Foods Toxic to Cats

The following list is published online by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:

Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine

These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.


Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.


The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning, and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart. Some ingestions may even be fatal.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many cookies and candies. However, they can cause problems for your canine companion. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Grapes & Raisins

Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. In pets who already have certain health problems, signs may be more dramatic.

Yeast Dough

Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. Because the risk diminishes after the dough is cooked and the yeast has fully risen, pets can have small bits of bread as treats. However, these treats should not constitute more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake.


Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to recumbancy and seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.

Onions, Garlic, Chives

These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. An occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats, likely will not cause a problem, but we recommend that you do NOT give your pets large quantities of these foods.


Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.


Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. In other words, keep those salty chips to yourself!

Cats are so independent, people often say that they take care of themselves. Whether or not cats can actually take care of themselves remains a mystery, but they often do help themselves to whatever they desire. And because they are curious and agile beings and are often seen stalking on kitchen counters and helping themselves, you should be aware that there are foods that are unhealthy not to mention very dangerous for your cat to eat.

Raw Fish
As tempting as it may be to feed your cat some raw fish, don' can be dangerous. Not only do does raw fish have the possibility to carry bacteria, leading to food poisoning, but it contains an enzyme that destroys thiamine, which is essential to a cat. Too much raw fish can lead to neurological issues, seizures, coma or even possibly death. Now, if feeding your cat a special raw fish diet from a supplier that has been correctly handled and frozen up until consumption, that's fine.

Dog Food
Though not necessarily toxic for cats, dog food fed as a regular diet to cats can lead to malnutrition. Dog food is specially formulated for dogs, as is cat food. There may be common ingredients, but there are specific vitamin and nutrient
formulas that will differ with cat and dog food.

Bones and Fat Trimmings
Remember Heathcliff the Cat and how he ate fish bones all the time? Well, that was just a cartoon for a reason. Bones from fish or meat are brittle, break easily and can cause an obstruction in your cat's airway or digestive system. Also, fat trimmings whether from cooked or raw meats can cause pancreatitis. It's safest to just keep table scraps away from your cat; or keep your cat away from tables and counters, where table scraps tend to be.


To keep your cat healthy, don't feed them sugary foods. Though sugar isn't toxic to cats, it can cause obesity and potentially diabetes (as is the case with humans, too). It could also take a toll on a cat's dental health.

The dirty truth about mushrooms is that they contain toxins that can affect multiple systems in a cat. Eating mushrooms can cause shock and result in death. Keep an eye on those outdoor cats too if there are mushrooms popping up in the yard.

When feeding your cat tuna that is packed for human consumption, an all-tuna diet can cause malnutrition in your cat. There are cat foods and treats that are designed specifically for cats for this reason. Small amounts probably aren't harmful, but tuna in-full or in-excess can be dangerous. Talk to your vet about incorporating tuna to a cat's regular diet if they just can't resist the temptation when they hear the can opener.

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