What is Safe For Cats on Thanksgiving?

Most pet owners love to share a small amount of thanksgiving food with their cats, but not all Thanksgiving food is safe. As with everything, moderation is the key and treats should make up no more than 10 percent of a cat’s daily diet.

Can all cats eat thanksgiving food?

Thanksgiving food is not appropriate for all cats, which includes:

  • Cats on a therapeutic diet to prevent or manage a disease
  • Unweaned kittens
  • Cats on a food trial
  • Cats on a hypoallergenic diet

Food safety

Most thanksgiving foods are safe for cats as long as safety is observed. Always supervise cats when consuming novel food to ensure they don’t have an allergic reaction.

Try to avoid feeding food that has had butter added, while not toxic, butter does add extra calories and the high fat content can cause gastrointestinal disturbances in sensitive cats.

Always remove bones before feeding turkey, as cooked bones can splinter and damage the gastrointestinal tract. A small amount of unseasoned skin is safe, but don’t go overboard and avoid seasoned skin.

String used to truss the bird is a potential danger if accidentally ingested as it can cause intussusception, or telescoping of the intestines where one end of the string becomes lodged (under the tongue, or exiting the stomach), while the GI tract creeps up, causing a blockage or damage.

Don’t leave leftovers on the kitchen bench or in the garbage. Dispose of outside to prevent the cat raiding the bin.

What can I give my cat on Thanksgiving?

Safe to feed

Do not feed
Cooked turkey breast or leg meat Chocolate
Beans Alcohol
Carrot Stuffing
Sweet potato (plain) Grapes or raisins
Pumpkin (plain) Onion
Mashed potato Garlic
Cranberry sauce Gravy
Corn Mushrooms
Brussels sprouts Cooked bones
Apples (seeds removed) Bread
Broccoli Nuts
Turnip Artificial sweeteners (xylitol)

Most fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, but take care and don’t overdo it. Cats are obligate carnivores and the bulk of their diet should be a species-appropriate diet. Even safe food can cause gastrointestinal disturbances in some cats.

Always check before feeding your cat human food to ensure it is safe. Remove the skin, and seeds and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Onions and garlic are the biggest dangers to cats, as both can cause Heinz body anemia, a type of anemia (reduced number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells) characterised by the presence of Heinz bodies (HB) on the red blood cell which leads to its destruction (hemolysis).

Other thanksgiving dangers

Thanksgiving decorations can pose a potential choking risk, and must be secured or placed out of reach of curious cats.

If your cats are indoor only, remind visitors (especially children) to keep external doors shut at all times. It is easy for non-cat people to forget and nobody wants to spend Thanksgiving looking for an escaped cat.

Be extremely careful with floral decorations as most flowers are toxic to cats. Lilies are especially toxic, and even a small amount can be ingested. I don’t recommend lilies at all in homes with cats, the risk is too great.

Related: Flowers non-toxic to cats

Some cats will lap up the extra attention from visitors, but others can find a house full of guests stressful. Always provide an area the cat can escape to such as a bedroom, and keep it out of bounds to visitors. Never force a cat into a social situation he or she isn’t comfortable with and remind guests to let the cat come to them, not vice versa.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio

    View all posts