What can cats not eat? Get the purrfect guide from Untamed!
Old adages usually have a basis in reality, and the one about curiosity and cats must have come from somewhere.
Your kitty is a natural researcher, explorer, and investigator. While this is fine when it comes to the hidden recesses of your most out-of-the-way cupboard, it can get dangerous concerning the food that may be lying around your kitchen.
What can cats not eat? Untamed takes a look at foods cats should not eat and teaches you to curb their natural curiosity with healthy alternatives.
Tea—best drink of the day?
What are cats built to live off?
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that their bodies have evolved to metabolise animal protein, animal fats, and the essential vitamins and minerals that their natural prey would offer.
Your kitty’s digestive system is relatively simple—they have a short and fairly acidic digestive tract, so food is absorbed and passed through relatively quickly.
Your cat isn’t good with carbohydrates or vegetable-based nutrients. The bad news is that a lot of the things we either love for ourselves or love to give cats as treats are not good for them at all—the cat that got the cream is often the cat that got the tummy upset.
What foods are poisonous to cats?
Many of the foods we love are on the red list for cats.
The most important are:
- Dairy products
- Allium vegetables
- Cocoa products
- Natural relaxants and stimulants
- Berries and citrus fruits
- Coconut flesh and milk
- Dough and food containing raw yeast
Most cats are lactose intolerant—on top of being generally intolerant of everything you do.
Lacking the digestive capacity to process the enzymes in dairy products, most cats will suffer from diarrhoea if you give them even a saucer of milk.
Cats are clearly unaware of this and will happily slurp a saucerful of milk or nibble on a piece of cheese. Your mission is to be as hard-hearted as necessary and resist temptation. Even if you are faced with a kitten with eyes as big as the saucer in your hand.
Allium vegetables such as onions, garlic, and chives are poisonous to cats.
These kitchen staples can break down your kitty’s red blood cells, resulting in anaemia—a large portion in one go or small amounts consumed over a long time can have fatal consequences.
Anaemia is not easy to spot unless you observe your cat closely—the first signs are usually listlessness and a paling of the gums. If your cat is normally a comfort-lover, you may miss the signs of anaemia until the disorder is fairly advanced.
Any food containing cacao beans is toxic to cats, including:
- Milk, dark, bitter, or white chocolate
- Cocoa powder
- Drinking chocolate powder
- Cooking chocolate
All forms of chocolate contain theobromine, which causes increased heart rate and fluid loss in cats, potentially resulting in:
- An overactive bladder
- Heart arrhythmia
Thankfully, a cat doesn’t crave sweet things the way we do, but there is always a danger that curiosity will get the better of them. Keep chocolate hidden away to be on the safe side.
Natural relaxants and stimulants
We are relatively good at handling the most common natural relaxants and stimulants, namely alcohol and caffeine (however rough we may feel the next morning).
Cats are not good with them, though.
Even small amounts of alcohol can cause nausea, liver problems, and eventual death, while caffeine can lead to heart arrhythmia and seizures.
If you regularly eat food that contains alcohol—chicken in a wine-based sauce, beef bourguignon, or coq-au-vin, as examples—you should make sure that kitty is kept well away.
However much the smell of the cooking may drive cats wild, you should ban them from the kitchen.
Berries and citrus fruits
Grapes, raisins, and many citrus fruits are toxic to cats—the prime suspect for their toxicity is the citric acid they contain, but the exact reason why cats can’t handle them remains unclear.
Citric acid is known to cause vomiting and diarrhoea in cats, but grapes and raisins have also been linked to kidney failure.
This is a serious issue because the symptoms only become noticeable when about 75% of your kitty’s kidney function has been lost.
Coconut flesh and milk
Although they are safe in small amounts, larger quantities of coconut milk or flesh can cause digestive problems for your feline.
These products also contain high volumes of potassium, which can cause muscle weakness and heart problems in cats.
Dough and products containing raw yeast
Yeast can start to ferment inside your kitty’s stomach and intestines, causing a build-up of gas that can lead to severe bloating.
Yeast fermentation also produces alcohol, which can lead to liver damage and eventual death.
What are other foods that cats should not eat?
All for meeeee?
