You may not think it, given that she is a creature that - in the wild - survives by eating disease-carrying rodents like rats and mice, but your cat actually has a very delicate and sensitive metabolic system. That means that you have to be very careful about what she eats. While it is difficult to resist those pleading eyes as you drink a glass of milk or eat a piece of steak, you must. Contrary to popular opinion, cats do not always know what is good for them. And while your cat would hesitate to eat a piece of tainted meat because of the smell, there are several dangerous foods that she will eat quite readily.
- Theobromine, a substance present in chocolate and cocoa, is poisonous to animals. It diminishes the blood flow to the brain and can cause heart attacks and a variety of other life-threatening problems. An important rule to remember is that the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains.
If you know your cat has eaten chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Fortunately, most cats are not so attached to chocolate that they will eat it in large quantities. Many cats, however, will eat enough if curious, bored, or encouraged to do so because their well-meaning owners, especially the younger members of the family, believe that they are giving their pet a treat. It is best to keep chocolate out of the reach of children and their pets.
Dangerous to Deadly Foods
- Small bones can splinter when a cat chews them, poultry bones being the worst culprits. These splinters can cut the inside of your cat's mouth and throat, or get stuck on the way down and choke her. Additionally, bones can cause obstructions or lacerations of the digestive system. Signs your cat may be choking include:
- pale or blue gums
- labored, loud breathing
- pawing at face
- loss of consciousness
Choking on a bone is a life-threatening situation. Try to remove the obstruction, if you know how and it is safe to do so, and rush your cat to a veterinarian. Seal off your garbage cans to ensure your cat doesn't scavenge through the refuse for bony leftovers.
- While dog food contains many of the same ingredients as cat food, never make the mistake of assuming that it is close enough. Only cat food is specially formulated to meet a cat's nutritional needs. Cats require more protein in their diet than dogs do, as well as more B vitamins, niacin, vitamin A and fatty acids. Cats also require an amino acid called taurine, an essential part of their dietary makeup, as they cannot produce this substance themselves.
- While cooked eggs are high in protein and make an excellent treat, raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin, which can deplete your cat of biotin, one of the B vitamins (Biotin is essential to your cat's growth and coat care).
Symptoms of biotin-depletion include:
- hair loss
- growth retardation
If your cat is showing these symptoms, the situation is critical, and she should be taken to the veterinarian.
- There is an enzyme in raw fish called thiaminase that destroys thiamin, or vitamin B1. Thiamin is essential to a cat's well-being; the lack of it can lead to neurological disorders. Symptoms of thiamin deficiency are mostly neurological. These include:
- loss of weight and appetite
- wobbly or uncoordinated movements
If left untreated, thiamin deficiency can lead to convulsions and coma. This is an urgent situation; if you notice these symptoms in your cat, take her to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
- In small amounts, liver is good for a cat, but too much of it can cause nutritional problems. Liver has a high amount of vitamin A. Consumption of this vitamin in large amounts can lead to vitamin A toxicity, which affects bones. Therefore, NEVER feed your cat any liver, raw or otherwise, if she is also on vitamin A supplements. Symptoms of vitamin A toxicity include:
- deformed bones
- excessive bone growth on the elbows and spine
If your cat is exhibiting any of these signs, rush her to the veterinarian. If left unchecked, death can result from vitamin A toxicity.
If you are feeding your cat both canned food and liver, check the ingredient label to make sure she isn't getting a double dose of this treat
- Both raw and cooked onions contain N-propyl disulphide, a compound that, while harmless to humans, can destroy the red blood cells in cats, dogs, horses, sheep and cattle. The resulting condition is called Heinz body hemolytic anemia.
In a cat or other animal, red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which acts as a transporter for oxygen to the rest of the body. The amount of onion that can cause damage is dependent upon the size of the animal, but a small amount can damage these cells so badly that the body, receiving a decreased amount of oxygen, fails to function properly. Symptoms of anemia include:
- decreased appetite
- vomiting and/or diarrhea
- rapid heart and respiratory rate
- blood in urine
- pale mucous membranes
If you notice these symptoms, take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Most cats will not be interested in onions unless they are cooked, but for good measure, section off your garden if you are growing onions. Do not feed your cat any leftovers that contain onions, and make sure your garbage cans are inaccessible.
- A little tuna is okay. However, if your cat has become a tuna addict, the consequences could be terribly unpleasant. Tuna contains extremely high levels of methyl mercury, especially the red tuna used in canned cat food. For a cat, too much tuna can lead to mercury poisoning.
And that's not all - tuna canned in oil may also cause an illness called steatitis, or yellow fat disease, which involves inflammation of the fatty tissue in cats and is most often found in kittens. The oil in which the tuna is packed does not have the correct balance of antioxidants to polyunsaturated fats which leaves her susceptible to steatis. The symptoms of steatis include:
- pain in the chest and abdominal region
- hard, painful lumps
If you notice these symptoms, take your cat to the veterinarian for appropriate treatment. Never leave open containers of tuna on a countertop or in a place that is accessible to your cat. Remember that her sense of smell is many times more developed than yours, so if you have no trouble picking up the odor of an open can of tuna, then your cat will most certainly not miss it! Tuna fish addicts will go to great lengths to get their "fix," so avoid giving them the temptation.
- If your pet has been drinking cow's milk since she was a kitten, and has never had any problems, you are the proud owner of a truly lucky pet. We always see images of cats lapping up bowls of milk, but the truth is, many cats are lactose- intolerant -- unable to produce the enzyme lactase -- they cannot break down the lactose, or milk sugar, in dairy products. Contrary to popular belief, milk just doesn't sit well with cats.
If your cat drinks milk and you observe symptoms of diarrhea or dehydration, you should consider the possibility that she is lactose-intolerant. To avoid or correct the problem, without eliminating the milk that your cat craves, you can purchase lactose-free brands of milk specially formulated for your cat.
- Fat is generally beneficial to cats, but the fat globules in pork are larger than the fat globules in other meats, and can clog the small blood vessels of a cat. Avoid any pork products, especially bacon, which contains the hazardous preservative, sodium nitrate.