Cat with a food bowl looking hungry.
Cat with a food bowl looking hungry. Photography ©GlobalP | Getty Images.

What Foods Are Toxic to Cats?

Don’t know what foods are toxic to cats? Can cats eat grapes? Can cats drink milk? And can cats eat chocolate? Check out this list of human foods that are toxic to cats.

As with us humans, there are some things kitty should just avoid. Not every animal reacts the same way to every food item, but we always advise you to do the safest thing for your cat. So, what foods are toxic to cats? Here’s our quick go-to no-no list with a rundown on why these food items are just bad mews.

Can cats have alcohol?

A fluffy cat sniffing beer.
Can cats have alcohol? Photography by Anatoly Timofeev / Shutterstock.

Here’s a not-always-so-great-for-humans item that cats should definitely stay away from, as it can cause intoxication (with just a tiny amount), possibly a coma and even death.

Can cats have bones?

Bones don’t always go down easy and can obstruct or lacerate your cat’s digestive system.

Can cats have chocolate, caffeine and coffee?

A gray cat smelling a chocolate arrangement.
Can cats have chocolate? Photography ©cunfek | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Cats just don’t need the pick-me-up that humans seem to crave, which is a good thing, as stimulants aren’t good for them and can be toxic.

Can cats have citrus and citrus oil extracts?

Cats typically aren’t big fans of citrus. Citrus fruits, particularly the rinds, may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Seeds contain cyanide compounds. Citrus oils can be toxic and cause liver damage.

Can cats eat fat trimmings?

Worst-case scenario: You’re rushing your cat to the emergency vet with a case of pancreatitis. Best case: It can make your cat obese.

Can cats eat grapes and raisins?

These are also food items on the better-to-be-safe-than-sorry food list. Grapes cause kidney failure in some dogs, although we haven’t figured out why yet. Cats have fragile kidneys, so it’s recommended that these are a no-go.

Can cats eat macadamia nuts and nuts in general?

Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, so you definitely don’t want them in the house if you have both cats and dogs. Nuts in general have lots of fat and oils, which could cause vomiting or diarrhea, or your cat could choke on them.

Can cats have milk and dairy?

Wild cats eat other animals. They aren’t sitting around lapping up bowls of milk. So it’s no surprise that some of their a-little-less-wild indoor cousins are lactose intolerant. Best to just stay away from this unless you want to clean up diarrhea.

Can cats eat onions, garlic and chives?

Unfortunately, these contain oxidizing agents that can damage cats’ fragile blood cells.

Can cats have yeast dough?

Fermenting yeast is used to raise bread dough. Two problems with this: One, it can cause alcohol poisoning in animals. Two, it may continue to rise in kitty’s nice, warm tummy, causing bowel obstruction.

A bottom line on what foods are toxic to cats:

A gray kitten licking his lips.
Unsure what foods are toxic to cats? Photography ©hocus-focus | Getty Images.

Even if something is not on this list, use caution and concern for items if they have been proven upsetting or toxic to humans or other animals. Also, some items not included on this list may be OK for cats in small quantities but cause issues if fed in larger amounts or over time, just as with any animal.

When in doubt, give your veterinarian a call.

Unsure if something is toxic to your cat?

Call the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Hotline, which is always open and staffed. A consultation fee may be charged. 888-426-4435;

Toxic foods to know in multi-pet households

These are items known to be toxic to other pets:

  1. Avocado: Toxic to some pet birds, plus may cause issues in rabbits and horses
  2. Grapes and raisins: Toxic to dogs
  3. Macadamia nuts: Toxic to dogs
  4. Xylitol: Toxic to dogs

This piece was originally published on May 29, 2018.

Thumbnail: Photography ©GlobalP | Getty Images.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in Kittens, a special issue from Catster magazine. Look for Kittens on a newsstand near you! 

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33 thoughts on “What Foods Are Toxic to Cats?”

  1. Propylene Glycol, a flavor carrier in human food, is highly toxic to cats. The little squirt bottles full of flavoring for your water bottles (fruit flavors, usually) is full of the stuff.

