Preventing heart disease, controlling high blood pressure, seasoning your favorite pasta dish, warding off vampires — the benefits of garlic to humans are vast and well known (well, never mind your post-aioli breath). But if you’re thinking of sharing a dash of your favorite seasoning with your feline friends or using garlic as a homeopathic remedy to avoid veterinary visits, read on. Can cats eat garlic? Let’s look at some of the facts about cats and garlic.
So, can cats eat garlic? Actually, garlic can be incredibly toxic to cats — even in doses as little as one small clove. In severe cases, garlic toxicity in cats can even lead to organ damage, organ failure or death.
So, why is the answer to, “Can cats eat garlic?” such a resounding no? Garlic belongs to the allium family, along with onions, leeks, shallots and chives. Cats cannot digest these veggies like humans can. In fact, when cats ingest any member of the allium family, they can acquire hemolytic anemia, which is caused by damage to the red blood cells. When cats eat garlic, it may also cause gastroenteritis (upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea).
Compared to onions, why is it especially bad for cats to eat garlic? According to the Pet Poison Helpline, garlic is about five times as toxic as onions for cats. So, your kitty can eat less garlic but do more damage. It can take about 5 grams of onion to harm a cat, but eating any amount of garlic can negatively affect your cat’s health. A cat’s weight, overall health and breed also play a role in her susceptibility to garlic poisoning, but all cats are potentially at risk.
Assuming your kitty is fully grown and in good health, can cats eat garlic — even in something like a smattering of sauce? While a small amount of garlic isn’t likely to harm your cat, regular consumption of food seasoned with garlic could be detrimental over time.
When it comes to seasoning your cat’s food (assuming she’s a picky eater and won’t gladly inhale whatever is plopped in front of her like mine will), perhaps try drizzling a small amount of tuna juice on top instead.
Can cats eat garlic as a natural home remedy for fleas? You might have also heard that garlic is a homeopathic remedy to prevent fleas in cats … but it’s simply not worth the risk. If you’re interested in natural flea control, try keeping a dish of warm, soapy water near where your cat sleeps, which attracts and drowns the pests.
Bathing your cat regularly and brushing her with a fine-toothed comb is another garlic-free method that can help keep fleas away. Also, be sure to vacuum your home and wash your cat’s bedding regularly.
The next question after, “Can cats eat garlic?” is — “What happens if my cat eats garlic?” After your cat eats garlic, it may take two to four days for symptoms of toxicity to appear. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, warning signs include drooling, nausea, oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, elevated heart and respiratory rate, weakness and pale gums. Your cat might also lose her appetite as a result of garlic toxicity.
If you have any reason to suspect your cat has infiltrated your garlic stash, seek immediate veterinary attention. Assuming the garlic was eaten recently, your vet will likely need to induce vomiting by giving your cat a hydrogen peroxide solution or administering activated charcoal, which absorbs toxins and prevents them from entering your cat’s bloodstream. Your cat may require IV fluids or oxygen therapy, and in the most severe (and rare) cases, some cats who have eaten garlic may need a blood transfusion.
Your best bet at preventing garlic toxicity in cats is to store your garlic in a secure place out of your kitty’s reach. You’ll also want to remove all garlic from your cat’s diet — double check the labels on her food, and if you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to ask your vet for approved foods. The good news? Since the answer to, “Can cats eat garlic?” is a solid no, that means there’s more garlic for you.
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