What Can Cats Not Eat: 23 Harmful Foods to Avoid

Today, we’re going to unravel the mystery of “what can cats not eat,” and trust me, this is a read you don’t want to skip!
what can cats not eat

Hey there, fellow cat enthusiasts! Today we’re diving deep into a topic that’s crucial for every cat parent out there. Ever found yourself munching on something and wondered, “Can my furball have a bite?” Well, you’re not alone!

Today, we’re going to unravel the mystery of “what can cats not eat,” and trust me, this is a read you don’t want to skip!

Now, we all love spoiling our feline friends with treats and snacks, but it’s imperative to pause and think before sharing your human food with them. Some of these foods can be harmful, or even fatal, to our beloved kitties.

And that’s precisely why we’re here—to ensure you have all the information you need to keep your whiskered companion safe and sound.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything from the no-no list of foods for cats, spotting those sneaky poisoning symptoms, preventive measures to keep them safe, and of course, some cat-approved human foods.

So, if you’ve ever caught yourself googling “What human foods can cats not eat,” you’re in the right place!

What Can Cats Not Eat: 23 Foods to Avoid

Now, let’s zoom in on the foods that are a big no-no for our feline friends. Whether you’re a seasoned cat parent or new to the game, some of these might surprise you, but it’s crucial to keep your kitty safe and sound. So, stay tuned as we uncover what can cats not eat!

Onions, Garlic, Chives, and Shallots

onions and garlic

If you’ve been wondering whether it’s okay to share a morsel of your garlic-infused pasta with your furry friend, let me quickly pop that bubble for you – it’s a firm no. Onions, garlic, chives, and shallots – basically, the whole Allium family – are toxic for cats.

“But Rainie,” you might say, “My cat loves the smell of my garlic bread!” Well, my dear cat parent, as appealing as these foods might be to your feline’s curious nose, they can cause serious harm. Both raw and cooked forms of these foods can be a problem.

Even a small piece of onion or a single clove of garlic can upset your cat’s digestive system. And if your cat eats more than 0.5% of their body weight in onion or garlic? That can lead to anemia, a condition that can seriously affect your cat’s health.

Spotting the Signs of Allium Family Toxicity

Now that you know the dangers, it’s essential to recognize the symptoms of onion, garlic, chives, and shallots poisoning in cats. These can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Keep in mind that many processed foods like baby food, canned soups, and even some pet foods can contain these harmful ingredients. So, always check the label if you’re unsure.



Let’s switch gears and talk about another food you might love but should keep away from your cat – chocolate. Why? Because it contains theobromine and caffeine, stimulants that can affect your cat’s nervous system and heart.

“My cat licked a bit of my chocolate ice cream cone yesterday!” Well, while a lick might not cause immediate harm, it’s best to keep your cat away from all chocolate products – candy bars, brownies, cookies, hot chocolate, and so on.

The Darker, the Deadlier

Here’s something you might not have known: Dark chocolate and baking chocolate are more dangerous than milk chocolate or white chocolate. Why? Because they have higher concentrations of theobromine and caffeine.

The Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning in Cats

Chocolate poisoning in cats can manifest in numerous ways, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal heart rhythm

In severe cases, it can even be fatal. That’s why it’s so crucial to keep your chocolate stash out of your cat’s reach.

Chocolate Toxicity: How Much Is Too Much?

According to Petful, the toxic dose of theobromine for cats is 20 mg/pound. If your cat weighs around 10 pounds, so this would mean a 200 mg total toxic dose. So, toxic doses of each type of chocolate for a typical 10-pound cat would be:

  • Milk chocolate candies: 78 g or 2.7 ounces
  • 70-85% dark chocolate: 18 g or 0.6 ounces
  • 1.5 tablespoons of dry cocoa powder

The above amounts are approximate and can vary depending on the individual cat’s health and tolerance. Always consult with a vet if you suspect that your cat has ingested chocolate.



You may have wondered, “How dangerous could a tiny sip of my evening wine be for my little furball?” Well, folks, the picture is grimmer than you might think. Alcohol is not just toxic for cats, it’s a potential death sentence. It can cause liver and brain damage, and possibly even lead to a coma or death.