  2. My Tripod got into the habit of licking my ice cream bowl after I finished it. Then came the day she got pancreatitis and I took her to the vet. He was a great vet, worked with me to keep my costs down, and Tripod made a good recovery. But afterward, when I refused to give her my ice cream bowl, she would cry and beg. I was firm, and told her no–doctor’s orders. Ice cream is very high in fat, that’s what causes the pancreatitis. Another cat I owned, Cleo, liked ice cream too, especially chocolate. I would let him eat the tiny (pinhead size and smaller) bits of chocolate from my candy bars, too. One day, the store ran ut of chocolate ice cream, and I had to buy vanilla swiss almond. I would give him the lid to lick; when he saw it was mostly vanilla, my word of honor, he looked at that, looked back up at me as if to say, hey, where’s the chocolate? I explained the situation to him, and he reluctantly ate it, but it was as if he was saying, okay, I’ll eat this, but next time, chocolate!
    We also had a whippet whom we took lure coursing, and at one lure course we took him to, we gave him chocolate fudge for energy. He survived. Funny how it seems when we don’t know it’s bad for our pets, they survive, but afterwards, not so good. I guess we’ve been incredibly fortunate. Don’t have any pets at the moment, but hope to become a kitty mommy again in a few years.

  3. I had a little tabby guy who liked peanuts and peanut butter. When I had the mixed nuts out he wanted to have a peanut (usually got 1/2 of a nut), and would beg for it like my sister’s cat would beg for cheese (mostly mozzarella and cheddar). Each cat seems to like something different, but something in peanuts (or peanut butter) intrigues them. I didn’t see that on the list, but a peanut is not a nut like the tree nuts, it is a legume. Maybe they are ok for cats to indulge in a bite now and then?

  4. Please help,
    My cat BooBoo is constipated. If everything is normal he goes poop 2x a week, but sometimes he does not go for a week or 10 days and than it take lot of strenght for him to push. I am very stressed out from this little, wonderful and so good little boy . He is very picky eater. I am giving him drops call “smooth” 3 times a day to his wet food and he still does not go. Dry food is not served. He is fed raw diet such as ground fresh, organic free ranch turkey with again organic fresh chicken or veal liver. I add lots of water, so it’s very liquidy. Sometimes he eats it and sometimes not. He wont eat anything else. He eats 4 to 5x a day about 1 small teaspoon of food with boiled warm water or chicken broth. He likes his food look warm. Could I give him like a 1/4 of spoon senna tea (triple leaf ) to help him go? poop?

      1. My cat had surgery for megacolon after recurring constipation. It was the best thing that happened to my kitty. Please have him checked and talk to a university vet if needed

    1. My Butterscotch had a similar issue. Vet recommended a sprinkle of metamucil in her wet food. She also had a separation anxiety of sort. But check with Vet first!

    2. I have a Manx rumpy (no tail, no stub, all smooth rump). He has Manx Syndrome. It’s not a severe case, but he does have pooping problems. We call him Pooper Hopper, in public just Hopper or Hop. Lol. Hop poops every other day. What I learned was exercise helps a lot. I have him harness trained & when we lived in town we’d walk to the store or go for walks around the block. Manx cats are more dog-like. They like car rides, playing in water, they fetch, etc. When we go to the store he sits patiently waiting for me while in the aisles or paying. He’s a good boy.
      Too much can food gives him leakage. He has weak muscles in his hind end. When he’s walking or running (hopping like a bunny) his back legs go out from under him. He sometimes has accidents & will pee without knowing. It scares him & he looks so confused. He doesn’t realize when he’s sleeping he’s doing it. Well, canned food every day gives him anal leakage. His butt is like a stamper, so when he sits down…it’s messy. It’s a lot of work keeping up with him, but worth it. The vet said that eventually he’ll get worse. His spine isn’t growing correctly, he’ll have to have a wheelchair, & wear diapers. For now, just keeping him exercised helps. It helps a lot with his constipation. That’s the worst. He used to scream when he’d finally be able to poop. One time I flipped out & called the vet bc I thought his insides were falling out. She said it’s normal for his breed with Spina Bifida (Manx Syndrome). He had anal prolapse & it went back in. When we’re unable to exercise, there’s Miralax I was told I could get. So, far he’s doing great.
      Sorry for the long story, but hope this helps some. Didn’t know if maybe u had a Manx.

    3. Hi, I’m not sure about the senna however I’d like to give you some info I learned about constipation.
      Hairballs if not vomited up or given a inch of Hairball Remedy on a regular basis will form a plug and can cause constipation. When and if severe enough it can also cause death. I have 4 cats and a huge advocate for signing Petitions I receive re any cruelty etc to cats. I hope this will bring some insight to kitty’s problem.

  5. My cat Chico lived till he was 24 he had 1 olive stuffed with red pepper every day never nothing wrong with him till the last weeks of his life he was one of a kind go Chico????????

  6. That;s interesting about grapes. I had 2 Jack Russels who lived to be 18 and 20 and they loved grapes. Better check your facts.

  7. The worst toxins for cats are – CARRAGEENAN, XANTHAN GUM, GUAR GUM, AGAR AGAR, and vegetable gums, ingredients found in almost every commercial canned cat food. Symptoms include fur loss particularly on the tail and rear end, rodent ulcer, vomiting and stomach issues, inflamatory and immune issues – a cat may appear to be marking its territory and/or act as if she has a bladder infection, peeing and crying/calling out – misdiagnosed as behavioral problems and bladder/kidney infections.

  8. My two kitty boys broke into a cereal box that had raisins. Trust me. Only one will cause kidney damage. Took them to the vet and they had in fact ingested a raisin or two and their blood work came back as highly elevated. They had to be on IVs for three days to flush out their kidneys. $5000 later…….they were fine. Had I not done that, they would have suffered kidney failure and died. People! Your pets are not humans! If you are going to be pet owners inform yourself with what is toxic to each type of pet.

  9. Patricia Johnson

    All my cats adore Avocado, and white chocolate (in small pieces) Have had no problems. Except keeping them away from my Avo & vegamite sandwiches!!!!

  10. I have a mixed breed “Tuxedo” cat I hand raised, he & his brother, from 2 days old. They are now 10 years old. I recently discovered “Pooh” loves canned mushrooms off pizzas. I pick them off because I do not like them. We only have pizza once a week or less & they do not put many on the pizza, anyway, plus I only eat two to three pieces. I just give him the ones on my pizza because my husband likes mushrooms, he is not willing to share with Pooh. We have had many cats over 48 years & never had one who wanted to eat mushrooms. He is a full time in-door cat so there is no chance of him eating a wild mushroom. Will the canned ones hurt him?

  11. my cat lived to be 21 yrs and he ate raisins, not everyday but he ate them; another,a Ferrell drank milk and was 14 when he crossed over

    1. My cat Shilo loves the milk I share with her. I use 2% low fat, Lactose free milk. I mix a Carnation Instant Breakfast every morning in my milk, vanilla only. I tell Shilo I’m making ‘DRINK SHILO’! She comes running! I give a small taste to her n she’s a happy cat! She’s never thrown up or never has been sick.

  12. Cats can not tolerate lactate but I give my cat a small amount of lactaid milk but only about one teaspoon & only when I put some in my coffee & he wants some.

  13. Grapes cause bladder obstruction. My cat would have died had I not rushed him to the vet. They had to manually express the contents of his bladder. Never give your dogs or cats grapes.

  14. Chocolate, alochol, caffeine, grapes, raisins – these are no brainers. If you have them in the house, just keep them far away.

    Garlic and or cloves of garlic.

    We helped our boy fight diabetes last year and he got PU surgery from two urinary blockages when he was young (he’s 10 now); I also group in all nuts together, not just macademia.

    Bottom line, outside of their daily food, if it isn’t crude protein (small pieces of rotersserie chicken, no skin; or a little piece of turkey breast – it is a bad idea).

  15. Raw bones are OK for cats. Cooked bones are not. Difference is this: raw bones granulate when chewed on; cooked bones splinter – cat does not need splinters in digestive tract.

  16. Lee in Phoenix

    Lately I’ve been reading some cat books from England, where the story is told by the cat. They all seem to give the cats milk,which the cats thoroughly enjoy. Ever since I was a child I’ve heard of people giving their cat a bowl of milk, but lately we are told not to give our cats milk. Have the cats changed?

    1. I have always been told,any nuts are bad for cats.
      MILK one of my cats has had milk since he was a baby, and he is 13 now. He drinks it out of my spoon BUT one my other cats can only have a little bit or he has the runs.

    1. Hi there —

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  17. Fortunately, the cats who supervise me are very picky about their food; they’ve sniffed my wine and chocolate and given me an incredulous “you ingest that crap?” look…

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