What Can Cats Not Eat?

Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
By Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
Updated: 5/13/20242-4 minutes
What Can Cats Not Eat

There are a few human foods that are toxic to cats. If you’re feeding your cat a complete and balanced cat food and giving her plenty of fresh water each day, she’s getting all the essential nutrients she needs.

This means there’s no reason to supplement her diet with any human foods like milk or raw fish, both of which cats shouldn’t eat. If you notice any issues that could be addressed through diet, like a dull coat or dry, itchy skin, talk with your veterinarian to see if changing her food is appropriate.

Here are seven foods you shouldn’t feed your cat—and what to do if she gets into something she shouldn’t.

7 Foods Cats Shouldn’t Eat

1. Milk

You’ve probably seen cats drinking milk in cartoons, but they may not be able to digest it properly after they’re weaned from their mother’s milk. The lactase enzyme digests milk proteins and sugars.

Lactase remains as long as cats continue to drink milk. If cats stop drinking milk and start again, there’s not enough lactase for proper digestion of the milk proteins and sugars, which can lead to diarrhea.

Milk contains sugars cats can’t easily digest, which can cause loose stools. This can lead to weight loss if left unaddressed.   

After about 10 weeks of age, kittens and cats only need a complete and balanced food and fresh water. Milk is not a substitute for cat food or water.

2. Raw Eggs

Although cats can eat fully cooked eggs and they’re a rich source of protein and amino acids, they cannot eat raw eggs.

Raw eggs can contain Salmonella, bacteria that can cause diarrhea, vomiting and other serious symptoms. Uncooked eggs also prevent cats from absorbing biotin, so repeated consumption can lead to a deficiency and cause skin inflammation, hair loss and poor growth.

3. Raw Fish

Like raw eggs, raw fish isn’t recommended for cats—as a meal or as a treat. Even sushi-grade fish, which is generally safe for human consumption isn’t safe for cats, as it can still contain bacteria and cause foodborne illness.

Frequent consumption of raw fish, particularly herring and cod, can also lead to a thiamine deficiency. This can cause neurological problems like convulsions. If your cat likes fish, serve it cooked as a treat, or choose a cat food with fish as a protein source.

4. Raw Meats

Cats are carnivores, so most of their diet consists of meat, but an all-meat diet could result in nutritional deficiencies in cats. Although raw diets have increased in popularity in recent years, as with other raw foods, it’s best to avoid giving your cat raw meat.

In addition to the problems it poses for your cat, handling raw meat can cause foodborne illness from bacteria like Salmonella or E. Coli.  

5. Bones

If you do decide to serve your cat a tasty (cooked) treat like fish or chicken, remove any bones from the meat first. These small bones can get lodged in your cat’s mouth or throat and cause serious injury.

If she manages to swallow a small bone, it could perforate her intestines or esophagus, which could require major surgery.

6. Excess Supplements

Healthy cats eating a complete and balanced diet shouldn’t need any supplements. Your veterinarian may recommend a supplement to help address certain issues, though.

It’s critical to follow the supplement instructions or the guidelines from your veterinarian to avoid vitamin toxicity.

7. Table Scraps

Some cats may try to get table scraps from you out of sheer curiosity. Avoid giving her any of the above foods and remember treats or cat-safe table scraps should make up no more than 10 percent of her total daily calories.

What to Do if a Cat Eats Something She Shouldn’t

You know your cat shouldn’t eat the above foods, but that doesn’t mean she never will. You might spill some milk by accident, and she’ll get to it before you can.

In most cases with the above foods, occasional, infrequent consumption won’t cause serious problems. She may experience digestive upset, so monitor her for any symptoms and call your veterinarian if they persist.

If you think your cat ate a bone, call your veterinarian right away so they can evaluate her and decide what course of treatment is needed.

Remember, it’s okay to treat your cat. Just make sure you’re giving her safe foods to eat and that she’s also eating a complete and balanced cat food and getting plenty of fresh water each day.

For more tips and information on cat nutrition from our experts, visit our Pet Expertise page.

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