequent and safe to feed. If you must give your cat table scraps, make sure that it is only very occasional and don't feed a cat when you are sitting at the table. Place the food in your cat's bowl to prevent bad habits developing.

Just be aware that many foods that are completely safe for humans to eat can be toxic to cats, even in small doses. So feeding that delicious beef stew may seem innocent enough, if it contains onion or garlic, it could potentially poison your cat. There is a more thorough list of foods cats can't eat here.

Foods you should not give your cat:

  • Cooked bones.
  • Food containing onion, garlic or tomato.
  • Chocolate.
  • Alcohol (that one goes without saying).
  • Fatty food.
  • Baby food (contains onion powder and garlic).

Some people will recommend small amounts of human food to encourage a cat who has lost his appetite due to sickness or stress. This may include cooked chicken breast pieces or a small amount of canned tuna. Again, it needs to be kept to a minimum, and only until your cat's appetite has returned, and then it should be given cat food again, which is nutritionally complete.

Also see:

Human foods cats can eat   What do cats eat?