15 Thanksgiving Foods That Are Toxic To Cats

Written by: Kelli Brinegar
For more than five years, Kelli Brinegar has been using her ability to write and her passion for research to tell the tale of what cats are thinking and why. She has provided care to more than 30 cats in her lifetime.Read more
| Published on November 12, 2021

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and when you’re a cat parent, your feline friend likely sits near the top of your Most Thankful For list. You may be tempted to include your cat in the food festivities, but before you let them indulge, stop and consider what ingredients go into your holiday dishes.

Many of the typical Thanksgiving foods and spices can be toxic to cats or at least upsetting to their systems. And though we want to share with our kitties, doing so could inadvertently hurt them. Keep your purr child safe when it comes to the holiday table with this list of Thanksgiving foods cats should never eat.

15 Thanksgiving Foods That Are Bad For Cats 

#1 – Onions & Garlic

thanksgiving foods toxic to cats

Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks belong to the Allium family, and all of them are toxic to cats. While some argue there are benefits to feeding our pets garlic, the Pet Poison Helpline warns garlic is actually considered even more toxic than onions. Either way, both vegetables can cause serious problems in our cats. In addition to gastro upset, onions and garlic can cause damage to red blood cell membranes, leading to severe anemia issues in cats, according to veterinarian Dr. Renee Schmid.

“This makes the red blood cell fragile and causes them to burst,” explained Dr. Schmid. “Red blood cells are needed to carry oxygen throughout the body. When these cells are destroyed, important organs do not get enough oxygen. A low red blood cell count (anemia) results in increased heart rate, elevated respiratory rate and effort, weakness, discolored urine, kidney damage, collapse and even death.”

While the occasional small dose of onions or garlic probably won’t pose any serious problems, long-term consumption can lead to severe toxicity.

#2 – Milk & Dairy

thanksgiving foods bad for cats

Many cats are lactose intolerant, and consuming large amounts of dairy products can make felines very gassy and cause diarrhea. While you may not be thinking about giving your kitty a glass of milk, remember butter-filled mashed potatoes or a yummy baked mac and cheese are full of dairy. Your cat will be drawn to the dairy fat smell, so keep an eye for sneaky paws when it comes to dairy dishes and desserts.

#3 – Alcohol

Since wine is a popular treat for any occasion, it’s essential to make sure it and all other alcoholic beverages be kept away from our pets. Alcohol has the same effect on a cat’s brain and liver as it does a human’s; they only need to consume less than we do. The more a cat ingests, the greater the effects and the more likely the cat will suffer permanent damage.

#4 – Chocolate

This seems the most obvious of all the foods on this list, but it’s still worth listing. Believe it or not, chocolate consumption is just as dangerous for our feline friends as it is for dogs. During the holidays, many people spend a lot of time baking delicious desserts that contain chocolate, and baking chocolate is the most dangerous for our cats. Remember, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. While consumption of milk chocolate or white chocolate will likely lead to excessive vomiting and diarrhea, consuming even small amounts of dark baking chocolate can be fatal.

#5 – Cooked Bones

thanksgiving food dangerous to cats

While bones might be something you’d more likely give your dog, a hungry kitty will undoubtedly take the tasty treat. But never, ever offer cooked bones to cats. A Thanksgiving food considered dangerous to cats, cooked bones can splinter and cause injuries to their mouths and digestive tract, not to mention becoming a choking hazard.

#6 – Fat Trimmings

Although many people consider the fat the most flavorful part of the meat, it’s really not a good idea to share it with your cat. Even though it’s probably one of the most common table scraps, excess cooked fat can lead to health problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and obesity.

#7 – Caffeine

Often while socializing, we enjoy a nice warm cup of coffee or hot tea. Although cats don’t typically want these beverages, it’s crucial to ensure they don’t get into them. Caffeine can be fatal if consumed in excess amounts, and once the poisoning has happened, there’s no way to recover your kitty. So it’s better to be safe than sorry and keep these things out of reach! To learn more about the danger of caffeine for cats, check out Can Cats Drink Tea And Other Caffeinated Beverages?

#8 – Sugar

While sweet potatoes, yams, and pumpkin can be beneficial for your cat’s digestive tract, it’s important to remember that sugar is most definitely harmful. Candied yams and pumpkin pie should never be shared with your kitty, as sugar will likely cause stomach upset and diarrhea. Long-term sugar consumption brings the same results in cats as in humans – tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes.

#9 – Pumpkin Spice

Did you know pumpkin spice contains no pumpkin? We refer to it as pumpkin spice because it’s the spice blend used to create pumpkin pie. And while cats can eat pumpkin, the warming spices used to whip this Thanksgiving tradition into a pie are not suitable for cats.