If you’ve ever noticed your cat drooling, vomiting, showing signs of weakness, experiencing low blood pressure, or displaying difficulty breathing, these could be telltale signs of alcohol poisoning. More severe symptoms might include seizures or even a coma.

And It’s not just about your wine or beer. Cats should avoid any products containing alcohol. This includes certain types of mouthwash or certain cold remedies.

And here’s the shocking reality: even a small amount of alcohol can be fatal for cats.

Coffee and Caffeinated Drinks


As I sip my morning coffee, my cat, often gazes at the steaming mug with curiosity. But sadly, for her, it’s a big no-no. Coffee and caffeinated drinks contain caffeine, which can cause nervousness, increased heart rate, and tremors in cats. What’s more, they can also cause stomach upset and dehydration.

If your cat has ingested coffee or caffeine, look out for symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, restlessness, tremors, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, or even collapse.

The toxicity of coffee and caffeine depends on the type and amount of drink ingested. One or two licks of coffee, tea, or soda are unlikely to poison cats, as stated on the Pet Poison Helpline, but unused coffee grounds, beans, or tea bags are far more toxic and can cause severe health problems.

Coconut Flesh and Coconut Water


While coconut flesh and water are not toxic for cats, they come with their own set of problems. They are high in fat and calories, which can lead to obesity and pancreatitis. Plus, coconut water contains potassium, which can be harmful to cats with kidney problems.

If your cat has been indulging in some coconut goodies, symptoms of overconsumption could be weight gain, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration.

Remember, moderation is key when it comes to coconuts. For example, a teaspoon of coconut flesh or a tablespoon of coconut water once a week is enough for a cat. But it should not be a regular part of their diet.

Grapes, Raisins, and Currants

grapes and raisins

As harmless as they may seem to us humans, grapes, raisins, and currants can cause kidney failure in cats. Yes, you read that right – kidney failure!

How do you know if your fur baby has ingested these forbidden fruits? Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, decreased urine output, and dehydration.

According to the ASPCA, the toxic substance of grapes, raisins, and currants is still unknown. This means we should avoid feeding any of them to your beloved fluff ball.

Citrus Fruits

citrus fruits

Moving on to our next culprit: citrus fruits. While we enjoy a refreshing glass of orange juice or a tangy lemon dessert, these fruits are a big no-no for our feline friends. Why? They contain essential oils and acids that can irritate cats’ skin and stomachs.

Common symptoms of citrus poisoning are redness or swelling of the skin or mouth, nausea, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: surely a little bit won’t hurt? But remember, citrus fruits are not part of a cat’s natural diet. A few drops of lemon juice or a bite of orange peel can cause irritation and discomfort in our little tiger.

Macadamia Nuts

macadamia nuts

You might know macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, but might be surprised to learn that macadamia nuts are not safe for your cat as well. According to Hepper, while scientists are trying to uncover their toxicity to dogs, the situation is not different for our furball.

However, this unknown compound can cause symptoms such as vomiting, fever, lethargy, joint stiffness, muscle tremors, and difficulty walking. Nuts can also pose a choking hazard to our fur babies.

As what amount of macadamia nuts can harm our pets is still waiting to be explored, it’s important to avoid giving them to our cats.



Avocados are a superfood for us humans, but for cats, they’re anything but. They contain a compound called persin, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, respiratory distress, and heart problems.

And it’s not just the fruit itself. The seed, bark, and leaves of the avocado plant all contain persin. Plus, avocados are high in fat and calories, posing a risk of obesity and pancreatitis.

There is no definitive answer to how much avocado can harm a cat, as different cats may have different levels of sensitivity to the toxic compound persin. So, always consult vets first before adding it to your cat’s diet.

Milk and Dairy


“Cats and milk, a match made in heaven,” you may think. After all, those adorable pictures of kittens lapping up milk can’t be wrong, right? Well, let’s dive into the lactose-loaded truth.

Although milk and other dairy products aren’t toxic for cats, they can cause some discomfort. Many cats can’t digest lactose, a type of sugar found in these creamy delights. This can lead to gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Not to mention, milk and dairy products are high in fat and calories, contributing to potential obesity and dental problems.

If your cat shows symptoms like loose stools, abdominal cramps, flatulence, or vomiting, it might be lactose intolerant. To avoid these issues, it’s best to limit their dairy intake.

Yeast Dough


Now, let’s talk about something we all love: freshly baked bread. But while yeast dough might be a treat for us, it’s a danger zone for our feline friends.

Yeast dough can expand in a cat’s stomach, causing gas accumulation, bloating, abdominal pain, and even rupture of the stomach or intestines. That’s not all; yeast dough also produces ethanol (alcohol) during fermentation, which can lead to intoxication, acidosis, low blood sugar, weakness, coma, or even death in cats.

If you notice symptoms such as a distended abdomen, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, depression, disorientation, or seizures, seek immediate veterinary help.

Raw or Undercooked Meats

raw meat

As carnivores, cats are instinctively drawn to meat. But while raw or undercooked meats aren’t toxic for cats, they can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli. Ingesting these bacteria can lead to food poisoning, with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, and lethargy.

And it doesn’t stop there; raw or undercooked meats can also harbor parasites like worms or protozoa, causing various diseases. Be on the lookout for symptoms like weight loss, anemia, diarrhea, blood in stool, coughing, or skin lesions.

Compared to other types of food, according to a study by the FDA, raw pet food is more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. As such, raw or undercooked meats should be thoroughly cooked before feeding to your cat.



The liver, with its high protein and iron content, might seem like a great treat for your cat. However, it is loaded with vitamin A, which can accumulate in cats’ bodies and cause toxicity. Vitamin A toxicity can manifest as bone deformities, joint pain, osteoporosis, and liver damage.

If your cat shows symptoms like loss of appetite, weight loss, constipation, lameness, stiffness, swelling of the limbs or neck, bone fractures, or jaundice, it might be suffering from vitamin A toxicity.

Fat Trimmings and Bones

fat trimmings

Let’s address the temptation to share a piece of your juicy steak with your feline friend. Fat trimmings and bones might seem like harmless treats, but they’re far from it.

Fat trimmings can lead to pancreatitis, a painful and potentially life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas. Bones, on the other hand, can splinter and cause choking, perforation, or obstruction of the mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines. Plus, they can damage cats’ teeth and gums.

Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing, drooling, coughing, or bleeding are possible signs that your cat has ingested fat trimmings or bones.

Raw Egg


Contrary to popular belief, raw eggs aren’t toxic for cats. However, they can pose a danger due to potential bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli. Ever heard of avidin? It’s an enzyme found in raw eggs that interferes with the absorption of biotin, a vital B vitamin for cats. The result? Possible skin and coat problems, and in severe cases, neurological issues.

If your kitty has had a run-in with a raw egg, keep an eye out for these symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, lethargy, hair loss, dermatitis, seizures.

Remember, while the odd raw egg might not harm your cat, regular consumption can lead to bacterial infection or biotin deficiency. In this case, the old adage comes into play: it’s better safe than sorry!

Raw Fish


Next on the menu, we’re reeling in raw fish. Similar to raw eggs, raw fish isn’t toxic for cats per se. However, it can harbor harmful bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli. Additionally, raw fish contains an enzyme called thiaminase that can destroy thiamine, another crucial B vitamin.

The consequences can be quite severe, leading to neurological problems like convulsions and coma.

If your cat has recently indulged in some raw fish, watch out for these symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, lethargy, loss of appetite, abnormal eye movements, muscle weakness, and seizures.

I’m sure tempting your kitty with a piece of sushi might seem like a fun idea, but habitual consumption can lead to bacterial infection or thiamine deficiency. So, swap out the sushi for something safer!



While it’s not toxic for cats, tuna alone is far from a balanced diet for your furry friend. It’s high in mercury and other pollutants that can accumulate over time, potentially leading to health issues like kidney damage or anemia. Plus, it’s low in essential nutrients like calcium, iron, vitamin E, and taurine.

Symptoms of tuna-related issues can include weight loss, pale gums, weakness, poor coat quality, heart problems, and vision problems.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to reduce the amount of tuna in their diet and consult with a vet for possible supplement injections.

Dog Food

dog food

Dog food is formulated for, well, dogs. A nibble of dog food does not harm cats, it is not enough to maintain their health. As obligate carnivores, cats require a diet of animal-based protein and animal fat for their body systems to function, while dogs are more flexible they can easily digest meats and vegetables.

Taurine is a type of amino acid. Our furry friends and we humans are among these mammals that cannot make taurine by ourselves, so we must get them from our diet. However, this is a rare element in dog food. Cats that lack taurine would have dilated cardiomyopathy (weakened hearts) and digestive disturbances.

So, even if your cat enjoys a bowl of dog food once in a while, regular consumption can lead to nutritional deficiencies or toxicities. Remember, dog food is not a substitute for cat food!



Xylitol, a sugar substitute often found in sugar-free gum, candy, toothpaste, and baked goods, is another ingredient to beware of. While it may help humans cut down on sugar intake, it can be fatal for cats. Xylitol toxicity can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), liver failure, seizures, or even death in our feline companions.

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in cats include vomiting, weakness, lethargy, and tremors. If your cat ingests enough xylitol in even 15 minutes, it will suffer severe low blood sugar and acute liver failure that may risk her life. So, keep your xylitol-containing products out of your cat’s reach.

Human Medications


Just like dog food, human medications are not cat-friendly. Aspirin, acetaminophen (paracetamol), ibuprofen, and naproxen are just a few examples of drugs that are tolerable for humans but can be deadly for cats. They can cause a whole host of side effects, including vomiting, diarrhea, ulcers, kidney damage, and more.

If your cat has ingested human medication, they might drool, feel nauseous, have abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, an irregular heartbeat, and even seizures. In severe cases, they might even fall into a coma. A chilling example: while cats enjoy the taste of Effexor, eating one pill can cause severe poison effects.

The bottom line? Never give your cat human medication without consulting with a vet first.

Uncooked Potatoes and Tomatoes

potato and tomato

Potatoes and tomatoes belong to the nightshade family of plants and contain a toxin called solanine. This toxin can cause gastrointestinal upset, weakness, confusion, dilated pupils, or tremors in cats.

Symptoms of potato and tomato poisoning in cats include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, lethargy, and loss of coordination. Eating just a few slices of raw potato or tomato can cause mild to moderate toxicity in a cat. So, keep those uncooked potatoes and tomatoes far away from your curious cats!



While salt is an essential mineral for cats in small amounts, too much of it is a no-go. Just like us humans, cats can suffer from a condition known as salt poisoning.

This can happen if your cat gets a hold of salty foods like chips, pretzels, popcorn, cheese, or salted nuts. Even drinking salt water or ingesting household products that contain salt, such as play dough or rock salt, can put your cat in danger.

But how much is too much? According to Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, the daily requirement for sodium consumption of an adult cat is 200 mg/kg body weight per day.

The symptoms of salt poisoning in cats can include increased thirst and urination, dry mouth and nose, loss of appetite, lethargy, tremors, and convulsions. If you see any of these signs, it’s time to head to the vet.

Too Many Treats


We all love to spoil our cats with treats. They’re a great way for us to bond with our feline friends, but they should be given in moderation. The problem with treats is that they can contribute to obesity, which can lead to a host of health problems like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, or even cancer.

So, how many treats are too many? According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, treats should make up no more than 10% of your cat’s daily calorie intake. Overdoing it could lead to weight gain, dental problems, digestive issues, and a reduced energy level.

A safe rule of thumb is to give your cat a piece of cooked chicken or fish, or a commercial cat treat, once a day.

What to Do If Your Cat Eats Toxic Food

We all know that cats have a knack for getting into things they shouldn’t. If you suspect your cat has eaten something toxic, it’s crucial to act quickly.

  1. Remove any remaining food or substance from your cat’s environment.
  2. Try to identify what your cat ate and how much.
  3. Call your vet or a poison control center, like the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.
  4. Depending on their advice, you might have to induce vomiting or give your cat activated charcoal. However, don’t attempt these without professional guidance.
  5. Lastly, rush your cat to the nearest animal hospital or emergency clinic. If possible, bring the food or substance your cat ingested.

Monitoring your cat’s condition and following the instructions of your vet are vital in these situations.

How to Prevent Cats from Eating Harmful Food

Steering clear of danger, especially when it comes to our furry companions, is always better than a cure. That’s why prevention plays a pivotal role in keeping your whiskered friend safe from harmful foods.


To prevent any health scares, let’s talk about how to keep your cat away from dangerous or toxic foods.

  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind
    You know what they say, “What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.” This holds true for our curious kitties as well. To prevent any mishaps, store food out of your cat’s reach. Consider using cat-proof locks, containers, or cabinets. Yes, they exist. And trust me, they are a game-changer!
  • No Food Left Behind
    Leaving food unattended on the counter, table, or floor is like leaving a treasure map for your cat. So, clean up any spills or crumbs immediately. It’s a little extra work, but it’s worth it for your cat’s health.
  • Human Food Isn’t Always Cat Food
    Hold on before you give your cat that piece of chicken from your plate. Before feeding your cat any human food, check if it’s safe first. Some ingredients that we enjoy can be toxic or harmful to them. And we don’t want that, do we?
  • Trash-Proof Your Home
    Cats are natural explorers, and the trash can is an adventure zone for them. Keep them out of reach or use secure lids to prevent your cat from accessing the trash, compost, or outdoor garbage cans.
  • Knowledge is Power
    Educate yourself and everyone in your cat’s life about what foods are dangerous or toxic for cats. This includes your family, guests, and pet sitters. The more people know, the safer your cat will be.

What Human Food Cats Can Eat

Okay, let’s lighten things up a bit. Not all human foods are off-limits for our feline friends. Some, like cooked meat, fish, eggs, and certain vegetables and fruits, can even be beneficial for them.

Cooked Meat

Cooked meat like chicken, turkey, or beef is a safe and nutritious treat for your feline companions. They’re packed with high-quality protein, essential for keeping your cat’s muscles lean and healthy. Remember, though, moderation is key. Too much can lead to weight gain.

Cooked Fish

Whether it’s tuna, salmon, or whitefish, cats are notorious for their love of fish. Not just tasty, fish is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can boost your cat’s skin health and coat shine. Ensure the fish is well-cooked and boneless. Fish should be more of a treat than a staple in your cat’s diet, so make sure to limit it to once or twice a week.

Cooked Eggs

Eggs are not just for us humans. They’re a safe and nutritious treat for cats too. Boiled or scrambled, eggs provide a good dose of protein and B vitamins, crucial for your cat’s overall health. Just make sure to cook them thoroughly to kill off any harmful bacteria.


Believe it or not, some cats enjoy veggies! Options like steamed carrots, broccoli, or green beans can be a low-calorie treat. They add a bit of variety and some extra fiber to their diet.


Fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and melon can be a sweet treat for your cat. However, always remove any seeds or pits and serve in moderation.

By knowing what can cats eat and not eat, you’re not just providing a treat; you’re enriching your cat’s diet with variety and essential nutrients. Just remember, these are treats, not meal replacements.

Final Words

Phew, that was quite a journey we embarked on, wasn’t it? We’ve talked about the big no’s in the cat food world, how to spot when your kitty might have eaten something they shouldn’t have, and how to keep these dangerous foods out of their reach. Plus, we didn’t forget about those safe and cat-friendly human foods.

Remember, knowledge is power, and understanding “what can cats not eat” is a massive step towards ensuring your furry friend lives a long, healthy, and happy life. After all, they’re not just pets—they’re family. And we always want what’s best for our family, right?

So, keep this information in mind, share it with your fellow cat lovers, and let’s make the world a safer place for our feline buddies. Because a happy cat means a happy life!



As an English major graduate, Rainie seamlessly merges her love for writing with her passion for cats. As the proud owner of two cats, Ham and Tata, she delights in everything feline. She skillfully combines her academic background and personal interests, crafting engaging content that resonates with all cat lovers. Follow her on Facebook.
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