Our pets are a big part of our lives, so it makes sense that we want to share everything with them, including our food. Unfortunately, it’s not always obvious or common sense as to what cats can eat. Like every species, they’re sensitive to some types of food, and others still are toxic.
Let’s say you’re enjoying a nice breakfast, and you want to treat your cat to some hash browns off your plate. A small nibble is okay, but there are some things you should be wary of. What is safe for cats to eat? Let’s check out the answers to these questions and more.
Can A Cat Eat Hash Browns?
Cats can eat potatoes, but they don’t need them in any way. A cat could go its entire life without so much as licking a potato.
You shouldn’t feed hash browns directly to cats—there are too many downsides to this seemingly harmless idea. However, if your cat happens to help itself to a few bites of this breakfast staple, it might experience some gastrointestinal distress, but it’s not lethal.
Hash browns are typically fried in butter or oil, and seasoned with a healthy dose of salt, which is mostly what makes them taste so good! Excessive salt intake can give your cat sodium poisoning, which is a serious condition that causes vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite, and more.
What about dairy, you might be asking? Giving a cat a bowl of cream is such a ubiquitous turn of phrase that you might not realize cats can’t eat dairy. Virtually all cats are lactose intolerant and will suffer gas, diarrhea, and other unpleasant symptoms when they eat dairy.
It gets more confusing when you realize cats will eat dairy anyway, and often do because it’s loaded with precious fat. So, while a cat might scarf down your buttery hash browns, they’ll suffer for it later with copious gas and bellyaches.
What Can Cats Not Eat?
While dairy is a big no-no and salt is out, there are lots of foods you should never give to a cat under any circumstances. Some are more toxic than others, but you should avoid feeding any of the below foods to your cat.
Like dogs, onions are toxic to cats, plus leeks and garlic. The Pet Poison Helpline says this includes household seasonings like onion and garlic powder, so you need to be careful in the kitchen.
Onions and other leeks cause damage to cats’ red blood cells, which reduces their ability to transport oxygen in the blood. Common signs of leek toxicity include extreme lethargy, pale gums, and high heart rate. If your cat eats onion, you will notice symptoms like these within a few days.
As it turns out, chocolate is just as toxic to cats as it is to dogs. The cocoa in chocolate contains compounds called methylxanthines, which are very toxic to cats and dogs alike. Eating chocolate will cause vomiting, diarrhea, abnormally high heart rate (tachycardia), muscle tremors, and more.
Generally, chocolates with higher cocoa content will be more toxic to cats. This means that on a scale, white chocolate is the least toxic, dark chocolate is the most toxic, and milk chocolate is in the middle. Regardless of the type, though, you should never take the risk of giving your cat even the smallest piece of chocolate.
Grapes and Raisins
Yet another toxicity cats share with dogs: grapes and raisins. The science still isn’t clear what precisely causes the toxicity, but eating grapes can cause fatal kidney failure, among other symptoms.
Whatever is so toxic to our pets in grapes remains when they’re turned into raisins, and you shouldn’t ever give them to your cat or leave a package open near your cat. The earliest signs that a cat ate grapes are repeated vomiting and abnormal hyperactivity, which are quickly followed by lethargy, diarrhea, and reduced appetite.
The Ideal Cat Diet
Now that we’ve covered some things that cats shouldn’t eat, what should they eat? As with every other animal, cats have certain vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that they need to thrive. Among others, cats need lots of vitamin A, protein, and niacin. They also need a special animal-derived form of vitamin D, whereas dogs are fine with the plant-based counterpart.
Another cat-specific necessity is certain amino acids like taurine and arginine. Cats need healthy amounts of taurine to grow and stay healthy. Taurine helps maintain their digestive health as adults, and to grow as kittens. Arginine helps keep ammonia blood levels in check.
Ideally, cats should get little in the way of carbohydrates, which hash browns have in abundance. We’re talking complex carbs, by the way. Glucose, which is essential for any living creature, is, by definition, a carb. Cats do need glucose, but the complex starch in potatoes or pasta is useless to a cat’s streamlined physiology.
So, we’ve covered all the bases. Your cat shouldn’t eat hash browns but a stolen bite or two isn’t going to kill them. We don’t recommend feeding potatoes or hash browns to cats, and you’re best advised to avoid salty foods in general. Cats get all the nutrition they need from a standard cat food diet.