Typical pumpkin spice blends contain cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove or allspice. While ginger isn’t harmful to cats in small amounts, the rest of these spices are either toxic to cats or at least have the potential for unpleasant side effects. While not classified as toxic, the Pet Poison Helpline reports cinnamon can irritate airways and skin. Nutmeg contains the toxin myristicin, which is harmful to cats in large quantities, possibly causing hallucinations, stomach pain, and possible seizures. As for cloves and allspice, both contain eugenol, which Dr. Charlotte Flint, DVM, warns “can cause liver toxicity in cats.” But it would take a lot of these spices for these reactions.

As Dr. Flint, explains, “It is important to remember the small amounts of these spices added to flavor foods usually will not be toxic to pets, and the risk of toxicity is highest if a pet gets into essential oils or the spices directly.”

Still, while you may love pumpkin spice, it’s best to keep your kitty out of the warming spice blend that so many fall for when the temperatures drop!

#10 – Oregano

The ASPCA lists oregano as toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. This aromatic herb used in savory recipes like stuffing and dressing can cause gastrointestinal upset with mild vomiting and diarrhea. While oregano isn’t the most harmful substance on the Thanksgiving menu, it’s best to keep your cat out of dishes spiced with oregano.

#11 – Grapes & Raisins

thanksgiving foods toxic to cats

The fact that grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs has become common knowledge among pet owners, but not too many people consider the fact they’re also dangerous for cats. While some kitties can consume grapes and/or raisins with no symptoms, it’s simply not worth the risk because consuming grapes or raisins can lead to irreversible kidney damage in cats. So it’s best to make sure these sweet treats remain out of reach for feline paws.

#12 –  Yeast Dough

thanksgiving foods bad for cats

Freshly-baked breads are a delicious part of any Thanksgiving feast, but take care to keep the unbaked dough far away from your cat. Yeast dough contains ethanol, and when consumed, it has the same effects as drinking alcoholic beverages.

#13 – Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries promote urinary health in cats, but cranberry sauce is another matter. This Thanksgiving staple is loaded with sugar. If your cat samples a small taste, it’s not the end of the world, but too much cranberry sauce can bring on the tummy upsets associated with sugar.

#14 – Eggnog

While eggnog is usually considered a Christmas treat, Thanksgiving does serve as a perfect moment to sip the festive dairy concoction. But don’t let your cat drink eggnog. Made with dairy products, cinnamon, and sugar, eggnog is full of ingredients that aren’t good for felines. This goes double for eggnog made with alcohol as it’s dangerous for cats.

#15 – Nuts

thanksgiving foods bad for cats

Pecan pie is tasty, and slivered almonds on vegetable dishes make a great flavor, but don’t share them with your cats. While nuts contain healthy oils and fats, those same oils and fats can upset cat tummies when consumed in excess. So, while cats can eat nuts if they happen to sneak one and may even enjoy a taste of peanut butter every once in a while, it’s best to skip nuts where your cat is concerned. Also, keep in mind, macadamia nuts are toxic to cats. Avoid them altogether when it comes to snacking with your kitty.

While this isn’t a complete list of foods toxic to cats, it gives a roundabout idea of what to avoid. In addition, though, don’t give kitties any foods that contain artificial preservatives or sweeteners. These and any other food chemical additives should not be fed to cats. Now that you know what Thanksgiving foods are bad for cats, what tasty bites can you share with your cat? Check out these 10 Thanksgiving Treats That are Safe for Your Cat and enjoy a snack with your kitty!

thanksgiving foods bad for cats

Holiday Plants That Are Toxic to Cats

In addition to delicious delicacies, the holidays also mean decorations and festive plants. While keeping your kitty away from toxic foods, remember to protect your cat from poisonous plants this holiday season too.

Avoid these holiday plants that are toxic to cats:

  • Poinsettias
  • Mistletoe
  • Holly
  • Lilies
  • Amaryllis
  • Daffodils
  • Ivy
  • Hellebore aka Christmas Rose
  • Carnations

It’s worth noting, Christmas trees can be an irritant to feline mouths and stomachs as well. The pine oils can also cause gastro issues, while the needles can poke tender tissues. While the Christmas Cactus isn’t considered toxic to cats, the fibrous makeup of the plant can cause stomach distress in felines.

With Thanksgiving upon us, that means the winter holidays are on their way. When setting up the décor, remember these 10 Dos And Don’ts For Cat Safe Holiday Decorating.

Happy eating, and here’s to the happiest of holidays!

Recent Articles

Interested in learning even more about all things dogs? Get your paws on more great content from iHeartDogs!

Read the Blog