09 Oct, 2023

Which human foods cats can eat?

Irina Turcan
Which human foods cats can eat?

Anyone who lives with a feline fur baby has likely wondered what human foods can cats eat. Perhaps your kitty has even tried to swipe certain ingredients off your plate at mealtimes! To help you know how to respond when they do, this article talks about which human foods are safe for cats – and which may be toxic. We’ve also got some top tips on how to ensure your beloved moggy gets all the nutrients they require.

A quick guide to cat nutrition

Before asking what human foods can cats eat, it might be useful to have an overview of feline nutrition. After all, this is a key part of ensuring your kitty lives a long and healthy life! Unlike dogs, cats are what’s known as obligate carnivores. This means that they need to consume certain nutrients from animal protein. These include amino acids like taurine and arginine, as well as arachidonic acid and vitamin A.

However, that doesn’t mean that cats can only eat meat. As we’ll see below, there are plenty of veggie ingredients they’re able to safely enjoy too. It’s also important that your moggy drinks lots of fresh water to stay hydrated. In some cases, they might need to be on a special diet, for instance if they have a health condition like diabetes. Similarly, kittens and senior cats will have slightly different nutritional requirements than adult cats.

In terms of varieties of food, both wet and dry cat food have their advantages. For example, wet food smells appetising to kitties, has a higher water content, and is easy for them to eat. Meanwhile, kibble’s crunchy texture is a more convenient option that’s also good for your cat’s teeth. As such, most pet parents choose to feed their kitty a combination of the two. Look out for foods marked as ‘complete’, as these should have all the nutrients your moggy needs.

But what if you want to supplement their diet with human foods that cats can eat? Is it ok to let them nibble from your plate when they look at you with those big kitten eyes? Well, that very much depends on the type of food you’re talking about. Let’s get into the details.

What human foods can cats eat?

The fact that an ingredient is safe for us doesn’t automatically mean it’s fine for your kitty to eat it. On top of which, it can also depend on how you prepare the food in question. So it’s not necessarily enough to just ask what human foods can cats eat.

For instance, moggies can eat meat and fish (without bones) if it’s cooked, but not when it’s raw. Likewise, they can’t have certain common seasonings like garlic and chives. That’s why it’s best to never feed your cat the scraps from your dinner. Instead, if you want to treat your kitty to human food, prepare it specially for them. Then you know exactly what they’re eating and that every ingredient is safe for your fluffy friend.

So, precisely what human foods can cats eat? It’s impossible to write a human foods cats can eat list that covers every single possibility. There are just too many ingredients out there! However, the following should hopefully be a helpful start.

List of human foods cats can eat

Want to know what human foods can cats eat? Experts consider the following ingredients to be safe for feline consumption:

  • Lean cooked meat like chicken, turkey, lamb, and beef (with no skin or bones)
  • Cooked and deboned fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout
  • Cooked whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, millet, couscous, and corn
  • Small portions of scrambled or boiled eggs
  • Certain vegetables, including steamed broccoli, carrots, cucumber, peas, spinach, and asparagus
  • Avocado in small amounts
  • Certain fruits, including blueberries, bananas, strawberries, watermelon, and peeled apples (all without seeds)

Some of these ingredients are not only safe for cats, but may actually be beneficial for your fluffy friend. For instance, eggs are rich in protein and amino acids, while fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, fruit and veg can provide key vitamins, fibre, and water.

Of course, just because your cat can eat these foods doesn’t mean they’ll want to! Fruits and vegetables in particular might be a bit hit and miss, so don’t be surprised if your kitty isn’t interested. Some moggies are also more open than others to trying new foods, so it could depend on their personality.

Another important point regarding what human foods can cats eat is that they’re not a replacement for proper cat food. Your pet is unlikely to get all the nutrients they require from people food alone. So it’s best to think of these ingredients as a treat, not a complete meal. In line with this, make sure you only give your kitty a small amount of human food. And don’t forget to reduce the amount of cat food you feed them correspondingly to avoid weight gain!

What human foods can cats not eat?

Knowing what human foods can cats eat is only half the answer. We also need to understand what human foods cats can’t eat. Again, it’s impossible to provide a complete list. However, the following ingredients are definitely harmful or even toxic to kitties:

  • Dairy products like milk, yoghurt, and cheese
  • Coconut milk
  • Nuts, particularly walnuts and macadamia nuts
  • Seeds
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Citrus fruits
  • Garlic, onions, shallots, scallions, leeks, and chives
  • Chocolate, especially dark chocolate
  • Tea, coffee, and anything else containing caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Raw meat and fish
  • The sweetener xylitol
  • Bread dough

Although not a food, it’s also worth noting that it’s not safe for cats to consume human medications either. Common painkillers, vitamin pills, and similar tablets can all be poisonous even in small doses. Similarly, certain plants and flowers may be toxic for our feline friends. These include aloe vera, daffodils, geraniums, lilies, and several species of wild fungi.

And if you’re wondering can cats eat dog food, the answer is no. While it’s ok as a one-off emergency solution, in the long run it will be detrimental to your kitty’s health. That’s because cats and dogs have quite different dietary requirements.

It’s worth highlighting that the above is not a complete list of substances which are toxic to cats. Just because an ingredient isn’t on there, doesn’t mean it’s safe for feline consumption. If in doubt, always check with a vet or other reputable source before giving your cat human food. Similarly, there’s a chance that your moggy will be allergic to an ingredient that’s considered safe for cats. So if you notice any negative reactions or changes to your kitty’s behaviour, take them for a check-up.

Can cats drink milk?

It might have surprised you to see that milk wasn’t on the list of what human foods can cats eat. Not only that, but dairy is on the list of harmful ingredients. That’s because, despite popular belief, cats shouldn’t drink milk.

The reason for this is that most moggies are lactose intolerant. Adult cats don’t have the lactase enzyme that’s necessary to break down lactose, so are unable to digest milk sugars. If they drink milk, it might cause unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting, an upset stomach, and diarrhoea. Unfortunately, many kitties still enjoy the taste of milk – so be careful not to leave it lying around!

Moreover, cow’s milk adds unnecessary fat to your moggy’s diet, which may result in weight gain. Obesity can be very harmful to your pet’s health, so this is best avoided. Instead, encourage your cat to drink fresh water – especially if they mostly eat dry food. Some kitties prefer running water, so a fountain might be a good choice to help them stay hydrated.

What to do if your cat eats something they shouldn’t

If you suspect your cat has eaten something that’s not on the list of what human foods can cats eat, consult a vet immediately. Even if they aren’t showing any symptoms, it’s sensible to get them checked out. Give the vet as much information as possible about what they’ve eaten, the amount they consumed, and when. They will then be able to advise you on the best course of action.

However, prevention is always preferable to treatment in cases of poisoning. As such, try to keep any ingredients that are toxic to kitties out of reach of your feline companion. Similarly, if there are any harmful plants in your house or garden, you might want to consider removing them. Your pet will thank you!

Human foods cats can eat to boost their health

As mentioned in the section on what human foods can cats eat, some ingredients we enjoy are beneficial for kitties. And that’s especially true with functional foods. You can mix these into your moggy’s normal wet food to give their health a little extra support.

For instance, sea buckthorn’s high levels of vitamins, omega-7 fatty acids, and potent phytonutrients help to protect eye health. It may additionally keep your cat’s fur soft and shiny. Meanwhile, the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha could be a fantastic way to ease stress in anxious pets.

Another fabulous option is Jerusalem artichoke, which provides your moggy with inulin. This is a type of soluble fibre that nourishes the good bacteria in your kitty’s gut, improving nutrient absorption. Conversely, if you want something to support your fur baby’s liver, then milk thistle is a great choice.(1) As a potent antioxidant, it could also help to protect your pet’s cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Alternatively, treat your cat to some chia seed oil to enhance the health of their heart and tackle dry skin.

Interestingly, cats can also benefit from taking medicinal mushrooms. For example, lion’s mane can improve brain health thanks to the neuroprotective effects of compounds like erinacines and hericenones.(2) Cordyceps, on the other hand, is a brilliant option for boosting your pet’s energy levels and endurance. Turkey tail may support gut health, while reishi bolsters the immune system and could even enhance your kitty’s sleep.

While these all fall under the umbrella of what human foods can cats eat, don’t give your moggy the same supplements you take. Always choose ones specifically created for pets. Likewise, speak to a vet before adding functional foods to your kitty’s diet.

Other top tips for feeding your feline friend

What human foods can cats eat is not the only question you might have about feeding your pet. Here are some other suggestions for how you can ensure your kitty gets all the nutrients they require:

  • Choose pet food specially formulated for your cat’s age and health needs
  • Don’t give your kitty too many treats – these are often high in calories and can cause weight gain
  • Serve wet food at room temperature, not straight from the fridge, as this is more palatable to cats
  • Don’t let wet food sit out for more than 30-60 minutes, to prevent bacterial growth
  • Cats are fond of routine, so try to stick to a regular feeding schedule
  • Moggies naturally prefer to eat little and often, rather than just having one big meal a day
  • Consider using an automatic feeder to dispense dry food at specific times if you’re out all day
  • Don’t put your cat’s food or water bowls next to their litter tray
  • Ask the vet how much your cat should weigh and what their calorie requirements are, to avoid over- or under-feeding
  • Consult a vet if your cat’s eating habits suddenly change, as this can be a sign of an underlying health problem
  • Some kitties don’t like it when their whiskers touch their food bowl, so use a wide and shallow dish
  • Try feeding your moggy food with different textures and flavours, to discover which they like best
  • If you need to change your cat’s diet, do it gradually so they don’t get an upset stomach
  • Make sure your pet always has fresh water available to drink, especially if they mostly eat dry food
  • If you have more than one pet, don’t put their food bowls too close together