This year’s stubborn pandemic promises to upend the holiday habits and traditions of many — and that increases concern among leading veterinarians.
“Before this pandemic, people would have concerns about house-guests feeding table scraps that may be unhealthy or even dangerous to their cats,” says Jason Nicholas, BVetMed, a veterinarian and pet safety advocate in Portland, Oregon. “This year, there may not be many guests coming over. Some people, feeling a bit down, may be more inclined to give their cats something off the table to have them join in the holiday festivities. Please resist this temptation because you don’t want to spend the holidays with your cat at an emergency veterinary hospital.”
What holiday foods are safe for cats?
You can include your cat in the holiday goodies by knowing the real skinny on what people foods are safe and what people foods are downright dangerous.
Best-selling author Carol Osborne, DVM, who operates the Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center and Pet Clinic in Ohio, dishes out the safe way to treat your cat to turkey.
“Turkey contains the amino acid, tryptophan, which has a calming effect for people and pets,” she says. “If your cat is nervous because of the holiday festivity, give him a little turkey to calm his nerves.”
“I recommend that you rinse that white turkey meat in warm water to release its aromas, as cats go by smell,” Dr. Nicholas says. Rinsing removes your yummy spices and seasonings like garlic, onion and salt, which can cause tummy upsets in your cat.
Here are some other healthy holiday foods and treats safe to give in moderation to your feline friend:
- Steamed or mashed sweet potatoes, served plain.
- Canned pumpkin. A spoonful can aid in staving off diarrhea or constipation.
- Cranberry sauce. A lick or two can be a sweet treat to your cat.
- Unseasoned grilled or canned salmon. This fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. If you go with canned, make sure it’s low-sodium in water.
- Steamed green beans, chopped and minus any seasoning.
“Green beans are great sources of fiber and safe to give to your cat as long as you steam them in sodium-free broth and never give your cat a helping from that green-bean casserole you made, because it is loaded with cream, crunchy onion topping and maybe even bacon — a triple whammy to your cat’s health,” Dr. Nicholas says.
What holiday foods are not safe for cats?
Alas, the list of no-no holiday treats and drinks for your cat is far more extensive. Topping the list:
- Turkey skin. Typically marinated with garlic, onions and seasonings, it can cause painful pancreatitis, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
- A slice of pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie filling is loaded with sugar that can cause digestive upset.
- Macadamia nuts. These nuts can cause muscular weakness, vomiting, tremors and stomach pain.
- Grapes and raisins. Both are toxic, loaded with sugar and can cause choking if swallowed.
- Foods with onions, chives, leeks or scallions. These foods can cause anemia, weakened red blood cells, damage to the mucous membranes and weakness. “Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body,” Dr. Nicholas says.
- Gravy and stuffing. The high amount of fat and salt can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and even pancreatitis and stomach upset.
Definitely keep an eye — and a lid — on your human holiday treats to prevent a curious cat from licking and swallowing.
“Alcohol can cause pets to get drunk, weak, become depressed and may lead to a coma,” Dr. Osborne adds. In fact, just 1 teaspoon of grain alcohol can trigger alcohol toxicity in cats.
Dr. Nicholas also urges pet parents to properly dispose of any turkey trimmings, including the trussing string, in a garbage can out of paw’s reach.
“That string is soaked in turkey juice, fat and spices — all of which can be highly attractive to cats,” he says. “They can be at risk for choking and abdominal obstructions if they chew and try to swallow that string.”
To keep the holidays jolly and safe, Dr. Nicholas offers two final safe options for your cat.
“Consider treating your cat to more playtime and mix up mealtime by putting a meal or healthy cat treats on lick-it mats or food puzzles like the Doc and Phoebe cat toys,” he says. “Play it safe, for your cat’s sake.
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