Tuna, Milk and Other Foods Cats Should Not Eat
People who love their cats also often like to give them treats like tuna, milk, cheese, raw meat, and other goodies. Yet these and other common foods can be harmful, even deadly to cats, and they should be avoided.
Milk and other dairy foods are a no-no for cats, either as a treat or as a substitute for water. Although kittens may be able to handle a very small amount of milk, adult cats cannot. Cats do not have a significant amount of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the lactose in milk and milk products, to digest these foods properly. If you feed milk, cheese, and other dairy foods to your cat, vomiting, diarrhea, and food allergies may result.
Tuna would definitely be on every cat’s shopping list if they were allowed to roam the supermarket aisles, but a steady diet of tuna can result in malnutrition. Another concern is mercury poisoning (which is a concern for humans as well). The human variety of tuna contains enzyme that destroys thiamine, and so cats who regularly eat tuna can develop a thiamine deficiency, which can cause neurological symptoms such as loss of equilibrium and seizures if not corrected.
Chocolate may be one of your favorite foods, but it should not be on your cat’s plate. Actually, most cats will not eat chocolate unless they are encouraged, and in this case cats know best. Chocolate can be lethal for cats because it contains theobromine. Dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate contain higher amounts of this substance, which can cause seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, and even death in cats.
Caffeine may be a pick-me-up for you, but for cats it can be deadly in large enough doses. Cats who consume caffeine from coffee, tea, cola, cocoa, or stimulant drinks can experience caffeine poisoning, which is characterized by rapid breathing, muscle tremors, fits, and bleeding. There is no antidote.
Table scraps such as bones or fat trimmed from meat should never be given to cats. Bones can cause a cat to choke, or they can splinter and lacerate a cat’s digestive system. Fat can cause pancreatitis.
Raw meat, fish, and eggs can cause food poisoning, as they can in humans. Another reason to avoid giving raw fish to your cat is that it contains an enzyme that destroys thiamine, as does tuna. Raw eggs also contain avidin, an enzyme that blocks the absorption of the vitamin biotin, which can lead to skin problems.
Alcohol, in the form of beer, wine, liquor, or foods that contain alcohol, can impact your cat’s brain and liver. Three teaspoons of liquor can kill a five-pound cat. Put a smile on your cat’s face with catnip, not a nip from a liquor bottle.
Dog food is for dogs—that’s why they make it. Although an occasional bite or two of dog food won’t hurt your cat, a steady diet can cause malnutrition because dog food does not contain all the nutrients a cat needs.
Other foods that your cat should not be fed include onions, garlic, and chives (anemia, gastrointestinal upset); grapes and raisins (kidney failure); liver (too much can cause vitamin A toxicity); sweets that contain xylitol (drop in blood sugar leading to liver failure); and sugar (obesity, diabetes).
There are many cat treats on the market that are healthful for your cat. To help ensure your cat enjoys a long, happy life, avoid indulging him or her with tuna, milk, or other goodies you consider to be a treat. If your cat should eat something that makes him or her ill, contact your vet immediately. If it is an emergency, you can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.
American Animal Hospital Association
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Humane Society of the United States
WebMD Dec. 11, 2009