Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Cats > Human Foods That Are Safe for Cats (Vet Answer)

Human Foods That Are Safe for Cats (Vet Answer)

Cat eating melons

Vet approved

Dr. Maria Zayas Photo

Written by

Dr. Maria Zayas

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Have you ever stepped away while prepping food for just one moment only to turn around and see your cat has eaten something you left out? Do you maybe live with children and know they are handing small bits of food to your cat, and you’ve never had a problem, but you still wonder just how okay it is for them to eat what they’re sneaking?

Some human foods are safer than others for cats to eat, and there are general guidelines to follow when feeding cats anything outside their normal diet, so we will help you identify the big no-nos, the foods okay in moderation or by-accident items, and the human foods that might benefit your cat to eat.

divider-cat

What Are Cats Supposed to Eat?

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they meet their nutritional requirements by eating animal-based proteins: meat.

While domestic cats don’t have “wild” populations, feral or outdoor dwelling cats usually eat several small meals throughout the day made up mostly of small rodents, though insects, frogs, fish, and birds can also be a part of their diet.

In addition to meat, cats can eat carbohydrates, but the more carbohydrates they consume, the less digestible the rest of their diet becomes, leading to potential nutritional deficiencies and other health concerns.

Cats over 7 weeks of age rapidly become unable to eat dairy products due to an inability to digest lactose. While small amounts of dairy can be eaten (the cutoff is about 1 g/kg of body weight), a cat that has eaten dairy runs the risk of developing diarrhea or other gastrointestinal (GI) upset signs.

The safest food to feed a cat is a balanced commercial cat-specific diet. Any changes from their normal diet, even with technically safe foods, may cause GI upset, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or inappetence. If a cat is eating an appropriately balanced diet, it should not be necessary to supplement with additional foods, no matter what nutritional benefit they may offer. In the case of some specialized or prescription diets, doing so may, in fact, negate the positive health effects of the prescribed diet.

That being said, we know sometimes you need to use human food as a treat, to hide medication, or that a cat will take what they want without your permission, so here’s what you need to know about which foods are safe in that capacity.

maine coon cat eating
Image Credit: Fayzulin Serg, Shutterstock

Human Foods That Are Safe for Cats in Small Amounts

Please remember that even if a small amount of a food is unlikely to harm a cat directly, any changes in diet can cause GI upset, and it is therefore not recommended to purposefully vary their diet, even in small amounts. This list should be used with that in mind.

None of these foods should be seasoned; all meats should be cooked, skinless, deboned, or shelled. If your cat is fed a home-cooked diet, you may also see recipes using these foods, and they would be safe.

  • Apples (no seeds, stem, or skin)
  • Beef
  • Blueberries
  • Dairy products, such as cheese (less than 1 g/kg of cat’s body weight)
  • Duck
  • Eggs
  • Fish (fish must ALWAYS be cooked or canned, never raw)
  • Lamb
  • Lobster
  • Peanut butter
  • Shrimp
  • Strawberry
  • Turkey

Now, not all cats will eat everything on this list, especially any fruits and vegetables! If they happen to like specific odd items or eat something else that contains a fruit or veggie, it helps to know which ones are a problem. In small amounts, if they aren’t on the list of toxic human foods, it is likely okay that they ate some. The ones here are just some of the more common options you may see around your house or in treats.

spoonful of freshly cooked ground beef in iron skillet
Image Credit: Joshua Resnick, Shutterstock

What Human Foods Can You Safely Feed Your Cat?

There are only a couple human foods that are highly unlikely to cause a problem for a cat, unless they have a food allergy to that specific item. Those are:

  • Chicken: Lean, white meat, boneless, skinless, unseasoned chicken (preferably boiled) can be offered to your cat as needed. What makes chicken so special compared to the other meats we listed above is its low-fat content, which makes it less likely to trigger diarrhea or vomiting.
  • White rice: Cooked white rice, specifically mixed with chicken, makes a great bland diet that is easy on their stomach and is the diet of choice for cats with an upset stomach.
  • Pumpkin: Not all cats will eat it, but pumpkin is a great source of fiber and can be added to any other diet a cat is eating to help with constipation, diarrhea, chronic GI sensitivities, or even as a treat.

Human Foods That Are Toxic to Cats

Never feed a cat any of the following foods in any capacity. If you find your cat has eaten any food on this list, please contact your veterinarian immediately or reach out to the Pet Poison Helpline.

  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Garlic
  • Grapes or Raisins
  • Green Tomatoes
  • Green Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Xylitol (an artificial sweetener)

What to Feed Your Cat If You Run Out of Cat Food

Running out of our cat’s food happens to the best of us. Sometimes we lose track of time, or auto-shipped diets are delayed. What should you do if sudden changes in a cat’s diet can cause diarrhea?

If it isn’t possible to go out and get some new cat food, the safest human foods to feed at hcaome would be a chicken and rice mixture. If your cat will only eat the chicken, that’s okay. This isn’t nutritionally complete long term, but it will be okay until you can get them more of their diet. For cats with sensitive GI tracts, we recommend keeping 100% canned pumpkin puree in the house to add to their meals when something like this happens.

For cats with a chicken allergy, you can substitute cottage cheese for chicken, even though it’s a dairy product, as it contains very little lactose.

Hepper 360 Cat Feeder, Stainless Steel, Anti-Chew...
179 Reviews
Hepper 360 Cat Feeder, Stainless Steel, Anti-Chew...
  • NO MESS - The 360° tray on this cat food and water bowl set has a raised design to catch and...
  • WHISKER FRIENDLY - Shallow and wide metal containers with flat bottoms ensure your kitty can enjoy...
  • CHEW-SAFE MATERIALS - Kittens and cats love chewing on silicone and soft rubber - but it's a choking...

Knowing exactly what your feline companion can and cannot eat will help you become the best pet parent. Recognizing that not all cat bowls are equal is also key! The Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl sets itself apart from traditional options by catering to the specific needs of cats. The innovative design offers whisker relief via shallow dishes and promotes digestion with a slight bowl elevation. Find out if the Hepper NomNom is right for your cat by clicking here.

At Pet Keen, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

divider-cat

Conclusion

While there are numerous human foods cats can eat safely, even safe foods can cause GI signs when fed outside their normal routine. It may be tempting to share what you’re eating with your cat, but a safer option would be to feed them some of their own food or small pieces of unseasoned lean meat. Some cats will be more sensitive to human foods than others, and even cats that appear unbothered by various human foods may be affected, such as large quantities of carbohydrates affecting the digestibility of other foods.

Some classic human foods, such as milk, cream, or fish, can actually be harmful to cats depending on the circumstances. I hope this explanation has given you some peace of mind for when your cat inevitably eats something outside their typical diet!

Related Reads:


Featured Image Credit: Guajillo studio, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets