What Thanksgiving Foods Can Cats Eat? Here's What Should (and Shouldn't) Be on Their Plate, According to a Vet
While many dogs beg under the table and snuffle around for any dropped morsels during holiday festivities, most cats simply slink onto the counter and run off with a succulent treat, or meow incessantly until we give in to their charming persistence.
So as you're planning the holiday menu, pay special attention to what Thanksgiving foods cats can eat and which ones they can't to avoid any trips to the emergency vet. Since there's a limited amount of human foods safe for cats, we've put together this handy guide.
Thanksgiving Foods Cats Can Eat Safely
Veterinarians advise no more than 10 percent of a healthy cat's daily diet should come from treats, so always consider nutrition first before doling out Thanksgiving nibbles—ask your vet if a few are okay. Think of them more as a food topper, a specific treat or, if indeed your stealthy kitty snatches a bite, something you won't have to worry about as a result.
We asked Renee Rucinsky, DVM, DABVP(F), the owner of Mid Atlantic Cat Hospital and Feline Thyroid Center in Queenstown, Md., for some suggestions on cat-friendly Thanksgiving food.
The most common question this time of year is "Can cats eat Thanksgiving turkey?" Yes! However, only the meat, well-cooked and unseasoned. Find a nice chunk of meat on a part of the bird without salt, butter, or other spices, dice it up, and kitty will purr your praises.
This popular addition to the holiday table always has a tantalizing aroma, and while your cat might not know what ham is, she still wants some! Again, a tiny unseasoned treat cooked thoroughly is fine, but because it's high in fat and sodium, keep the handouts to a minimum.
Not that you'll sprinkle this savory spice on everything in your cat's dish, but if her turkey happens to have a smidgen of it, it won't hurt her.
Although Rucinsky says she's never heard of a cat craving cranberries or cranberry sauce, if your feline friend gets curious about raw, canned, or cooked cranberries (without sugar, grapes, or raisins added), a teensy bit should be OK.
For a tiny taste of holiday goodness, your kitty can have cooked and unseasoned/unbuttered potatoes that are baked, boiled, or mashed. This includes sweet potatoes, too. Uncooked potatoes are toxic to pets because of the property solanine, which causes severe gastrointestinal distress.
Many dogs love crunchy fresh green beans, but what about cats? Maybe. If they're lightly steamed without spices or butter, he'll be more likely to take a bite. But keep the green bean casserole on a higher counter away from kitty.
If your kitty ever has trouble with constipation, your vet might actually recommend plain, canned pumpkin or unseasoned, cooked pumpkin puree for a nutritious fiber boost. So before you start the pie-making factory, one of these options is fine.
Rucinsky says most felines are lactose intolerant and usually don't desire homemade whipped cream or Reddi-wip. However, others might want a lap or two of a creamy treat, so if their digestive system can handle whipped cream, a little is OK. However, keep them away from alternative whipped toppings, as they usually contain a lot of oil and sugar.
Thanksgiving Foods to Avoid Giving Your Cat
For cats with digestive problems such as pancreatitis, following the diet established by a veterinarian is critical to their health, and table scrap treats aren't allowed, even during the holidays. Even if your kitty is healthy, you'll want to keep a sharp eye that they don't get into these foods.
Turkey Skin, Bones, and Drippings
Oh, your furball would love to sink his teeth into these nummies, but they're a no-no. Fat and sodium are two big reasons, and bones also present a choking hazard. Rucinsky says no raw turkey or chicken, either, as they might contain E. coli and salmonella.
Technically, cats shouldn't have much bread unless it's thoroughly baked, and then, only a tad. Another problem with stuffing is that many family recipes include delights such as sausage, oysters, bouillon, and seasonings that aren't safe for felines.
Garlic and Onion
Rucinsky says anything in the allium family of herbs and vegetables—chives, garlic, leeks, onions, scallions, and shallots—is toxic to pets because they contain chemicals that destroy red blood cells and cause anemia.
The ASPCA notes that nutmeg can cause vomiting and other serious symptoms of poisoning, so no pumpkin pie for kitty. Post the Animal Poison Control hotline on the fridge in case of an emergency: 888-426-4435.
Grapes and Raisins
While studies are somewhat inconclusive as to why grapes and raisins are so toxic to our pets, cats are small enough that even a couple of these fruits might result in mild reactions such as dehydration to more severe gastrointestinal issues.
A raw button mushroom won't affect kitty, but most Thanksgiving foods include mushrooms slathered in butter and thus, should be avoided. The North American Mycological Association cautions that 99 percent of wild mushrooms are toxic to pets, too.
Ah, butter. Its fat content provides flavor for us but isn't good for kitties. Also refer to the lactose intolerance note above. Margarine and other substitutes aren't allowed, either.
Also not safe on the Thanksgiving foods for cats list is anything with xylitol. So if the dessert buffet is overflowing with treats that contain this sweetener, make sure kitty has a better alternative, like a banana or blueberry.
It's not like your curious kitty will stick his nose into your wine glass, but be mindful of certain dishes simmered in or topped with alcohol. As little as one teaspoon can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and more severe reactions.
Safer Thanksgiving Cat Treats to Make Instead
Now, if you really want to show your favorite fluffy how grateful you are for them, create a special meal. "Maybe use a seasonal kitty dish with a Thanksgiving theme. Make it festive!" Rucinsky says. "Several of the major food companies make a turkey option in their canned food, so serving that during the holidays may be the safest option, especially for cats with sensitive digestive systems or other diet limitations."