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Thanksgiving centers around the three f’s: family, fun, and food. And in many homes, pets are also a big part of the equation. They are members of the family, after all! While planning the holiday menu, pet parents may wonder about cat-safe Thanksgiving foods.
Although cats can partake in the human activities — watching football, socializing, napping after dinner — they can’t eat all the human foods. But that doesn’t mean they can’t join in the family feast! Before setting their place at the table, review the following foods that cats can (and can’t) consume.
What can cats have for Thanksgiving? It turns out, cats can consume reasonable amounts of quite a few traditional Thanksgiving dishes. The following foods are safe for cats.
A Thanksgiving meal wouldn’t be complete without turkey; thankfully, cats have no problem digesting plain white meat. Cats are carnivores, so they need animal proteins like turkey to help them grow and stay healthy. Two or three dime-sized pieces of turkey are more than enough for a cat.
Don't give cats turkey with bones, as they can break teeth, carry bacteria, or cause internal blockages if swallowed. Cats should also not consume dark turkey meat, salted turkey, or turkey skin — especially skin that’s been seasoned. Save that for the human dinner guests!
Many cats aren’t interested in vegetables, but green beans are another safe Thanksgiving food for cats. In fact, the fiber in green beans helps cats digest other parts of their meal. Cats can eat fresh, plain green beans raw or steamed. Avoid canned green beans, as they’re often higher in sodium and not as healthy.
While potato leaves are toxic to both cats and humans, the potato itself is a nice, nontoxic addition to a cat’s Thanksgiving feast. Potatoes aren’t a necessary part of the cat diet, but they are a good source of minerals.
Pet parents can safely serve their cat cooked potatoes, provided they're prepared without butter, milk, heavy cream, or alliums. Alliums are present in many common mashed potato ingredients, including:
The above ingredients are good for humans, but bad news for cats and dogs. Eating concentrated amounts of garlic and onions can lead to Heinz body hemolytic anemia, an immune reaction that destroys a cat's red blood cells faster than their body can replace them.
However, provided mashed potatoes don’t include any of the above ingredients — or gravy — there’s no reason cats can’t enjoy a couple bites with their turkey.
Pet parents seeking Thanksgiving treats for their cats can turn to plain pumpkin and low-sugar cranberry sauce.
Pumpkin is one of the best festive choices for felines. Pumpkin is a good source of potassium, vitamins, and fiber, which can aid digestive tract functioning in cats. Cats can eat between one and four teaspoons of plain canned pumpkin so long as it's free of sugar, spices, and dairy. In other words, the cat cannot have a bite of pumpkin pie or a sip of that pumpkin spice latte, meaning more for the humans!
Approach cranberry sauce with caution. Although cranberries promote urinary health in cats, the sugar in cranberry sauce can contribute to health issues like feline diabetes or obesity. Cats with either of these conditions should not eat any quantities of cranberry sauce. For healthy cats, stick to a small amount of low-sugar cranberry sauce or toss the cat a couple of plain uncooked cranberries — they’ll love chasing them across the floor!
In lieu of human food, cats can always have a healthy treat (or three) while their parents enjoy food unfit for felines.
Some human-friendly ingredients can be toxic for cats, so make sure the cat doesn’t start snacking on a dish that includes alcohol or high amounts of sugar. This means steering clear of most desserts, including chocolate and artificial sweeteners.
It’s common knowledge that chocolate is toxic for dogs, but many pet parents don’t realize the same is true for cats. The quantities of caffeine and a related compound called theobromine in chocolate can be dangerous or fatal for felines. Signs of chocolate toxicity in cats include:
Hyperactivity or restlessness
The darker the chocolate, the higher its toxicity. Just 0.2 ounces of baking chocolate can be toxic for an eight-pound cat.
Artificial sweeteners are another no-no for cats. Cats don’t digest regular sugar very efficiently, and ingesting common sugar substitutes like stevia, xylitol, and aspartame can lead to stomach upset. However, that’s not the only reason cats shouldn’t consume such ingredients.
Cats can’t even taste sweetness like dogs and humans can because they lack the taste receptors. This makes feeding them artificial sweeteners pretty pointless.
Alcohol is one holiday staple that’s strictly for (human) adults. Cats should never drink alcoholic beverages under any circumstances. Because cats are small animals, they can be gravely affected by small amounts of alcohol.
If there’s reason to believe a cat tried a cocktail, watch out for these signs of alcohol poisoning:
Vomiting or diarrhea
Severe cases of alcohol poisoning can cause serious issues or prove fatal. Luckily, the smell of alcohol should be enough to deter most cats from imbibing.
Pet parents should also keep coffee and caffeinated tea and soda away from cats. A moderate amount of caffeine can be life-threatening for cats, and signs of caffeine toxicity will be noticeable within an hour of consumption. These symptoms include:
Increased heart rate
In the event of alcohol or caffeine poisoning, pet parents should contact a vet immediately.
Word of advice: Don’t leave dishes unattended and accessible if they include any of the ingredients mentioned above. Food-motivated cats may help themselves to any available food — even if it’s not cat-friendly.
While candied yams are out of the question, pet parents can still create a tasty Thanksgiving meal for cats using the healthy, safe foods discussed above. Just keep cats away from alcohol, caffeine, alliums, chocolate, and other sugary treats.
If the cat eats something unsavory, pet parents can always connect with Fuzzy vets — yes, even on Thanksgiving Day. Now that’s something to be thankful for!