Gingerbread is a tasty holiday favorite treat that people across the world enjoy. The sweetness of the treat combines with the zing of ginger, making for a unique flavor profile. It’s no surprise that you might want to share some gingerbread with your cat! Not only does gingerbread taste great, but it’s also a holiday-defining flavor for many people. Why wouldn’t we want to share that positive association with our cats? And although a small bite may not be toxic, there is more that you should know and the answer may surprise you!
Can Cats Eat Gingerbread?
A small bite of gingerbread or gingerbread cookies on occasion is unlikely to be a problem for your cat. However, gingerbread contains multiple ingredients that are not healthy for cats, including some ingredients that can be downright toxic. Ideally, your cat should not be given gingerbread, but if some drops on the floor or your child feeds a bite or two to the cat, then there is little cause for concern. If you’re unsure about the safety of how much gingerbread your cat consumed, your veterinarian or a pet poison control hotline will be able to advise you.
Nutmeg Toxicity in Cats
Gingerbread contains nutmeg, which can be toxic to cats. In small quantities, nutmeg is unlikely to cause little more than stomach upset. This is the most likely issue you’ll see with gingerbread ingestion, since nutmeg makes up a very small amount of the recipe.
In large quantities, however, nutmeg can be downright deadly to your cat. This is because nutmeg contains myristicin, which is a serious deliriant toxin for cats. In cats, it can lead to seizures, hallucinations, confusion and disorientation, increased heart rate, abdominal pain, dry mouth, and high blood pressure. The symptoms of nutmeg or myristicin toxicity can last up to 48 hours and may require veterinary intervention to treat.
Clove Toxicity in Cats
Cloves are another gingerbread ingredient that contains a toxin called eugenol. Eugenol is a toxin that can lead to liver toxicity in cats in large quantities. Like with nutmeg, the amount of clove present in a gingerbread recipe is unlikely to cause issues for your cat since clove toxicity generally occurs from ingestion of whole cloves or clove oil. Eugenol toxicity can apparently lead to vomiting, seizures, tremors, and a staggering gait in cats but we could find no studies into clove toxicity in cats. It is best to err on the side of caution and avoid cloves.
Why Cats Don’t Need Sugary Foods
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they require animal protein to survive, and a large portion of their diet should consist of it. They require high animal protein and moderate to high fat diets. However, cats have low carbohydrate needs. To top that off, they require very little in the way of sugars, and they require no processed sugars in their diet.
A cat’s regular diet should consist primarily of protein-based foods, and treats should also be high in protein and low in carbohydrates, especially sugar. Ideally, you should be avoiding giving your cat table scraps, including gingerbread and other sweets. Commercial cat treats are a great way to treat your cat without risking dietary problems. You can also offer your cat small pieces of plain proteins, like boiled or roasted chicken, turkey, or beef, as long as they are prepared with no added salt, oil, or spices. You can also offer bite-sized quantities of dairy products, like plain yogurt and cheese if they are not lactose intolerant as most adult cats are.
Gingerbread is unlikely to cause any harm to your cat in small amounts, so a bite or two is unlikely to require any concern on your part. However, gingerbread does contain some ingredients that are not healthy for your cat, and the clove and nutmeg in gingerbread hold the potential to create toxicity in your cat. Although less likely to cause issues, the cinnamon and allspice in gingerbread can also lead to toxicity symptoms in cats. The quantity of these ingredients in a gingerbread recipe isn’t likely to create problems, but care should be taken to really limit the amount of gingerbread-based products your cat consumes and access to the raw ingredients.
There are safer and healthier treats you can offer to your cat, like plain lean meats. You should avoid high-sugar foods for your cat, especially foods that are high in processed sugar. Cats don’t require processed sugars in their diet, and it can lead to problems like obesity if they consistently eat more calories than they require. To maintain the overall health of your cat, aim to keep treats to foods that are part of the natural diet your cat should be consuming.
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