With their short digestive tract, cats are relatively good at passing harmful bacteria through their system before they have a chance to gain a foothold.
In a healthy cat, beneficial and harmful bacteria live side-by-side in the intestines, balancing each other out and making sure the cat’s digestive system works well.
The problems begin when the bad bacteria—like salmonella, listeria, and E. coli—gain the upper hand over the good ones, such as Bifidus and lactobacilli. Your kitty will experience nausea, diarrhoea, and potential dehydration—which can have a knock-on effect on the urinary tract.
Bad bacteria are most often found in:
- Raw or undercooked chicken or meat
- Raw eggs
- Raw fish
Supporters of raw cat diets claim that uncooked food for cats comes closest to the diet they would eat in the wild. All raw cat food recipes stress, though, that you should make sure the raw ingredients are guaranteed free from harmful bacteria.
If your kitty is a regular hunter in your kitchen, you should make sure that any raw meat, fish, or eggs are kept well out of reach.
What can you do to keep kitty safe from no-no foods for cats?
I wasn’t going to touch it, honest!
Source: Daniela Constantini
Cats are naturally predisposed to try new things out, so your job is to make sure it’s safe for them to do so.
- Develop a habit of checking your kitchen for any dangerous foods left lying around
- Try to clear food from around the house, such as the half-consumed box of chocolates from last night’s Eastenders omnibus
- Make sure doors, drawers, and cupboards are as cat-proof as possible
- Practice banishing your kitty from the kitchen while you are cooking (earplugs may be required for this)
- Make sure surfaces and utensils are kept clean after use
If you notice cats displaying any symptoms of illness, you should check for any possible harmful food that they may have got their paws on and get them to a vet as quickly as possible.
What is the ideal diet for a cat?
The ideal diet for a cat is made up of:
- Animal protein
- Animal fat
- Vitamins and minerals
Protein is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of muscle, skin, and coat. It supports several crucial life functions, and also serves as the top energy source for felines.
Of the 22 amino acids, cats can make 12 on their own, so the remaining ten have to be in their food.
Most food contains protein in some form, but cats can metabolise some protein sources more efficiently than others—the best protein sources for your kitty to get the amino acids needed are animal-based.
You can measure the efficiency of the various protein sources used in commercial cat food using their biological value—what percentage of the amino acids in each protein source a feline can extract. The best protein sources for your cat are:
Biological value (how much of a protein source a cat can use)
Salmon, tuna, sardines, and prawns
Fish and liver
Beef and pork or ham
Wheatgerm, corn, sweetcorn, and other vegetable proteins
While plant proteins are healthy for humans, they do not contain the full array of essential nutrients and amino acids required by cats to thrive.
Highly nutritious protein is great for your cat
Image (c) Untamed
Fat performs three crucial functions in your feline’s diet, as follows:
Function of fat
A secondary energy source
Fats are a viable energy source for cats. Since a gram of fat offers twice more calories than a gram of protein, your cat would only need a tiny amount of fat in their diet. Also, be wary that an excess of fats can lead to a calorie surplus, which is the root cause of obesity and related diseases in felines
Source of fatty acids
Every cat needs certain fatty acids to help the liver function correctly
Animal fats taste irresistible to most cats
While vegetable fats or oils are more easily accessible and cheaper for use in commercial cat food, animal fat—particularly chicken or pork fat and fish oil—delivers all the benefits that your kitty needs while making the food irresistible.
Vitamins and minerals
Just like us humans, cats need vitamins and minerals in their food to keep their bodies functioning correctly.
The vitamins they need in their diet are:
- B complex
They can synthesise vitamins C and K on their own, so extra dietary sources aren’t necessary.
The minerals they require are:
The amounts required are not large, but the absence of either essential vitamins or minerals can lead to long-term health issues.
How can you tell if a cat food brand is good?
There are hundreds of commercial cat foods available, but not all diets are equal.
Some commercial foods are made using high-quality ingredients and stick to fixed-formula recipes that have been researched extensively.
Other brands are made to maximise profit, using lower-quality formulas and cutting nutritional corners to make them cheaper to manufacture.
Happily, all the information you need to make a choice is on the packaging—a few minutes spent reading the label can help you make the best choice for your kitty!
