Safe vs Toxic Foods For Cats - Can My Cat Eat... [Ask a Vet]

 A cat parent giving a cat safe food for cats as a treat

Now and then, cats can become curious about our food, whether it’s cooked lean meats, a can of sardines, and so on. Cat parents may find themselves wondering if the food they have is safe to share with their feline friend. This is what this vet-approved guide is for — to help cat parents distinguish between toxic food for cats and safe food for cats.

This comprehensive guide, endorsed by our veterinarians, delves into the inquiry, "Is it safe for my cats to eat...?", providing answers to frequently posed questions regarding sharing food with cats.

What’s in This Guide?

A cat eating pet food topped with safe food for cats

General Reminders on Sharing Food with Cats

Before we proceed with our list of safe food for cats and toxic food for cats, here are a few general reminders: 

1. The Safe Food for Cats on This List Are Only Suitable as Treats

Certain foods on this list are labeled as ‘safe food for cats.’ However, these food items are only intended as treats, comprising no more than 10 percent of a cat’s intake within the day. It is always recommended that pet parents opt for AAFCO-approved cat food as the main source of nutrition for felines.

If you’d like to check the quality of your cat food’s brand, feel free to check out this pet food evaluation tool from Pet Nutrition Alliance. If you're considering homemade cat food, please feel free to refer to our article: Is Homemade Dog Food & Cat Food Better? [Ask a Vet].

2. Cats May Not Like Fruits & Veggies

Cats might not like fruits or vegetables instinctively due to their biological makeup; unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores — meaning cats primarily get their nutritional requirements from animal meat. However, cats can still benefit from the fiber and nutrients from sliced, cat-friendly fruits — or pureed, cooked, unseasoned, cat-friendly vegetables. 

3. In Case of Gastrointestinal Disturbances or Suspected Poisoning

Certain foods listed below as 'harmful' or 'not safe' can potentially induce gastrointestinal problems in cats. It is crucial to remember that severe diarrhea or vomiting in cats, as well as cases that last more than 12 hours, warrant urgent veterinary care. In case of concerning, severe, or lasting symptoms, seek assistance from an urgent care veterinarian or an emergency vet.

Note: In cases where toxin ingestion or poisoning is suspected in cats, we advise pet parents to call the appropriate helplines (such as Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center) for immediate assistance over the phone. If wait times become too lengthy, reaching out to an urgent care veterinarian or emergency vet is recommended for prompt guidance. Prioritizing your cat's well-being is essential, and swift action is crucial in situations involving potential poisoning
A cat brought to Sploot Veterinary Care, an urgent care vet clinic in Denver and Chicago

I. Fruits: Safe vs Toxic Food for Cats

Unlike dogs and humans, cats cannot taste sweetness. This means that if a cat gravitates to certain fruits, it’s typically due to curiosity or appreciation of the fruit’s scent or texture. With that said, it is somewhat rare for cats to have a strong preference for fruits; many cats just leave fruits alone — and this ties in with the fact that fruits are not essential to a cat’s diet

But are fruits safe food for cats? For cats, fruits are either safe in moderation or toxic, depending on the type of fruit. 

A cat playing with a basket of fruits, symbolizing fruits that can either be safe food for cats or toxic food for cats

Can my cat eat bananas?

Banana is considered a safe food for cats, as long as it is only a small amount. Bananas should be given as an occasional treat due to the fruit’s high sugar content. Bananas are NOT recommended as a regular or daily treat for cats.

Pet parents must also take note that, though small amounts of the banana fruit is safe, the peel of the banana is a choking hazard for cats.

Can my cat eat apples?

Apples are considered a safe food for cats; however, just like bananas, apples also need to be given in strict moderation due to the fruit’s sugar content — compounded with the fact that cats really do not need fruits in their diet.

Pet parents must also make sure that cats do NOT chew on or play with the apple core or stalk as these can be dangerous for cats.

Can my cat eat blueberries and strawberries?

Yes, blueberries and strawberries are safe food for cats. However, just like other safe fruits for cats, cats should only have a small amount occasionally. 

Can my cat eat watermelon?

Watermelon is a safe treat for cats. However, similar to other cat-friendly fruits, it's advisable to offer them only a small amount, occasionally.

In addition, we advise pet parents to keep the watermelon seeds and rind away from their cats — these parts of the fruit are choking hazards.

