Serious Question: Should I Share My Food with My Cats?
Like most house tigers, my cats are obsessed with people food. Some of their culinary preferences make sense -- I can't keep them away from tuna and salmon, and they love milk and ice cream.
Then there's bacon. I only recently discovered what crispy-fried pig strips can do to a cat's psyche when my boyfriend, an obligate carnivore, gave a piece to my gray tabby, Bubba Lee Kinsey. Bubba devoured the meat within seconds -- and when my calico, Phoenix, tried to swoop in and steal it, he hissed at her. Like, arched his back and spat, with murder in his eyes. He might as well have dragged the meat to a dark corner and cooed, "my preciousss."
I've always shared my food with my cats, but how bad are some of their favorite people food menu items? Here's what I found out.
1. Gummy snacks
I found out Bubba Lee Kinsey loves fruit snacks by accident; that is, I dropped one, and he promptly ate it. Now, whenever I bring any allegedly "fruit"-flavored gummy snacks (my favorite: gummy sharks) into the house, he's all up in my business. He particularly enjoys Twizzlers. I have seen him yank an entire licorice whip from the bag and drag it across the room. Weirdly, Phoenix has no interest in these treats whatsoever.
So how bad are gummy snacks for cats? Well, they're not very good for anyone. There's nothing inherently harmful in Twizzlers that can make a cat ill, but they can cause constipation. Other gummy treats -- especially the sugar-free ones -- might be sweetened with xylitol, which can cause hypoglycemia in cats. It's probably best that I put the gummy snacks in my own facehole and not Bubba's.
2. Granola bars
Bubba's other favorite human food is granola bars. I basically have to eat these while standing on top of a chair or table, because he has been known to grab them out of my hand or lick them while I'm between bites.
Well, it turns out raisins are pretty bad for cats, and those are in many granola bars. They have been known to cause symptoms ranging from hyperactivity and seizures to depression and lethargy. Also, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their digestive systems are not designed to handle grains. Sorry, Bubba -- you're 0 for 2.
3. Leafy greens and herbs
One time, I left some spinach sitting out on the counter, and when I returned, Phoenix had absconded with it. I was unsurprised that time she dragged an entire T-bone out of the trash -- she's pretty much an entrepreneur when it comes to getting what she wants -- but I didn't think my perpetually hungry calico girl would be into salads. Turns out she loves the leafy greens, including herbs -- especially basil.
Good news, Phoenix: As far as I can tell, it is okay for cats to eat fresh veggies! (Has anyone else heard otherwise? If so, please share in the comments.) But veggies are only okay as long as a cat's diet also includes plenty of meat. They are obligate carnivores, after all, and while veggies won't hurt cats, they also will not benefit from eating them.
4. Dairy products
We've all seen those images of cats happily lapping away at saucers of milk, but are dairy products actually healthy for cats? As it turns out, not so much: Cats' bodies lack a sufficient amount of the enzymes required to break down lactose, rendering them effectively lactose intolerant. Therefore, dairy products can lead to digestive problems, such as upset stomach and diarrhea. And that's no fun for anyone involved.
Then there are the calories. For a cat, eating only a small amount of cheese can be the human equivalent of scarfing a Big Mac.
5. Plastic bags?
Just had to throw this one in there, because Phoenix will spend literally hours licking plastic bags until every inch is covered in her saliva. Does anyone else's cat do this? What is up with that, anyway? I tried it once and did not understand the appeal.
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