The labels on cat food packages have to give you the following information:
- Average analysis
Every ingredient that goes into the food should be listed in order of volume.
The clearer the list, the more the manufacturer is committed to sticking to a fixed formula.
A five-ingredient food that lists a defined meat source such as chicken, tuna, or turkey as the first ingredient contains a large amount of the animal protein that your kitty needs.
Be wary of products that list “Meat and Animal Derivatives” or “Meat Meal” as their first ingredient, though. It means the product relies on unspecified animal by-products (ABPs) for its protein content. Legally, ABPs could include anything from hides and horns to pig bristles and blood, that are deemed unfit for human consumption. They are not only hard to digest but also nutritionally inferior to proteins from whole meat and organs.
More complicated ingredient lists can look more “scientific”, but some manufacturers employ a technique called ingredient splitting.
This involves one ingredient being split into several ones to reduce the amount of each constituent.
This ensures that the meat source ends up at the top of the ingredients list, although the food may, in truth, contain more cereal than meat.
The average analysis of the product breaks down the constituents according to nutrient type and usually includes:
Average analysis element
The raw protein in the product should be above 50%
A good cat food product wouldn’t have more than 20% of fat
Cats don’t really need carbs, so they should ideally be below 3%
This tells you how much of the product is water—important when you are looking at products that feature meat in cat gravy or cat jelly, as neither of these delivers much nutritional value to your feline
The analysis may also list the amount of taurine in the product, as well as the ash percentage, which tells you how much of the product is dry matter and hence actual food, not liquid.
You should never look at either list on its own—you only get the full picture of whether or not a food is good when you compare the two sets of information.
As an example, a product may claim a 32% protein content, but the ingredients list may contain different cereals and grains—in such a case, much of the protein may be vegetable-based.
This means that your kitty will need to eat more to satisfy the need for amino acids. Such products can be filed under “cat foods to avoid.”
How does Untamed look after your feline friend?
A healthy cat is a happy cat
Image (c) Untamed
Untamed wants your kitty to live a long, healthy, and enjoyable life, and we believe that food plays a large part in making this happen.
Our nutritional philosophy sets out some ground rules for the way our tailor-made food is developed and prepared:
- Human-grade ingredients—we only use the highest-quality whole meat and other ingredients fit for human consumption, meaning we don’t add processed and nutritionally deficient meat derivatives to our food
- Vet-formulated recipes—all our product formulas are checked and signed of by vets to ensure that your kitty is getting everything needed to be and stay healthy
- Allergen-free meals—we use natural ingredients and minimal processing, so our food is hypoallergenic—even sensitive kitties should have no problem enjoying their Untamed meals
- Gentle steam cooking—our food is not aggressively boiled but rather gently steamed to ensure that the nutrients and the flavour are locked in
- Protein-rich formulas—Untamed food contains up to twice the amount of animal protein other cat foods use—your feline’s muscles, skin, and coat will show the effect
What difference can Untamed make?
With our high concentrations of animal protein and adequate levels of fat, your kitty will love Untamed recipes.
You should start noticing the effects of a high-quality diet quickly—here’s what to look out for:
After one week
You should start to see:
After two months
Your kitty should be displaying:
After four months
Your feline should demonstrate:
Kitties are the best arbiters of good taste—let them try Untamed and show you the difference great nutrition can make!
How can you give your cat the Untamed advantage?
The best way to see the effect of Untamed cat food is to let cats try it for themselves!
We don’t want to send you an avalanche of meals without knowing as much as possible about your feline friend, though.
Before doing anything, we want to know all about:
- Life stage
- Taste preferences
Once we know what your kitty is like, we will put together a tailor-made cat food trial box to get them started on the road to health and happiness with Untamed.
Here’s how to start your Untamed journey:
- Take our Try Now questionnaire
- Check your kitty’s meal plan
- Order a trial pack and wait for the goodness to be delivered to your door
Once your feline falls in love with Untamed meals, you can count on us to deliver a fresh batch every month, with free shipping! Our cat food delivery service is adjustable—you can modify, pause, or cancel your order anytime!
Image (c) Untamed
Check out our other guides to what cats can or cannot eat: