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Can Cats Eat Meatloaf? Is It Healthy for Them?

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	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Vet, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Whenever you sit down to eat, you can be sure you’ll have the full attention of your cat. While we might know better than to share all our food with them, our kitty’s twitching nose and unrelenting stare can make even the toughest people give in. After all, a tiny bit won’t hurt, right? Unfortunately, there are many foods that we eat that are toxic to our precious felines.

Meatloaf is packed full of nutrients, and it’s a fun, tasty meal all across the world. Its unassuming appearance can make it tempting to give our cats a piece. The issue here is that the ingredients used in making meatloaf make it toxic to our cats. Onion is used in many meatloaf recipes and is especially harmful to cats and shouldn’t be given to them at all.

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What Is Meatloaf?

Although it’s considered American comfort food, meatloaf is common worldwide. It’s super easy to make and provides a whole meal in one tasty “loaf.” It’s perfect for an evening meal with gravy and a side of vegetables or to pack in your kid’s lunchbox as a sandwich filling.

Meatloaf is typically made with ground meat (beef is the most common), onions, seasonings, eggs, breadcrumbs, and ketchup. Chicken, lamb, pork, turkey, and even veal have also been used in meatloaf recipes.

While meatloaf is most often seen with gravy in the U.S.A, it’s served with potatoes in parts of eastern Europe, as kebabs in the Middle East, and even with spaghetti in Italy.

cooking meatloaf on a pan
Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

Why Is Meatloaf Toxic to Cats?

Ensuring that our pets get the right nutrition in their diet is essential in keeping them healthy. While meatloaf contains cooked meat, which is safe for cats to eat, it has too many other, toxic ingredients to be safe for our felines.

Fat Content

Cats’ nutritional requirements aren’t the same as ours. They’re small animals with a different constitution and can’t process food the same way that we can. This is also true for the fat content in meatloaf.

In general, human food has much larger amounts of fat than cat food. Not only do we cook ground meat in fat (butter, oil, etc.), but the other ingredients also have fat content.

While a small bite of something fatty on rare, special occasions — provided that there are no other toxic ingredients — won’t harm your cat outright, eating too much can cause health issues. Pancreatitis and obesity are two of the biggest concerns when it comes to feeding your cat too much fatty food. Cats require a moderate fat content in their diets.

Milk

When we think of cats, they’re often partnered with a saucer of milk. For many new cat owners, it can be surprising to find out that milk can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea in cats.

Not all pets are lactose intolerant, though, and your cat might be fine with milk as a treat now and then. However, as your kitty gets older, their body produces less lactase, an enzyme that helps them digest milk.

If you do give your cat milk, look out for any signs of discomfort, such as vomiting or diarrhea. These issues should go away on their own once you stop feeding your cat milk.

Onions

Most meatloaf recipes, including ones that you make from scratch at home, contain onions and sometimes garlic. It’s the onion content in any form, whether it’s raw, cooked, or a powder, that makes meatloaf so dangerous to your cat.

Onions are toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. The more onions that your cat eats, the more likely they will suffer from ill effects, but they can be affected by smaller amounts spread out over time too. This means meatloaf is dangerous even if you only give your cat a tiny bite every once in a while. If your cat eats too much onion, it can be fatal.

Signs of onion toxicity include:

  • Anemia
  • Bloody urine
  • Labored breathing
  • Pale gums
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

If you suspect that your cat has eaten onions, even if you haven’t given them any yourself, pay extra close attention to catch any of these symptoms. Bloody urine, panting, a fast heart rate, and weakness are all signs that you need to get your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

raw homemade meatloaf
Image Credit: ivabalk, Pixabay

Can Cats Eat Ground Meat?

While the additional ingredients in meatloaf makes the meal dangerous to our felines, there are ways that you can make a cat-friendly treat. The primary ingredient in meatloaf is ground meat, which is perfectly safe for your cat, provided that it’s fed as a snack as part of an already nutritionally balanced diet.

Make sure you thoroughly cook the ground meat, with only a small amount of fat and no additional seasonings or ingredients. Raw meat can contain E.coli and salmonella, which are just as dangerous for our cats as they are for us. Making sure the meat is fully cooked will help reduce the risk of your cat getting sick.

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How to Feed Your Cat Snacks

An occasional tasty treat can give your cat a break from the same old canned or dried food. There’s a right and wrong way to go about spoiling your feline friend, though. Snacks should only make up 10–15% of your cat’s diet; the rest of their food should be nutritionally balanced to help your friend stay healthy.

Great healthy snacks for your cat include:

  • Cooked eggs, fish, and meat
  • Whole grains
  • Some vegetables

When in doubt, stick with commercial cat food and treats. They’re formulated specifically with cats in mind and in moderation, are safer than human foods.

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Final Thoughts

Meatloaf might be comfort food for us humans, but it’s a dangerous addition to a cat’s diet. While the ground meat and egg content are fine on their own, the onions, milk, and fat content can cause several health issues. Onions especially are toxic to cats and dogs and shouldn’t be added to their diet at all.

Purchase commercial cat treats to tempt your cat away from the dangers of your human food. Or you can cook a spare bit of ground meat without any additional seasonings. It won’t be on par with the meatloaf on your plate, but it’ll be much healthier for your hungry feline.

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Featured Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

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