For many, part of the enjoyment of Christmas is time spent with family and friends over Christmas lunch or dinner. As pet owners, we want to include our cats in the festivities, but not all food is safe for cats to eat. We take a look at common Christmas foods which are safe or dangerous for cats.
When it comes to food, moderation is the key. Treats should make up no more than 10% of a cat’s diet as they are not complete and balanced and many contain empty calories.
- Ham – Fat removed.
- Turkey – Skin and bones removed.
- Prawns and shrimp – Head, tail and shell removed.
- Vegetables – Lots of vegetables are safe for cats to eat as long as they haven’t been cooked with garlic or onion, this includes brussels sprouts, carrot, pumpkin, parsnip, corn, broccoli, beans and peas.
- Potato – As long as it doesn’t contain onion, chives or garlic, mashed potato is a better option than roast potato.
The dairy in mashed potato may cause GI disturbances in cats who are lactose intolerant. This is self-limiting, but if the cat has a history of flatulence, abdominal pain and diarrhea after dairy ingestion, skip the mash.
Roast potatoes are cooked in fat or oil which can cause pancreatitis in some cats, therefore it is safer to avoid, or scoop out the flesh and throw out the skin.
- Chocolate – Contains caffeine and theobromine both of which are toxic to cats.
- Raisins, currants and grapes – Christmas cake, pudding and mince pies all contain raisins and currants which are toxic to cats. The toxic property is not known but can cause kidney failure.
- Stuffing – Most stuffing contains onion and garlic which can cause Heinz body anemia.
- Onions, leeks, chives and garlic – Members of the allium family contain compounds called disulphides and thiosulphates which lead to the formation of Heinz bodies on the red blood cells leading to their destruction (hemolysis).
- Alcoholic drinks and food which contains alcohol – This includes drinks and foods such as brandy butter, custard, Christmas pudding (also contains raisins which are toxic) and trifle.
- Cooked bones – Turkey meat in moderation is safe for cats to eat but always remove the bone first. Cooked bones can cause oral and gastrointestinal trauma or cause a blockage.
- Cranberry sauce – Cranberry sauce won’t hurt the cat, there is no benefit to offering it to the cat as they can’t taste sweet and it just adds empty calories to the diet.
- Sweets and desserts – Most sweets and desserts (which don’t contain chocolate, raisins or alcohol) aren’t dangerous, but as cats can’t taste sweet, they just add empty calories. Stick with savoury food.
- Gravy – May contain garlic, onion or alcohol which are toxic.
- Dairy products – Most cats are lactose intolerant and dairy can cause gastrointestinal upset.
- Nuts – Macadamia nuts are toxic to cats, other types of nuts can pose a choking hazard. The only exception is cooked and peeled chestnuts, which are safe for cats to eat.
Remember, only give a small amount as a treat. Make up for the treat food by feeding a smaller amount of cat food.
Cats who shouldn’t have Christmas foods
Not all cats can eat treat foods at Christmas time, this can include cats with underlying medical conditions such as food allergies, liver disease, kidney disease and hyperthyroidism as well as cats who are on a feeding trial. Remember, your cat’s veterinarian is the best person to speak to about foods that are safe or dangerous for your cat as they know the cat’s full medical history. Anything you read on the Internet is a guide only.