Can my cat eat oranges, lemon, or lime?

Cats should generally AVOID citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes. These fruits may cause digestive upset in cats due to their high acidity. Furthermore, citrus fruits typically contain compounds in certain parts of the fruit that make them toxic food for cats

Can my cat eat grapes or raisins?

Grapes, as well as raisins, are toxic food for cats. Grape ingestion in cats may lead to kidney damage, kidney failure, and eventual death in certain cases. 

Responses vary: some pets suffer eventual damage to their kidneys — some, especially cases wherein only a small quantity is ingested (i.e. one grape), may not exhibit adverse reactions. In any case, we advise pet parents to keep grapes securely away from feline fur babies. 

II. Veggies: Safe vs Toxic Food for Cats

Earlier, we’ve established that cat-friendly fruits are generally not necessary for a cat’s nutrition —NOR should they be given as regular treats due to their sugar content. 

However, cat-friendly vegetables are another story. Vegetables contain less sugar than fruits. And although vegetables are plant products (that cats normally cannot digest effectively), cooking and pureeing vegetables (unseasoned) can make them beneficial, fiber-rich treats for cats. With that said, cat-friendly vegetables should only comprise less then 10 percent of cat’s daily intake.

A bowl of cooked, unseasoned, pureed pumpkin which is one of the safe food for cats as treats

Can my cat eat pumpkin?

From a botanical perspective, pumpkins are fruits; but from a culinary perspective, they are treated as vegetables. Either way, pumpkin is a safe food for cats when prepared properly. 

Cats can eat unseasoned, cooked, and pureed pumpkin in small amounts. Pumpkin can be beneficial for a cat’s digestive health due to the pumpkin’s high fiber content.

Can my cat eat celery?

Cats may enjoy the aroma of celery, which is sometimes compared to the aroma of catnip. The good news is that celery is a safe food for cats, whether it’s fresh and chopped into small pieces — or cooked, unseasoned, and pureed.

Can my cat eat spinach?

Generally, spinach is a safe food for cats. However, due to high amounts of oxalates in spinach, spinach should not be given to cats with a history of calcium oxalate bladder stones. For healthy cats, appropriate portions of cooked, unseasoned, and pureed spinach may be beneficial. 

Can my cat eat broccoli?

Broccoli is considered a safe food for cats, and some cats like the taste of this vegetable when prepared properly. Similar to other cat-friendly vegetables on this list, it would be best to serve broccoli cooked, unseasoned, and pureed.

Can my cat eat carrots?

Carrots are a safe food for cats. Like other cat-friendly vegetables mentioned, it is advisable to offer carrots to cats in a cooked, unseasoned, and pureed form for optimal safety and palatability.

Can my cat eat onions or garlic?

Cats cannot eat onions or garlic because these are toxic food for cats. Onions and garlic contain compounds that can damage your cat’s red blood cells, reducing their ability to carry oxygen.

III. Animal Products: Safe vs Toxic Food for Cats

As obligate carnivores, cats need a majority of their diet to be animal protein. Although most types of animal meat are generally safe for cats, some cats may have food allergies to certain types of meat.

Note: Food allergies in cats can go against conventions; as an example, some cats are allergic to fish (even though cats generally love fish). To rule out any possible allergies, allergy testing can be performed by an experienced veterinarian.

Last but not least, we recommend that pet parents cook any and all types of meat served to cats. Raw meat carries the risk of being contaminated and causing disease.

A cat eating pet food with boiled eggs, a safe food for cats, as a pet food topper

Can my cat eat chicken?

Chicken is a beneficial and safe food for cats. Chicken is a great source of lean protein, essential amino acids, and various nutrients like B vitamins and phosphorus, contributing to muscle health and overall well-being.

Be sure to serve chicken cooked and unseasoned, with all the bones removed to prevent choking.

Can my cat eat beef?

Beef is a beneficial and safe food for cats. Beef is a good source of high-quality protein, essential amino acids, and various nutrients such as zinc and B vitamins, contributing to overall muscle health and energy. 

When preparing beef for cats, It is best to cook the beef without any seasonings. Lean beef is a healthier option. We also recommend straining out the fat after cooking, to keep the treat as healthy as possible. 

Can my cat eat pork?

Pork is yet another beneficial and safe food for cats. Pork provides protein and essential nutrients like B vitamins, zinc, and phosphorus, promoting muscle health.

When serving pork as a treat for a cat, lean pork is preferable. Make sure that the pork is cooked thoroughly and free from any seasonings — we also recommend draining out any excess fat from the pork

Can my cat eat fish?

In the absence of seafood allergies, fish is a beneficial and safe food for cats. Fish provides omega-3 fatty acids, which can support skin and coat health. It's a good source of protein and certain vitamins.

When serving fish as a treat for cats, make sure that the fish is cooked, unseasoned, and thoroughly deboned to prevent accidents.

Can my cat eat sardines?

Some types of sardines can be considered safe food for cats. Sardines provide omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and essential nutrients, promoting skin and coat health.

Canned sardines in water, without added salt, garlic, and so on, are the best option.

Can my cat eat tuna?

When given as an occasional treat, tuna is a beneficial and safe food for cats. Tuna is a great source of proteins, amino acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. 

The best tuna to choose as cat treats are those canned in water (and not oil), with as few additives as possible. We also advise against giving kittens tuna or giving adult cats tuna frequently — by limiting tuna intake, cat parents can avoid the risk of intestinal disease and mercury poisoning.

Can my cat eat shrimp?

In the absence of seafood allergies (and given in moderation), shrimp is a tasty, beneficial, and safe food for cats. Shrimp offers protein, iodine, and certain vitamins, contributing to overall health. 

Cooked shrimp without shells, tails, or seasoning is suitable as an occasional treat for cats.

Can my cat eat cheese?

Most cats are lactose intolerant, as the only milk they have had was from their mother at a very young age. However, in the absence of lactose intolerance, cheese can be a beneficial and safe food for cats. Cheese provides protein, calcium, and certain vitamins to support bone health. 

Small amounts of plain, low-fat cheese work best as occasional treats for cats.

Can my cat eat eggs?‍

Cooked eggs are a delicious, beneficial, and safe food for cats. Eggs are an excellent source of high-quality protein, amino acids, and essential nutrients like vitamin B12.

Cooked eggs, whether scrambled or boiled, without additives or seasonings, can be offered to cats.

IV. Other Food Items: Toxic vs Safe Food for Cats

Aside from fruits, vegetables, and animal products, pet parents may also wonder if it’s safe to feed cats other food items. Here are the most frequently asked questions we get:

A side-by-side photo of fries, ice cream, and candy, which are either unsafe or toxic food for cats

Can my cat eat oatmeal?

Oatmeal is a safe food for cats. Oatmeal is a great source of energy and B vitamins, and can even be found in many commercial cat kibbles.

When sharing some oatmeal with cats, make sure to avoid adding sugar, milk, or other toppings.

Can my cat eat a French fry?

No. Though a French fry is not a toxic food for cats, French fries are not recommended for cats. French fries are high in salt and unhealthy fats, which can be harmful to feline health.

Can my cat eat dry dog food?

Dog food is not recommended for cats.  Cats have different nutritional needs than dogs, and dog food lacks certain essential nutrients cats require.

Can a cat eat ice cream?

Ice cream is not recommended for cats. Most cats are lactose intolerant, and the high sugar and fat content in ice cream can lead to digestive issues.

Can my cat eat yogurt?

In small amounts, plain, unsweetened yogurt may be safe food for cats, providing cats with calcium and probiotics. However, lactose-intolerant cats may have adverse reactions to yogurt.

Can my cat eat marshmallows?

Marshmallows are not suitable for cats. Though marshmallows are not considered toxic food for cats, marshmallows, along with other types of candy, contain sugar and offer no nutritional benefits. In addition, some candies may have harmful additives. Feeding marshmallows or candy to cats can lead to various health issues.

Final Thoughts on Safe vs Toxic Food for Cats

This concludes our vet-approved guide on toxic food for cats vs safe food for cats. For more vet-approved resources on cat nutrition, please feel free to check out the following:

For specific questions and concerns about cat nutrition or overall health, we’re always here for you. Sploot Veterinary Care is a trusted primary and urgent care vet clinic with multiple vet clinics in Chicago and Denver. Our doors are open 365 days a year for extended hours, across all vet clinics. 

We offer convenient and top-notch care with daily appointment availability and urgent drop-off appointments. Book an appointment easily online or through the Sploot Vets app

Till next time, we’re with you every pounce of the way.