Can I Feed My Cat Table Scraps?

Photo of Cat Sitting at Dining Table
Cat Sitting at Dining Table. photo © Getty Images / Astronaut Images

Question: Carl asks, "Can I feed my cat table scraps? Boris loves human foods."

My Reply: Many cats love human foods. After, we are both mammals, and enjoy much of the same kinds of food, including chicken, turkey, beef, salmon, and other seafood. However, I strongly advise against feeding your cat table scraps for several reasons:

 

  1. Some human foods are toxic to cats, even in small amounts, such as onions or chocolate. Onions cause a condition called Heinz body anemia, which can be fatal to cats. You will notice by the link that Heinz body anemia can also be caused by drinking Anti-freeze. Chocolate toxicity is caused by theobromine. Grapes and raisins may be toxic to cats. According to the ASPCA, "As there are still many unknowns with the toxic potential of grapes and raisins, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center advises not giving grapes or raisins to pets in any amount." Even Avocados are mildly toxic to cats, according to the Pet Poison Hotline. "Mildly" is enough for me. In addition, most human food such as chicken or turkey gravy, or turkey stuffing laced with onions, is either too highly spiced, or too fat-laced to be good for cats, especially holiday meals, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter. Even though the food may smell appealing, tummy aches or vomiting might be the end result.
  1. A cat regularly fed human food will either lose his taste for his own food, or be too full to eat it. Either way, he will lose the essential nutrients, including taurine, so necessary for cats to survive and thrive. While cats and humans share the same tastes in many foods, we do have different nutritional needs in foods. For example, cats are obligate carnivores, and must have meat to survive. Although they do enjoy the addition of certain healthful vegetables and/or fruit to their canned food, such as carrots, green peas, or cranberries, they can live quite well without them.  While we humans are also carnivores (meat eaters), we can live long healthful lives as vegetarians, even as vegans. Although there are a few stores now featuring what looks to be nourishing vegan pet food, I prefer to feed mine protein-rich cat food composed primarily of meat ingredients with a minimum of added vegetable or fruit content.
  1. As cute as the accompanying photo is, allowing cats to habitually eat "at the table" is creating your own home-grown food monster. You will find most of your guests appalled at having a cat at the table (usually ON the table), and your cat will be miffed at being banished. Better he should be banned permanently, instead of just on holiday occasions.

    In the case of holidays like Thanksgiving, I suggest feeding your cat a meal of his own food directly before your guests arrive. Chances are, he'll find a place to sleep while the humans eat. With large holiday parties, including strangers (to the cats), your cat would probably be better off in a bedroom away from the festivities, to help eliminate stress.  Alternately, you might save him a small bit of the turkey liver and giblets (raw) for a treat later. But let him eat it out of his own bowl, please.

    More details on the hazards of feeding cats table scraps are given in my article, Human Foods for Cats?