Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
Decades ago, as a young — and bit naïve — daily newspaper reporter, I received sage advice from a high-ranking editor who barked, “If your mother tells you she loves you, you check it out.” Translation: Verify statements and declarations from everyone — every time — to avoid misidentifying fiction as rock-solid fact. This advice holds true in the field of feline nutrition, where our emotions and unsubstantiated claims can cloud the truth.
Let’s test your feline food knowledge. Call your cat over for moral support. It’s time to play the Catster Feline Fact or Fiction Game. Are each of the following food statements true or false? Answers are at the end of this story — no peeking!
Bottom line: Cats sport delicate digestive systems. Know what people foods are safe and which ones may cause you to rush your cat to the nearest veterinary clinic to save his life.
“Anything that passes our lips could potentially be danger-ous if consumed by our pets,” cautioned Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, a board-certified emergency and critical care veterinarian at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists in Stamford, Connecticut. “While dogs seem to be more curious and more willing to eat [unsafe] foods, cats have more sensitive enzyme systems. Because they are smaller, cats may be susceptible to smaller doses of some toxins than dogs.”
Mazzaferro, along with Dr. Jean Hofve, a retired holistic veterinarian who posts solid feline nutrition information on her website Little Big Cat, served as my experts for creating this feline food quiz. Let’s see how you fared:
An avocado is technically a fruit that jazzes up a salad or a burger for you, but keep it out of paw’s reach. Persin found in its leaves and fruit is no friend to a feline’s digestive system, Mazzaferro said. Ingesting avocado can cause vomiting and diarrhea in your cat.
You may want to spoil yourself with these pricey, tasty nuts, but if your cat swallows macadamia nuts, he can choke, suffer from vomiting and diarrhea, and, in some cases, even paralysis.
Although cats lack a sweet receptor, some may be attracted to the shiny wrapper and ingest chocolate by biting through it. The big threat is theobromine, an ingredient in chocolate that can cause all those dangerous health symptoms in your cat. And, the darker the chocolate, the greater the concentration of theobromine.
It’s a myth that hard pieces of kibble can serve as a dental tool for your cat.
“If it did, you and I could floss with toast,” Hofve said. “At best, dry food produces a little less tartar than canned food.”
I love sushi and even considered naming my newly adopted orange tabby by that moniker but opted for Casey.
“Human-grade sushi is safe for people but can cause gastrointestinal upset in cats,” Mazzaferro said. “Left unrefrigerated, raw fish can contain bacteria, such as salmonella, that can cause vomiting and diarrhea in your cat.”
Mazzaferro cautioned to be on the look out for these signs that your cat is experiencing an adverse reaction to food ingested: vomiting, diarrhea, excitability, excessive salivation, and, possibly, loss of consciousness.
The precise symptoms and the degree of reaction displayed by your cat depends on many factors: his age, health condition, amount of food he ate, and the duration between the time the food was ingested and veterinary treatment was administered.
About the author: Arden Moore is a pet-behavior consultant, author, and master pet first-aid instructor who often teaches hands-on classes with her cool cat, Casey, and very tolerant dog, Chipper. Each week, she hosts the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. Follow Arden on Facebook and on Twitter at @ArdenKnowsPets. For Catster print magazine, she promises to give advice about healthy eating habits for your feline. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org