A kitty serenely lapping at a bowl of milk is a familiar image, but believe it or not, many adult cats are lactose intolerant. Drinking milk can actually cause severe diarrhea in cats, and cleaning that litter box is not a happy ending to any story.
Of course there are exceptions, and some cats have no problem drinking cow’s milk. Still, if your cat hasn’t had milk since kitten-hood, why risk it? The same goes for many other foods we eat but shouldn’t be shared. Some are downright poisonous to cats, whereas others may cause gastrointestinal distress only for some. Here’s a list of specific people foods your cat should never eat:
Chocolate: Everyone seems to know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but it’s just as bad for cats. Generally, the darker or less sweet the chocolate the worse it is. In cats it is a central nervous system stimulant and a cardiovascular stimulant. It can raise blood pressure and cause nausea and vomiting. Avoid letting the cat near cocoa powder too and watch out if your outdoor cat seems interested in the cocoa bean mulch in the flower garden.
Green tomatoes: Tomato plants are members of the nightshade family. Green tomatoes and tomato plants contain a bitter poisonous alkaloid, which can cause violent lower gastrointestinal symptoms in cats. Ripe tomatoes are no threat, however, and are sometimes found on the ingredient list of commercial cat foods.
Onions and scallions: No, they don’t make cats cry, but then again they might since they contain N-propyl disulfide, an alkaloid that is poisonous to pets because it destroys red blood cells and causes anemia. It is also found in smaller amounts in garlic.
Avocado: The leaves, seed, tree bark and fruit all contain Persin, a fungicidal toxin that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or even lack of stool production in cats, so no guacamole for kitty.
Alcohol: Along with denying your cat avocado dip, keep your pet out of the tequila, too. Cats’ livers are not very efficient at detoxifying, so cats should never be given alcohol. In addition to liver damage, alcohol’s effects on cats can include as gastrointestinal irritation as well as intoxication and alcohol poisoning that can result in breathing difficulties, coma and even death. A kitty cocktail is no laughing matter.
Sugarless candy or gum: According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, xylitol, a sweetener found in sugar free gum, candy and sometimes toothpaste, is highly toxic to pets. In cats it causes a sudden release of insulin, resulting in hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Signs that a cat may have ingested xylitol include a sudden lack of coordination, vomiting, lethargy and, more seriously, seizures and possibly coma. Xylitol can even cause liver failure that results in death.
If your feline companion is giving you “that look” and you really want to share some human food, try giving him some cooked sweet potato, or bits of scrambled or hard cooked egg. And while straight up milk can cause diarrhea in cats, many vets recommend plain yogurt to treat or prevent it. Those probiotics that are so good for your tummy can also be good for your cat’s tummy.
Of course, no matter how cautious you are, it’s possible for your cat to eat what he shouldn’t. Always keep the numbers of your local vet, the closest emergency clinic, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center — (888) 426-4435 — where you know you can find them in an emergency.